These two books are the first and second in Pierce's Beka Cooper trilogy. The trilogy is set in Tortall, but 200 years before Pierce's other Tortall universe books.
In Terrier, the first book, we are introduced to Tortall through the diary of Elani Cooper, frazzled mother to unruly six year old George. She tries to get her son to behave and stop stealing by telling him about a famous ancestor and legendary Guardswoman, Rebekah Cooper.
The book then switches to Beka's diary, which she has begun to when she started her training to be a member of the Provost's Guard (an early police force). Beka is a hard worker, and is determined to rise from her "Puppy" status to a "Dog" faster than any other trainee. She doesn't want any favors from her patron, Lord Gershom, but wants to make her own way.She uses her magical abilities to supplement all of her non-magical efforts. She's able to listen to the spirits of the dead, carried on the backs of pigeons, to gather clues about who is being murdered in her city. Beka's trainers, Goodwin and Tunstall, learn to appreciate Beka for all of her help. They still recognize that she has a lot to learn, though, and they do their best to protect her and keep her safe.
The book is slow going at first, and there is some annoying slang that gets distracting, but overall it was a pleasure to read about a strong, independent, but imperfect female character. The supporting characters are great, too. I especially liked Beka's friends of the criminal persuasion. They kept her seeing the gray in every situation, which is useful in a world where the police force supplements member's pay by collecting bribes.
Through a series of mishaps, Beka acquires a scenthound and is put back together with Goodwin on an out of town mission to Port Cayann to crack down on a counterfeiting ring that threatens to destabilize the entire economy.
She works closely with Lord Gershom's cousin Nestor, another Dog, who she used to have a crush on before finding out he was gay. Nestor is now living with his partner, Okha. Okha performs in gambling halls as the beautiful Amber Rose, explaining to Beka that he believes the Trickster god made him a woman in a man's body. I thought Pierce handled this topic pretty well, and I liked who she introduced gay and transgender characters without it being the focus of the plot. Nestor and Okha are just another loving couple who both play their own role in the story.
We get to see Beka let down her hair a bit, and have fun out on the town, even if it is just undercover work. Who would have thought she loved to dance? She becomes a more fully developed character now that we can see she care about things other than work. One of those "things" is a young man named Dale (kissy face here).
This is definitely a fun series, even if it drags a bit at times. The final installment, Mastiff, was just published a few months ago. I'm sure I'll get to it at some point, when I need a break from heavier reading.