I’ve been a Tamora Pierce fan for a long time. I got First Test out of a bargain bin at Ollie’s when I was in middle school, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve reread most of the Tortall books so many times that they’re falling apart. at the New York Comic Con in 2009 I was lucky enough to meet Tamora Pierce and have her sign my copy of First Test.
I tell you all of this so you know that I am in no way unbiased when I talk about her books. I have the deep, irrational love for them that you can only really have for something you loved in middle school. I’m pretty sure that they’re still objectively good, and I’m positive that everyone interested in YA fantasy should check them out. Especially people who like reading about strong, heroic girls/women.
Anyway, on to the Provost’s Guard trilogy. I first read these books last year. Don’t ask why it took me so long, I’m not really sure what I was waiting for! When I finally got around to it, I loved them. This trilogy follows George Cooper’s ancestor as she becomes a Provost’s Guard, basically a police officer. Her adventures get progressively bigger as the trilogy goes on, and by the last book, Mastiff, the stakes include the lives of the royal family. There really isn’t anything very surprising about these books, but I found them immensely enjoyable all the same.
They’re different from her other books. For one thing, they’re set in the past of her usual timeline. For another, they’re told in the first person in the form of a diary. On my first read I was a little thrown off by this, but this time around it felt completely natural. It made sense to have Beka talking to her diary, and there are a few fun entries that show her falling asleep and forgetting how to spell. There’s also a memorable page where her cat Pounce (also known as Faithful to other Pierce fans!) gets a paw print in the journal.
Another aspect of the books I found really interesting is how she seeds in the beginnings of how the world is going to turn against strong warrior women. As the books go on we see more and more people turning against fighting women like Beka. I really enjoyed seeing the “Gentle Mother” religious craze. It was a nice way to explain how the world changed between Beka’s time and Alanna’s time.
The Provost’s Guard Trilogy is a fun addition to the Tortall Universe. Check it out!
Spoilers for Mastiff below!
My one complaint about Mastiff is the betrayal. I don’t have a problem with having someone betray Beka. It adds a good element of fear and mystery into the book. Even while rereading the book, I couldn’t quite remember who the betrayer was and there were a few very suspenseful moments!
My problem is with it being Tunstall. Tunstall’s character is not set up to be the betrayer. I wouldn’t say it comes completely out of the blue–like he explains in the book, he told them the moment it happened, and he was honest. I’m also not arguing with his motive. It’s a good motive. But it’s not a good motive for him. He’s set up as an honest, loyal man in all of the books. He’s one of the best Dogs in the Lower City, which has it’s fair share of temptations. The woman he betrays Beka for, the Lady Knight Sabine, would never accept him if she found out that he betrayed Beka. If he and Sabine were other kinds of characters, I might be able to accept this. But it’s never set up. He goes from the most loyal to the least, and the Queen’s explanation that people behave differently when the stakes are that high just doesn’t cut it for me.
It’s the one false note in an otherwise great trilogy, so I can’t really complain too much. I would be interested to hear what other readers think of Tunstall’s betrayal. It it take you by surprise? Did you expect it? Did it make any sense to you?