Beka Cooper #1

by Tamora Pierce
AR Test, Must Read, Strong Female Character

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Beka lives in the Lower City, the roughest part of Corus. She is a Puppy, training to be one of the Dogs, those who police the streets and try to keep the Rats from causing too much hurt. The job is a deadly one and undesirable to most. But being a Dog is in Beka’s blood, and she will do everything in her power to protect the people of the Lower City–her people.

Terrier is the beginning of a trilogy, but each book is self-sufficient. This series is not like Pierce’s other books. It is an excellent and entertaining story, with heaps of action and convoluted plots that will reveal an unexpected ending. However, this series is meant for a more mature audience than the majority of Pierce’s novels. There is a decent amount of profanity as well as more sexual content. As Beka is a guardswoman, the majority of her job involves her capturing and fighting with criminals. While the fights and sexual content are not graphically described, they are plentiful.

Sexual Content

  • Beka sees a woman and notes that “there was a twitch to her hips. I’d wager she’d give her husband an extra-warm night, thinking of the tall Dog who had flirted with her.”
  • Beka calls her breasts peaches. When describing herself, she says, “My peaches are well enough. Doubtless they would be larger if I put on more pounds, but as I have no sweetheart and am not wishful of one for now, my peaches are fine as they are.”
  • There is a mage who works at the Kennel, who has “roaming hands, with their pinching and stroking fingers . . . Quick as a snake, Fulk grabbed my wrist. He smiled into my eyes, his fingers rubbing my arm.”
  • Beka accidentally lets her neighbor see her half-dressed. “I blinked at Rosto. Trouble has just moved in, I thought. Then I remembered I stood there in no more than breastband and breeches. I shrieked and slammed my door.”
  • Beka sees a male prostitute. “He beckoned to me, flexing hard chest muscles. I looked away. It was a very tight loincloth.”
  • Rostro has two girls he is intimate with at one point, which Beka and Ersken discuss briefly. “‘And he’s got Aniki or Kora.’ ‘I’d say both.’ ‘That’s his business, Ersken.'”
  • While Beka says she will never get involved with Rosto, she admits, “He makes my skin, my peaches, and my other parts tingle in an agreeable way. Naught will come of it.”
  • Beka goes to a tavern while pursuing a case. “That same knight beckoned to a serving maid as the two noblemen seated themselves. She thrust the neck of her dress lower, when it already did little enough to cover her peaches.” Later some men “made a game of looking under tables, benches, and the mots’ skirts. More than a few earned cuffs and boxed ears from the mots who objected.”
  • A knight notices a prostitute at a tavern. “The wench who’d gotten his attention was one of the higher-priced doxies there, wearing a dress and earrings that did not come from Cheappretty Row.” His friend says he “is all kinds of fat in the purse, and he loves to pay double when he’s happy.”
  • Beka finds her neighbor in “only her shift, though the day was cool and rainy. Moreover, I saw Ersken pulling on his breeches behind her . . . ‘I’m my own mot and can say who shares my bed,’ Kora told me. ‘Rosto knows.’ She smiled. ‘We’re still friends, just not bed friends.'”
  • Goodwin finds a coil of wire hidden in a codpiece. “She reached around the rusher and grabbed his metal codpiece. “‘Oh, sweet one,’ the cove said with a moan, ‘my lovey, my–’ ‘Shut up.’ Goodwin yanked the codpiece hard.”
  • A criminal tells Tunstall, “Pox on yer privates if ye think I’ve a word for ye.”
  • Kora kisses her boyfriend. “Then she kissed him again for a goodlytime. I grabbed the ham, as it seemed they would be occupied for a while.”
  • Rosto kisses Beka. He “grabbed me by the back of the neck, and kissed me on the mouth. I should have punched him, but his mouth was sweet and soft. I will punch him next time.”



  • Goodwin is attacked while trying to make an arrest. “Orva struck backhand, her fist turned sideways. She caught Goodwin with the butt of the hilt square on the hinge of the jaw. Goodwin dropped, her eyes rolled up in her head.”
  • Goodwin tells Beka they can’t catch every Rat. “Do you know how many robberies there are in a day in the Lower City, how many burglaries, how many purse cuttings, rapes, brawls . . . Do you know how many mothers drown newborns and tots in privies or rain barrels? How many fathers and uncles toss them into the rear yard with broken skulls?”
  • Beka has to break up a tavern brawl while on duty. “Someone pushed me against a table. I smashed him across the head hard, then shoved him behind me. I heard him smack into furniture . . . I finally remembered Ahuda’s teaching and fought my way to a wall.”
  • Beka and her partners break up a fight. “He roared and charged Tunstall, head down. Tunstall turned to the side and swung up his bent knee. He caught the charging Parks brother on the chin . . . He never saw me smack his wrist with my baton. When he dropped the weapon, he bent to grab it. I hit him on the spine, praying I hadn’t done it too hard.”
  • The Rogue mentions he will give his guards “a choice between death and life as a maimed beggar” after they failed him.
  • Beka sees a woman being abused by her brother. “He knocked her sideways, sending her sprawling on the floor. Now I knew where her bruises came from.” Beka stops him from hitting her, too. “I blocked his swing with my forearm, though it jarred my teeth. While he gaped, I grabbed that wrist with my free left hand and yanked him toward me over the counter . . . When he grabbed at me with his free hand, I seized it and twisted so he’d stop thrashing.”
  • A woman confesses that “I tried to get my man to move in . . . but he wouldn’t allow for it. Said he wasn’t meant to live with little ones. So one night I took the blanket and I put it over my boy’s face until he stopped breathin’.”
  • Beka and her team stop a robbery. “I scooped my own kick forward and up, between his legs, and slammed a metal codpiece with my foot. Had it been solid metal, not pieces, I might’ve hurt myself. Instead it gave way under my kick. The rusher groaned, his eyes rolling up in his head. I hadn’t seen him draw a dagger with his free hand. It slid just past my right side, slicing my loose tunic and shirt.”
  • When Beka deals with a criminal, “He slapped me. I didn’t try to stop him this time. I wasn’t sure I would break his arm. I had to be better than him.” The criminal tells her, “I’ll see you raped and your body left in a midden, your throat cut in two.”
  • Beka and a team of Dogs storm a house. “The cove didn’t even see Goodwin lunge in under his strike. She struck him full in the belly with her baton. He doubled over, retching. She knocked him out.”
  • Beka and her Dogs find multiple mass graves. “Half of the cellar was under a huge mound of dirt. I gagged. The smell was dreadful, like a Cesspool butcher’s dump in the summer heat . . . We worked gently, fearing what we might hit. I’d just felt the tip of my shovel touch sommat when we heard wings in that hot space . . . We found eight dead there.”
  • When Beka and her Dogs corner a criminal, “He thrust the dagger into his throat under his jaw. He did it before we could move, and no amount of healing could have saved him. He bled to death fast, making a frightful mess.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Tunstall goes out to dinner with some other adults. “So the wine was flowing well, and there was brandy after supper.”
  • While Beka does not usually partake, her partners and friends often drink ale with their suppers.
  • Beka writes once, “I fere I broke my rule and Dranke more wine thann I shud.”
  • A Puppy dies, and it is said that one of her trainers was drunk on duty when it happened.


  • The words “piss,” “piddle,” and “scummer” are used often.
  • Insults such as “pig scummer,” “cracknob” and other impolite, but not profane, words are used. Beka calls a group of lazy Dogs, “scummernobs.” When particularly angry, she once says “pox-rotted pus-leaking mumper bags.”
  • Beka tells her friend that she is “making an ass of yourself.”
  • A violent woman that Beka arrested shouts at her. “You bitch! . . . You puttock, you trollop, you trull . . . I’ll cut your liver out, you poxied leech! Why wouldn’t you let me go! You ruined my life!”
  • The words “bitch” and “bastard” are used a few times. A criminal calls Goodwin a “mangy bitch,” and Beka thinks “I needed to catch up with the old bastard” when she’s following a criminal.
  • A criminal calls her daughter a “slut.”


  • Beka has a magical cat. ” ‘We’re not even sure he’s a cat,’ Tunstall muttered to Goodwin. ‘I say he’s a god shape-changed.’ Pounce meowed, Do I look as stupid as a god to you?
  • Beka has the magical Gift. Many people have this magic, which can be used for fighting, controlling the weather, or healing. Beka’s brand of magic lets her hear voices picked up by wind spinners, and allows her to hear unhappy spirits that are carried on the backs of pigeons before they go to the Black God’s realm.
  • Beka helps a mother speak to her son and aid him in crossing over. “‘Sweetheart, of course the Black God has birds,’ Tansy whispered, straightening. ‘Beautiful ones. But you won’t see them if you stay where it’s dark. You have to go to the Peaceful Realms.'”

Spiritual Content

  • There are many gods in Tortall, such as the Crooked God, Mithros and the Black God. Different people honor different gods. Their names are often invoked in daily conversation as exclamations of surprise or relief. One woman, when exhausted, exclaims “Thank the Goddess . . . I’m weary to death!” When Beka brings in a Rat, Ahuda exclaims, “Great Mithros bless us, you actually caught
  • Goodwin tells Beka to toughen up “before you jump into the Olorun or slice your wrists. We lose five Dogs a year to the Black God’s Option. Don’t you be one.”
  • Farewells sometimes have the name of the gods in them. ” ‘Mithros and the Crone watch over you.’ I curtsied as he went inside. ‘Gods all bless and keep you, my lord.’ I whispered.”
  • A friend of Beka’s deceased mother asks if she “burn(s) the incense for Ilony’s ghost?” Beka says she does.

by Morgan Lynn


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