Winter doldrums got you feeling a bit stale? For a breath of fresh air, try picking up one of the new books from the Young Adult (YA) section on your next trip to the library. Although the target audiences for these books are teens, adult readers will also enjoy many of them, Terrier, the newest offering from Tamora Pierce, is a good one to choose.
The main character is Beka Cooper, and her life’s ambition is to be a good “Dog,” as the city’s law enforcement officers are called, in the underbelly of the city Corus. This area is known as the Cesspool for good reason, and it is where Beka was born and spent most of her childhood. Fortunately for Beka, the Provost, who runs the city’s law enforcement, pulled her from a life of poverty and its traps. Young Beka reveres him as a father figure and eagerly embraces his sense of duty towards their city.
As she is just a novice, still being trained in the skills she will need, Beka is known as a “Puppy” and sent out to learn the ways of the streets with a pair of experienced “Dogs.” Her eagerness for the work and her uncanny abilities to communicate with ghosts combine to set her squarely in the dangerous tangle of kidnapping and murder that is plaguing the Cesspool.
One of the most enjoyable things about this book is the author’s clever use of language. An example of this is the metaphor of “Dogs” for the forces of law, and “Rats” for the criminal element. Pierce stays consistent in the details, too. For instance, a “Puppy” is a youth in training to be a Dog, the home station is called a “Kennel,” and Rats” are “fetched” to the “cages.” By the book’s end, Beka herself has earned the nickname of Terrier, a type of dog originally bred to catch rats.
Not all of the magical details flow smoothly, but the use of pigeons as temporary carriers for the souls of the dead is fascinating and well crafted. The action clips right along, and although some readers may figure out who the guilty parties are before the final reckoning, the story of Beka’s growing comprehension and competence makes the trip worthwhile. The questions left by the bare-bones explanation of Beka’s childhood, and the nature of the character herself, leave the reader hoping for more to be written about Beka and her career as a Dog.
Those who like “Terrier” and can’t wait for a sequel may wish to read the many other books by Tamora Pierce. She has written more than a dozen books, and they can be found in the Young Adult (YA) section of the Uinta County Library.
Review by Nonie Proffit 3/2/2007