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Terrier: Beka Cooper Book 1    by Tamora Pierce order for
by Tamora Pierce
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Terrier is the first in a delightful new series about Tortall Legend Rebaka Cooper. The story opens as one of Beka's descendants tells her son (who's been in trouble with the Guard) their ancestress's story, telling him to 'Remember her ... Respect her. Respect me.'

We learn how Beka grew up in the Cesspool slums of Mutt Piddle Lane, with inherited magical talents. She speaks to pigeons, the Black God's messengers who carry the souls of those dead with unfinished business, and she listens to dust spinners, that release news and gossip in exchange for dirt carried from other parts of the city. When she was only eight-years-old, Beka dealt with the man who lived with her mama, beat her and stole from her. Beka followed him, spied on his gang activities, and reported them to the Lord Provost, whose inability to capture the successful gang had put his job in danger. In gratitude, lord Gershom took in Beka's family to his own household, where she grew up planning to join the Provost's Guard, commonly known as Dogs (novices are Puppies for the first year).

The majority of the story is told through Beka's journal. She's a heroine who's almost too good to be true - the only significant flaw she has for the job she takes on is her extreme shyness. She's lucky to be partnered with Matthias Tunstall and Clara Goodwin, who have never trained a Puppy before, but are the best. They're surprised by the appearance of Beka's purple-eyed talking (to her only) cat Pounce, but he quickly proves useful as does Beka herself (aside from a humiliating fishguts episode). Beka slowly becomes aware that poor children are disappearing in the Lower City, taken by the Shadow Snake if the parents don't part with their small treasures. The latest is Rolond, small son of Beka's childhood friend Tansy, who's wed to the grandson of the hated and corrupt Lower City landlord Crookshank.

While working with her partners, Beka steadily pursues her own investigation into the missing children, with help from lady knight Sabine and other newfound friends on the shady side of the law - lean and deadly Rosto, blond swordswoman Aniki and magic user Kora - who also become neighbors in her lodgings. As she learns the job, wins friends (and enemies), and grows up a little, Beka slowly uncovers a tangled web of slum politics, fire opals, greed, revenge, and a villain whose identity shocks her to the core. Terrier is a gripping coming of age story about a committed young woman with a passion for justice and compassion for the vulnerable. And Tamora Pierce surrounds her heroine with an intriguing extended family of friends and supporters, whose fortunes fans will enjoy following as much as Beka Cooper's.

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