review of YA fantasy Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Bloodhound (The Legend of Beka Cooper, Book 2)

by Tamora Pierce

Random House Books for Young Readers (April 2009)
ISBN-10: 0375814698, ISBN-13: 978-0375814693

My rating: 4/5 stars

Thursday, September 6, 247 H.E.

I should have known tonight’s watch would kiss the mule’s bum when Sergeant Ahuda stopped me after baton training. “A private word, Cooper,” she told me, and pulled me into a quiet corner of the yard. Her dark eyes were sharp on my face. We’d gotten on well since I’d finished my Puppy year and in my five months’ work as a Dog. I couldn’t think what I might have done to vex her.

“Your reports have gotten sloppy.” That was Ahuda, never one to soften her words. “You leave out detail, you skip what’s said. YOu used to write the best reports of any Puppy or first-year Dog, but not of late. Have you slacked on the memory exercises?”

I gazed at the ground. Of course I’ve been slacking. What’s the use, with partners like I’ve had?

Bloodhound (The Legend of Beka Cooper, Book 2)
by Tamora Pierce, p. 15.

If you like fantasy and you haven’t read Tamora Pierce, you’re missing out.

Pierce’s books have strong female characters, great world building and settings, and characters facing conflict and coming out on top. Bloodhound
is no exception.

Beka Cooper used to live in a slum area, and knows how to talk street talk and notice what’s happening around her, see pickpockets and more. She trained to be part of the Provost’s Guard (like a police officer), and now she’s a full member, a Dog–and trying to make her co-workers proud. But some don’t want to work with her, because she always wants to do what is right, and is fierce about it. There are a lot of crooked guards. But Beka persists. With her tenacity, talent, and some magic (she can hear the newly dead whose souls fly on the backs of pigeons, and can hear bits of conversations that happened close to wind) she hunts down criminals and strives to put things right–including a huge undertaking, fighting couterfieters which threaten to undermine the whole country through putting too much fake silver into the regions. Beka also discovers a new lover, and gains a new animal companion, in addition to her cat and the pigeons.

The story is written in diary form, in a strong, vivid voice. Most of the writing is compelling and fast moving, but there were places where the diary format grated on me and made me notice the convention, such as the too-frequent repetition that Beka was too tired to write any more that night, or the fact that she was writing. It sometimes got in the way of the story for me, and I wished it wasn’t there. But the rest of the time, Beka’s voice is strong and vibrant.

Pierce is an expert at making the world in her books seem real. She brings such great setting detail without giving too much, and brings in the senses–sound, smell, touch, taste, and of course sight–which helps the reader really believe in the setting. The language, too, flows beautifully, and I found myself so immersed in the book that for the few days while i was reading it, I’d find myself thinking “mayhap” and other language from the time period.

Pierce has an ability to make strong-girl characters that the reader cares about and roots for. Pierce’s characters come alive, and she uses specific details that help make them stand out–even walk on characters, such as a carter with blackened teeth. These details help make the characters believable and to feel real. You’ll come to care about the characters, especially Beka, for her bravery, her courage, her tenacity and her fiestiness, as well as her compassion and good-heartedness. For her wanting to do what is right, and help protect others. Beka is a wonderful, full character, with some self doubt, impulsiveness, and shyness to round her off, and she excels at her job as a guard.

Pierce brings a lot of good feeling with there being many good characters who revolve around or interact positively with Beka, showing her kindness, affection, or respect, or offering help, which works to balance out the negative things that happen. Pierce also uses some language specific to her worlds, as well as to the time period, likely from England. I had no trouble with the language and could easily follow along, but there is a glossary in the back for readers who need it.

There’s a nice thread of romance and some sexual tension, as Beka finds herself choosing between two possible boyfriends. I love that the strong-girl character is still desired by the male characters, and valued for her strength and her character as well as her beauty.

There were a few things that didn’t work as well for me in the book. I felt like this story was missing a bit of tension, perhaps because Beka didn’t have to prove herself to anyone any more, or when she was faced with danger, we didn’t always get to see it. It also felt like there were too many characters, at least for me; they distracted from the main or important characters, and I often couldn’t follow all of them. There IS a character reference/map at the back of the book, which I didn’t realize when i was reading–but i wouldn’t have wanted to stop reading every time i didn’t know who a character was to check (it interferes with the flow), and i don’t think a reader should have to…. But that’s me.

There were a few scenes where it felt like Pierce avoided some conflict and pain that would have made a great scene, telling us things afterwards, such as when Bekka was attacked at her house. I felt a bit cheated as a reader to have Bekka not remember things. There was also the occasional scene which felt like it should have a point or something connected to it that matters later, but didn’t, and didn’t seem to advance the story forward, such as when Bekka talks to her cousin and he realizes she really talks to pigeons. And we’re told that Bekka is upset about temporarily losing her cat, but I don’t think we saw enough affection between them or a deep enough relationship to believe it.

Beka is an engaging and likable character, as are Goodwin and Tunstall, and others. This is the second book in a series, (Terrier being the first), but you don’t need to have read the first book to enjoy this one. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read–one that captured my interest, immersed me completely in the world, and made me eager to read on right to the very end.

Highly recommended.

If you like this book, check out Pierce’s Song of the Lioness; Immortals Quartet; and Protector of the Small series for more fantastic, strong-girl reads.

About Cheryl Rainfield

I write the books I needed and couldn't find as a teen. I write teen fiction--paranormal fantasy and gritty realistic fiction. I'm the author of SCARS (WestSide Books, 2010) #1 ALA QuickPicks, and Governor General Literary Award Finalist, HUNTED (WestSide Books, Oct 2011), STAINED (Harcourt, 2013), The Last Dragon (HIP Books, Sept 2009), and Walking Both Sides (HIP Books, 2011). I also enjoy drawing, surfing the web, connecting with people I like, doing crafts, and being with my dog.
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