This book is set in the same world as “The Lioness Rampant” series, taking place several hundred years earlier, following Beka Cooper, a poor girl living in Tortall. She joins the Provost’s Dogs to keep the peace and soon discovers people who won’t be missed are disappearing. Thanks to her mysterious powers, a magical cat and a stubborn streak a mile wide, she plunges headlong into a story that has implications for the entire Lower City.
Beka is a flawed character which makes her actions and dialogue that much more realistic. She has fears and doubts. She has trouble doing her job at times because of communication. But through the course of the book we see her adapt and evolve to her new situation and to those around her.
There are also some great well-rounded secondary characters such as Beka’s mentors Tunstall and Goodwin and Rosto the Piper. Their personalities are slowly revealed throughout the story and on occasion by third parties. This made for a more organic experience rather than an infodump through exposition.
As well the maps and appendix were much appreciated as the book covers a lot of ground both geographically and linguistically. This helped to physically center the reader and the addition of slang made the story more immersive and showed how much world-building Pierce had put into the series.
One drawback that remained throughout the entire story was the epistolary style. At times it got in the way of the story. In the beginning I had to delve through three separate POV levels to get to Beka’s story which was confusing and the result was it took longer to get into the story. As well one diary entry contained a plethora of spelling errors which was distracting and unnecessary. There are other better ways to communicate a person’s literacy. The style was somewhat mitigated though by Pierce’s transitions between Beka’s passive and active voice. She created a seamless shift between diary entries and present action so that it’s unnoticeable and doesn’t interrupt the narrative flow of the story.
If you’re a fan of Pierce or of the Lioness series I would highly recommend this book as the beginning of an interesting new series.