Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Beka Cooper, the heroine of Terrier, is no longer a Puppy.

She’s a Dog now—a full-fledged member of the Provost’s Guard, dedicated to keeping peace in Tortall. But there’s unrest throughout land. Counterfeit coins are turning up in shops all over the capital city of Corus, and the nation’s economy is on the brink of collapse.

The Dogs discover that the counterfeit money seems to originate in Port Caynn. So Beka heads upriver to investigate, traveling with her mentor, Goodwin; Achoo, a hound whose nose is as sharp as her claws; and the pigeon Slapper, who carries the voices of the dead.

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. From the Silversmith’s Guild to the Provost’s House to the city sewers, it won’t be enough for Beka to be her usual Terrier self. She’ll have to learn from Achoo how to sniff out the criminals—to be a Bloodhound. . . .

Tamora Pierce was such a huge part of my pre-teen years that I don’t even know how to describe what her books meant to me. She was my Judy Blume… my guide into the realm of kick ass fantasy girls… my introduction to complex relationships… sigh. It’s been a while since I read any of those books, and I think a part of me was afraid to revisit this author for fear that she wouldn’t measure up to my memory. Instead I found myself pleasantly surprised. Rather than feeling let down, our years apart gave me a whole new appreciation of her style.

While I did read the first book in the Beka Cooper series, it was a looong time ago. There was quite a break between the first book and this one coming out, and by the time it did I just wasn’t paying attention anymore. I only vaguely remembered the details of Terrier. Fortunately this story stood very well on its own and a few things came back to me as I read.

Beka Cooper is done with her Puppy days and is now a real Dog, but a Dog without a partner. She’s already been through two and now her third has just asked to be reassigned. But Beka has other things to worry about. Fake coins are surfacing everywhere, she finds herself the handler of a young scent hound and the rising cost of food has everyone on edge. Soon she is sent to Port Caynn, where the fake money seems to be coming from. Being in a new town places Beka firmly outside her comfort zone, as does Dale Rowan, a charming gambler who is not entirely outside the realm of suspects.

I like Beka, and I like her style of telling a story. The book is set up as her journal. It’s a way for her to remember the days events and write good reports, but it reads more like regular first person narration than a diary. At first I found the amount of street slang that’s used very distracting, but I got used to it fairly quickly and barely noticed it by the end of the book. Calling women and men “mots” and “coves” still seems overly complicated to me, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.

What really struck me about this book was the world that’s created. There are many strong female characters in YA fantasy, but SO many of them have to be. Strength in the face of adversity makes for a great story, but ever now and then it’s nice to read about a girl who is strong just because girls CAN be strong even as they go about their daily life. Sure, there’s sexism in this world, but in general girls aren’t beaten down in the same way. Beka’s struggles aren’t based around fighting to prove her worth even though she’s a girl, they’re based around the fact that she has a rough job and she’s often put in dangerous situations.

The romantic relationships are also a breath of fresh air. When I read her earlier books I don’t think I realized that Pierce’s way of handling relationships and sex was not necessarily the norm in YA. In her books, romance goes something like this:

Girl meets boy. Girl likes boy. Girl makes informed decision about how she wants to proceed. Girl uses birth control.

Throughout multiple books, main characters with differing personalities and unique romantic entanglements these core elements stay pretty much the same. None of these simple, no-brainer steps detract from the giddy excitement of Beka falling for Dale. It’s sweet and well-written and complex, just like when you find yourself crushing on someone in real life. Love interests are a part of Beka’s life, but it doesn’t define who she is as a character. I like a good epic romance every now and then, but it’s also nice to read a book in which it’s not the sole focus. Most people don’t just have OMG ONE TRUE LOVE FOR EVER AND EVER! Some people do, I know that, but other people have various loves throughout their life. Sometimes you find the right person, and sometimes you find a person who is right for you at that moment in time. It doesn’t make the romance less meaningful, just temporary. Reading a book in which all those elements of human interaction are represented made me want to hug this book. And now that I’m thinking about it, I’m deeply appreciative for having these examples presented to me way back when I first read the Song of the Lioness quartet.

Beka manages to distinguish herself nicely from all the other heroines of Tortall. She’s tough and grumpy at times, and she doesn’t back down from a fight. She’s also extremely shy when thrown out of her comfort zone, something I can relate to. I loved the ragtag group of animals she surrounds herself with, especially her dog. Achoo was one of my favorite parts of this book! The two of them seem to be a perfect match, though having a scent hound does little to help keep Beka out of trouble.

The secondary characters were interesting, the plot moved along quickly, the fight scenes were cool. In case you couldn’t tell, I really liked it. And the upside of waiting all this time to read the second book is that the third one is already out!

Bloodhound on Goodreads & Amazon

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