This is a book of short stories from the Jane Yellowrock world - and it is huge. It may be a collection of all the short stories that there’s ever been in this series.
And it is excellent. It’s excellent because Faith Hunter is very very good at her short stories - the majority of them add something compelling to the main series. They add a little something to Jane’s past, to her relationships, flash out some elements of various characters’ back stories
I’m not saying they’re all perfect by any means - but the general tone of this whole book is to add a lot of richness and value to the whole series, filling in blanks, adding colour, expanding, adding realness - filling in all those things that would bog down a main book or get in the way or be unnecessary but still have value. That is a perfect use for short stories and compiling them all in one book removes the whole treasure hunt feel you can get trying to find a series’ supporting work.
We Sa and the Lumberking previously appeared in Have Stakes Will Travel developing Jane’s history before the series begins and continuing to keep her Native American ethnicity and experiences centreal
Similarly The Early Years also touches on another of Jane’s early moments, we’ve heard repeatedly that Jane was brought up in a children’s home but we’ve never really seen - Jane’s history in the children’s home and the people she met there and her first awareness of Beast and what Beast was beyond the ignorant attempts to explain that she got from the foster home. At the same time we get some excellent expositions of the flaws of the foster system and, really, how little it actually did to set up Jane for a successful life; not just because she didn’t fit - and Bobby due to his disabilities.
This is continued in Snafu her apprenticeship in security and private investigation, how she gained the skillset she had now, how she grew as a person, as a skinwalker, as a professional and as an adult. These three stories make an excellent arc for Jane’s early years and putting a great foundation of them.
This idea of using short stories to tell us how Jane got to where she is now continues with Kits which lays the foundation for one of the most important relationships in this book: Jane and her best friend and witch Molly. Their friendship, loyalty rough times and high times define so much of this series which means this, their first introduction so important. Especially as it really does explain how two people who are, by necessity, so private, managed to open up and really trust one another. Really, it sets the foundation for how Molly and Jane became not just friends, but family, which adds a realness to their relationship throughout the main series. Haints continues this with more looking at the supernatural world, more looking at how Molly fits into it (and, yes, using her witch skills to try and earn some money, even if dangerously. I like this because while Jane charges huge sums for her work, Molly doesn’t and as a mother of two, the extra cash isn’t just a throwaway resource to her). This also appeared in Have Stakes will Travel along with Signature of Death further cementing this awesome relationship and making them almost required reading for the series. But, I have to say like I did in Have Stakes Will Travel that the sheer amount Jane has reached out to Molly makes me even more disappointed when Molly turns on Jane for a couple of books in the same series. Yes there’s good reason - but these short stories show immense life-saving help Jane has given Molly in the past; I feel Jane deserved better than this. Which, of course, makes me even more happy to see them reconciled in later books
Again, this is why this arc is so important - it adds a wonderful texture to these character interactions
In theory, I suppose that it would be good to use short stories to do with Bruiser and Jane what was done with Molly and Jane. Sadly, I think this is a weaker element of this book, First Sight feels like a shallow bit of nothing, cheapening their relationship with insta-love and far far far too much sexual drooling. Which moves on to Dance Master which could be an analysis of Bruiser and Jane’s relationship or a nice snapshot of Jane’s daily life but is from Bruiser’s point of view and comes with more drool drool drool sexy drool, jealousy, sparring with Leo blah blah.
Which, I suppose, is kind of what Cat Tats does for Rick LeFleur which I’m sure would be all good and expansive for the character except I’ve always kind of hated him and that’s never really changed. It’s not so much him but as to what a complete mess Jane became around him. Still this story is essential - because so much of Rick’s story you can follow but not truly understand without this entry: explaining his mystical tattoos which would later cause him so much trouble in shapeshifting. Again we don’t just have one short story but a whole arc of Rick, from those tattoos, to then his initial problems and desperation in Blood, Fangs and Going Furry in trying to survive being turned into a wereleopard but unable to shift. Again, things we were vaguely aware of in the main series gain so much more texture following Rick’s arc and seeing the multiple places where Jane made a difference in his life