Cover of Mastiff: Beka looking over her shoulder standing on a mountain with her police dog and cat nearby and pigeons flying around.

About the Book

Title: Mastiff (Beka Cooper #3)
Published: 2011
Series: Beka Cooper
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Someone Call A Priest
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: On The Road Again
Bonus Factor: Payoff
Factor: Slavery
Bonus Factors: Betrayal
Relationship Status: Respect Thy Elders

Careful, Sweetie: spoilers! This is the third book in the Beka Cooper series, so if you haven’t read Terrier or Bloodhound you should probably hop back in the TARDIS and go curl up in the library by the pool with the rest of the series before continuing.

Cover Story: Someone Call A Priest

So, friends, we end where we began. It’s been just about two years since I made it my goal to review all of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall works and we’ve done it. There will be more, but we’ll be all caught up. And I love that this is the last cover; it’s fitting, really, because we started with a murdery Alanna and now what is happening to Beka’s body, oh holy hell? She looks possessed, like we caught her right after the head spinning but before the pea soup projectile, and guess what? She’s aiming right for us

The Deal:

It’s been three years since Beka slogged through the sewers of Corus chasing after a counterfeiter, and she’s now good and entrenched in the Dog life. She was even about to marry one…until he got too cocky and got himself killed for the trouble. What no one except Beka’s journal knows, though, is that she had been planning for weeks to call things off with her hot-headed fiancé, and now she is a mess of guilt and grief.

A knock in the middle of the night suddenly leaves her with little time to wallow. Lord Gershom tasks Beka, her scent hound, Achoo, and her human partner, Tunstall, with an impossibly huge and impossibly dangerous task: find the missing Prince who was kidnapped from the Summer Palace. Magic and murder seem to go hand in hand, and suddenly the entire fate of Tortall as they know it is in the hands of a simple team of Dogs from the Lower City. The Prince’s trail may be faint, but the political corruption they’re digging up is positively foul.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Oh, Beka. She’s in such a sticky situation; she’s classy enough not to speak ill of the dead (though her fiancé sounds like he was one step away from being an abusive prick) but she feels massively uncomfortable playing the grieving girlfriend when she secretly feels a bit relieved to be out of her relationship. She turns to journaling again to make sense of her emotions (we’ve all been there), and then subsequently uses it to fact-check the most important hunt of her life. It’s nice to see her settled and confident in her job and with her friends. I will say she’s sometimes a bit too honest, which really frustrated me when she went around giving away very big hints about her Hunt to obvious baddies and got herself in sticky situations. While not the Pierce character that I connect with the most, I nonetheless have a special place in my heart for Beka and her extreme social anxiety, being an introvert who hates small talk myself.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Once again, younger me held out hope for Rosto, especially at the beginning of the book when he was the only one who saw Beka’s fiancé for the temper-tantrum toddler he was and comforted her in exactly the right way. I resented [REDACTED] because he was so obvious. This time around I went in with foresight and a more open mind, and found I really enjoyed [REDACTED] for his own merits. He reminded me a lot of Numair, in fact, and, well, you all know how I feel about Numair, plus he had a dash of George’s showmanship and easy smile (this is his however-many-greats-grandfather, after all). The romance was slow and sweet and left me with a smile on my face.

Talky Talk: On The Road Again

There’s just something about old-timey fantasy and open-road traveling. I blame Tolkien. Going by horseback and sleeping out under the stars sounds romantic until you remember saddle sores and digging your own latrines. Most of the book takes place en route, with Achoo sniffing her way through swamps and castles and everywhere in between. This book is massive, both in length and plot; so much political corruption going left and right and, yet, also times of…lots of running. Luckily any point I felt the “Really? Another traveling scene?” sneer a la Fred Savage coming on, something would happen to suck me back in to the main storyline. I think the first book is still my favorite, but this was a solid wrap-up to Beka’s humble beginnings.

Bonus Factor: Payoff

Man standing in front of a yellow background holding his fists up in victory.

There were grumbles in the first two books about the Great Goddess being slowly turned into the Gentle Mother, a meek and mild version of a badass warrior. Pierce wound that thread into a solid plot point in this novel when Beka’s team followed the Prince’s scent to a Duke’s castle in the middle of nowhere, where the women followed the Gentle Mother’s word to the letter.

Factor: Slavery

Artistic rendering of slaves cutting sugarcane

In another satisfying tie-in from the rest of the series, the growing issue of slavery is really tackled head-on in Mastiff, as Prince Gareth is abducted by slavers and is being treated like one while on the run. I won’t spoil the resolution, but it may have made me shed a happy tear or two.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Betrayal

Cropped section of Vincenzo Camuccini's The Death of Julius Caesar, Julius being stabbed by Brutus and his followers

Things begin to happen to Beka’s team where it seems like one conclusion could be that they have a traitor in their midst. I can’t say too much without spoiling anything, but suffice it to say that when I first read this I had a LOT of feelings…and I still feel them to a varying degree. (Join me in the comments if you’ve read it!)

Relationship Status: Respect Thy Elders

You’re not just a prequel series to other, more beloved friends, Book—you’re a catch in your own right. Things were certainly different back in your day, but I also love hearing about what life was like before modern day (magical) conveniences. Understanding a country’s history is priceless, for those who forget it are doomed to repeat it.

Literary Matchmaking

Sabriel (Abhorsen #1)

Sabriel from Garth Nix also features a journey and a cat who isn’t quite what he seems.

Plain Kate

For another fun fantasy featuring a low-born girl making something of herself amidst witches and cat-friends, read Plain Kate from Erin Bow.

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

Partners in work and friendship is a theme echoed in Sarah Dennard’s Truthwitch, which also features magic and harrowing journeys to stay alive.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Mastiff is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.