But Alejandro needs Hector for a secret mission, one that gives him the chance to prove to everyone—including himself—that he is worthy to be a Royal Guard. Hector must break into the ancient Fortress of Wind to retrieve something so important that the kingdom's future depends on it. What Hector finds in the fortress will stretch his bond of friendship with his king near to breaking. And it will prepare him to become the fearsome warrior and lord commander Elisa will never let go.
A riveting prequel to Rae Carson's epic and acclaimed Fire and Thorns series. Quoted from Goodreads
It's always hard to write reviews about novellas. For the most part, I think I tend to gush a bit too much. Any extra tidbits the author gives us makes me happy if it's a story I love, and if it's a story I'm not thrilled and elated by, I generally don't read the extra parts. I'm simply not invested enough in that world. I know I've gushed about both of Rae Carson's previous novellas, told from Elisa's sister and friend's POV, but this is the one I enjoyed the most. I won't lie and say it's strictly the quality of the story. Both of her previous two were amazing, but this one has Hector!
The best part of it is, the story is so Hector. We finally get something from his viewpoint, and I loved that, especially after that horrible/perfect ending in Crown of Embers. Not that this has anything to do with that. This takes place a something like 7 years before the first book, but still . . .
Now, besides Hector, this is an absolutely amazing short story for so many reasons. I won't give them away, but first, we get learn a little something about his fellow guards. Hector's two companions both appear in the books, but I had never really noticed them much before. They were simply faceless guards and not really that important. Now, looking back (okay, so I spend half an hour reading bits and pieces of Crown of Embers after I finished this because I wasn't quite ready to let the world go), I realized how prominent their position in the castle was and their relationship with Hector.
Then there's the new information. This is something all novellas really should have. While you could totally read the series without ever reading this short story, it does provide some interesting information. One of my biggest pet peeves is when we get short story that just rehashes stuff we already knew from another character's POV. New information should always be present because no other character will see the same events the same way or have the same background. This story had an excellent plot twist that I want to gush more about but I won't.
Plus we get adventure. Lots of adventure, and a chance to see Hector at 15.
This is a solid 4.5 stars for me. It's probably one of my top short stories ever. And it is a complete story in and of itself. If you had never read the series, you could pick this up and enjoy it for what it is. It can serve as a gateway drug, if you like, to the rest of the series. Basically, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it will now be setting the bar for other novellas.