In the twenty-fourth and final part of Terrier, there’s no way to say this without repeating a very common thing for these Tortall posts: I was so wrong. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Terrier.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse.
To say I just got this whole book wrong is an obvious understatement, one that feels oddly familiar since I JUST WENT THROUGH THIS FOR TRICKSTER’S QUEEN. I JUST EMBARRASSED MYSELF VERY PUBLICLY FOR ALL OF YOU. So, let my first video stand as evidence of the utter devastation and shock I went through, and let’s just get to discussing THE BILLION THINGS THAT HAPPEN HERE.
Really, though, there’s a poeticism to Pierce resolving the Shadow Snake mystery within the final 20 pages of a book that is 563 pages long. If Beka really is the Terrier – the dog who refuses to let go of her hold – then it fits the Beka sees this case through to the very end, both metaphorically and literally, in the case of the book itself. Beka had to solve this, and Beka had to end it, too. It was always hers from the beginning.
Wait, I have to comment on this before I continue:
As the second downpour eased, the pigeons soared along the streets ahead of us. Why were they still with me? Yates was dead.
Let the record show that I interpreted this, on video, as foreshadowing that Beka would find bodies or the remaining stash when she went to give Mistress Noll the news about her son. At no point did I think, “Hey, that’s probably explaining the obvious.” I didn’t even figure out the even more obvious clue of Gemma telling Beka that her mother forbade her from leaving the house and escaping Yates’s abuse. No, I somehow thought that this was a hint of Yates’s ultimate control over his own family. Perhaps Mistress Noll was so frightened of him and what he was capable of, she lashed out at Gemma instead.
Sigh. So far from the truth.
I admit that as it stands, it’s impossible for me to fully “get” what transpires here because so much of Mistress Noll’s characterization to this point involves a deceit I fell for. She is not who I thought she was, and practically every conversation she’s had with anyone in this book now has a new contextual explanation to it. Because of this, I felt some of the power dynamics revealed in Mistress Noll’s behavior and her ensuing confession to be… muddled? I don’t think that’s Pierce’s fault, for the record. It’s not like Mistress Noll was going to re-contextualize every interaction she had with Beka for Beka. That’s left up to us, and there’s only so much information provided in this confrontation.
It was clear to me, though, that Mistress Noll was ruthlessly abusive. To whom? That’s not quite as clear, but she definitely abused Gemma, both physically and emotionally. I imagine that’s where Yates picked up his more heinous behavior. And she exhibited a behavior and a mindset that’s unfortunately familiar to me: she became extremely classist as she rose from Mutt Piddle Lane through her theft and murder. So much of what she admits to Beka here is rooted in a hatred of poverty, which in and of itself is not a problem. There’s nothing wrong with her disgust of being poor, with resenting Tansy’s theft, or with her desire to rise out of that sort of situation. The problem is that in the process, she turned on the very people who suffered along with her, and she did this specifically to elevate herself.
This mindset is not something Tamora Pierce just pulled out of thin air. It’s a very real thing, and it was scary to read it coming from Mistress Noll. Because she should know better. It’s hard not to read a thirst for power and control in all this, since so much of what she speaks of is what others deserve. I mean, take this for example:
“There I was, breaking my back over the ovens, getting us a table here and a stall there, and along comes Mistress Painter with a ruby pendulum. A ruby pendulum, when all know she’d not enough Gift to whistle up rain in a thunderstorm.”
Mistress Noll viewed herself as deserving of the things she stole. Others were unworthy.
Which makes me wonder what the hell this was like for Gemma. I loved that moment during the brutal, terrifying fight where Gemma refuses to help her mother, and it truly felt like the first time she ever rejected her mother’s demands. The text is very sparse on how complicit Gemma was in her mother’s crimes, but given the clear signs that Mistress Noll did horrible things to her daughter (and the Gemma was set free after the trial), I’m willing to believe that she just knew and never said anything. I mean, I know how restricting it feels to be in an abusive relationship, and I know how it twists your sense of right and wrong. But it’s not just that; Gemma most likely didn’t speak up out of fear for what her mother or Yates would do to her.
And christ, does this mean that Mistress Noll essentially groomed her own son to be a murderer and a thief and a kidnapper? Did she encourage her behavior? OH GOD I NEED TO RE-READ THIS BOOK SO BADLY.
I felt nothing upon learning of Crookshank’s death. It’s not like he didn’t deserve it, and the mob was eventually going to get to him anyway. The comfort only comes from what happens the following day. Now I feel relieved that all of this is finally over and the Shadow Snake is truly gone. Y’ALL:
I hesitated, but truly, on this day I felt too good to lock my heart away. I hugged her back. “We did it,” I said. “All of us. All of us. The Lower City killed its own Snake.”
AND IT’S SO TRUE. I know this is an important journey for Beka (which isn’t over yet, since I still have to talk about the trial), but it’s great that Beka can admit so openly that this was a group effort. Because Beka blurred the lines between these different social groups, she was able to unite them all to find and kill the Snake.
I will choose to save all my thoughts on Rosto as the Rogue (!!!!!! HOLY SHIT WHAT !!!!!!) for the upcoming predictions post because I have a feeling he’ll play a HUGE part in the next book. HOW COULD HE NOT? THERE SO MUCH POTENTIAL. Beka dealing with her attraction to Rosto. BEKA USING THE ROGUE TO SOLVE CASES. BEKA HAVING TO GO CONSTANTLY RETRIEVE POUNCE AT THE COURT OF THE ROGUE BECAUSE THERE ARE A MILLION THINGS THERE MORE INTERESTING THAN IN HER APARTMENT.
Terrier ends on a complete note after a long scene within the Magistrate’s Court. Beka’s shyness is put up to the ultimate test when the special eclipse session just for the Shadow Snake compels nearly EVERY DOG EVER to show up. For Beka, it’s her worst nightmare, but that’s because she can’t see this for what it’s intended to be: a sign of respect. Word had already spread that a Puppy was responsible for hobbling the Snake, and I imagine they wanted to see her. They wanted to hear it from her. And even though Beka had a wealth of evidence on her side, it was still difficult for her to vocalize that.
I love that Goodwin and Tunstall stood at her side, defending and honoring her to the court. I love that they don’t speak over her, merely give her the basis by which she can begin to tell her story. And then Lord Gershom, familiar with Beka because of the many years he spent with her, does an incredible thing by asking her to speak as if she’s only speaking to him.
It works. It works, and everyone gets to hear what an incredible thing Beka pulled off. ESPECIALLY HER BROTHERS AND SISTERS WHO ARE THERE AND THEY ARE PROUD OF HER AND IT’S TEARS EVERYWHERE AND WOW THAT WAS SO UNEXPECTED. (I’ll have a prediction about that, too.) But goddamn it, y’all, the actual last scene is so emotional. Beka started off this series as a Puppy. She struggled with being “Fishpuppy” weeks earlier, but she ends this book as a Terrier. She grabs hold, and she doesn’t let go until she’s done.
I’m a mess get away from me.
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