Mastiff. Beka Cooper: Book 3. by Tamora Pierce. Read by Susan Denaker. Listening Library, 2011.
Pierce ups the stakes for Beka on all levels in the last book of the Beka Cooper trilogy, following Terrier and Bloodhound. As the book opens, Beka is trying to deal with the death of her betrothed, a fellow Dog who turns out to have been abusive to her and whom she was planning on breaking up with anyway. As everyone else seems to think she should be heartbroken, things are very awkward and uncomfortable all around. It’s a distinct relief when the Lord Provost himself knocks on her door in the middle of the night, summoning her to a top secret hunt. It’s so secret that she and her team (her partner, along with Lady Sabine and a country mage named Farmer) aren’t told what the mission is until they are at their destination. Someone has kidnapped the young crown prince, and it’s up to Beka and her friends to find him, dodging all the traps set for them while keeping the kidnapping a secret from the rest of the kingdom. The journey ranges across Tortall, and puts them in contact with all kinds of new people.
This book again has sensitive-parent triggers, including the kidnapped prince being the same age as my youngest, child slaves, and a murdered child, just to warn any similarly sensitive readers. Oddly enough for me, these did not bother me nearly as much as the big twist in the book, which I’m not going to spoil here, but which I couldn’t really buy and which left a bitter taste in my mouth. I felt like Pierce was making everyone suffer too much to balance out the big happy moments at the end, and maybe I’m soft, but I wish she hadn’t. However, the hunt was very well done up until the end, with the biggest highs and lows, and close collaboration with all the members of the team. While I’m not sure it was my favorite book of the series, it still has all the great elements of the other books, and fans of the series will want to read it. If you’ve read it already, I’d love to hear your thoughts, too!