After four years in the Lord Provost’s Royal Guard — otherwise known as the Dogs — working in the slums of the capital city, Beka Cooper thinks she has seen it all. Then Lord Gershom rouses her in the middle of the night, assigning her with her scent hound, Achoo, and her partner, Tunstall, to the most secret and dire of cases: finding the kidnapped four-year-old crown prince, and bring his kidnappers to justice. They are on a Hunt, with the assistance of Tunstall’s noble lover, the knight Lady Sabine, and the Provost’s mage, Master Farmer. The burning question: will they find the prince before he’s killed to serve whatever end the kidnappers had in mind?
Unlike the previous two books in the series, Mastiff takes off with the action right from the start. It’s fast-paced and action-packed, full of twists and turns, rather than being a straight-up mystery to solve. There’s political intrigue, as well: the King has recently passed a law taxing mages on their work, something which makes neither the mages nor the nobles happy. Because of that Mastiff is also magic-filled: the battles, and there are many, are intense not only for the sword-fighting, but for the magic, which often gets vicious and cruel.
Amid all the darkness, though, there are humor and even romance: Beka truly has come into her own by the end of the trilogy; she knows what she wants in a man and isn’t afraid to find love even amid the dire circumstances of a Hunt. Add to that Pierce’s eloquent storytelling, and it makes for a book that is difficult to put down.
Rated: Mild for violence, and instances of mild swearing.