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Terrier (The Legend of Beka Cooper, Book 1) Hardcover – October 24, 2006
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Tamora Pierce has been creating strong, appealing heroines for teen fantasy fans for years, creating 2 main universes to house her multiple series. With Terrier, Pierce returns to the Tortall universe (home to her Song of the Lioness, Immortals, Protector of the Small, and Daughter of the Lioness series). Want to learn more? Read an exclusive essay from Tamora Pierce below. --Daphne Durham
An Essay from Tamora Pierce
Sixteen-year-old Beka Cooper lives far removed from knights, palaces, and the nobility. Her world revolves around thieves, beggars, taverns, and the lowest of the low. She's a trainee for the Provost's Guarda rookie cop, in a world where a cop makes her own name based on her personality, her attitude toward money, and her love of the law. Beka means to prove that she is out to make her mark in this hard and physical world.
She does face a large obstacle. She's shy. Painfully shy. Left to her own devices, she would have no friends. It's hard for her to talk to people she doesn't know. It's a problem for the Guards who train her, a real problem for Bekaunless she can figure out that a uniform is a kind of costume, one she can hide behind. One that will make her a more outspoken person. It will help a lot if people come to realize that under her shyness is a clever, determined young woman. It will help even more if she can make friends who can give her good advice. Luckily, she has one such friend living with her in her slum apartment: a purple-eyed black cat named Pounce. He can make himself understood in human speech if he wishes to. He's capable of doing weirdly intelligent things to help his young companion Beka. With Pounce to assist her, Beka cannot have an ordinary career.
Beka tells her own story in a journal that she keeps from her very first day as a Puppy. The Guards are dubbed "Dogs" in her time and their trainees are called "Puppies." In its pages she writes of her days with her training Dogs, the pair who are to teach her what they know of survival on the streets in the city's toughest slum. Both are veterans. Tunstall is an easygoing, funny man who can be a little crazy in a fight. Goodwin is a small, tough woman who is opposed to Beka's presence at the beginning, a hard Dog and a smart one. They take charge when Beka brings them word of two vicious sets of crimes. Like everyone else in Beka's life, her partners find out that once Beka gets a case in her teeth, she hangs onto it like a terrier until it's been solved.
I have all kinds of reasons why I went to the past of the Alanna books. In part I wanted to show how present-day Tortall came to be. I also knew George's fans would welcome any kind of return to the Lower City, even if it wasn't the Lower City of his time. I wanted to get away from the courts and nobility, the setting for so many of the Tortall books thus far. Since I didn't want to show any of the characters I've come to love as being old or even dead, I couldn't write books in the future of the current Tortall. I turned to the past, and I'm pretty sure my readers will be glad I did! --Tamora Pierce
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7 Up—Orphaned Beka Cooper, 16, is a trainee-a "Puppy"-in the Provost's Guard. Having spent the first half of her life in Tortall's slums, she is driven by the need to do what is right and see justice done. Paired with two of the best Guards, or "Dogs," in the organization and aided by her own gifts of magic, Beka learns her job, makes friends with two mages and a thief, and uncovers two serial killers who prey on the poor and unnoticed. With Terrier, Pierce tries out a new style of storytelling and succeeds admirably. Beka, the ancestor of George Cooper from the "Song of the Lioness" series (S & S), tells her story through journal entries, making for a thoroughly engaging read. The characters are recognizable types, but all have their own personalities. Readers will enjoy meeting the Lady Knight Sabine of Macayhill, Alanna's precursor in profession and temperament; Rosto the Piper; and Beka's friends. The level of violence is comparable to that found in "The Circle Opens" series (Scholastic) but isn't as gratuitous. This seems mostly to be due to the journal format, which gives readers only Beka's thoughts and feelings as opposed to those of the killers as well. With its rollicking adventure, appealing characters, and inclusion of Tortall's history, Terrier will be in strong demand by Pierce's fans. It will keep readers on the edge of their seats.—Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA
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Top Customer Reviews
After finding the man meeting with his pals in the Bold Brass gang, she turned them in to the Lord Provost himself when none other would listen. The Provost took Beka, her mother, and her four siblings into his own household. Beka eventually became a trainee in the Provost's Guard.
In this novel, Beka is a Puppy, assigned to two experienced Dogs for training. Clara Goodwin and Matthias Tunstall are the best Guards of the Evening Watch, which is reputed to be the best of the three Guard shifts. Goodwin has been a Provost's Guard for seventeen years and Tunstall has been a Guard for twenty years, thirteen as Goodwin's partner.
Now they are being saddled with a Puppy and Goodwin is not very happy about the whole thing; Tunstall, however, is rather pleased to have Beka as his Puppy. Both know of her part in bringing in the Bold Brass gang, but do not know anything about her magic. They also know nothing about Pounce, the cat who has adopted Beka. This new partnership is going to be a learning experience for all of them.
On her first night, trailing behind Goodwin and Tunstall, Beka is told to chase an escaping thief and falls -- literally -- for an old trick. She lands facedown in a pile of fish and is called Fishbelly for the rest of the shift.
The next night, she takes off after a crazed drunk who has struck Goodwin with the hilt of a knife. She chases the woman all across the Lower City nearly to the North gate and then brings her hobbled to the Provost's Guard kennel. Very few call her Fishbelly after that run, but some call her Terrier for the first time.
Then Goodwin and Tunstall find out that Beka is extremely shy. She can talk with friends, but public speaking ties up her tongue. Since she has to testify before the Provost's Magistrate, she forces herself to utter a few words. Fortunately the Magistrate is kind and helps her to tell the story of the chase and capture, with Goodwin and Tunstall filling in some details. Strangely enough, she doesn't appear have any problems telling malefactors that they are under arrest, even in public places.
In this story, Beka learns of two different crimes from her sources in the Lower City. The son of her friend Tansy is abducted and killed by someone calling himself the Shadow Snake after a childish fable. When she talks to Tansy, she is given a strange gemstone. Soon her pigeons bring new riders who complain of being killed in a hole that they have been hired to dig and the gemstone is somehow related.
In this story, Beka becomes the center of a small social circle that meets in her boarding house. Other trainees, experienced guards and even some rogues eat breakfast most mornings in her room or elsewhere in the house or on the grounds. This circle of friends also joins her in the search for the abducted diggers and the Shadow Snake.
This story takes place earlier in the history of Tortall, well before Alanna and her friends. Yet Beka is the progenitor of one of those friends. The story starts with the young George Cooper being told of his illustrious ancestor.
Based on past publications, this book may be the first in a tetralogy. Maybe the author is getting into a rut, always starting with a novice and then taking the series on to higher skills, but who cares when the stories are this good. This volume is definitely a fine start to a new series. Enjoy.
Highly recommended for Pierce fans and for anyone else who enjoy tales of minor magic, grubby police work and hardearned experience.
-Arthur W. Jordin