Mark Reads ‘Terrier’: Part 10

In the tenth section of Terrier, Beka experiences her first (and mortifying) day in Magistrate’s Court, and then returns home to more sadness. Basically, holy shit this got sad really quickly. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Terrier.

Monday, April 6, 246

I really am starting to realize that this might be the most detailed setting that Tamora Pierce has ever written in. I’m appreciating how in-depth this experience has been so far, you know? It’s one of those rare cases where the diary format of a narrative specifically works in favor of an immersive environment. We don’t just get to see what Beka’s day is like; we’re getting the chance to see what the whole of the Lower City and the Provost’s Guard is like! AND IT’S SO WONDERFUL. It’s fantastic worldbuilding, which is also impressive because it’s not like this is a new setting. It’s just better.

Anyway, the first half of this section details Beka’s first day in Magistrate’s Court, which spans the gamut of emotional realism from boredom to downright terror. I could tell that Beka was initially very excited to go to court for the first time (hence the double exclamation points!!), but soon realized that it’s actually her LITERAL NIGHTMARE. Like I said before, it’s all part of the worldbuilding for the life of a Guard, so in this case, we see how the Dogs are meant to hold themselves responsible in a court of law. Pierce details the punishments available for those convicted of crimes, which include hard labor, death, and enslavement. (I had to remind myself that this was set in a time when slavery hadn’t been abolished in Tortall.) Even the courtroom itself is lavishly detailed. We know where everyone sits. Pierce also brilliantly includes the presence of spectators, and I don’t know if y’all have ever decided to go watch court proceedings for the hell of it, but it’s something I did a lot in my mid-twenties. (Including a session of night court in Manhattan, one of my fondest memories. That shit was wild.) And so we’ve got a courtroom that’s fairly noisy and chaotic, which is important because it’s precisely the sort of atmosphere that brings out the worst in Beka’s shyness.

Because OF COURSE BEKA WOULD HAVE TO TESTIFY. I can’t believe I didn’t think about that. She was the one who chased down Orva and arrested her, so Goodwin and Tunstall couldn’t report for her. On top of having to speak to a room full of people, Beka also has to contend with her own complicated feelings for the very person she’s testifying against. And while Beka doesn’t feel that much sympathy for Orva after Orva ignores her own crying children to attack Beka, Beka does feel bad for the family that Orva’s left behind. So! Combine all of this together, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster for Beka. Gods, I felt so bad for her, especially since I was once TERRIFIED of speaking in front of anyone ever. Despite that I’m now a ~social butterfly~, I spent about half of my childhood mortified by the very idea of talking to another human being. I did! And you know, I don’t know how I changed. I don’t think there was a single moment that set me on a different path. I just remember getting to high school and doing Mock Trial and Speech, and then I was reading the announcements, and I just got over it. But I can still recall the physical affect of shyness. There’s a point where Beka says that her tongue felt too big for her mouth, and HOLY GODS I REMEMBER THAT SENSATION. I remember feeling like the room I was in was a thousand times larger than it actually was. I remember not being able to speak, and then suddenly saying everything I was thinking without any sort of filter. Oh, that may have been the worst. It was as if there was a floodgate blocking all speech, and then it opened at once, and everything I was thinking came pouring out. Bless you, Beka, I KNOW THE TERROR YOU FEEL.

She does fairly well here, though the real big moment doesn’t come until later. However, it’s her defense of Goodwin and Orva’s arrest that I loved the most:

“The Dogs are the face of the law. We’re so few. Nobody wants the work. So the realm says, We value Dogs. We set the price high for them as turn a blade on a Dog.” I’d had about enough explaining. I looked at the floor again. “If the realm values us enough to make the law and the penalties like we have, I must value us Dogs enough to catch them as breaks the law. Mustn’t I, Sir Knight?”

Well, shit. Beka. BEKA. And it’s so fascinating to me to see how this fits within the framework of what Pierce has given us already. The Provost’s Guard really is an infamous job to have. People expect the worst, they know that the job is extremely dangerous, and at times, it’s almost like a necessary evil. I mean, look at how Beka’s adoptive family and her sisters react to Beka’s decision to be a Dog. Almost no one is excited for her! (Of course, that also deals with issues of gender presentation and respectability, which I’ll address later.) So I get why she feels protective about being a Dog!

Tuesday, April 7, 246

Well, if Orva’s fate was sad, Pierce decides to take Beka through a BRUTALLY UNCOMFORTABLE journey, wherein she realizes that her adoptive family is… well, less than supportive. It didn’t help that her face was badly bruised from her recent scuffles, since it was a physical manifestation of what these people believed was wrong with Beka’s choice. At the root of this is Beka’s desire to not fall into line with what’s expected of her and her gender. And it’s not like Beka finds her sister’s futures to be deplorable or anything. She even says that she wants “them to do well in life.” It’s just that these futures – as a lady’s maid or a seamstress – are not the life that Beka wants. And it seems like no one cares what Beka wants! Well, except for Mya, the woman who essentially raised Beka and who I want to be best friends with. At least Mya is excited for Beka’s training! Of course, Mya knows Tunstall quite… intimately. HA. But even that aside, Mya is happy to see Beka and eager to talk with her. This is not the case with the rest of the people in the Provost’s House.

Oh gods, it’s so awkward. SO AWKWARD. One of the older maids tries to subtly insult Beka. Actually, let’s talk about this line first:

She made a game of saying something cruel to me, then claiming it was a joke when Lorine took her to task for it.

Ha ha ha, you’re awful. As if it being a joke reduces its impact! Anyway, Beka finally – FINALLY – uses her incredibly icy stare to absolutely level the maid. Which is great in one sense, since it allows Beka to establish herself as someone who should not be messed with. I feel like that’s a huge development for her! However, it has the negative affect of silencing everyone else in the room, including Beka’s sisters, who all treat Beka as if she’s undesirable. It’s relentlessly sad (DIONA DIDN’T EVEN LET BEKA TOUCH HER) the more I think about it because Beka has only been a Puppy FOR A WEEK. A single week! And this is how they treat her already???

Lady Teodorie, though… oh god. This reminded me of all the people who surrounded Kel and insisted that she give up and become what she was supposed to be. But this one particular line completely ruined her for me:

“Your mother wished for you to better yourself.”

Yeah, no. You don’t get to invoke a girl’s dead mother to guilt trip her into not pursuing her dream. That’s so awful! Of course, Lady Teodorie makes things even worse by immediately bringing up Beka’s performance in Magistrate’s Court the day before. Because clearly, Beka’s shyness is all about Lady Teodorie. It’s obvious to me that this woman cares about appearances, respectability, and social politics more than she cares about Beka’s struggles to do what she’s wanted to do for years. The emotional manipulation is just one part of that treatment. Just… UGH. NO. YOU NEED TO STOP.

The original text contains the words “mad” and “crazed.”

Part 1

Part 2

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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