Review: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

Hey, it’s the debut of my rating system! I kept waiting for the perfect book to review, but tonight I decided to just start with the most recent one I’ve read. I hope it will get to the heart of things and prove helpful to people looking for YA books that match their tastes. And just so you know, there are no spoilers here (I just hate reading reviews that spoil major plot elements or twists – it kills my desire to read the book.)

Title (year): Bloodhound (2009)

Sequel?: Yes! I strongly recommend reading the first book in the series, Terrier, first. But read on, and if this book sounds like it would interest you, check out Terrier.

Genre: more Historical than Fantasy (the world is similar to medieval Western Europe, and has some magic/ghosts in it)

Important themes and topics: Coming of age, Crime/Law/Ethics, Poverty & Power/Class issues

Age (gender) of main character: 17 (female)

Estimated age of intended audience: 12-16 (but there’s fairly casual sex in it)

Wholesome/edgy/realistic?: Surprisingly gritty, even the main characters do morally questionable things (like take bribes or kill people). There’s a real sense that people are doing the best they can under difficult circumstances, but it also has that fantasy-book quality where you feel certain that ultimately everything will turn out OK.

Narrative POV: 1st person

Writing quality: I’d give it a B. It’s written in a very straightforward style that doesn’t have any of the dreamy quality fantasy novels often have, if that makes any sense to you. The story moved along well and the characters and settings were well fleshed out, but there were still some sections that moved frustratingly slowly.

Formulaic or surprising?: The plot, while it had a few surprises, was still fairly predictable. The pleasure is more in accompanying a likable character on her journey than in the journey itself.

Comfort food/challenging?: A little bit challenging out of context, but if Tamora Pierce in general is comfort food for you, then this will be a nice warm bowl of mashed potatoes.

Dark or Light? Endless struggle?: In between dark and light. The setting is urban, poor, and very violent, but the characters have good hearts and sweet friendships, and, as I said above, you never feel like things will get too bad.

Who might identify with this book? (people of color, disabled folks, respected elders, working class?):

–A++ for strong female characters. The two leads are both women and they don’t get their power handed to them or dictated by anyone.

–The many-hued people who populate this world are all just scenery.

–The one gay character is peripheral and hides the fact that he is gay.

–There is a transgender character and I personally felt like while they were treated with affection and perhaps viewed in a way in keeping with the time period there was no respect shown by the author or the protagonist for the character’s personal gender identification (in terms of pronoun use, etc.). The book really dropped the ball on an opportunity to communicate with modern readers about a very current topic.

Read this if you liked… Any Tamora Pierce, of course (she’s most famous for her Alanna: Song of the Lioness Quartet), though this one is aimed at an older crowd than many of her books. Robin McKinley’s The Outlaws of Sherwood Forest and The Blue Sword. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce. Maybe even Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, though that was written for an adult audience.

Genre-bender? (i.e., recommended to ALL regardless of your usual preferences): No, not worth leaving your comfort zone for (few books are, eh?).

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