REVIEW: Terrier, The Legend of Beka Cooper, Book 1

Famed author Tamora Pierce has captivated readers with her strong female heroines since 1983, when her first book about the Tortall Universe was published. In Terrier, Pierce delves deep into Tortall’s history, setting this book 200 years before her other novels take place. The story follows the life of shy, but innovative Beka Cooper, gifted with the ability to talk to the dead, who is fulfilling her aspirations as a member of the law enforcement in the capital city of Corus.Unlike most folk who grow up in the slums of Corus, Rebakah ‘Beka’ Cooper has a very strong passion for justice. She has always dreamed of joining the Provost’s Guard (affectionately referred to as Dogs) who enforce the laws in the realm of Tortall. In Terrier, Beka is beginning her year as a Puppy, training to become a full-fledged Dog. Even though she could have been stationed in one of the more prominent districts of Corus, Beka chooses to stay in the Lower City, the poorest area in the capital. To her delight, she is paired with one of the most respected Dog pairs in Corus. With their help, and the use of her unique magical gift of speaking with the dead, Beka attempts to solve one of the greatest crimes in Tortall’s history.

Despite being a fan of Tamora Pierce for nearly a decade, I was rather apprehensive about reading Terrier. It differs from her usual style in that it is written in first-person diary format, a style that I typically like to avoid. Because it is written from Beka’s point of view, the reader is introduced to the peculiar dialect used in Tortall during that time period. I found this to be slightly confusing at first, but I soon got the hang of it and began to appreciate the unique and unusual language used. Instead of being detrimental to the flow of the novel, the diary style allows the reader to be exposed to a vast amount of information about the setting that would have otherwise been seen as boring exposition. This is a treat for veteran Pierce fans, as we get to learn more of Tortall’s history and inner workings. New readers may be a little overwhelmed at first, but don’t let that deter you. The amount of background provided in effect allows the reader to read two stories at once: Beka’s Dog training and the rise of the Kingdom of Tortall.

One thing about Terrier that still resonates with me as a reader is the strong heroine, Beka. She is quite different from the usual protagonist in that she isn’t perfect and doesn’t make an effort to be perfect. She frequently makes mistakes yet somehow still manages to make a name for herself. Beka is exactly the type of character that readers of both genders can identify with and be inspired by. She has many talents and resources at her disposal, yet she chooses to rely on her wits to make her way in the world. In addition to Beka, most (if not all) of Terrier’s characters are memorable, unique, and dynamic. One of Pierce’s strengths as a writer is that she develops all of her characters and often makes the reader wish they could read a story about each of them. This fact alone was what made Terrier such a delightful and entertaining read.

What intrigued me most about Beka was her ability to communicate with the spirits of souls who have yet to enter the Peaceful Realms. These ghosts ride with pigeons until their unfinished business in the human world is complete. This type of magic was something that I had never encountered before in any novel, and I was both intrigued and captivated by it. When it was first introduced to the story, I was a bit skeptical. However, it proved to be a valuable and distinctive addition and I am certain that the story would not have been as engaging without it.

Even if you haven’t read any of Pierce’s other novels, rest assured that you will love . Don’t be put off by the fact that it is written in diary format. Tamora Pierce transformed my expectations of that particular writing style with her remarkable characters and wealth of information about the magical realm of Tortall. As soon as I began reading it, I was unable to put it down. No matter your gender, I can promise you that you will not be disappointed.

Terrier is the first episode of renowned author Tamora Pierce’s Provost’s Dog Trilogy. If you enjoy this book, we highly recommend checking out book two, Bloodhound, in stores April 14, 2009. The staff of Shur’tugal will be publishing a review of book two, Bloodhound soon as part of a special followup!

This review was written by Allyson Czadowski as part of’s new weekly book recommendations and reviews column. On Thursday of each week, Shur’tugal staff will review a new fantasy or sci-fi book (or recommend an old one), posted on the home page of Shur’tugal, in partnership with