Keep out of the way. Obey all orders. Get killed on your own time.
Beka Cooper is one of the newest trainees in the Provost’s Guard. As a rookie—known as a Puppy—she’s assigned to the realm’s toughest district: the Lower City. It should be a death sentence. The Lower City is filled with pickpockets who are fast as lightning, murderers stalking the streets, and rogues who will knock your teeth out with a smile. But Beka’s not your average Puppy. She grew up in the Lower City and knows what makes it tick. It’s Beka who notices that there might be something more to the latest crime wave. And it’s Beka who must use her street smarts and her own brand of eerie magic to chase down a killer.
I well knew the rules to follow with our training Dogs: Speak when you’re spoken to. Keep out of the way. Obey all orders. Get killed on your own time.
The Provost’s Dog series is some of Tamora Pierce’s most unique and mature writing. Beka isn’t training to be a knight or a warrior, she’s isn’t the child of a protagonist from a previous series, and she doesn’t live during the reign of King Jonathan IV. Instead, she is the six-times-great-grandmother of our favourite rogue George Cooper and she is a Puppy: a rookie Dog in her first year of the Provost’s Guard, the police force in Tortall.
The first time I read Terrier, I have to admit it wasn’t my favourite. It has a different rhythm to Pierce’s other work, being most similar to the Daughter of the Lioness series. With the acceptance of longer, more advanced young adult fiction, a change Pierce has contributed to the success of J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman, she has relaxed into the narrative, allowing for a slower build and more complex characters. With this second read, more prepared for the pace of the story, I found myself liking Beka Cooper and her world more and more. Her strength of character, the friendships and partnerships she attracts and maintains, and the work she does, all come together to create an exciting world and an admirable protagonist.
Written through journal entries, we get a very thorough picture of Beka’s day-to-day life and her constant strive to do more to protect those who cannot help themselves in the Lower City. Focusing more on the commoners and the legal system, it’s a new perspective on Tortall. However, there are a few scattered references to the Tortallan age we’re more familiar with, like cats with purple eyes and the Court of the Rogue.
Beka is yet another strong female protagonist from the Tortall universe and I would highly recommend this book, and this series, to all pre-teens and teens, especially young women. It’s also an excellent read for any YA enthusiasts, particularly those already familiar with Pierce’s work. While it is a prequel to the Song of the Lioness series, I would recommend reading Pierce’s work in the order it is published, which would place this following the Daughter of the Lioness series, just before the Numair Chronicles. I think it helps to have an understanding of Tortall going into the Provost’s Dog series and allows for little Easter eggs from Alanna and George’s time when you already know their story.