Terrier by Tamora Pierce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So, long long ago, back in the 1990's, I got burned by Tamora Pierce. The truth was, I was really sure I was supposed to love her books. There was crossdressing, girls with swords, magic, and lushly imagined places. And then, in the first Alanna book, there is this one scene where she begins her menses and goes to a healer/witch to deal with it and gets a charm to keep her from getting pregnant until she wants to take it off. I had a physical reaction to this scene, nausea and fear primarily. I must have been 8 or 9 at the time, and I was clearly messed up in the head (possibly in a way common to children), but 1) the physical reality of puberty was not something I was okay with. 2) the idea that anyone could want sex (with boys) did not even occur to me, so it was clear that this was a protection for if she was discovered and violated, 3) the idea that she would want to get pregnant, at any point, horrified me. After that, I tried again. Not with Alanna, I heard that she got married and stuff, and as that was totally not cool, and violated all my principles, I was not going there, but with Daine. I loved the first two, read them a bunch of times, until I hit book 3 and another of my major squicks, teacher-student relationships. So I stopped. The unrelenting heterosexist normativity of these books, plus certain particular choices and my inability to sympathize with the romances at all, made me give up.
Ten years later, with a bit more maturity and an ability to separate myself from the main character, I tried again. I read the description of Terrier and decided, okay, that sounds pretty good. I had just finished the Hunger Games on audiobook, and I needed another to fill up my iPod. Terrier is a third longer than the Hunger Games, and on audiobook you are really aware of that fact, because every word has to be said aloud. But honestly, it felt shorter. Sure, it took more time to get through it, but it never dragged the way HG did sometimes. Beka was always on task. She wasn't just hanging around trying not to die.
A few issues - at times there were moments that seemed obvious 'police' moments, domestic disturbances, riot gear, all that stuff. But once I got over it, they were just amusing, in a bit of a Terry Pratchett Guards! Guards! sort of way. Policing is policing, even if you're called Dogs and Puppies, or have a werewolf and a dwarf on your squad.
Other things, like having worked out the Shadow Snake before Beka and waiting in agony for her to pick up the clues that she was dropping, would have been fine if I had been reading and not listening. Even listening they were fine. I just groaned a few more times as she ignored the clues again.
But really, this book was awesome. It was fun and engaging. It made me laugh aloud (not difficult) and cry (slightly more difficult), and fall so hard for Goodwin and Tunstall, and Aniki and Cora. And even though it seems that TPeirce's romantic interests tend to leave me cold, I really thought the Rosto bits were handled well, and I'm a bit excited to find out how he will do in his new position, and how that will seriously make a mess of things for Beka.
I think the fact that I did the audiobook made it even better. I loved Susan Denaker's Scanra accent. It was very sexy. All the characters were distinct and really came alive in my head. I definitely wish I could join the breakfast meeting, even if there aren't any more apple turnovers from Mistress Knowles cart.
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