I’m not going to begin with my usual “I don’t like short stories because reasons” disclaimer, because I really don’t think I applies here
This is an excellent short book with three separate stories in it. They’re all very compact, relatively simple stories but, above all to me, every last one of them is really useful and even necessary to the broader plot.
The first story, Christmas Shopping, addresses one of my underlying concerns of the story – the relationship between Keziah and Natividad. These two are the most prominent by far (and, to a degree, the only appreciable) female characters in the series – it is a very male dominated series, especially in major roles even if Natividad is usually the protagonist. Few prominent female characters and those female characters hating each other with the fiery passion of a thousand exploding suns is, alas, a powerful trope
So this story of Keziah and Natividad spending time together is an excellent story. They don’t like each other a great deal, certainly – but this is a rift brought about form vastly different experiences, tastes and lives. Them being together in this story both excellently showcases this while, at the same time, having them build more and more connections, more understanding and approaching, if not friendship, then perhaps mutual respect. It’s all nicely capped with something Keziah taunted Natividad about becoming a joke between them
It also comes with a nice bit of world building shouting back to the major war that defines this series. In all, an excellent story – though I do have a discomfort with how very awed Natividad is of towns and cities. Sometimes her POV gives the impression that Mexico has no great cities and isn’t very sophisticated.
The second Story, Library Work, also brings some really necessary elements to the series. In this case we get to see a lot more of Miguel, Natividad’s human twin brother who is often out on a limb in the world dominated by Black Dogs and magical Pure and vampires. This book helped emphasise his strength – he’s smart, he’s cunning, he’s patient and he is excellently skilled in not only navigating around the dangerous Black Dogs and their uncertain tempers – but also in outright manipulating them for his own well being.
On top of this we have the greater development of Cassie, cambiador, cursed human shifter who, again, is primarily empowered by her intelligence. She and Miguel work extremely well together in their cunning, setting themselves up as a very formidable couple who I really want to see more of. It also set them up as a potential romantic couple which is also excellently defined as much or more by respect of their intelligence than it is by physical attraction.
A Learning Experience brought some attention to Thaddeus and his history as well as, though she didn’t play a huge role, the importance of his wife DeAnn. This is important because they are the only Black characters in the series but also bring some very important lenses to the series by being the only Black Dogs with no connection to the Dimilioc. He gives us an excellent insight both into how Black Dogs outside the Dimilioc manage – but also how the Dimilioc appears and has developed from an outsider’s view.