Sunday, December 16, 2012

Short stories are awesome.  They give us in-depth insight into characters, providing anecdotal proof of why some characters are they way they are.  They entertain by creating a certain mood or focusing on a singular effect...some instance in a previous body of work (or one to follow) that might have been glossed over or ignored completely in a longer novel. 

And so, every Sunday for the foreseeable future, I would like to highlight short stories and novellas set in worlds I've already come to love and learn a little more about some of the secondary characters in my favorite novels.  I'll be underscoring some of my favorite aspects of these short works of fiction, in addition to offering up a mini review of each work.

This week's featured story is:

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Title: The Shadow Cats
Author: Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns, book #0.5 (prequel)
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: July 17, 2012
Source: purchased ebook
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. And it was not Alodia.

Alodia is the crown princess of the realm. The sister who knows how to rule, and the one who is constantly reminded that she has not been marked for a grand destiny. But Alodia has plans, and she will be the greatest queen her people have ever known. So she travels--with her hopeless, naïve, chosen sister--to a distant part of their land, to begin to secure her supporters. This region needs its princesses, for it is plagued with a curse. The crops don't grow, the spring doesn't arrive, and a fierce jaguar stalks the shadows, leaving only empty homes splashed with blood behind. If Alodia can save them, no one will be able to deny her strength and her sovereignty.

But what she discovers could change the fate of her kingdom, if not her world. And it will most certainly change her opinion of her younger sister.

"The Shadow Cats" is a prequel to the riveting Fire and Thorns trilogy: Book One, The Girl of Fire and Thorns; Book Two, The Crown of Embers; and Book Three, The Bitter Kingdom.

The Shadow Cats is a prequel story to one of my favorite series, one I only discovered this year.  It beautifully details the relationship between Elisa and Alodia prior to the events in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and despite my reluctance to actually like Alodia's character in this series, I do have a newfound respect for her.  I definitely still prefer Elisa's brand of impulsiveness, but Alodia does what is best for her kingdom, and I can't begrudge her that.

Having read the first two full-length novels, I think I can accurately say that you don't have to read The Shadow Cats to understand what's going on in the other installments.  I do, however, think that there is enough foreshadowing and forethought in this short story to predict that the events that transpire in The Shadow Cats will have an impact on all kingdoms involved.  So, it's not necessary to read this novella, but it will probably prove beneficial.

Things only get worse before they get better, right?  If this holds true, you would think it's finally time for Elisa to catch a break in The Bitter Kingdom, but if you've read any of this series, you already know that this author does not pull punches.  She will break your heart, gut you like a fish, and leave you broken while you're waiting for her next book to be released.  It's kind of amazing that in the span of this short story, she still manages to do all of that.  I really, really want to see the first meeting between Elisa and Alodia now that Elisa is in a position of power and not just Alodia's pain-in-the-rear younger sister.

Overall, a great addition to the Fire and Thorns series.  It was full of the emotion and epicness I've come to expect from Rae Carson, and it obviously left me wanting more.  Obviously.  I've been dying for more of this world since I turned the last page in The Crown of Embers.  I want more NOW!

Rating:  Photobucket

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