Mastiff: Beka Cooper, Book 3

 
Uneven finish to exciting but violent crime/fantasy trilogy.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids may learn some things about police work -- investigating crimes, etc.

Positive messages

Persistence, duty, loyalty, and hard work are all rewarded in the book's often-messy world of law enforcement and criminals. While corruption, betrayal, and cruelty are commonplace, the heart of the story -- Beka -- is unwavering in her focus and dedication to fulfilling her mission. Slavery is portrayed as a barbaric practice that cruelly uses its victims.

Positive role models

Beka is a strong, resourceful role model who never shies away from a challenge or responsibility, even when doing so would save her pain and/or heartbreak. Lady Sabine, a female knight who joins Beka's quest in this story, is another positive female character. But other characters' loyalties are less clear, and there's a huge betrayal that may not sit well with fans. Overall, Beka's world is diverse, with characters of many different ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and sexualities.

Violence

While strong violence has always been a part of Beka's story, this installment ups the ante even further, with nearly continual peril, danger, and conflict. Slaves, including young children, are brutally killed and abused; many dead bodies are discovered and examined (sometimes after being magically exhumed), with some details mentioned about their appearance and manner of death. There are several fights, both physical and magical (including injuries to main characters), and characters are tortured for information. A deadly fire claims many victims, a castle is destroyed, and some people and animals are killed when mages "melt" them into oozing puddles. Weapons include knives, batons, swords, magic, and more; Sabine's war horses can also be lethal.

Sex

Sex and sexuality are treated in a matter-of-fact way. Unmarried characters (including Beka and her fiance) sleep together, and there's a good amount of flirting and kissing as well. Things don't get too graphic, but Beka does sometimes get preoccupied by thinking about "swiving." A same-sex relationship isn't portrayed as a big deal -- nor is anyone else's sexuality.

Language

Lots of slang and swearing, but it's all in words that are specific to the world of the book (there's a glossary in the back for translation). None of it includes words that are considered "bad" to us, but they're clear stand-ins for curses we all know.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Beka rarely drinks (she prefers to keep her head clear), but many of her friends and colleagues do, generally in social situations. That said, there's less drinking in this book than in the others, mostly because Beka and her companions have little time for socializing.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the conclusion to Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper fantasy/crime trilogy is even more violent than the previous books in the series. Slaves, including young children, are abused and brutally killed; there are many other deaths and injuries, plus torture, fights (with batons, swords, fists, etc.), arson, and more. The story revolves around a kidnapping, and the main characters are in near-constant peril. Sexuality is less of a theme/issue here than in the previous book in the series, but sex and sexual orientation are still treated matter-of-factly and casually -- though never graphically. Through it all, Beka remains a strong female character who prizes loyalty, duty, and hard work above everything and always stays true to herself.

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What's the story?

MASTIFF picks up approximately three years after the events of Bloodhound; in that time, Lower City Provost's Dog Beka Cooper has apparently acquired -- and lost -- a fiance, fellow Dog Holborn, whose death she's mourning as the book opens. Well, less mourning than regretting, really -- turns out she had been planning to break up with him, and the avalanche of sympathy she's now facing is leaving her quite uncomfortable. So when Lord Provost Gershom recruits Beka; her scent hound, Achoo; and her human partner, Tunstall, to lead a top-secret Hunt, she's relieved to have a distraction. Then she finds out that they'll be hunting for 4-year-old Prince Gareth, who has been kidnapped by ruthless, murderous slavers. As the trio and their companions -- including deceptively rascally mage Master Farmer, powerful Lady Sabine, and inscrutable Pounce the cat -- follow the prince's trail, they realize that there's even more afoot than they knew ... and that rescuing the prince could mean rescuing the realm as well.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

There's no question that Mastiff brings Beka's story to an exciting and mostly satisfying conclusion, but the book -- written, like its predecessors, as a series of journal entries made by Beka -- has more rough spots than most of Pierce's other novels. The abrupt introduction of a dead fiance whom readers never got a chance to meet feels awkward and makes it difficult to jump right into the story; the whole situation frankly seems out of character for Beka and unnecessary to the larger story.

 

Other smaller scenes/moments/incomplete explanations pop up along the way that are just jarring enough to distract readers from what's otherwise a tense crime procedural with some interesting twists and turns, and that's too bad. The book also seems a bit overlong (usually not an issue at all with Pierce's work), but the introduction of Master Farmer is a welcome one (he's sort of the Han Solo of Provost's mages), and Beka remains -- as always -- a heroine you're happy to root for. One note for readers who may not be familiar with Pierce's other work: This series serves as a distant prequel to the Alanna books, so you might want to check those out next if you haven't already.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the world the book takes place in. How does this compare to other stories set in Tortall? Does it feel as much like a fantasy as the other books? Why or why not?

  • What era in real human history do you think the book is most closely related to?

  • Do you consider Beka a role model? Why? Do you think you'd like her in real life?

Book details

Author:Tamora Pierce
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Cats, dogs, and mice, Great girl role models
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date:October 25, 2011
Number of pages:608

This review of Mastiff: Beka Cooper, Book 3 was written by

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Adult Written by♦Bookworm♦ July 15, 2013
age 12+
 

A bad end to a good trilogy

Mastiff: Beka Cooper was a bad end to a good trilogy. It was almost as if someone else wrote the book; the characters' personalities/attitudes were just so different than they were in previous books! The plot was predictable, slow, and there was a bit of unnecessary things added in. I hate to sound harsh since I'm a fan of numerous books written by Pierce, but this just wasn't very good.
Educator Written byLibrarianAnonymous January 12, 2012
age 14+
 

A slightly disappointing end to a great trilogy...

I am a fan of Tamora Pierce and the Beka Cooper series was one of my favorites. Beka is a strong female character who remains true to and fights for what she believes in. She thrives in a career that has historically male connotations. Plainly, she is a tough lady. In the series finale, Beka remains true to form. Loyalty is a huge element in the books and Beka focuses on maintaining strong familial bonds and relationships with her friends - human, animal, and magical. Because Beka's relationships have been steadfast throughout the trilogy, I was extremely disappointed in this book. While I would recommend it to fans of the series (of course, you have to know how it ends!), it simply was not my favorite. Without being a spoiler... I was just left feeling unfulfilled. For me, the series closed in an unsatisfactory way. A note on content: the violence in the book is graphic and the suffering of the slaves excruciating, which may be upsetting to some readers. Beka is not quite so cavalier with her sexuality in this installment of the trilogy, but there are a few intimate scenes.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence

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