Book Review: “Mastiff” by Tamora Pierce (Beka Cooper, #3)

Title: Mastiff (Click to add to your Goodreads.)

Author: Tamora Pierce

Available In: Hardcover, eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook, Audiobook.

Warnings: PG-13 for violence, sexual content, and a few scenes that contain disturbing imagery or concepts. Recommended for 16+, or for “mature” younger teens.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 4.5 stars.

Theme Song (according to me, anyway): “Lover to Lover” ~ Florence + The Machine

Final Grade: A+.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, STRONG OPINIONS, AND THE FRANK DISCUSSION OF POSSIBLE TRIGGER SUBJECTS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

It took me awhile to get through Mastiff. This was partially because it is the last book in the Beka Cooper series, and I was really not ready for it to be over. It was also partially because the book itself is rather dense. At 592 pages, it’s a pretty hefty hardcover—but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Three years have passed since Bloodhound, and Beka is now on the verge of receiving her five year badge and engaged to be married to another Dog. When her fiancée is killed in a slave raid, Beka is more than a little conflicted—unbeknownst to her friends, her fiancée was verbally (and, it is hinted) physically abusive towards her, and she had been planning to call the engagement off. Beka’s not the sort to fall into pathos over this, however, and when the king’s son is kidnapped by slavers who may or may not be working under the orders of a group of rebellious nobles, Beka welcomes the thrill of the chase with open arms. Along with Lady Sabine, her old mentor Tunstall, and the frustratingly tricky Master Farmer, Beka finds herself embroiled in a mass of betrayal, brutality, and something that she just might call love.

Overall, I felt this was a very solid end to the Beka Cooper trilogy. I feel that the situation with Beka’s dead fiancée was actually handled quite well; it’s definitely a realistic depiction of how, exactly, strong women end up in relationships that are not good for them. Pierce’s treatment of the difficult topics of slavery and the Shaker-esque noble cults was adept as always. It was a little sad that we didn’t get to see much of Rosto, Kora, and Aniki, but I enjoyed the group dynamic between Beka/Farmer and Sabine/Tunstall just as much. In the end, it was all neatly linked back to George Cooper and led right into the beginning of the Alanna series.  Nice!

I did have a few quibbles about the book, mostly focused around the plot twist at the end, but I’m going to go into those at length in my pros and cons section to avoid spoiling anybody.

BEYOND THIS POINT, THERE ARE MAJOR SPOILERS. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE SPOILED.

Pros

  • Master Farmer. He’s raised my expectations of men sky-high now. He’s tied with Numair  as my favorite mage ever. Basically? I love him. ❤
  • The group dynamic between Tunstall, Sabine, Farmer, and Beka. They made such a good team ❤
  • The noble cults were intriguing to read about, even though I would definitely agree with Beka about the followers of the Gentle Mother.
  • Sabine as a wildmage. I like that the wildmages are even acknowledged  at this time, though we know they are not properly studied until Daine comes along later.
  • Achoo and Pounce ❤ For a little while there, I thought that Achoo was going to die, and when it looked like that was imminent, I started crying and just couldn’t stop until she was healed a few pages later.

Cons

 

  • Tunstall 😦 While I feel the plot twist was executed fairly well, I really did not see this coming. To be honest, I would suspect Sabine before Tunstall, and to find that he really was the traitor… it broke my heart, really, it did. And with little to no lead up for it, it really was a nasty shock. I feel that some hints along the way would have been appropriate, but then again, it was a plot twist, so I don’t really know what to say.

BOOK REVIEW: The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (The Inheritance Trilogy, #2)

Title: The Broken Kingdoms

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Available In: Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, Kindle, Nook.

Warnings: R for sexuality, violence, and gore.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AND STRONG OPINIONS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

It takes me a long time to get through each new N.K. Jemisin book. This isn’t normal for me; generally I’m a speed-reader who can whip through a book in a week, no problem. However, Goodreads shows that I’ve been working on this one since October. Whew.

Our story opens with gods in garbage and introduces us to Oree, blind magic-artist from the city. Oree doesn’t know it, but the strange man that she takes in is far, far more than he seems, and she’s about to be thrown into the midst of a scramble for power that includes gods, demigods, and even certain humans.

As usual, Jemisin’s prose is worth the slow pace. She has such a distinctive, lyrical style, and while The Broken Kingdoms is not set in the grandeur of Sky as the first book was, she shows a distinct ability to bring that same lyricism to a grittier setting. The characters are lovely as well—I was particularly fond of Madding the godling—and Jemisin explores their interactions with the same deft sensitivity that she brought to the political push-and-pull of Yeine’s Sky.

The only complaint that I have about this book is the same as the first—at times, the slow pace of the plot really bogs the book down, and there are moments when I have no idea what’s going on, even after I reread several times. It’s not a huge annoyance, but given the vast strides Jemisin made as a writer between The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and the Broken Kingdoms, I hope to see her improve this aspect.

Pros

  • The magic. As usual, Jemisin’s magic system is beautifully realized and completely unique.
  • Great continuity between book 1 and book 2.
  • Jemisin’s gods. ❤ I love that she incorporates some elements from existing mythologies into them without sacrificing her personal vision.
  • Oree’s POV. She seems much more grounded than Yeine, and I love that she’s an artist despite her blindness, which is handled in a way that I personally thought was inventive and respectful.
  • The bond between Itempas/Shiny and Oree.
  • The sex/lovemaking scenes. This is one of my favorite things about Jemisin’s writing; she is very good at making her sex scenes complex and impactful, and at exploring the many different facets of human love and lust.
  • The end, which I thought was simply perfect.

Cons

  • The plot is somewhat wandering and vague, and is very slow to develop and come to fruition. At times, the slow pace is appreciable, because it’s nice to be able to savor Jemisin’s prose, but at others it is simply annoying. I did see a definite improvement between The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms, however, so I hope to see this trend continue in the next book.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars out of 5.

Final Grade: A. Would reread, will definitely read next book in series.