Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce (Beka Cooper #2)
Beka Cooper is no longer a Puppy. She's a Dog now - a full-fledged member of the Provost's Guard, which keeps the peace in Corus's streets. Beka's natural skills of observation and tenacity are augmented by her unusual magical talents, which allow her to gather information both from pigeons are from the eddies of dirt and dust that swirl on street corners. But even her magic isn't very useful when unrest comes to Tortall's capital in the form of counterfeit coins, which turn up in shops all over the city. Merchants raise prices to cover their losses, and with winter coming on, hikes in food and fuel costs could spell disaster - most of all for the city's poor.
The Dogs discover that gamblers are bringing the counterfeits from Port Caynn - and that the Port Caynn Dogs don't seem to be doing anything about it. Beka and her mentor, Clary Goodwin, are chosen to go undercover in Port Caynn and find out what they can. And wherever Beka goes, so do some of her animals. Departing from Corus with her are the scent hound Achoo, who has been newly assigned to Beka, and the pigeon Slapper, who carries the voices of the dead.
In Port Caynn, Beka and Goodwin delve deep into the gambling world. There Beka meets a charming bank courier, who may be involved in the counterfeiting ring. Things come to a head just as Goodwin returns home to report in Corus. It won't be enough to Beka to be her usual "terrier" self. She'll have to learn from Achoo to sniff out the criminals - to be a bloodhound.
CONTRIBUTOR(S): Susan Denaker (Narrator)
LENGTH: 554 pages (18 hours 7 minutes)
AGE: Young Adult
Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s), Trans Secondary Character(s).
BLOODHOUND doesn’t specifically wrap up anything from TERRIER, but it does answer the question of what happens once Beka is a Dog instead of a Puppy. There’s a new storyline related to counterfeits in the money supply and a trip away from Corus, as well as a romance for Beka, both of which are introduced and resolved. It’s not the final book and it leaves open Beka’s next steps and new partnership to be continued later. Beka’s narration is consistent with TERRIER, though she’s a bit wiser after her Puppy year. The backstory is explained enough for this to make sense to anyone who started here without reading any other Tortall books.
The worldbuilding has some pretty egregious lifts from real-world cuisine in terms of seafood and Beka’s inland reactions to it. The details listed food without celebrating it, mostly focusing on whether or not Beka liked it on her first time. It's perfectly fine for fantasy stories to use real-world food, but it felt like "westerner's first visit to a seafood restaurant" and the whole vibe was off.
The plot is slow, meandering through the investigation, and letting the supposed craziness of the villain be the justification for a scheme that makes no sense and could ruin a whole country's economy for very little actual profit in the long run. When the villain and their motivation is revealed there's an implicit shoulder shrug of resignation that they didn't care about the long term and were just bad. It feels sloppy and makes the story frustrating to solve, a far cry from the neat way things were intertwined in the first book. There, the resolution of a particular hanging detail could feel triumphant when solved. Here, it's obvious who's doing it but not why, and the answer turns out to be they didn't care that it's a bad plan.
There’s a weird vibe around Beka’s reactions to Okha once she finds about Okha’s alias, Amber Orchid. Amber states plainly that’s she’s a woman’s soul in a man’s body as a result of the Trickster god. Beka’s reaction is acceptance of the statement, but it’s treated in the text that Amber/Okha is grateful she didn’t react violently to the news. When Beka spends the rest of the novel misgendering Okha by using he/him even when she’s in women’s clothes and using the name “Amber”, it just feels like performative allyship that doesn’t actually respect what Okha said. I’d have less of an issue with it if Beka used “he/him” when Okha was in men’s clothes, and she/her when Amber was in women’s clothes, but it’s very off-putting when Beka’s with Amber, surrounded by people who don’t know she spends part of her time answering to any other name, and still Beka writes of her using he/him. Gender is complicated, and gender in a second-world fantasy setting shouldn’t have to map neatly onto reality, but it seems off for a setting which has terms which seem to mean gay and lesbian, while not having one for another kind of queerness that’s prominent in the story. Amber could say what the proper word or common (non-derogatory) slang is when she says she has a woman’s soul. Instead, it’s this halfway ground that tries to show Beka as good for not being horrible, while not having her actually behave as though she believes Amber about her own identity. It’s especially frustrating when details like clothing, customs, and food are lifted nearly unaltered from real peoples and cultures in order to build out the worlds, and that worked out rather badly once again. As a trans person myself, we may joke about being a soul in the wrong body as an attempt to convey to cis people how distressing it can be to be chronically mistreated and misgendered, and there may even be individuals for whom that feels like what happened, but it seems like the author heard that explanation at some point and decided to make it literal in Tortall. The end result misgenders a lovely character who had a chance at being an example of a queer person using drag to explore or display their gender expression in a safe context, or it could have been tweaked slightly to let Amber live publicly as a woman the whole time. Instead, Amber is referred to as either “Okha” or “Amber/Okha”, and her identity is discovered like a badly-kept secret.
Graphic/Explicit CW for sexism, misogyny, kidnapping, confinement, violence, torture.
Moderate CW for sexual content, cursing, ableism, classism, misgendering, transphobia, child abuse, excrement, fire/fire injury, injury detail, animal cruelty, animal death, slavery.
Minor CW for homophobia, deadnaming, xenophobia, sexual harassment, pregnancy, vomit, physical abuse, murder, death.