In Terrier Tamora Pierce tells the story of Rebekah “Beka” Cooper, an ancestor of George Cooper who was the City’s Rogue in the time of Alanna (a setting and characters familiar to readers of her other novels). Beka is starting her first year as a trainee Dog, known as a Puppy (these are nicknames for the Provost’s Guard — the force that keeps peace in the city of Corus). She is assigned to the Dog team of Tunstall and Goodwin, two of the best Dogs in the Evening Watch — and two who have never before taken a Puppy.
Beka has her work cut out as Tunstall and Goodwin begin her training, never letting her forget that she may have knowledge but that experience is all on the streets of the Lower City. So when Beka starts sniffing out two linked plots — one to mine the City of precious fire opals, and one to steal away the Rat’s children as blackmail for the Shadow Snake — she has to learn who to trust as she tries to uncover the details and hobble the minds behind it.
Originally a shy girl who struggles to speak in public or make friends with others, Beka gradually opens up to Dogs and rushers alike and realises how strong her friendships really are — especially considering she is known in the Lower City as being one who speaks to the dead.
Here Ms Pierce utilises a different style of storytelling — Beka speaks in the first person and keeps a daily journal where she records the happenings in the two cases she is ‘sniffing.’ Beka is a true daughter of the Lower City and uses rough vernacular and the language of the Provost’s Dogs alike. This brings Beka to life via dynamic characterisation, letting the reader experience everything that happens to her, from the fierce joy of her first hobbling to the embarrassment of being called Fishpuppy after an unfortunate accident on one of her first evenings on duty. Pierce even offers a glossary to enable the reader to understand all the new terms she introduces.
Terrier is a fast-paced rollicking adventure, with both tense moments and times of comedy. Beka’s cat Pounce — a truly mysterious character who readers of the Alanna quartet will find extremely lovable — offers some of the best lines in his dry assessment of the goings-on in Beka’s life.
Terrier could have been shorter by a few hundred pages than the 563 it clocks in at (Pierce usually writes shorter novels that are all the sharper for it) and some of Beka’s language (such as ‘peaches’) doesn’t quite work, but overall this is another fine work by Tamora Pierce. It is rich with detail about the rough side of the capital city Corus, and pays homage to the crime genre in many places. Beka is another plucky heroine in the spirit of Alanna and Daine, and I’m sure she will be quickly taken to the hearts of readers. Definitely one for the girls, although boys will no doubt find much to secretly enjoy. Highly recommended.