June 24, 2012

Review: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
Published: 2009, Random House
Series: Beka Cooper, #2
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Library book
Contains spoilers for Terrier

Sir Lionel shook his head. “I have no problems in working with Corus, Corporal Goodwin. My problem lies in first, the fact that we have a peace here, and I fear that you will break it, and second, in the fact that both of you are women. I would be far happier if my lord Gershom had sent men. I feel, along with others, that women’s souls are more tender, more vulnerable.”

Unlike all of Tamora Pierce's other Tortall books, Bloodhound does not pick up almost exactly where its predecessor, Terrier, left off. Nearly a year and a half has passed since Puppy Beka managed to solve the dual murder mysteries connected to the fire opals and to the Shadow Snake. She's grown a lot since then and has been an official Dog for the past year. While she may have the label of a Dog, however, she's still a junior member of the organization and has a lot to prove.

After her fourth partner asks to be reassigned, Beka once again joins ranks with Goodwin and Tunstall, her former mentor Dog team, as a new problem is slowly building in Tortall. Someone is mass-producing coles (silver-plated copper coins that are being exchanged as actual silver coins). Winter is coming, the harvest was not nearly as good as expected, and people are beginning to whisper about the circulation of fake coins. Beka, Goodwin, and Tunstall soon find that the trail of coles leads to the city of Port Caynn. Lord Gershom, the Lord Provost of Tortall, wants some of his Dogs up there to investigate. With Tunstall injured from a bread riot (an eerie foreboding of the chaos the realm will undergo if the cole problem remains), Goodwin and Beka are assigned to this duty. Although Pounce opts out of coming with them, Beka is not without help. Her pigeon friend Slapper comes along, as does her new hound, Achoo, one of the Dogs' bloodhounds whom she saved from a cruel trainer. Under the guise of a necessary break from the dangers of the Lower City, Beka and Goodwin hope to find the source of the money forgery quickly, before the economic situation in Tortall spirals out of control.

This book's publication was not as speedy as most of Pierce's work. I know that a lot of people complained about the fact that there were three whole years between Terrier and Bloodhound. Curious as to what would have slowed Pierce down on this book, I read her explanation for the delay in the back of Bloodhound. Apparently she was worried that her readers wouldn't find money forgery that interesting of a premise and so that worry delayed her quite a bit. That was not the case for me; I loved this book! I think I actually enjoyed it even better than Terrier, if truth be told. Yes, it was long and complex and there was lots of information to process and not as much action, but I think this was essential to breathing new life into the Beka Cooper trilogy.  

Beka solved two major crimes within her first few weeks of training as a Puppy. I would expect that the next book worth writing about Beka would feature something different and even more complicated. I liked that the vast majority of the story takes place in a new city. Although Beka's relatively new to being an official part of the Provost's Guard, she still has served the organization in some capacity or another for over half of her life. She is very familiar with the Lower City and understands how it and its people tick. Beka proved her ability to work in the Lower City in the first book (and presumably in the year and a half gap in between the first and second books). Now she is challenged to apply her training and skills to another city, a place where nothing is familiar.

I loved the setting of Port Caynn. Beka is out of her element in practically every way possible, pretending to be a spoiled favorite Dog of the Lord Provost who needs to spend some time away from a few dangers in Corus. She doesn't understand the people in Port Caynn, nor does she feel comfortable going out to bars and gambling the Provost's money to try to find a lead to the fake money production. Beka is definitely a prickly character, but I emphasized with her as she was forced into this uncomfortable situation.

I was also glad to see that Beka finds herself a love interest in Dale. I was glad that the first book focused on Beka and her development. Now that she's a little older and a little more confident in her abilities, it was nice to read about her reaching out and forming a romantic/emotional relationship with another person.

The time span for this book is super short (about three weeks). I'd say this was my main issue with the book. It seems like there is simply too much that happens for the events to have occurred in such a short time period. And I also doubt Beka's writing abilities in such a time. I know that some days she'll say she was writing the events of the day before. But seriously, her days are so jam-packed I don't see when she'd have the time to write up her events. Unless she just doesn't sleep. I am happy that I have not become tired of the journal format and how the story is told in first-person.

This book took me longer to read than usual. This is not because I didn't enjoy it although with a plot more focused on subtleties and intricacies like this one, there are definitely slower points. I think this is a strong second novel in the series, although I have to admit that between the first and second books, I have absolutely no idea where Pierce will take Beka's story in the third and final installment of the trilogy, Mastiff.

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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.

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