The Plot: Beka is a full-fledged Dog now! The only problem? She can’t keep a partner to save her life. When Beka’s most recent partner–a lazy Dog who doesn’t chase the Rats–dumps Beka, the shift sergeant gives her back to Tunstall and Goodwin, much to Beka’s joy (because they work well together) and shame (because she wants a partner of her own). Though Beka will get her wish when Tunstall breaks his leg in a riot over the rising cost of bread. Beka discovers that someone in Corus has been passing coles–counterfeit coins–which exacerbates the problems created by the poor harvest and rising food prices.
The Lord Provost sends Beka and Goodwin to Port Caynn to investigate the Court of the Rogue (court of thieves) there and get to the bottom of the coles. Pounce stays behind, but Beka and Goodwin are accompanied by Beka’s new scent hound, Achoo. Along they way they run into Dale–a sweet-talking, charming banker who has a lot to lose if counterfeit coins ruin the economy.
Can Beka and Goodwin get to the bottom of the counterfeit coins? Will Beka be charmed by Dale and forget all about Rosto the Piper, who has taken over as the Rogue of the Corus court? More importantly… will Beka be able to hold onto a partner?
The Characters: Achoo is Beka’s wonderful, adorable scent hound. If I could choose a favorite Tamora Pierce Plucky Animal Companion… I couldn’t, because there are so many. But Achoo is my favorite animal in Beka’s books (mostly because Pounce is also Faithful, who is my favorite animal in Alanna’s books, so it all works out in the end).
Dale is another story all together. He’s nice enough, but he’s not… well, he’s not Rosto. He and Beka flirt a little, and he’s sweet, but he lives in Port Caynn so there’s no future there. It all ends pretty bloodlessly, which is fine, but… I just wish that if Beka would be with someone (even if it’s not Rosto) that she would have the kind of passion George and Alanna had, or Daine and Numair, or Aly and Nawat. It’s a little disappointing.
The Good: I’m going to be straight here: it’s difficult to make a plotline about counterfeiting money “sexy” (by which I mean interesting and vital). Pierce certainly makes counterfeiting into an immediate issue: the rising bread prices and poor harvest put everyone on edge, and when you add counterfeit coins to the mix everyone gets even more jumpy than usual. It’s also interesting to spend some time outside Corus–Port Caynn is a familiar name in Pierce’s other books, but we’ve never spent much time there.
The Bad: So. Several issues. One: I miss Pounce and his bitchy commentary. Two: Dale is lame and Beka had very little chemistry with him (seriously, given the amount of steam and desire present in Tamora Pierce’s other novels, I’m shocked at the lack of swoon that goes on in Beka’s books. Shocked and a little disappointed. Okay a lot disappointed). Three: the mystery of the coles falls short of the drama of the mass murderer Beka faced in Terrier. It’s a bloodless crime, which cuts down on the dramatic tension.
The Verdict: I love Beka, I love Goodwin, and I love getting a peek at Port Caynn. The Court of the Rogue (and their crazy-ass leader Pearl) is really fascinating, and we meet a bunch of cool people (including, I guess, Dale, even though he gambles a bit too much for my taste). This isn’t my least favorite Provost’s Dog book, but it’s definitely not my favorite. It’s worth a read, but much like Wolf-Speaker, it’s not a book I return to often.