If you don’t read Tamora Pierce, you really should. She’s one of the best authors of fantasy out there, and not just because of awesome stories and characters. Her world building is amazing, she researches everything to make sure she gets her details right on weaponry, costuming, etc., and she’s pretty fantastic about sex and body positivity in her books. Alanna, the protagonist of her first quartets, has sex, like, a lot. With various guys. Pre-marriage. And it’s just kind of how it is. It’s what she chooses to do with her own body and that’s all there is to it. You don’t see that a lot in YA. (Alanna is also short and stocky and generally awesome.)
I have a bit of a writer crush on Tamora Pierce, is what I’m getting at. I’ve been working my way through her books, and have recently started the Beka Cooper trilogy. This is the first of her books to be written in a journal format, and I admit I was a little wary. I have trouble with journal format because it always seems unrealistic to me. How could someone possibly remember all these details and write them down so faithfully? However, in Terrier, I was able to buy that since Beka is training to be a Dog (a sort of cop), she’s trying to exercise her mind and be able to remember all these details. It’s an important part of her job. Additionally, there are multiple entries where Beka essentially says, “Yeah, screw this today,” and only writes a few sentences, or skips multiple days entirely. For me, that helped it feel more realistic.
One of my favorite things about Tamora is, as I mentioned above, her world building and her dedication to detail. This comes through especially well in Terrier. There’s a whole new dictionary of slang to learn that Beka doesn’t teach you (since she knows it already and wouldn’t need to write it down, obviously), and though you can look it up in an included glossary, I found I didn’t need to. I really love being thrown into a world and learning about these things through context, and Terrier is set up very well for that sort of reading experience. There’s also a new social dynamic to learn about – that between the Dogs, the Puppies (Dogs in training), and the people they serve. For instance, it’s very common for Dogs to take bribes for information, etc. The first time it’s offered to her, Beka refuses, and, of course, as a reader, you cheer for her resistance to corruption. But here’s the thing – bribery isn’t a sign of corruption in this dynamic. It’s a valuable resource. Bribes help out all the Dogs, and help to build relationships in the community (even, yes, the criminal community). If you’re a big fan of law-abidance as we know it, this may be a struggle for you. I found it rather refreshing and got really into it.
I’ve yet to meet a Tamora heroine that I don’t adore, but my heart’s always lingered with Alanna. I think Beka might challenge Alanna for her place, though. She’s strong, intelligent, and determined – and also really shy. She has trouble with just talking to her Dogs. It’s her big weakness, and I can totally relate. She has to struggle to overcome it and often only does when there’s something far more important on her mind to distract her from the anxiety of social interaction. In her own journal, though, she’s not afraid to speak her mind, and her insights into herself and those around her are always fascinating.
Overall, yet another wonderful book from Tamora Pierce. I’ll be reading the next two in the trilogy as soon as I can.
Favorite Quote: “Cats must always be cats, even when they are gods, or constellations.”
Medium: library e-loan on Kindle