Note: These reviews contain spoilers of the novels that the short stories tie into, Divergent and The Gathering.
I like to review every book I read, even the tiny ones, and so last time I read a couple short stories that tied into novels I'd loved I did some mini reviews on them (see here). Now I have stories from two other awesome authors, Veronica Roth with a tie-in for Divergent and Kelley Armstrong with two tie-ins for The Gathering. Although both novels have sequels I've read recently, and loved, it's been about a year since I picked up the originals and these stories were a great opportunity to revisit some crucial scenes from those novels.
Roth's Free Four and Armstrong's The Invitation retell scenes from the original novels from the perspective of the male love interest, which seems to be common in these free tie-in short stories, as that's what happened in both Miranda's Eleven Minutes and O'Brien's Tortured. But if that's a new thing for authors to do, I'm not complaining, as I loved the insight into what those moments would have been like for the guys, and it was great to get a chance to find out exactly what the character's voice was like.
In Free Four by Roth, she retells the Divergent scene that involves Four throwing knives at Tris, his future girlfriend. As a reader we get to see how Four feels about her, before any of the romance has had a chance to happen. Tris is such a strong narrator in the Divergent Trilogy that it was really cool to see what she is like from an outside perspective. Unsurprisingly, this is a really intense read– even though you know that Tris isn't going to get a knife into her face, I found myself anxious as things unfolded, because that's how Four feels. Overall, it was really cool to see the other side of the story, and I hope that Roth decides to do this again with an Insurgent scene in the future.
The New Guy and The Invitation are two bonus short stories available in a special e-book of Kelley Armstrong's The Gathering, but she's also posted them on her website which is awesome. Like Free Four they really compliment the original novel and provide plenty of spoilers if you haven't already read it. If you have picked up The Gathering then these are both a great way to get a little more insight into the characters and the events that unfolded.
In The New Guy, Maya has to deal with her first day back at school, a day that used to be her best friend Serena's favourite day, and it includes some flashbacks into what life was like two years ago when Serena was still alive and gives the reader an even better idea of her personality. It also contains the first meeting between Rafe and Maya, which I thought was really interesting to read especially since I knew how things ended up between them.
The second bonus short story from The Gathering is The Invitation, which is written from Rafe's perspective and shares the scene when he goes to Maya's birthday party. It also showed some interaction between Annie and Rafe, which I found especially neat to read about because I got to see how Rafe felt about his sister, and how much he wanted the "real" Annie back. As a result, it was even more clear why Rafe was willing to use Maya to make that happen. Armstrong also did a great job of showing the complex dilemma going through Rafe's mind, even as he was happy that Maya might be the one he was looking for, he was already dreading having to tell her the truth about what he was doing there, already realizing that it would probably be impossible for her to trust him once she found out the truth.
Overall, I really enjoyed all three of these short stories. Free Four, The New Guy and The Invitation all give added insight and development to two amazing novels. It is especially neat to read scenes you already know from the perspective of another character, and I feel like Roth and Armstrong both did an awesome job with the new point-of-view and male voice. I don't think any of these short stories work on their own, but if you've read and loved Divergent and The Gathering like I have, you'll definitely want pick up these stories as well.