Review by: dancingonrain.
Mara planned to run away with her husband-to-be, Julio, but first she would have to escape her abusive father obsessed with controlling her. She had intentionally woken up earlier than usual to slip out while he was asleep, but he still caught her. Her attempt to flee would have failed if she hadn’t placed duerma leaf in her father’s tea. Once her father slept, she left to meet with Julio just outside their village. But then the Inviernos attacked their home and set fire to it. Julio, whose brother was still home, went off to search for him and Mara, realizing her father was still asleep because she’d drugged him with the duerma leaf, darted back to their house to save him. When she found him, he was awake and filled with rage. He attacked her. She fled, leaving him behind. Now Mara was with Julio’s brother Adan and countless other refugee children. Julio was nowhere to be found. Mara didn’t want to leave without him, but if she and the rest of the group lingered, the Inviernos that attacked the town would catch up with and then kill them. Reluctantly, she left with the children and two friends, Reynaldo and Adan, hoping to reach a safer city and avoid the game of cat and mouse with the Inviernos.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories by Rae Carson is a series of three novellas including, The Shadow Cats, The Shattered Mountain, and The King’s Guard. They are prequels to the original Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy, which include, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, and The Bitter Kingdom.
While I felt that the characters from The Shadow Cats were better developed, I liked the story of The Shattered Mountain more. One of the reasons the characters may have felt less developed than in The Shadow Cats could have been because there was a lot more action happening in The Shattered Mountain. Inviernos attacked Mara’s village and, in a sense, they were on the run for the novella’s entirety. They didn’t stand a chance if they faced a group of them. The Shadow Cats spent a little more time slowing down the pace equally as speeding it up. The Shattered Mountain felt close to the same pace throughout the entire novella—fast-paced. While I think it is possible to have both, I also understand that novellas are supposed to be shorter than novels so the author may or may not have had to cut out a lot of the story or characterization from the earlier drafts. Who knows?
The stakes were higher in The Shattered Mountain. It wasn’t that the stakes weren’t high enough in The Shadow Cats, but Mara and the group not only had to deal with fleeing the Inviernos and constantly be on the run, but they also had to deal with the dangers of traveling through the wilderness with little to no prior experience. There was one scene where they run into a few vipers and how they have to deal with the aftermath. I guess you could say that, in a sense, The Shadow Cats was more of a man vs. man type of a story and The Shattered Mountain was more of a man vs. nature story.
I did like the idea of taking a character, Mara, who didn’t really want to lead in the beginning. In fact, she knew she would prefer to follow from the start. She wanted to wait for Julio and older children to meet up with them so they could lead. But when it became apparent that Julio wasn’t coming; Reynaldo and Adan are otherwise occupied, and with younger children looking to her for aid and guidance, she was forced to lead them and make them feel safe. By the end I’m not convinced that she wanted to be a leader, but if she had to lead again, she could. But if there’s nothing at stake, she may continue to just be a follower. I could be wrong though.
I didn’t feel that Mara changed too much throughout the story, but I thought The Shattered Mountain focused more on plot rather than character development anyway. I enjoy reading different types of stories so I was entertained none-the-less.