Brief warning: This review contains mild spoilers from Mastiff.
On Sunday, I was able to read Mastiff by Tamora Pierce. I have been a huge Tamora Pierce fan since fifth grade when I purchased Wild Magic at our school’s book fair for 25 cents. I fell in love, and spent the rest of fifth grade and sixth grade obsessed with the book. In seventh grade, I happened to look closer and realized she wrote other books! Of course, our small town library had never even heard of her, so I would have to buy her books at the Barnes and Noble in a town 45 minutes away. So, when I realized Mastiff was out, I immediately purchased it and am excited to flesh out some of my first thoughts about it.
Mastiff is the final book in the Beka Cooper trilogy. I love to death that Pierce’s new books are so thick and that there is so much more to it than in her earlier Tortall works. I believe I once read that she attributed her publishers allowing this because of the Harry Potter success. Anyway, this book picks up five years after the last one left off, with Beka “mourning” the loss of her fiance.
Lord Gershom quickly steps in and well, there is a serious problem with the royalty and Beka and Tunstall and a cool mage, Farmer Cape and Lady Sabine end up on a fabulous Hunt for a kidnapped four year old boy.
First, I’ll start with what I liked about this book. The Hunt itself was so enjoyable. I found myself riveted to the pages, dying to know what happened. As things progressed, I found myself drawn into the story in a way that I haven’t been in a Pierce book for awhile now. It was fast paced, with not too many other plot lines or names or diversions. It was a thick book, but it stayed on track in a very straightforward way. I was able to read it without pausing to try to remember each name and I felt that I got to know the characters as it went along.
Farmer Cape was a wonderful character. Before I started this book, I had been wondering who Pierce would select as the love interest, and I definitely had reservations about Rosto. It just seemed unrealistic that Beka would suddenly fall in love with him. And Farmer Cape was so well developed and his character was fascinating and enjoyable. I think he makes an excellent counterpoint to Beka, and I feel that he is definitely the right choice for Beka’s love interest.
Now for what bothered me about the book. I struggled with the characterizations a lot. There was one prison scene where the prisoner’s just got….really crass out of the blue almost. And it just seemed weird to me. As I read what they were saying, it didn’t seem like it was in their voice. There was also the problem of the traitor in their midst. And when the traitor was revealed, it just didn’t make any sense. I didn’t understand why Pounce wouldn’t have said something, and I couldn’t understand the traitor’s motivations since it was just a longstanding character who was completely and utterly trusted.
What I didn’t like about the Farmer Cape love interest is how he was solely introduced in this book, and Rosto was just forgotten. There was a lot of what I thought was foreshadowing for Rosto, and I can’t believe that Pierce almost completely cut him out of this book. He should have at least been around at the end when Beka and Farmer were celebrating. Pierce could also have introduced Farmer Cape in earlier books, even if just as a brief side note. I also felt Farmer and Beka’s relationship was real, but it did seem kind of fast. I wish there had been romance from the start of their relationship because in the book, they went from one kiss to marriage in like thirty pages or something.
Overall though, Mastiff was excellent. It is one of the few Pierce books that I have read after middle school and can actually see myself re-reading. It just had all the pieces that I liked about her books. And now that I’m older and can really appreciate her strong female characters and the political ideas she espouses, I know that if I ever have kids, I will be putting her books on their shelves. If you are needing a good, fun, empowering read, Mastiff is an excellent choice that will definitely keep you thrilled.