Fri 17 Apr 2009
I started reading Tamora Pierce’s books in sixth grade; apparently that was long enough ago that she’d only published five books. Now she’s up over twenty-five and of course I’ve read ‘em all. She has two major series, the one set in Tortall that started with the Alanna (Song of the Lioness) books (and continued through Daine [the Immortals quartet], Keladry [the Protector of the Small quartet], and Aly [the Trickster duology]), and the ones called the Circle books, set in a different world and intended for a slightly younger audience. She lives in upstate New York with several cats and a husband (hers, fortunately), and has also experimented with audio-first books (like this one) and comics.
Yes, this is the second book in the series, and no, I didn’t review the first one (Terrier), although I certainly read it. They’re part of the Tortall series, although set a couple hundred years before the other books. Beka Cooper, the main character, is an ancestor of George Cooper, the King of the Rogue and a major character in the Alanna books. Rather than being a Rogue, though, Beka is a Dog (well, a Dog-in-training in the first volume): one of the Lord Provost’s police force, trained to keep the peace and investigate crimes. Beka has already gained a reputation as being persistent and a straight arrow before the first book finishes, and in this second volume, where she is investigating counterfeiters in Corus and Port Caynn, it’s only intensified.
Fortunately, unlike the first volume, there is no border around the pages, and the journal format is less noticeable. (Some hate journal format. I mostly pretend it’s just first person. The border, on the other hand, bothered me.) Beka’s voice is stronger yet more personal, which makes perfect sense given that she’s been keeping a journal for longer and that she’s somewhat older and more experienced as a Dog than in the last volume. As much as I liked her in the first volume, in the second is where she really rounds out into an excellent character, with more varied character traits and motivations.
Ms. Pierce states in the acknowledgements that she was worried that a book about counterfeiters might not be as interesting as she thought. I liked it quite a bit, though, since the plot was complicated and twisty and had danger awaiting at every turn. There are even several chase scenes, and the addition of a scent-hound (Achoo; we met her in the first volume) makes the hunt even more exciting. Beka even has a bit of romance in her life, and not just the flirting we saw in book 1. Although the book is over five hundred pages long (!!!), it’s a consistent read, and I had a lot of trouble putting it down to do things like go to work and sleep.
I love the secondary characters. The Court of the Rogue is always a good place to find colorful individuals, and the Court in Port Caynn doesn’t disappoint. The Queen of their Court, Pearl Skinner, is terrifying, and she keeps some creepy people around her. Flory, a flower-seller, appears to be a lightweight at first, but develops intriguingly. Outside of the Court, we have a couple of musicians who live on its periphery — one in Corus, who has a cause behind his song, and a transgendered (as we would use it today, but zie primarily lives as a man) woman named Amber Orchid (or Ohka, when he’s a man), who is one of the most sought-after singers in the town. Amber/Okha has more to hir than meets the eye; that’s for certain.
This isn’t really a children’s book. It’s intended for YAs, and while I think that many of them, especially the ones already invested in the series and world, will enjoy it, I feel that in some ways, Ms. Pierce has started writing novels for adults. The politicking, length, and general complexity of the plot will be as satisfying to adults as many works that are published specifically for them. For those of us who have grown up with Ms. Pierce’s works, it’s quite gratifying to read a work, still by a favorite author, that has grown as we have grown — although it’s also fun to see mentions of places like the Dancing Dove, when it’s first built, as well. This book probably could be read on its own, but I’d recommend starting with the first volume, Terrier, and one’s enjoyment would also be increased by having first read the Song of the Lioness quartet. 4.5/5 stars.