Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce is a collection of 11 short stories by Tamora Pierce. I’ll do it story by story.
First: Student of Ostriches. This story was about a girl in a male dominated society, (big surprise, it’s Tamora Pierce-girl power, and all that) who ends up about to be trained at a martial arts master. It’s a style called Shang, and each practitioner is known as the animal that their fighting is styled after. The main character of this story learns to fight by watching ostriches, so I assume she’ll be the Shang Ostrich. One of my favorite characters in some of the other Tortall books is the Shang Dragon, Liam. But he wasn’t in this story.
2. Elder Brother. In one of the Daine books, I don’t remember which, Numair turns an enemy into a tree. He remarks that, now somewhere on the otherside of the world, a tree has become a man. This, due to many requests on her website, is the story of that tree/man. He ends up being named Qiom. He was planted in a country where women and girls are expected to stay veiled all the time. He meets this young boy who is actually nice to him, and they have stuff happen to them. Poor Qiom is so helpless as a man.
The Hidden Girl. A different view of ‘Elder Brother’, this story is from the PoV of a girl in the town that Qiom and the boy, Fadal, go to. She and her father travel around and teach the other half of the religion that respects women. Obviously, the priests don’t let that half be widely known.
4. Nawat is one of the longer stories, I think. At the end of Trickster’s Queen, Aly is pregnant. In ‘Nawat’, Aly has her baby. Then another. Then another. Triplets! And they were only expecting one? Can’t you tell? Anyway, Nawat has issues because the crows of the city flock are deciding that he and his war band are becoming too human to remain crows and might kick them out of the flock. This really disturbs him because the word for ‘crow’ in Crow isn’t singular, it implies a flock. The problem partly came when one of his crows had a child with a human that had a disability. In the flock’s mindset, a messed up nestling needs to be dropped out of the nest and killed before it has a chance to grow up and eat more food and cause problems. Nawat is worried one of his kids will be messed up and he’d have to kill it. He’s worried about what Aly would do to him. And, then of course, one is, but it turns out well.
Fifth, The Dragon’s Tale. This is about Daine’s dragon, Kitten. Kit can’t speak yet because she’s so young, so she’s really bored on a tour of Carthage. She finds this girl hiding from the town and her child. Kit wants to help the girl because she wants to be helpful, and then magic and giant dragon and confusion. Some parts of this story definitely came out of nowhere, at least to me. It really was strange.
6. Lost. Ohh, I liked this one. It had darkings in it, which are my absolute favorite Tortall things.There’s a girl in a male dominated society, mostly, and she’s a math genius. But her father is oppressive. But with the help of some darkings, she succeeds.
Seventh. Time of Proving. This one was interesting. Basically, Youngish girl is out on her own for a year and when she returns to her desert people, she’ll be a full woman. Her name is Arimu! Name I remember for once! At some random point in the year, she meets this random guy who’s utterly useless and she helps him survive. And then, ends up going with him for a bit. This one wasn’t Tortall universe, I’m pretty sure.
8. Plain Magic. Don’t remember what this one is about. The bit on the back of the books says ‘What happens when you lose a lethal lottery?’ I remember now. Small village. Traveling gypsy-type magic woman comes and does random small magic, but people, except this one girl don’t notice. She notices because she’s also vaguely magical. Then, Dragon! And the (male) priest says the only way to get rid of it is to sacrifice a young girl. Obviously, that one girl draws the short stick. But the magic lady rescues her, Yay! The magic in that story is very similar to the magic done by the witches in Terry Prachett’s Discworld books.
(Got distracted looking to see if Ysandra’s father in Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey had the same name as Lady Embeth’s deceased husband in The Wayfareer Redemption/BattleAxe by Sara Douglass. I think so.)
9. Mimic. Ri ends up with this strange little lizard thing that she’s nursing back to health, but it ends up being a dragon type thing! Confusing bits included the random pact with the birds and her grandfather.
Tenth: Huntress. Oh this one was strange. There’s a girl who’s never had any friends because her mom is big into Goddess worship (why did I feel the need to capitalize that?). And then, she changes schools and runs track and gets into the ‘in’ crowd. But they’re not what you expect. Outside of school, she starts hearing about criminals dying on the streets, and she’s confused. But then, the popular track team members invite her to join in. They are meeting in Central Park, finding criminals, and chasing them down to kill them. The main character resists, because she finds the game morally wrong (Yay for her) but then, she becomes the prey. Then it’s like a giant game of tag among people who really know how to run, with deadly results. And finally, she prays to the Goddess for help. Quite bloody.
Finally, Testing is the only non-fantasy story in the collection. It pulls from Pierce’s own experience being a housemother and follows some girls as they test the limits of the new housemother they get. Reminded me of the beginning parts of The Sound of Music.