Hunting a Lost Prince

I’ve been promising a review of Mastiff, the final book in the Beka Cooper Trilogy by Tamora Pierce.  It was a good resolution to the story, an exciting adventure that tied up plenty of ends.

It begins a few years after the previous book, as Beka mourns the death of her never-before-mentioned fiance (more on him later).  It turns out she was on the verge of breaking up with him, and she’s glad of the distraction of a new Hunt–slang for a case to be solved.  In some ways this is the most focused book of the trilogy–Beka and her friends are on the trail of a kidnapped prince, and the entire book centers around this journey.

There are some strong villains in here, and I loved Beka’s friends too.  The lady knight, Sabine, had a bigger role in this book, and we had more of Pounce, Beka’s black cat.  There’s also Farmer, a new character who’s a very interesting mage.  I love it that he’s very powerful, but hides that behind a bumbling, cheerful exterior–although he really is wonderfully cheerful!

Despite a very cheery new character, this is darker than Pierce’s earlier books.  Dark things have always happened–death, slavery, violence, kidnappings.  The Beka Cooper Trilogy has always got more into the grittiness of it, though, and that’s very true here.  There’s more detail and more description of the disturbing elements.  One scene about a dead slavegirl is enough by itself to make this upper Young Adult, while Pierce’s earlier books often bounce between the Juvenile section and YA.

On the more positive side, there’s eventually some romance here, although it takes a while.  Though considering my chief problem with Bloodhound was that the romance was too fast, I won’t complain about this one!

Actually, the romance I wish there had been more of was the one with the dead fiance.  The book begins with the fiance already dead, and we only get hints about Beka’s relationship with him.  I was hoping for some kind of extended flashback, but it never came.  The hints are enough to suggest that it may have bordered on an emotionally abusive relationship, and in a strange way I think that would have been a wonderful story for Pierce to tell.  Her stories about strong women are so inspiring, and it would have been so valuable to portray one of these strong women getting emotionally mixed up and into trouble.  Beka is very capable in some ways, but she has uncertainties about relationships.  I would never believe that she’d stay with a man who hit her, but I could believe that she could be emotionally manipulated, and that would be so good for girls to see–that you can be strong and capable and still get into a bad relationship, and it doesn’t make you pathetic or worthless.

But that’s my idea, and evidently not Pierce’s vision for the book, and I can’t really criticize her for not taking the story the direction I wanted it to go.  One more serious objection I have involved a traitor in Beka’s group.  They realize someone is probably betraying them as they travel, but Beka doesn’t give much attention to that.  When the traitor’s identity finally comes out, it didn’t ring true to me.  It feels more like someone acting out of character than like a shocking reveal.

Those problems aside, it’s a great adventure with strong characters and an engaging world.  And now I can go back to looking forward to Pierce’s next book!

Author’s Site:

Other reviews:
YA in the Second City
Sew Skate Read
Ms. Martin Teaches Media

4 thoughts on “Hunting a Lost Prince

  1. Hi! Thanks for the link through—I’m glad to know I’m not the only person who would have liked to know more about Holburn. For approximately 3/4 of the book, I was convinced that at some point, Farmer would ask Beka what had happened, and we’d finally get some exposition. Then again, it would have been out of character for Beka to spend precious time talking about the past while on a Hunt for Tortall’s heir.

    I think the issue of time also explains why Beka never fully investigates her suspicions that someone in her group is a traitor. As for the final identity of said traitor…I was pretty upset, but I think it made the most sense of all the options. [spoiler alert] The seeds of the insecurity that leads to the betrayal are laid really as early as Terrier, with Goodwin’s comments about nobles vs. commoners, so though it pained me, I can’t fault Pierce for her choice.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      I expected a reflection on Holburn early on in the story–you make a good point that Beka wouldn’t lose her focus once she was on the Hunt. But still…if they got bogged down somewhere, maybe, and she had time to think…? It could have fit in somehow…

      I agree the identity of the traiter made sense, and the actual reasons for the betrayal seemed valid. It was more the way it was handled, including the reveal. I didn’t so much object to the betrayal, and it would be easy to self-justify in a complicated political situation. It was the casual killing of innocent bystanders as part of the betrayal that bothered me. That seemed much more out of character.

      Whew, it’s hard to talk about this without a spoiler, including a pronoun for the traitor!

  2. Good points about portraying a strong woman getting emotionally mixed up in a bad relationship. Guess the author just didn’t want to go there with this book, focusing instead more on the present than the relationship with the dead fiance. Sounds overall like a good ending to the trilogy of stories.

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