In the twenty-fifth part of Bloodhound, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything of Tamora Pierce’s that was this terrifying. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Bloodhound.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of violence/bodily harm and drowning, plus a single mention of suicide
I am in awe of this entire sequence. It’s thrilling and scary, and it’s a fitting climax to this chase, one that was always dirty and exhausting. Throughout it, Pierce isn’t afraid to admit Beka’s faults and inexperience while still celebrating what it is that makes Beka such an incredible character. She really is a bloodhound herself, refusing to give up the scent once she’s caught it.
There’s a distinct sense of claustrophobia to all of this, since Beka is underground in the sewers, unaware of where she actually is, cut off from her partner or any of the other Dogs. This is set up in a way that we expect that the inevitable confrontation with Pearl will only be between her, Beka, and Achoo. Plus, the risk factor is high. We don’t expect Beka to die SINCE SHE HAS ANOTHER BOOK OMG, but Achoo? Pearl? It’s entirely possible, and we don’t want either to do, though for entirely different reasons. So there’s a visceral fear to this place. What fate will these characters meet when they finally cross paths?
I love the visual metaphor provided by the physical space itself. The idea here, unintentional or not, is that Beka plunges further and further down, into a dirtier and filthier space, one that’s crumbling and falling apart, all to catch an antagonist who represents everything dirty and filthy to Beka. At one point, she’s wading through sea water and literal shit to get Pearl, and I can’t think of a better way to communicate what Beka has been through.
And there are SO MANY SHOCKS HERE. Goodwin’s appearance in the first few pages of this section was a definite surprise, and then we find out SHE BROUGHT REINFORCEMENTS. ERSKEN AND NESTOR AND BIRCH, EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL. This is also the first time Pierce openly addresses one of Beka’s mistakes. It’s one born of ignorance. Without the proper training for her scent hound, Beka could not have known that there was a special drink meant to give her energy so that she could keep up with her dog. And lord, if any of y’all have ever had a super active dog, you know that they can easily outlast humans. I KNOW THIS VERY WELL. Still, it’s not like Beka’s mistake is one that costs them their pursuit. The five Dogs follow Achoo out of the sewers and down towards the harbor, and I’d wager that without Beka’s perseverance, Achoo probably would have lost the scent. By pursuing the scent while it was still fresh, Achoo and Beka were able to drastically cut down on the head start that Pearl and her gang had.
This leads them to a drinking den, which is home to a SUPER TERRIFYING scene, which is not nearly as bad as the one that follows it. Using the element of surprise, the Dogs are able to quietly enter the den, bind the people inside so as not to warn anyone else, and sneak up on… well, technically speaking, no one? Jurji nearly kills Ersken, and Zolaika looked like she was ready to slash at Nestor and Goodwin. Still, neither one of them thought that they’d be tracked to this place, considering that they appeared to be casually waiting passage out of Port Caynn.
I knew that I should expect violence, but I was still horrified by all this and what followed. That poor sailor who Jurji killed! I WAS REALLY SAD ABOUT THAT. But these people were going to be ridiculous in their attempt to escape capture, you know? They had killed an entire household just to steal a pass out of the harbor, and I did not doubt for a second that they’d fight tooth and nail. But I still misjudged them, particularly Pearl. It wasn’t that they’d do anything to escape; these people didn’t want to face the repercussions of what they’d done. And for Pearl, any option – even death – was better than her having to answer to the law.
What happens next is just… GODS, Y’ALL. It’s a demonstration of desperation, certainly. It was also a chance to Tamora Pierce to ruin me again. HOW MANY TIMES HAS SHE DONE THAT DURING THE END OF THIS BOOK? I do not apologize for my absurd state during the videos for the part of Bloodhound because Pierce purposely wrote this so that I’d constantly expect a disaster. What if Pearl was waiting at the bottom of the iron ladder in the sewer? What if Beka caught some horrible disease from the rats? OH, WHAT HAPPENS IF THE TIDE RAPIDLY RISES AND FLOODS THE SEWER AND THEY ALL DROWN? THANK YOU FOR THAT, THAT IS DEFINITELY SOMETHING I WANTED TO WORRY ABOUT. Oh my gods, THAT WAS FORESHADOWED EARLIER IN THE BOOK AND I COMPLETELY DID NOT CATCH IT.
Hey, were you having a good day?
Achoo slunk behind me, whining. The scent was down below. She didn’t want to leave, the silly beast. I took her leash from my pack and fastened it first to her collar, then to the latch of the door to the sewer, on the outside. “Tunggu,” I told her as she complained. “Dear one, you’ll drown. Tunggu!“
I was crying as I ran back down the steps, Achoo’s barks growing dim behind me. She’d earned the right to be in at the last, and I had betray her.
NO. Just NO.
Thankfully, Beka was not going to have to fight Pearl on her own because GOODWIN FOUND HER. Oh lord, I was so thankful for those location tags. Beka needed the help, and I don’t think that’s a statement of weakness of character. Beka’s weakness is physical exhaustion. After chasing Pearl for hours across Port Caynn, her body is beginning to shut down. But you know who else’s is? Pearl Skinner’s. So the fight between these three women is terrifying, overwhelming, and, at times, incredibly sloppy. Again, I can’t lose sight of how exhaustion and degradation plays so well into the themes surrounding Pearl and what she’s done. Even if you look at Hanse’s motivation for helping her become a colemonger, his goal was to degrade the state out of revenge. Pearl wanted to degrade and ruin others for her own personal gain. And now, in the filthiest place imaginable, she fights Beka and Goodwin, desperate to avoid any personal responsibility.
And what a fight that is. Once it started, I think I was ready to accept that Pearl couldn’t win. My only worry was that she’d die in the process, even if Beka and Goodwin didn’t intend for this to happen. But Goodwin ends up being invaluable here, able to come up with a plan to keep them from falling under the rising tide themselves while using that against Pearl. It was relieving to read about Pearl being bound tightly by Goodwin (underwater, no less!) because it meant, at least for the moment, that she was going to be taken in alive. There are no surprise attempts at suicide, no one comes to save her, and Pearl Skinner, the Rogue of Port Caynn, is finally hobbled. Now all Beka has to do is SURVIVE HER WOUNDS, which she clearly does, since these journal entries are from four days in the future.
I’m exhausted after reading that, y’all.
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