A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that one of the book's major plot elements involves a serial murderer of children. While none of these murders are directly described, this is a society in which abuse, enslavement, and murder of children is common. Adult characters also die; some of these deaths may spark strong emotional reactions. Characters have a complex social system in which police ("Dogs") and criminals ("Rats") co-exist -- and can even be friends ... unless certain lines are crossed. Beka is a strong female character who works hard, is fiercely loyal, and always puts duty first.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Beka has grown up in the slums of the Lower City in Corus, the capital of Tortall. When she was 8, she helped the Lord Provost capture a gang of thieves, and he took her and her family under his wing. Now she's 16 and training to be one of the police guards (called Dogs) of the city. As a trainee (Puppy), she's assigned to the best Dogs in the Kennel, though they're reluctant to have her. But soon, through her unusual ability to hear the voices of the dead, she gets wind of two serial murderers: one hiring and then killing groups of men, the other kidnapping and murdering children. As she and her Dogs work to track down the murderers, gradually she earns their respect through her tenacity, which wins her the nickname "Terrier."
Is it any good?
Told by main character Beka through journal entries, this unusual combination of fantasy novel and police procedural is very satisfying. TERRIER is a rip-roaring good story with unusual elements, set in a world that author Tamora Pierce has been developing for decades. It makes a good introduction to Pierce's work for those who haven't read the earlier books.
Beka is a delightful heroine: painfully shy, modest yet exceptionally competent, eager to learn, and strongly empathetic toward the downtrodden people she grew up with. Pierce has made her reputation as a writer with strong heroines, which has turned her into a darling of those with feminist leanings. But it would be a mistake to pigeonhole her as a feminist author -- she's simply too good. Though boys are notorious for rejecting books with female protagonists, if they allow themselves to try this, they'll like it as much as Pierce's female fans will.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the society of Tortall. What era of real human history does it most resemble? In what other ways is it similar to and different from ours?
How can police and criminals be friends? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the relationships between the two groups in this society? What do you think of the way bribery is handled?
Families who've read the author's other books set in Tortall can talk about what makes this one different. Why do you think magic isn't the focus this time?
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love fantasy
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.