Review: “Mastiff” by Tamora Pierce

Review: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

3 stars

So, I suppose it’s time I get around to this, I’ve been done with this book for weeks, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to write this review. I guess I finally ought to, just to get this out there and off my chest.

I should begin by saying that Tamora Pierce is not just my favorite author. She is my idol, and the only person whose books have never gone out of style with me. Other authors are interchangeable to me. Pierce is a rock. I also got the chance to meet her and spend 3 days with her last August, and immensely enjoyed her as a person as well. I don’t just “judge a book by its cover” with her, you can say.

That’s why Mastiff was such a painful read. Out of all the works I’ve read, the Tortall universe is my favorite. I want to drop myself right in there beside all her main characters. When Pierce returned to Tortall for Terrier, I was blazingly excited and the book did not disappoint. Bloodhound, the second book, was certainly a change of pace, but a good one for the most part. Mastiff should have been a glowing finale but to me it’s…not.

To be fair, there is technically nothing wrong with Mastiff. It’s written in the typical, amazing Tamora Pierce style. It’s funny. It’s exciting. It’s impossible to put down. If we were judging this book on technicality alone, it’s an immediate 5 stars. It’s the reason I couldn’t give it any less than three.

The problem is that it’s a third book. It’s the FINAL book.  The problem is that we have been set up for two large books and gotten to know the characters. The problem is that, by now, I am so invested in the characters that I wanted something grand and blinding for the finale. Maybe the fault lies entirely with my opinion, but I just don’t feel like I got it.

~MILD SPOILERS AHEAD~

The book got off to a very bad start for me. Its 3 years after Bloodhound, and Beka is burying her fiancé, who was mentally and physically abusive towards her. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems vaguely out of character that Beka would allow that to go on. Especially when she says that the only reason she even vaguely loved this guy is because of the great sex. I just couldn’t wrap my head around this for Beka. Things just go downhill from there, as the entire Corus gang minus Tunstall, Pounce, Achoo and Sabine are absent from this book except for a little bit at the beginning. I did like Farmer as a character after the fact, but when he was introduced I was just in the disposition of not liking him. Plus, I really loved Rosto, even though I knew nothing between him and Beka would never happen. I just thought SOMETHING would happen between them.

Still, up until the end of the book, I was tolerating things. I tolerated Beka’s new, bordering-on-obsession with sex. I tolerated the lack of the Corus crew and the injection of new characters I got less than a whole book to love, who played major roles when I thought they’d be taken up by characters I knew well and loved well. If the end of this book hadn’t happened, it would have managed a 4 to 4 ½ star rating, perhaps. I’ll never
know.

I’m going to try to do this without spoilers here, but…argh. Beka’s jumps out of character were bad enough, but I can’t forgive something this bad. I can’t say much, but there is a traitor at the end of the book and … it’s bad. It’s unforgivably bad. I never would have expected it, true, but not in a good way. Never before have I had such a huge desire for the book to end with “And Beka woke up to find that it was all a dream.”

I’ll repeat again that, technically, there is nothing wrong with this book. To another person, there might not be anything wrong with this book. Personally, I just wanted so much…more, for Beka. I wanted so much more for all the characters, really. I guess the ends of series can never be everything you want them to be, but Mastiff disappointed me more than most.