Book Review: Beka Cooper Trilogy (Tortall Legends)

terrierTerrier: The Legend of Beka Cooper #1
by Tamora Pierce
592 pages
Published 2007

Bloodhound: The Legend of Beka Cooper #2
by Tamora Pierce
560 pages
Published 2009

Mastiff: The Legend of Beka Cooper #3
by Tamora Pierce
608 pages
Published 2011

My husband has been saying for some time that I should read Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books, specifically the Alanna saga. While I haven’t gotten my hands on that yet, he did find this trilogy on a recent trip to the library and set them onto the library desk next to my stack with an expectant look. After reading them, I see why! These are GOOD. The world is well thought out and interesting, and the characters are lively. I will be looking into the other trilogies and sagas set into this world to see how characters and principles from these books wind their way through the other stories.

bloodhoundA little bit about the world and series as a whole, first. I believe the first series written about Tortall is Alanna’s story. The Song of the Lioness, as it’s called, is a set of four books. Alanna, basically, is a woman who decided to be a knight in a world where that simply isn’t done. So she disguises herself as a man in order to do it. The Beka Cooper trilogy, however, takes place about two hundred years prior to Alanna – in this time period, women are allowed to be knights and Guardswomen and any number of rough things. (In the third Beka Cooper book they talk more about the “Gentle Mother” religion that is starting to take hold, that says women are supposed to be gentle, sheltered things – I’m assuming by the time of Alanna that idea has taken root and spread much further.) Beka herself is a Guardswoman – or Dog, as they’re called. The Dogs of Tortall are guardsmen and women throughout the kingdom, usually based in cities. They call criminals “Rats”, men “coves”, and women “mots”. Having a unique vocabulary really serves to set the world apart. It’s not so many words that it’s hard to understand, but just enough that the first time or two they’re used you notice it.

In Terrier, Beka is serving as a “Puppy,” or Guardwoman-in-training. They spend their first year attached to a pair of senior Dogs, learning the ropes. By the end of the first book, Beka’s earned the nickname of “Terrier” for her refusal to let Rats go. She has some unique abilities to help her in her job – she can talk to ghosts and dust-spinners, learning things they’ve overheard to help her find guilty Rats. In Terrier she’s on the trail of the Shadow Snake, a Rat who’s stealing peoples’ children and killing them if they don’t ransom them back. Until the murdered children talk to Beka, most of the Dogs of the Lower City don’t think the disappearances are related to each other.

mastiffIn Bloodhound, Beka is a full-fledged Dog, and is sent to another city to track down a counterfeiter. A few years later, in Mastiff, she’s set on the trail of a kidnapped Prince and a far-reaching plot to cause the fall of the King. Throughout all three books she’s accompanied by Pounce, a black cat with purple, god-touched eyes. Pounce is no ordinary cat, but neither is Beka an ordinary Guardswoman! The books are written as Beka’s journals, read two hundred years later, to George Cooper, a descendant of hers who has a major role in Alanna’s saga.

The Epilogue of Mastiff has me itching to find and read the Song of the Lioness! The Song of the Lioness is not the only other set of books set in this world, either. The Immortals series follows the path of a Wild Mage in Tortall, while The Protector of the Small quartet follows the path of the first sanctioned lady knight after Alanna. The Trickster duology is the story of Alanna’s daughter. There’s also a book of short stories set in Tortall and other Lands, so I certainly have a lot of books to add to my to-read list!

From the back of Terrier:

Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost’s Guard, and she’s been assigned to the Lower City. It’s a tough beat that’s about to get tougher, as Beka’s limited ability to communicate with the dead clues her in to an underworld conspiracy. Someone close to Beka is using dark magic to profit from the Lower City’s criminal enterprises–and the result is a crime wave the likes of which the Provost’s Guard has never seen before.

From the back of Bloodhound:

Beka Cooper is finally a Dog—a full-fledged member of the Provost’s Guard, dedicated to keeping peace in Corus’s streets. But there’s unrest in Tortall’s capital. Counterfeit coins are turning up in shops all over the city, and merchants are raising prices to cover their losses. The Dogs discover that gamblers are bringing the counterfeit money from Port Caynn. In Port Caynn, Beka delves deep into the gambling world, where she meets a charming banking clerk named Dale Rowan. Beka thinks she may be falling for Rowan, but she won’t let anything—or anyone—jeopardize her mission. As she heads north to an abandoned silver mine, it won’t be enough for Beka be her usual “terrier” self. She’ll have to learn from Achoo to sniff out the criminals—to be a Bloodhound….

From the back of Mastiff:

This is the third book in the Beka Cooper trilogy, and Beka is a full-fledged Dog now, but it hasn’t made her job with the law-enforcing Provost’s Guard any easier. On this hunt, she’ll need all her resources, from her bare-knuckled fighting skills to her suspiciously intelligent cat, Pounce. 

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Beka Cooper Trilogy (Tortall Legends)

    • I actually just finished the Song of the Lioness quartet! Haven’t written my review yet, but it’s on my to-do list. I found the writing…well, let’s just say it was obvious they were her first books. The characters (especially in the first two books of the quartet) were very one-dimensional; after reading the Beka Cooper trilogy, the Lioness saga felt very amateurish. It’s interesting to see how the author and her writing matured, and I’m eager to read the Immortals, and the Wild Magic set, and the two books about Alanna’s daughter. I also just finished her book of short stories, and those were excellent.

      • Haha! I agree with you there on her writing. And I look forward to your review. Wild Magic was the first of Pierce’s books that I read and then I hopped to the Lioness series and moved on to the Protector of the Small and the Trickster series. For some reason I stopped reading her books after the Trickster series but I plan to revisit them. It would be cool to see how her writing has matured, as you said. I just found a note I wrote in high school saying that her stories are too similar. I was reading Trickster’s Choice at the time. I wonder if I will think the same now.

  1. Pingback: “The Woman Who Rides Like a Man” by Tamora Pierce | Zezee with Books

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