That being said, I really did love this short story. It does so much in so little time, confirming how great an author Rae Carson really is. I love the insights into Mara's character. Yes, I did sort of know the end from the beginning, but it still broke my heart seeing the hardship Mara and the rest of the children faced before they make their appearance in Girl of Fire and Thorn. It also made me admire Mara that much more, actually experiencing what she went through.
This book really is basically all heartbreak and action. It's basically a group of children's struggle to survive after all their parents and their village has been wiped out by their enemies. Besides just Mara, we get to see all the children grown up, even a little four year old. I've said heartbreak a lot in this review, and there is a lot of it in this book, but there are wonderful moments of bravery and strength, compassion and struggle that makes this novella a wonderful read.
It's also fun to see Elisa from another character's POV. We get a glimpse of her in Shadow Cats, another novella from her sister Alodia's POV, but Alodia and Mara have very different relationships with Elisa and they see her at different points in her life.
So, if you like The Girl of Fire and Thorn, you need to read this. No, it's not essential to the story, but it's worth it just to expand the universe and get to know some of the side characters better. Plus, it's a great story in it's own right. For me, it's a lovely 4 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed it and now can't wait for The Bitter Kingdom to come out.