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Mastiff: The Legend of Beka Cooper #3    by Tamora Pierce Amazon.com order for
Mastiff
by Tamora Pierce
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Mastiff is the third (following Terrier and Bloodhound) in Tamora Pierce's gripping fantasy about Beka Cooper, a committed young policewoman (officers are commonly known as Dogs in this world) who comes of age and matures in her skills in the trilogy.

Beka grew up in the Cesspool slums. She possesses small magics - pigeons (which carry the souls of those dead who have unfinished business) and dust spinners talk to her. The Lord Provost took Beka's family into his own household, where she grew up planning to join the Provost's Guard.

In Terrier, Beka was partnered for training with the best of the best Dogs, Matthias Tunstall and Clara Goodwin. She handled a case of missing children, and collected a magical ally in talking cat Pounce along with a set of reliable friends in lady knight Sabine (in a relationship with Matthias), Rogue Rosto, swordswoman Aniki, and magic user Kora. Next, in Bloodhound, Beka partnered with scent hound Achoo, and uncovered a counterfeiting ring in Port Caynn.

As Mastiff opens (three years after the events in Port Caynn), Beka is dealing with the recless death of her fiancÚ Holborn on a slave raid. She's finding the sympathy she receives particularly hard as she was about to call off the engagement. Soon after the funeral, she and her partner Matthias are summoned by Lord Gershom and accompany him on a magicked peregrine ship. It takes the threesome from Corus to Blue Harbor, where they're joined by a kennel mage, the self-effacing Master Farmer.

They head to the Summer Palace where their Hunt begins. They find a slaughterhouse. The king and queen were not present but their guests and servants were killed and the four-year-old prince, Prince Gareth (sole heir to the throne) taken. It soon becomes clear that powerful mages were at work - many of the kingdom's lords and mages are furious about their monarch's new taxes; treason simmers; and Beka and associates can trust only Lord Gershom.

With a small child's life at stake, Beka is even more relentless than usual in her pursuit, especially after she learns that the boy is traveling - and being abused - as a slave. As she, Matthias, Farmer (whom Beka steadily learns to appreciate as they travel together), and Sabine follow Achoo's sensitive nose, there are regular attacks (magical and mercenary) and betrayals, including one that shocks Beka to her core. And innocents die.

When it's all over and rewards are offered, Beka asks for none, but receives one that defines her legacy and makes her a legend. She well deserves her happily ever after. True to form for Tamora Pierce, Mastiff is a stunning conclusion to an exceptional series. Don't miss this trilogy!

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