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Old School Wednesdays Readalong: Terrier by Tamora Pierce

Old School Wednesdays Old School Wednesdays is a weekly Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?

Old School Wednesdays Final

Logo designed by the wonderful KMont

In March 2013, we asked YOU for your favorite old school suggestions – and the response was so overwhelmingly awesome, we decided to compile a goodreads shelf, an ongoing database, AND a monthly readalong/book club.

This month, for the inaugural Old School Wednesday Readalong, we’re discussing Terrier by Tamora Pierce!

For every readalong book, we’ll structure this a little bit differently than our usual Joint Review faire – first, we’ll give our (brief!) opinions regarding the book, then we’ll tackle some discussion questions. Finally, we’ll ask YOU to join in.


TerrierTitle: Terrier

Author: Tamora Pierce

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Random House
Publication date: October 2006
Hardcover: 581 pages

Hundreds of years before Alanna first drew her sword in Tamora Pierce’s memorable debut, Alanna: The First Adventure, Tortall had a heroine named Beka Cooper – a fierce young woman who fights crime in a world of magic. This is the beginning of her story, her legend, and her legacy….

Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost’s Guard, commonly known 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 pigeons 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 Dogs 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!

Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Beka Cooper trilogy

How did we get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): eBook and Print Book


Thea’s Take:

I am a big Tamora Pierce fan. I fell in love with Tortall when I read the lioness quartet as a middle school kid, and have never looked back. So, when Terrier was selected as our inaugural OSW readalong title, I was thrilled – I’ve had a copy of Terrier on my TBR for ages now (signed by Tamora Pierce, too!), and could not wait to dive in.

And…for me, Terrier is a mixed bag. There were things I loved about this book, very much – the character of Beka, her shyness and earnestness, her cat Pounce, and the worldbuilding of the Lower City all immediately come to mind. That said, there was plenty that I also found wanting – the unnecessary length of the book, the level of repetition without action, the loosely executed plot, and the distance between reader and characters (other than Beka) all were taxing to read.

Ana’s take:

This is where I lose all of my street cred with our readers: I read the first two Alanna books only a couple of years ago and to be honest…wasn’t hugely impressed. I know, I know. Although I can see why folks would love the books, I just didn’t connect with the writing. I was happy when Terrier was selected because it would give me another shot at a Tamora Pierce book.

And you know…I liked Terrier just fine but wasn’t head over heels in love with it either. I actually thought this was an extremely bloated book with small flashes of brilliance and which, at the end of the day, proved to be more of a chore rather than a pleasure to read.

Discussion Questions

1. Let’s talk Worldbuilding – for Pierce fans, Tortall is a familiar setting, although Beka Cooper’s particular corner of this world is unique and detailed. What did you like about the Lower City and its inhabitants, its magic, and its brutality?

Thea: The worldbuilding in Terrier was a high point for me – I love the setting of the Lower City, its blend of offhand violence, and the integration of magic in a way that feels natural and never gratuitous. I love that while there are mages, Beka’s own abilities are not flashy – she has a way to communicate with creatures (pigeons whose “riders” are ghosts, her cat Pounce), but cannot shoot magic out of her fingertips or anything quite so impressive or flashy. It’s very interesting to learn about Tortall through Beka’s eyes (via her journal, as this is an epistolary novel), and I think Tamora Pierce does a very good job of setting the stage for Beka’s adventures. This version of Tortall is one where law enforcers and thieves must figure out a way to coexist, and where female characters aren’t frowned upon or presumed weak.

Most of all, I love the idea of Dogs as a type of police force that works the city, that are generally respected by the population, and the danger and respect that comes with being a Dog (or a Puppy trainee).

Ana: Two aspects stood out for me. One is the way that female characters are written in the novel, the way that women do police work just as much as men and their roles in the military is not frowned up. This is really cool considering how often when we talk about women in military in real life or even in books (the recent The Cadet of Tildor comes to mind), we always seem to focus on the physical side of the work and how women are not cut out for it. I liked that this was simply a non-issue in this book.

The other is the shades-of-gray, not black-and-white work that the Dogs do and how malleable (even accepting bribes sometimes) they are when treating criminals but without ever crossing certain lines. Although we could certainly discuss how this malleability invites potential problems.

2. As a heroine, how does Beka stack up? Love her? Hate her? Need more time for her to grow on you?

Thea: I really loved Beka; there’s a great combination of vulnerability and strength in her character that is deeply endearing. When we first learn about Beka in the prologue, I was a little nervous that she would be portrayed as the Best Freakin’ Fighter/Dog-in-Training in the UNIVERSE (seeing as she brought down a powerful cove and his gang at the ripe age of eight, after he wronged her mother). And, while Beka is undeniably skilled as a Puppy – perhaps much more so than her peers – she’s not infallible, and she has a lot to learn from her mentors. I mean, that fishpuppy incident! I was cringing and blushing for the poor Pup!

Also, I’ve mentioned it before but it bodes mentioning again: I love that Beka’s particular brand of magical ability is an ability to communicate with animals, which she uses to do her job. I love her dedication to her work, her desire to do right by her family and by her guardian (of sorts), and the need to advance without relying on the connection she has with the Lord Provost of Tortall.

Finally, there’s also the issue of Beka’s deep, at times debilitating shyness in front of other people. I don’t think that Terrier necessarily needed to be an epistolary novel, but I do love the way that it affords us a limited look in Beka’s head, and how incredibly shy she is in front of others (and how much she struggles with that shyness).

Ana: I don’t know…I liked Beka to an extent, especially her dedication and belief in the work the Dogs do. But I don’t think the writing was top notch here – the repetitious nature of the novel, the tell-not-show really grated after a while. For example: we are constantly, constantly told how shy and friendless Beka was – but was she really any of those things? Apart from fear of speaking in public and with her Dogs to start with, she had loads of friends, had no problem doing her job and communicating well with folks.

I’d say I need more time for her to grown on me expect: I am not that willing to give these books more time. God, I am sounding like such a party pooper.

3. How about other favorite characters, as Terrier has a broad cast, including one of the most formidable (and badass) pairs of Dogs in Tortall, Clara “Clary” Goodwin and Matthias “Mattes” Tunstall, a trio of charismatic thieves, other puppies, and animals?

Ana: I LOVED Goodwin, such a cool, badass character. I also liked the Knight Sabine but other than that, the writing format didn’t ingratiate most of the characters to me. I didn’t feel specially connected to anybody here and I most certainly DID NOT see chemistry between Beka and Rosto. Please tell me I am not the only one. I suspect he is supposed to be a Loveable Rogue but he just flew completely under my Hotness Radar.

Thea: I really, really loved Clary Goodwin with her badassness and her abrasive attitude and Mattes Tunstall and his more… considered approach to his job and good nature. The interplay between Beka and her training pair of Dogs is a tense relationship at first, but gradually becomes one of mutual respect and friendship as Beka pulls her weight and shows her Dogs that she is no ordinary Puppy. The other character that I loved was Pounce! (Who I believe is a familiar cat from the Alanna books, if memory serves me correctly?)

That said…I do feel like there was a huge disconnect from any of the other characters in the book. I agree with Ana that I didn’t really feel the love between Beka and Rosto, and even Rosto’s two other crewmates Aniki and Kora (who I wanted to love) came off as distant to me. Perhaps this is because of the format of the narrative, which is immediately distancing for all characters except for Beka (and her two Dogs as she writes so tirelessly about them and her training). In any case, I really wanted to love Rosto – heck, he’s this generation’s George (and yes, I loved George for Alanna much more so than Jonathan). Unfortunately, the magic just wasn’t there.

4. The book is written in epistolary format – what did you think of the narrative choice and did you think this was done well?

Ana: This is probably my biggest problem with the novel. I am a HUGE fan of epistolary novels – when they work. Terrier is written as a journal in theory so that Beka can train her observation skills and her memory by writing down everything that happens to her in her first week as a Puppy. The question here is that she writes down EVERY SINGLE DETAIL and this just slows down the story. In a way it makes sense because she is doing exactly what she sets out to do as part of her job but I question this narrative choice here as it just adds so much unnecessary stuff to this novel. And it’s not even the fun kind of epistolary novel either – the kind that plays a “gotcha” or is unreliable because by nature, Beka is the most reliable person there is. The only unreliable thing about her narrative is when she writes about her (in denial) feelings for Rosto.

Thea: It pains me to say it, but I agree with Ana. The epistolary format is not one of my favorites to begin with, but when it is done well, I can’t argue with it. In Terrier, the narrative choice works against the story and the characters. On the one hand, Tamora Pierce does an awesome job of giving Beka a strong, distinct voice and the premise behind the epistolary format (Beka’s need to train her mind and hone her observation skills, not to mention her writing and recounting skills) is solid. On the other hand, the effect is incredibly repetitive, over-long, and frustrating because Beka recounts her experiences through a more clinical and detail-oriented eye that creates a distancing effect from any other characters. I’m sure others will have different opinions, but for me, the narrative choice was a miss.

5. The plot is sprawling, but focuses (sort of) on two main conflicts: the kidnapping and murder of children in the Lower City by the Shadow Snake, and the appearance of rare and precious fire opals (and the murder of the diggers that find them). What did you think of the plot, overall?

Ana: OK, I am just going to put this out there: you know how Beka is surrounded by supposedly awesome and good-at-their-job Dogs? So WHY then is she the ONLY ONE who actually cares about what is going on? I know that she has the special magic power that allows her get information but surely these Dogs have relied on their skills for years and years? So I was not overly involved in the plot – and I do think it took forever to get there – I saw who the villain was from a mile ahead.

Thea: Hmm. This is a tough one. I liked the idea behind the plot and the dual/intertwined mysteries of the Shadow Snake and the mysterious appearance of the fire opals and digger deaths. That said, the actual execution of these conficts/mysteries was clumsy and scattered, largely because the book is so unnecessarily long. I appreciate Tamora Pierce’s eye for realism with her focus on the minutia of the daily life of a Dog, but I really do wish more time was devoted to Beka and her cohorts solving these mysteries, instead of the incessant repetition of waking up for breakfast with some light flirting followed by the nightly patrol of the Lower City, getting beaten up, and going to the same tavern for dinner. There was an odd fixation with food in this book (stale bread, ale/mead, dry chicken, and so on and so forth).

6. What is your favorite thing from this book? What weren’t you crazy about? And, most importantly, will you continue with the series?

Ana: I loved the gender treatment in the novel and its female characters including Beka. I wasn’t crazy about…well, everything else. I think this one was a dud for me, folks, what a shame to start our readalong like this but I don’t think I want to continue with the series.

Thea: Beka is my favorite part of this book, hands down. I loved her character, I loved her interactions with her training Dogs, and also I am a sucker for Pounce. I was NOT crazy about the repetition and bloat to the story, which felt like it could have easily been trimmed down by a couple hundred pages. That criticism said, I enjoyed the book overall and would like to give the next two books a chance… eventually.


Ana: 5 – Meh

Thea: 6 – Good

May Readalong: We will be reading The Naming by Alison Croggon for our next readalong on May 22.


Now over to you! Please feel free to engage with the questions (and our answers), come up with your own talking points, and/or leave links to your reviews!


  • Tami
    April 24, 2013 at 9:18 am

    1) Worldbuilding
    I felt this was one of the strongest aspects of the book. I’m not a huge Tortall nerd to begin with, so it was just another fantasy world for me. Most of all, I loved the way the policing was structured and the slang used between the dogs.

    Although I liked some aspects of the magic, I still feel that Beka’s particular mixture of what she can do feels very strange. If it was just the pigeons OR just the cat OR just the wind spirits, I could see it, but all three together just felt like a mishmash.

    2) Beka’s character
    I loved Beka’s adoration of maps and desire to prove herself (hampered by her shyness in public speaking). I felt like she drew away from the “badass heroine” trope and brought it more into reality

    3) Characters
    For the most part, I did not feel that the other characters really came alive for me, and I think that’s a fault of the diary writing style, which leads into 4

    4) Format
    I hated the format. I hated the pair of completely unnecessary prologues, I hated the “telling” required by a diary format, and I feel like it got in the way of an adventure that would have been a lot of fun to experience as it happened, rather than afterwards through the voice of a (typically exhausted) girl.

    5) Plot
    This was another weak spot. I feel that there was a good plot in there, but it was smothered under the weight of unnecessary stuff. I still don’t think I fully understand the opals.

    6) I’m with Thea on this. There were so many LITTLE things that made the book fun to read, particularly Beka and the Dogs. I’ve read all three and I felt satisfied by the ending (and to reassure, the “romance” with Rosto doesn’t stick, which is nice. Beka doesn’t settle down with the first boy she crushes on). But it’s true that all the way to the end, it’s mostly the little things that keep the interest going. I felt that the third book is the first one with a good, solid, single plotline, but it also contains my biggest complaint about the series (those of you who read it are certain to know which character I’m talking about). I liked it for the things it did well, even though I saw the myriad of things it did so very wrong. I’m very glad to have read all three books, though.

  • Meghan
    April 24, 2013 at 10:55 am

    This was my first Tortall book and I really enjoyed it. I loved Beka! I think she is such a great character, flaws and all, and I am looking forward to see how she matures even further in the next books.

    I did not like the format at all. I rarely like diary or letter formats though so no surprise there.

    I really enjoyed the other characters, especially the rushers that live in her building. I had a hard time picturing them for some reason, but I enjoyed their story lines. My favorites were probably Pounce and Ersken (I might be the only one who really liked him!).

    One thing I really didn’t like was all the dog terminology. I thought it was so odd and it made me laugh calling her a terrier because terriers in my mind are kind of wussy dogs.

    I am definitely going to continue reading the series and also the Alanna ones at some point.

    Thanks for the readalong! Sorry my answers are out of order.

  • Rachel Neumeier
    April 24, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    1) Worldbuilding
    I read my first Pierce books only a few years ago and wasn’t that impressed; I think those are novels that are going to work best for you if you first read them when you’re fourteen. I thought the worldbuilding in the Beka Cooper novels was SO MUCH STRONGER, so much more complex and interesting, than anything in Pierce’s previous books. I loved the pigeons and the dust devils and the way the police are still figuring out how to be police and the more complex, realistic relationships between the characters.

    I do wish Pierce had just left out the special magical cat. She had to really work around that cat in later books to avoid having him just fix things with a wave of his paw, and he was never necessary. But I like the stuff about the dogs. Terriers are often small but definitely not wusses, btw! They are famously the fight-till-they-drop varmint killers who don’t know when an opponent is too big for them.

    2) Beka’s character
    I enjoyed Beka’s character and thought she seemed like a realistic, complicated person. My impression was that she feels she is shyer than she actually is and that Pierce wrote her that way on purpose.

    3) Characters and format
    Um . . . I have to say I enjoyed the format. Sure, forcing the story into diary form was a little strained at times, but I didn’t mind. Having a lot of detail and so on doesn’t bother me, if I like the details. Which in this book, I did.

    5) Plot
    Along with lots of details that may not be strictly necessary, slowness of pace is another thing that doesn’t necessarily bother me. I thought the plot was fine. I’ve read all three books, and the only book of this series that felt seriously bloated to me was the third, which yes, I thought could have been cut by at least two hundred pages.

    I really enjoyed this series and, though I gather from these comments that it’s not for everyone, I still think it’s a huge step up in sophistication and worldbuilding from, say, the Lioness series.

  • Amanda
    April 24, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    It’s funny… I think my reaction to the first two in this series is pretty much on par with Ana and Thea’s. But the third book, that one I really enjoyed (it’s the only one of the three I purchased after giving them all a go from my local library). What I’ve discovered after trying more of Pierce’s series (Protector of the Small; Daughter of the Lioness) is that I actually have been similarly disappointed with the others, as well (jury is still out on the Daughter of the Lioness series–the first one was “o.k.”). I haven’t read is the Alanna quartet, and I’m reluctant to try. What drives me nuts about Pierce’s writing are those sparks of brilliance. In among the more plodding or uninteresting elements of her stories, they keep me hoping for something more. But other than Mastiff, none of her books have quite gotten there–none have given me that satisfied, contented feeling of finishing a really engaging, interesting, and re-readable story. I’m actually a little relieved to hear other people have had similar reactions, as the overall buzz about all of Pierce’s books is so loudly positive.

  • Ana
    April 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for chiming in everybody – really interesting to see the range of reactions.

    Amanda: “What drives me nuts about Pierce’s writing are those sparks of brilliance. In among the more plodding or uninteresting elements of her stories, they keep me hoping for something more.”

    That’s how I felt about what I’ve read of her so far. We are not alone! : )

  • Becky C.
    April 24, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Glad to see that I am not the only one who didn’t love this book, because I just hated it. I thought, crap first one and I cant even finish 🙁 I did not like the style. The plot was dull to me. No real minor character development. I thought the world building was good, but not enough for me to keep going. I did not finish.

  • darchole
    April 24, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Worldbuilding is often great in Pierce’s books, and often more realistic than other YA books, as in the character building because she *gasps* includes not only sex and death but how people deal with it.

    However there is much to be said for having a plan on how the series will progress and having an editor actually that will actually remove unnecessary bits. There are plenty of examples of editor’s who didn’t (appear) to edit (Rowling), books that really needed a plan for the overall story arc for each character (Jordan) and authors who have lost track or never had a series long story arc to being with (I’d say Martin, but he may just have managed to save the series with the show.)

    I suggested the book to review not only because I love Pierce’s books, but because they can have some problems. I’d actually say the Song of the Lioness quartet’s problem is that it is TOO short, probably a result of what would reasonably sell at that time, as there were no long Harry Potter-like YA books at the time.

    Spoiler ahead – one thing that annoys me to no end, if you’re going to have a character appear, even it it’s *just* an animal there better be a conclusion even if it’s “Puss’n’boots walked off into the sunset never to be seen again” rather than have then never mentioned again (I’m talking actual characters here, not just filler). In reality there is no conclusion to any of the Rogue’s court people mentioned, and instead of those people being mentioned I would have instead loved to see more of the Dogs. The only reason those people are included are to link it to later books and most of her readers don’t need a big neon sign to make the connection. And if they did the epilogue in the last book worked just fine for that. (trying to keep it as spoiler free as possible.)

  • Lindsay
    April 25, 2013 at 12:09 am

    Aww, I enjoyed this book. While I wouldn’t put it on a best-of-everything list, I thought it was a fun read.

    I loved the world, really liked Beka and most of the rest, and I actually kind of dug the format. It’s corny, but I’d much rather have some corniness than overwrought drama and/or romance.

    Now that others have brought up the repetition, I realize that I kind of like that too. I like the cop-on-the-beat feel it gives the story, that not every scene pushes the ‘plot’ forward, but rather you get an impression of her full life.

    I was recommended this book by a friend months before it came up here, so I’ll probably read the next one, whenever I remember to order it from the library. No rush, though.

    Review: http://bluefairysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2013/04/terrier-beka-cooper-book-1.html

  • May
    April 25, 2013 at 2:34 am

    1. Worldbuilding
    Most of Pierce’s books have solid world building, and for me, Terrier was no exception – I could actually see the Lower City in my head.
    I liked the way Beka’s magic wasn’t something flashy or all powerful and was just another tool she used to do her job.

    2. Beka’s character
    Beka’s character felt realistic with all her habits, friends, problems(her shyness and her sisters’ reactions to her being a Dog) etc.
    Beka is shy but I don’t remember her saying that she’s friendless anywhere. Being shy means that you aren’t usually comfortable with new people right away but that doesn’t mean that shy people are friendless 🙂

    3,4) Characters and format
    Well…I usually hate this format, but after the first chapter or so I didn’t really notice it anymore…so I guess it worked for me. I get bugged with stories in which the main character is shown to have practiced something two or three times and then is automatically brilliant at it – even if the author picks up the story 2 months later, I still want to hear about what the character did to get so good…so for me, the details of her days as Puppy are actually a plus point 🙂
    As for the other characters..the Rosto and the rest could have had more depth, but I loved Goodwin and Tunstall.

    As she doesn’t actually end up with Rosto in the end, I was ok with it.

    5) Plot
    It was a bit scattered but it felt realistic to me as she was trying to juggle two cases and didn’t want to give up on either. I was able to guess the culprit easily though.

    As you might have guessed, I enjoyed the book(and the next 2) and will be around for when Pierce writes some new ones 🙂 …long wait though…*sigh*

  • eliza
    April 30, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    ah, tamora pierce! how i love her. to me, her strongest series was the daughter of the lioness. so when this series was the next published thing set in tortall (i never connected with the circle of magic), i was really really excited. but i found this to be fairly lackluster, with very similar responses as you guys.

  • Eliza
    May 5, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Oops. I’m late to the party – and the first one at that. I had reread (actually listened to) Terrior in anticipation of our first read-along and then . . . life happened. So, with the thought of better late than never, I thought I’d chime in. This is going to be a long comment (even for me) so I’m breaking it into two parts. Part 1 – discussing the book and Part 2 – discussing what I love about Tamora’s books.

    This wasn’t my favorite series by Tamora but since I read it so long ago (when it first came out) I wanted to read it again for this discussion. I was surprised that I liked it better this second time around, maybe because of lower expectations. I think it contains many elements that make her books so loved.

    1. World building – I loved that though this is 100 years prior to the other Tortall books, it was still recognizable as part of that world but different enough that you could tell there was a century separating them. I also liked the fact that this book didn’t concentrate on the noble/knight/royalty & court life of the other books. You were down in the city and in the poorer parts and you really got a feel for their life.

    2. Beka – I liked Beka and felt that she, of all Tamora’s heroines, really seemed as young as she was and this does cause some of my frustration with her. She is so earnest. You kind of want to see her lighten up and have fun once or twice. But, I guess, her upbringing and life really doesn’t lend itself to that. I did enjoy watching her become a better cop/Dog.

    Ana – I didn’t ever get that she was supposed to be friendless. Maybe before she started as a puppy but it was clear that she made friends both with her classmates, her partners, and her neighbors.

    Thea – yes, Pounce is the same cat as Faithful in the Alana books!

    4. Journal/Epistolary Format – this is where I think my appreciation grew in the second reading. I enjoyed watching Beka learn to be a cop and so glad it didn’t go from her being a rookie to all of a sudden becoming super cop! I felt that the narrative gave you feel of a beat cop walking the streets. You felt the stones, the cold, their weariness. You really lived their rhythms. Could some of it been edited? Yes. But I enjoyed the daily routines.

    Plot – I liked that there were two main cases to solve and that Beka’s magic was used to help solve the case but good old fashioned police work also was key to solutions.

    What Enjoyed and Didn’t – I also believe that this trilogy was bloated and could have been edited down. I think her storytelling was sharper when the publisher limited her books page count (pre-Harry Potter days). That said, the longer length allowed you to feel the what the life of a street was like and experience the world a bit more. Also, I loved having Pounce/Faithful back.

    I liked the new kind of magic (pigeons carrying the dead and the spirits living in the dust devils)and how that played into the story.

    I also liked that the book, though part of a trilogy didn’t end of a cliffhanger. All the main plot points were resolved.

    Will I continue? I did read all three when they came out. Really didn’t like the 2nd book (the problems of pacing in the 1st are worse in the 2nd) but did like the 3rd book. Even the ending which many found problematic, I found it surprising but believable. The basis was laid as early as the first book.

    Mark Reads – If you want to read a funny and real time take on Tamora’s books, check this blog. Mark is reading all the Tortall books and posting his reactions a chapter at a time. His reactions are honest, funny, and touching. Don’t read this if you don’t want to be spoiled or are offended by swearing. Do read this if you’ve read the books and want to read someone’s reactions who is reading them for the first time. So far he’s read The Song of the Lioness and The Immortals quartets and just started The Protector of the Small quartet. I discovered Mark Reads from Angieville and have been enjoying reading along with him. Tamora occasionally comments.

    Tamora Pierce – this is her site and lists all her books plus planned upcoming books. Per her site, 2 books are supposed to come out this year but no publication dates are listed.

  • Eliza
    May 5, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    Here are some of the things I love about Tamora Pierce’s books, in no particular order:

    1. No cliff hangers. Each book in the series answers the questions raised and resolves the main plot points. She respects the reader enough to believe that you will read the next book because you care about the character(s) and want to follow them and their journey with the character(s).

    2. No Loose Threads Left. By the end of the series, Tamora has woven a tight story. Plot points mentioned in passing or characters briefly met early on figure in the later books. She plays the long game where clues are planted in the earlier books and payed off in the end. I’ve always like the last book of each series the best as it has such a satisfying payoff.

    3. Magic Has Consequences and Cost. Yes, there is magic in the books but there is a cost to using the magic and it isn’t the magic bullet (excuse the pun) that solves all problems. There are hard and fast rules to the use of magic and they are observed. Her world building is brilliant and this extends to the rules of magic.

    4. Women Own Their Sexuality. Sex is not viewed as something shameful and there is no slut-shaming if a women character sleeps with more than one man. There is no insta-love and her first love is always her one true love. She has crushes, different boyfriends/lovers. All without judgement. Who she loves/is attracted to changes as she changes and grows. Also, birth control is very much part of the world.

    5. Women and men characters are different and flawed. There are no perfect characters – so beautiful, talented and perfect in every way. You can see these people striving and working to be the best they can be. They fail sometimes but work harder next time and achieve their goals. They never are right all the time. While they have to compromise sometimes because that is reality, they never compromise their principles.

    6. All her books pass the Bechdel Test.

    7. No Demonization of the Feminine*. Gosh, I’ve become so tired of female characters bashing what is traditionally viewed as feminine be it dresses or whatever. Here, women who choose to follow traditional roles are not deemed stupid or incompetent and those that don’t are still allowed to enjoy feminine things – clothes, jewelery, flirting, etc. *Thanks to Mark for the term which I’ve now appropriated.

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  • AmberMC
    May 4, 2015 at 1:52 am

    This page was an interesting read, as well as the comments. BUT I have read the whole trilogy. I’d have to say I LOVED it!! Tamora is one of my favorite authors. I love her characters. And this might be my second favorite, only to the Protector of the Small series… I couldn’t put these books down. I truly loved this trilogy. 😀 Except the ending of the final book. I’ll let you read it, if you choose, to find out why I hated the ending…. I’d have to say that was the first time I wrote an author to ask WHY they wrote it that way… Haha. I was definitely very mad….

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  • Katie
    July 13, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    This is so disappointing for me. I love all things Tamora Pierce, and Beka’s trilogy was actually one of my favorites of her works–though honestly, I kind of think everything she writes is amazing. So I’m really sad that you didn’t love it. I think I’m also just a lot more tolerant of longer, slower, more setting-heavy books–I mean, I’m rereading Lord of the Rings for fun right now! If there’s anything that wins the prize for unnecessary description, it’s that.

    Hope you review something else of Pierce’s more favorably. Maybe the Circle of Magic books? Those might be more your speed if you didn’t love Tortall. Or even the Wild Magic quartet if you just didn’t like Beka and Alanna. That mini series is pretty much perfectly paced, in my opinion.

  • Katie
    July 13, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    God that was such a sad ending to the series! Did she ever write you back? I also want to know why she did that! I cried my eyes out reading that book. The whole book actually. Beka was just so broken. And so much more mature. And everyone was kind of going downhill, getting older and slower.

    At the same time, I did really love how that third book was such a flashforward in time. Beka was just so much more grown-up. She’d had this serious relationship and subsequent loss all between books, and was constantly having work partner issues because she was a full-fledged Dog now. It was such a shift. Even her relationship with Rosto had really changed and deepened. He’d given up chasing after her long ago, and they were just super good friends instead, which was really nice, kind of perfect for them actually. Even though I feel like they also could have been a great couple. I mean, he just loved her SO much! And he was basically her generation’s George, as has already been said. And she was constantly denying feelings for him. But at the same time, I do understand why that never happened, and really like where they ended up, and who she ended up with instead. Still. Such wasted potential.

    Sorry for the side-rant. Did Tamora Pierce ever write back? I need to know!

  • Katie
    July 13, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    Just to make the magic more clear, I need you to know that the cat is not part of Beka’s magic. The cat is a constellation come to life, occasionally sent down by the gods to guide their chosen mortals. It can communicate with whomever it pleases, it just tends to choose to only be understood by the one mortal it’s helping out. So that was NOT her magic, that was all the cat’s own magic. And it was sent down to help her specifically because she was the God of Death’s chosen mortal. Which is also really tied into the pigeons/dead spirits. The wind spinners I think she just gets from her dad. So it does actually all make sense together, if you know a little more about Tortall. I only knew about the cat because he shows up in the Alanna series as well, and you learn more about his origins there. Though I feel like maybe he explains himself at the end of this book series too? Can’t remember. Anyways, maybe with that cleared up, you won’t feel like it’s such a strange mixture of magics to have. Though it is very unique in Tortall. Most people have your more general all-purpose Gift, or light or healing powers.

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