Citation: Pierce, Tamora. Terrier (Beka Cooper #1). New York: Random House, 2006.
Summary: Beka Cooper is a Puppy. One day soon, she’ll be a Dog, one of the Provost’s Guards of Corus. With just a touch of magic to help her, and her (talking) cat Pounce to guide her, she begins her first year as a Guard in the worst neighbourhood of the Capital. As Beka learns to manage the day-to-day dealings of the Provost’s Guard— hobbling Rats, getting information from Birdies, and collecting the weekly Happy Bag of bribes that go towards her pay—she realizes that a darker threat is lurking in the Lower City and that children are being stolen. As someone who is watched by the Gods, her first big case could never be an easy one. Beka will have to call on everything that she has learned as a Dog to solve a problem this big!
Character: Beka Cooper is sixteen in this first installment. She does not talk very much, but that just means that she is good at listening. She has just a touch of magic—she can hear the voices of the dead, and communicate with ‘dust-spinners,’ spinning pockets of air that can trap sound and relay it to her. She is young and learning, but very clearly born to be a Dog—she has the raw instinct for finding crime, the tenacity to pursue it, and the type of honour needed to be respected in the city’s slums.
Setting: A return to Pierce’s kingdom of Tortall means that this book is in a feudal society, with knights, magic, and active (though not explicitly present) Gods and Goddesses. As opposed to her other series, this trilogy is not set in the upper echelons of society but rather the very lowest rungs.
Style: A first for Tamora Pierce, the Beka Cooper series is written in a first-person journal format (allowing for quirky touches such as an ink blot, tear marks, and cat prints). The character and story are introduced by the mother of a major character in Pierce’s first series set in Tortall. Beka is the ancestor of George Cooper, and her journals are given to him by his mother in hopes of dissuading him from a life of crime (spoiler alert: it does not work).
Author: Tamora Pierce.
Series: The Beka Cooper Series. This is the first, though not the best of the series. Pierce manages to improve on her series in the second book, Bloodhound, by managing to make the perils of colemongering (counterfeiting) not just exciting but also explicitly understandable. The final book, containing some major twists, is a return to her normal high standard. An interesting point to look for in the series is the hints at the cultural shift towards the “weak woman” stereotype that is subverted in the Alanna series.
Appeal factors: This book combines the “strong female heroine” with “crime drama,” “fantasy,” “action-adventure,” and the slightest bit of “unresolved romantic tension.”
Intended audience: The publisher suggests 12 years and up, however I would recommend this book to older teens 14-17.