Mastiff - Tamora Pierce What a great ending to a delightful series.

First of all, I just have to say this: the cover is AWFUL. What the hell is that picture of Beka with her neck twisted all the way around? I get that it's supposed to be showing her "ghost eyes" or whatever, but it's really badly done. (Also, Achoo is a light-colored dog!) I loved the full-photo cover of Terrier, but the other two books have had really unfortunate graphic design.

Here's a confession: The Beka Cooper books are the only Tamora Pierce I've read. I haven't even read the Alanna books. So I have no idea what the two series have in common, besides the cat and people named Cooper. But is it just me, or is Pierce running out of names for things and starting to name them all after her favorite authors? There's a town called Prachet in this book, and a Halseander River, and I have my suspicions about the Dream King Gainel as well. Not that I'm complaining--it's a delight to pick up on those little references.

This book is a bit slow to start, but once the story gets going, the tension builds and builds until the shocker of an ending. YMMV as to whether the ending is believable or not--I wasn't bothered by it, but I can see how some would be. I'm eager to go back and re-read the whole trilogy with the ending in mind, and see if it holds up.

I was a Beka/Rosto shipper before this book, but I absolutely adored the character of Farmer. The fact that he used embroidery and household magic to do completely badass things was delightful, and the symbolism wasn't lost on me. I love Pierce's feminist themes, and this book had them in droves. (Did anyone else want to smack the Gentle Mother followers?) I also have a soft spot for characters who play dumb and hide their true nature in order to deliver a bigger smackdown later. (I'm looking at you, Megan Whalen Turner's Eugenides.) I also liked the details about Beka's relationship with her late fiancee. I've been in relationships like that before, where the other person makes you doubt yourself, and I thought Pierce got it exactly right in her description.

I'm going to miss Beka Cooper and I'm kind of sad her story is ending, but I thought this was a fitting conclusion. Plus, now I have the entire rest of Pierce's catalog to read!