by Tamora Pierce
Beka Cooper is an unusual teenager. It’s not just her ice blue eyes that are disconcerting to look into, or the fact that she hears the voices of the dead riding the pigeons and the dust spinners in the street. What really sets Beka apart is her persistance and her determination, qualities will serve her well in her chosen career in the Provost’s Guards, or Dogs as they are called. But first she has to survive her apprenticeship as a Puppy, attached to two experienced Dogs. Two out of every ten Puppies die, and Beka is assigned to the Lower City, the poorest, most dangerous, and most crime-ridden part of Corus. And big things are happening in the Lower City; very quickly Beka becomes involved in not one, but two, major cases involving the disappearance and death of inhabitants of the Lower City. People disappear from the Lower City all the time, and at first neither the Dogs nor the Rogue, the city’s crime lord, show any interest in these new disappearances. But Beka lives in the Lower City, and its people are her people. She is determined to see that justice is done. And like a terrier, when Beka sinks her teeth into something, she never lets go.
Beka Cooper: Terrier is an exciting book that grabs you from the first page. The first couple of pages are journal entries of other people connected with Beka, and then the rest of the book is told in first person from Beka’s point of view and structured as journal entries. Beka is an absolutely fascinating and compelling character, and the first person point of view draws you in to her world and makes you identify with her from the first. The other characters in the book, from Dogs to criminals to ordinary people, are equally interesting and well-developed. One of the fascinating things about this book is that the line between right and wrong is so blurry: the Dogs work with the criminal syndicate to keep order; they take bribes and overlook some criminal activity in order to get the important ones and keep the city safe. Some of the characters on the “wrong” side of the law seem quite…likeable, and while most of the Dogs are admirable, there are a couple who are less so. And I have to say something about Beka’s remarkable cat, Pounce. Anyone who loves cats will adore Pounce, and it’s clear that Pierce herself has had relationships with cats. (Cat people will understand that we don’t own cats – they deign to share their lives with us).
I don’t often talk about the cover in my reviews, but I feel that I have to say something about the cover of Beka Cooper: Terrier. It’s so beautiful that I actually took it off the book while I was reading it, so that it wouldn’t get messed up. The cover depicts Beka with her baton, surrounded by the pigeons. The artist has managed to capture Beka perfectly; her stance and her expression convey both her toughness and determination and her shyness. The dustjacket has a metallic bronze sheen to it that is tastefully done.
Beka Cooper: Terrier is a prequel to Pierce’s Tortall series, but it quite stands on its own and you can enjoy it without having read any of the other books. I highly recommend this book; adults as well as teens will enjoy it. Read it! You won’t be sorry that you did.