I enjoyed most of this collection of short stories, anything for more adventures into Tortall. It was nice to see familiar characters from new perspectives. My favourite stories with known characters were The Dragon’s Tale from Kitten’s perspective and Nawat about his first days as a father. One step away from characters we already know, Elder Brother finally tells the story of the tree that became a man when Numair turned Tristan into a tree in Wolf-speaker and Student of Ostriches tells of the early years of the Shang Unicorn referenced by Liam Ironarm in Lioness Rampant. So many of these stories were different takes on oppressed young women overcoming obstacles; The Hidden Girl covers religion, Lost, with darking cameos, tells of an overpowering and ignorant father withholding education, which is also covered in Plain Magic, along with the expendable nature of women. Completely unique, I really enjoyed Time of Proving and Mimic.
If only the collection ended after these stories. Unfortunately, the last two, Huntress and Testing broke the spell the others were so subtly weaving. The contemporary setting was too modern, they felt jarring and out-of-place in the collection. Huntress especially was quite dark. It was intense and creative and captivating, but very dark considering the age demographic of the other stories.
Overall, an excellent collection of short stories with some familiar and not-so-familiar faces. For the Tortall-only experience I’d skip the last two stories, or consider them separate from the others.