Tamora Pierce's latest book is a departure from her previous works, and it is also one of her best. While set in her familiar world of Tortall, Terrier takes place more than 200 years before the stories of Alanna, Daine and Kel. Main character Beka Cooper is the many times great grandmother of George Cooper from the Alanna books and like George, Beka is a commoner, born in the worst slums of the Lower City of Corus.
Pierce has traditionally written in the third person, a style that clearly works well for her. In Terrier she not only switches to first person, but to a diary format. Beka resolves to keep a diary as a chronicle of her first year as Puppy (or rookie) in the Provost's Dogs, the police force of Corus. She tries to write her diary just like the reports she will have to make to the Provost and the Magistrate when she is a full fledged Dog, and the result is both an engaging coming of age fantasy story and a compelling mystery. Beka, her Dogs, and an eclectic group of friends work together to solve the mystery of the dead fire opal diggers and the mysterious Shadow Snake who kidnaps and sometimes kills the children of the Lower City for their parents small bits of wealth - necklaces, books, or jewels.
A must read for any Pierce fan and a good entry for readers unfamiliar with Pierce's work. Readers who prefer mystery over fantasy will also enjoy this, as the police work and mystery elements are prominent and for that reason, it may turn off some readers who loved her previous books. Beka is also older than many of Pierce's other characters, as she is 17 at the start of book one. Pierce promises Beka's story will be a trilogy, not her usual quartet. Avid readers should not despair, as this first volume is more than 500 pages.