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28 November 2006 @ 05:29 pm
Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce  
A book review! Excuse my slight ramblingness.

Title: Beka Cooper: Terrier
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: YA Fantasy
# of Pages: 581 (hardcover, including Glossary)
Rating: A-
Summary: (from inside cover)
Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, commonly know as "the Provost's Dogs," in Corus, the capital city of Tortall. To the surprise of both the veteran "Dogs" and her fellow "puppies," Beka requests duty in the Lower City. The Lower City is a tough beat. But it's also where Beka was born, and she's comfortable there.

Beka gets her wish. She's assigned to work with Mattes and Clary, famed veterans among the Provost's Dogs. They're tough, they're capable, and they're none too happy about the indignity of being saddled with a puppy for the first time in years. What they don't know is that Beka has something unique to offer. Never much of a talker, Beka is a good listener. So good, in fact, that she hears things that Mattes and Clary never could--information that is passed in murmurs when flocks of pidgeons gather... murmurs that are the words of the dead.

In this way, Beka learns of someone in the Lower City who has overturned the power structure of the underworld and is terrorizing its citizens into submission and silence. Beka's magical listening talent is the only way for the Provost's Guard to find out the identity of this brutal new underlord, for the dead are beyond fear. And the ranks of the dead will be growing if the Dogs can't stop a crime wave the likes of which has never been seen. Luckily for the people of the Lower City, the new puppy is a true terrier!

Where to start about Tamora Pierce's newest book? Like her previous novels, there is much to love, some to admire from a distance, and a little irritation. I personally liked Pierce's past three releases, the two Trickster books and The Will of the Empress, more than her earlier works, so I expected a lot from Terrier. It did succeed in meeting those expectations, as a solid and engaging YA fantasy novel by an established author--but it doesn't quite meet my standards for adult fantasy. And that's fine, because these books are aimed toward teens as strong, suspenseful fluff.

Firstly, the worldbuilding is extensive and amazing as usual--in fact, Pierce solved some issues in Terrier that I've been having in my own WIP. What could easily have become sticky plotholes are turned into intriguing plot points instead (the mage's prison, for example). The Lower City is realistically (though not lyrically) described, in gritty and powerful prose that I admired despite not being enamored with Beka's voice. I also liked the subtle references to past novels--Pounce the purple-eyed cat, Rosto as a reflection of George Cooper--and oh, I love the Beka/Rosto pairing, even if I know exactly what's going to happen. The pidgeons are a nice touch too, each with their own personality.

I admire the journal entry style and distinctive first-person voices (mostly Beka, but Eleni and Ilony Cooper also narrate in the beginning), but as I said earlier, Beka's voice just didn't draw me into the story enough to be emotionally affected. When one of her friends dies, for instance, Beka's entry is devoid of emotion--which is realistic--but it only elicited a "that's sad, I'm sorry for you" response from me as a reader. Still, all of the major characters are fully developed. I especially loved Rosto the charming rogue, even if his personality is hard to distinguish from George Cooper in previous novels.

I do have to say that the widespread use of slang is a double-edged sword. It's effective and most word meanings can be gleaned from context, but sometimes it just annoyed me--words like "sommat" began to grate on my nerves after a while.

A bit off-topic here, but does the line "Come to my rooms after breakfast and I'll give you a tea that's good for sleep" strike anyone besides me as, well, intimate? Or maybe I just have a sick mind, heh.

Beka's ability and talent have a certain "female heroine" vibe (with the emphasis on "heroine" there), but I suppose it's to be expected from Pierce. The suspense is wonderful in some places and terrible in others--I won't spoil the ending, but for those who have read the book, compare Mistress Noll and Rosto, respectively. And the lily pendant was so obvious.

Yes, I know I'm being deliberately coy. I'll end this mixed review with two comments: one, Terrier is worth reading despite its flaws, and two, the cover art is stunning. (I'm a sucker for pretty, shiny covers.)

I'm pretty sure that my annoyance with whoever wrote the summary copy (it definitely wasn't Pierce, whose style is always excellent) weren't a good sign, but overall the book is decent. Not outstanding, but decent. I can't help comparing Terrier to Twilight--both have strong prose, engaging characters, and moving plot, but Twilight affected me emotionally much more. I could actually feel, imagine Bella's horrific emotional pain and her fear of Edward leaving her. It was very powerful.

Cross-posted to my personal journal.
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