In anticipation of Tamora Pierce’s newest book, Mastiff (out last month–I’m behind in my reviews!), I recently reread the first two books in her Beka Cooper trilogy. You can see my review of Terrier for more background. Today, my subject is Book Two, Bloodhound.
The second book is set about a year and a half after the first. Beka has finished her training year and is a full-fledged (though junior) City Guard, or Dog as the slang has it. Beka is taken out of the world she’s familiar with when she and her mentor, Goodwin, are sent to Port Caynn, another city in Tortall, to track a ring of counterfeiters.
It’s a solid and exciting plot; Pierce mentions somewhere in the acknowledgments that she was afraid counterfeiting wasn’t exciting enough, but I think she does very well with it. The dangers of inflation seem abstract in the extreme, but she manages to make it very concrete. There’s a riot when bread prices go up, and frequent concern about food shortages and starvation. In other words, the threat feels real.
Going to a new city means a number of new characters, many of them excellent. The villains are particularly fascinating, and I wish some of them had been given more screen time, so to speak. There was also a transgender character, possibly the first I’ve seen in YA fantasy. I like it that Pierce takes a contemporary social issue and puts it into a very different setting–but any message she’s making with the character is still very clear. It’s a perfect example of fantasy’s ability to comment on the real world–and sometimes it actually has more impact when it’s in the different setting.
My favorite new character (who was technically introduced in the last book, but just barely) is Achoo, a scenthound Beka adds to her menagerie. Achoo is a brilliant tracker–and she’s also just lovable and adorable. One of my favorite moments in the book is when a completely ruthless villain does a total about-face and starts fawning over Achoo.
There are probably those who would say that their favorite new character is Dale, although I disagree. Beka has a romantic fling with Dale, and while I suppose it’s well enough, I never could get into it as a romance. Beka doesn’t know him very well, and she doesn’t trust him, which is a problem right there. He’s a nice enough fellow, good-looking, and he likes to gamble, but we don’t know much else about him as a character. The relationship moves fast, and I didn’t feel like Beka or I knew Dale well enough to be going where it went. It’s not terrible–it’s just not a great romance either.
On the plus side, Beka does seem to be shedding most of the shyness that didn’t quite work for me in the first book. By this one, she seems to be mostly just nervous about public speaking, and it felt like a much more plausible character trait.
All in all, despite a so-so romance, it’s a very good book. There’s plenty of excitement and tension, and many characters who were adequately developed. I’m looking forward to diving into the conclusion of the story! Stay tuned for a review very soon. 🙂
Author’s Site: http://tamorapierce.com/