Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship's Reviews > Terrier

Terrier by Tamora Pierce
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's review
Apr 05, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: 4-stars, epistolary, fantasy, young-adult

I read a couple Tamora Pierce books as a kid and liked them well enough; I'm out of her intended age group now, but still enjoyed this book.

Terrier is the story of a teenage girl, Beka Cooper, and her first months in the City Watch (known as the "Dogs") of a medieval-ish city. Beka works in the roughest part of town and soon finds herself pursuing criminals who extort and murder its inhabitants. Although I'm not into police novels, the premise pulled me right in: I'm a sucker for fantasy focusing on the lives of regular people. As for the fantasy label, there is some magic here, but it takes a secondary role behind the plot and characters, as well it should.

As for those essential elements, I found the plot entertaining and the characters endearing if not incredibly well-developed. Beka is a great protagonist and I enjoyed seeing her growing confidence in herself as she fought crime and made friends with her fellow Dogs and her neighbors. The exploration of the ancient police system was especially interesting: the characters take bribes in return for providing protection and often have personal relationships with the criminals. (The one aspect that seemed odd was that they could just walk the streets and stumble across an endless number of crimes in progress--a little bizarre.) I was also intrigued by Beka's difficult relationships with her siblings, who are servants and don't quite know how to relate to her.

The biggest issue with this book, as others have said, is the diary format. It doesn't get in the way too much--for the most part, the book reads like any other first-person narrative, and Beka has a strong voice--but it doesn't seem to add anything and it's terribly contrived. I'm an avid journaler myself, and there's simply no way Beka would have time to write all this, or remember as much word-for-word dialogue as she does. (A chronic problem with novels written in journal form, and probably the reason they're rarely seen outside of kids' and YA books.)

Finally, the gender equality within the ranks of both the Dogs and the criminal gangs made me raise my eyebrows. The Dogs fight with batons and the gang members with swords; even in a society without strict gender roles, most women would not be able to match a man using weapons that depend on physical strength. No explanation is given in the book. I understand that Pierce wants to empower teenage girls, and I respect that; I see nothing wrong with a few female fighters. Still, my desire for realism wasn't quite met.

Overall: a fun book. I'd recommend to teens or adults. The subject matter may be inappropriate for younger kids, however; this is more mature than many of Pierce's other books.

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