Terrier by Tamora Pierce – Review

Book Description:

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 Guard (Dogs, as they’re called, which makes Beka a Puppy); a rookie cop assigned to police the city’s worst slum.

Beka has always wanted to be a Dog, but she has one problem – she’s shy. Painfully shy. Not the best way to make a first impression or command the respect of the public. But she also has talent, and a strange kind of magic that allows her to hear the voices of the dead – and they have plenty to say. Soon she hears whispers of two vicious sets of crimes and Puppy or no, once Beka gets a case in her teeth, she doesn’t let go.

You can read an excerpt here.

Tamora Pierce on writing strong female characters and Terrier:


Terrier is equal parts adventure, police investigation, and coming of age story, and is all together an excellent read.

Tamora Pierce is legendary for her stories of determined girl heroes who sweat to earn their skill and bleed for what they believe in, and here once again she delivers. Beka is practical, stubborn, and a wonderful blend of tough and shy. Her struggle against her shyness is one of my favorite parts of this book.

The story, told in first person via Beka’s diary entries, starts on Beka’s first day of patrol. She’s assigned to two senior Dogs, Tunstall and Goodwin, who are less than thrilled to be saddled with a Puppy. Beka’s education on how to survive the toughest streets in the city is fascinating, especially with all the moral shades of gray Pierce has built into the life of a Dog. There is no simple right and wrong – even honest Dogs have no problem accepting bribes, and all freely admit they need the help of the Rogue, the chief of thieves in the city, to maintain the peace because there simply aren’t enough Dogs to do it. Pierce isn’t afraid to show us the grimmer side of police work – how many Dogs are corrupt and lazy, how the people of the city can turn on the Dogs in an instant, and how one mistake can easily get you killed.

The two major cases this story revolves around are well-paced and engrossing – this is old, shoe-leather type police work in a  detailed and fascinating society teeming with socio-economic realities. Beka gets mocked, beaten up, covered in muck, and humiliated – there is no glamor or glory in her world, only the slog of hard work and the wry humor that keeps them all going.

I love how Beka’s world is one not many people understand – her younger siblings are all in training to be servants, looking to move up in the world and Beka finds herself an outsider, looked down on for choosing to be a common Dog. Her closest friends are equally split between fellow Puppies and thieves, and with the latter she has to be careful or she’ll end up having to arrest them.

This book has it all – well wrought characters, action, magic, murder, wry humor, and a heroine you will fall in love with. Terrier slots nicely into the larger arc of Pierce’s Tortall series, but as a prequel it also works well as a stand alone and as an introduction for new readers.

I love this book. As a long time Pierce fan, I came to Terrier with high expectations and every single one of them was met. I’m glad I bought the hard cover, because this is one I’ll definitely be re-reading.

Byrt Grade: A+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Wands and Worlds says:

Beka Cooper: Terrier is an exciting book that grabs you from the first page. The first couple of pages are journal entries of other people connected with Beka, and then the rest of the book is told in first person from Beka’s point of view and structured as journal entries. Beka is an absolutely fascinating and compelling character, and the first person point of view draws you in to her world and makes you identify with her from the first…Beka Cooper: Terrier is a prequel to Pierce’s Tortall series, but it quite stands on its own and you can enjoy it without having read any of the other books. I highly recommend this book; adults as well as teens will enjoy it. Read it! You won’t be sorry that you did.

Curled Up Kids says:

Terrier has a snappy little bite. When readers return to Tamora Pierce’s legendary land of Tortall, Beka Cooper, a timid yet tenacious young woman, greets them with a skillful swing of her law-enforcing baton.

Teen Reads says:

In Terrier, Pierce provides another well-drawn character in Beka and presents fans with the tasty backstory they’ve been craving since Alanna: The First AdventureTerrier is a perfect companion to the existing book sets and a great place to start if you aren’t already a Tamora Pierce addict.