What I've Read This Week Part II
Mastiff : The Legend of Beka Cooper Book 3 by Tamora Pierce -- Young Adult Historical Fantasy
It's been two years since the events of Bloodhound and Beka Cooper has just buried her fiance. While everyone around her weeps, she feels guilty because she was about to break off the engagement. When Lord Gershom calls Beka on a Hunt, she is happy to get out working again, doing what she loves the most. She and her partner, Tunstall, are accompanied by Achoo, the faithful scent hound and Pounce, the Constellation cat. They are joined by Farmer Grange, a young mage who acts the country bumpkin, but Beka suspects has hidden depths no one can see. Lady Sabine Macayhill, the Lady Knight and Tunstall's lover also comes along on the Hunt. The King and Queen of Tortall are in residence at the Summer Palace which has been attacked and their only son kidnapped. The Dogs suspect an inside job: a conspiracy of mages and nobles who are angry at the King for his recent interest in politics. Beka vows to the Queen that she will get little Prince Gareth back to his mother alive. Soon they're on a lengthy journey to find the prince with Achoo leading the way with her nose. Not much happens for 500 pages. The story is more of a quest novel than an adventure story until then. Around the 500 page mark the plot becomes filled with intrigue and danger. It's hard to keep up with all the nobles and mages who suspect that the Dogs knows what they're up to. The noblewomen despise Beka for her unladylike work. They follow the cult of the Gentle Mother and expect ladies to be gentle, soft and far removed from any violence. Beka is disgusted by the noble ladies and is eager to get back on the Hunt. With some help from her Birdies, dust spinners and of course, Achoo, she picks the trail back up and discovers that the young prince is in the hands of ruthless mages who treat the prince a slave. With every beating he receives, a magical bond threatens the welfare of the King and Queen threatening to plunge the country into a civil war. Beka is determined not to let that happen but she suspects there is a traitor in their midst and hates to think one of her friends could betray her. She knows her duty and will stop and nothing until the prince is returned home. There are some big surprises towards the end that provide the action sequences and human side of the plot. This story is very violent. There are many gruesome deaths along the way which bother even Beka at times. I had to skip a few descriptive passages. The animal companions provide the humor that lightens the story somewhat but it still remains a dark and difficult tale. Though there is not a lot of action, I couldn't put the book down. I liked the new character, Farmer. He's a very different sort of mage than the academic mages and his teacher was the first to identify wild magic. I liked seeing Beka develop from a young woman to a mature woman who knows what she wants and goes after it, despite pressure to be otherwise. She realizes that she is who she is and she needs to be respected for that. I didn't quite like the surprises at the end. One was out of character and an awful shock and the other surprise involved a romance I didn't see coming. The epilogue is not Tammy's best writing. It's not as dreadful as the Harry Potter epilogue but it's awkward. It links Beka's story to George Copper at the moment where he first meets "Alan." I enjoyed the book and I am sad to see the series come to an end.