Beka Cooper: Bloodhound

Bloodhound is the second in the Beka Cooper series by Tamora Pierce. Rather than picking up just at the end of Terrier, Bloodhound moves forward in time, just a bit. Beka has been a dog for some time now, but still does not have a consistent partner. Her determination and dedication to the job make it hard for her to compromise her missions the way some of the other dogs are wont to do.  Still maintaining her friendships with her companions on the other side of the law, Beka works hard to focus on her own ideas of right and wrong, which seems to leave her would-be partners far behind.  When new problems arise in Corinth, Beka, Tunstall, and Goodwin help settle a riot. In the process, Tunstall is seriously injured, forcing him to take leave. Goodwin and Beka must leave Corinth to investigate an influx in faux currency. Oh… and did I mention Beka now handles a hound (a real hound)?

That is about all I am willing to say, plot-wise, without giving away too much.  I have to say, Beka comes back just as strong as she began. In Bloodhound, we readers learn much more about Goodwin, and she becomes more human but still completely Goodwin. Beka has even more delimmas, both professional and personal. The twists in Bloodhound are constant and Ms. Pierce works hard to keep at least one step ahead. Her skill with creating engaging characters is excellent, and she adds even more in Bloodhound. She artfully weaves new cultures into the story, adding an extra flavor to the mood. Throughout, the novel is both fun and conflicted- just like Beka’s experience in the story, which makes it move quickly and difficult to put down once you begin reading it.  As usual, there is a lot going on here.

Like in Terrier, Beka works through a number of realistic issues, each of which is expected at her age. Beka has gotten a little older by Bloodhound, and so the book is a little older as well.

First, Beka has conflicted love interests in this book, as Rosto finds himself in competition with the gambling pirate, Dale Rowan.  Fortunately for Beka, these two stay far separated (and Rosto has limited knowledge of Dale) due to geography. Here, we see a common love-triangle competition, but we have the added advantage of Beka’s inner debate. Beka is insightful enough to weigh the kinds of relationships she has and sees, comparing hers to that of Goodwin and her husband, Tunstall and Lady Sabine, and her many other friends.  We watch Beka debate within herself the kinds of relationship she has with each of the other characters in order to determine what is the right one.  This is a significant improvement from the vague “I like both” debate we sometimes see.  Young readers learning about relationships can learn from Beka not only how to consider their own relationships, but understanding that relationships with different people can differ from each other, and the reality is that relationships can be genuinely confusing.

Secondly, we delve a bit deeper into the idea of mixed virtues.  While Beka has been friends with those “on the other side of the law” for some time, we see in Bloodhound more questionable behaviors from engaging characters. Additionally, not all of these fun characters are as “good” as they seem. The question of “good” or virtue is gently twisted around and considered throughout Bloodhound in an engaging debate.

Finally, one of the biggest debates in Bloodhound is the notion of change and growing up. Bloodhound sees lots of changes from the beginning: Beka repeatedly changes partners, and then changes location.  Many of the characters in the first book are not as involved in Bloodhound, with the particular exception of Goodwin. In addition, more changes are coming in Beka’s life, and in the experience of the readers- but, I’ll have to let you see those for yourself.  Throughout, Beka negotiates and considers change and constantly has to cope with it. This is an important skill to learn, and even more difficult to manage- even for adults.

Beka in general is becoming a great young adult character; even now, she makes big mistakes with big consequences, and takes responsibility for her actions. She is an example of determination, fortitude, and personal growth. Few people are as true to self as Beka can be. The complexity of her life reflects the complexity of reality- and that is a rare find in fiction, especially for younger readers.

Inklings recommends Bloodhound, and is excited to read the next in the series.  However, due to some older content (complicated situations, mild sexual content, and overt flirtation), this is probably best for a slightly older readership.

Attributes include adventure, comedy, skillfully unraveled story-line, engaging characters, emotional appeal, and some quotability.

Next review will come soon, but I have no idea what book that will be, yet. I am open to suggestions. 🙂

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