Mastiff: The Legend of Beka Cooper #3
by Tamora Pierce
Cover Artist: Photo: Engine Collective
Review by Ellen Russell
Random House Books for Young Readers Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780375814709
Date: 25 October 2011 List Price $18.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Tamora Pierce's Mastiff is an excellent conclusion to her Bekah Cooper trilogy. Like the first two, it tells the story from Bekah's perspective, through her diary. Bekah Cooper is one of the Provost's Dogs -- basically a law enforcement officer. When the crown prince is kidnapped, Bekah is assigned, along with her scent hound; her partner, Tunstall; a mage, Farmer; and a knight, Lady Sabine, to find him. The king has angered the mages of the kingdom by imposing taxes on them, so even some of his own courtiers have turned against him.
Once on the trail they discover that not only has the prince been made into a slave, but that a mage has cast a spell on him so that every injury that happens to him also happens to his parents, weakening them more and more. Finding the prince will not be easy and with all of the royal family at risk, time is of the essence. However, Bekah quickly discovers that no one can be trusted -- not even those she loves most.
As always, Pierce has created a strong heroine as the backbone to her story. However, having picked a commoner this time, rather than a noble, has given Bekah a different edge than many of her other characters. The language is, at times, a little more vulgar than in her other novels. There is also much more use of slang, or street cant, which can take a little longer to grasp. However, the story is fast-moving and interesting. It relies a bit on the reader having read the previous two books; some minor and major characters reappear without much back story or explanation given. Also the scent hound commands, which are in a different language and explained in a previous book, are not explained in this book. There is a helpful glossary at the end, though, if the reader is truly stuck.
Pierce's signature blend of magic, battles, and strong female heroines continues to be a compelling brew. The introduction of a common girl as the heroine, however, is a refreshing change from the noble ladies of her previous books. Bekah Cooper is a realistic and incredibly relatable protagonist. Also, the secondary characters are well fleshed-out and their relationships with each other and Bekah are well detailed and believable.
All in all, an excellent read.