Terrier: Beka Cooper, Book 1

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Terrier: Beka Cooper, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Satisfying fantasy crime drama for tweens.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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

Positive Messages

Despite the fact that, in the book's society, corruption and bribery are taken for granted, even encouraged, many characters are honorable, and most behave according to a certain moral code. Determination, hard work, and loyalty are rewarded; real evil is punished.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Beka is a strong, resourceful, loyal role model who never shies away from a challenge or responsibility. Beka's world is diverse, with characters of many different ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and sexualities. Some of her best friends are criminals, but they still care about relationships.


Fighting, injuries, deaths, murders, child murders, child abuse, and slavery.


Mentions of prostitution, implication of sex, discussion of girls' "peaches" (i.e. breasts), some kissing.


Lots of swearing/slang specific to the book's world, which is translated in the included glossary. None of it includes words that are considered "bad" to us, but they're clear stand-ins for curses we all know.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and drunkenness.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written by♦Bookworm♦ July 15, 2013

A well-written, captivating novel that is great for tweens!

Terrier: Beka Cooper is a well-written, captivating novel. It is the ideal book for those that enjoy crime dramas/mysteries yet aren't fond of all the... Continue reading
Parent of a 3, 9, and 12-year-old Written bywrite2char January 20, 2011

Great for older kids that can follow an in depth storyline...

Beka Cooper has been a great story.
Set back in the year 200 something... the scene is very different from where we are today.
I rate it 16+, due to the fre... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 29, 2019


It has some swearing and adult ideas but is fine. Very, very, very boring and would not recommend
Teen, 15 years old Written byone_day15 August 19, 2010

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

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