Gifted by Kelley ArmstrongGifted by Kelley Armstrong (Otherworld Stories #13.4)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Traverse Press on November 13, 2014

Source: Bought

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Contains two holiday stories, one Otherworld Pack and one Cainsville.View Spoiler »

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I bought this digital exclusive short story pack a few weeks ago, but I wanted to save it for the holidays since it’s got a holiday vibe going on. These two stories are both about finding the perfect gift for a beloved family member – a struggle that I think everyone can relate to regardless of what holidays you do or don’t celebrate. And what could make time with friends and family more fun (or bearable…) than Kelley Armstrong? Well, maybe Kelley Armstrong and alcohol. Thankfully this year I had both and it’s been a very enjoyable holiday so far!

Gabriel’s Gargoyles 4/5

In this story a 10 year old Gabriel is visiting his aunt Rose to celebrate the Winter Solstice (December 21), a pagan holiday that has extra significance in a place like Cainsville. The holiday provides Gabriel (not Gabe) with an escape from his horrible home life in Chicago with Seanna, his drug addicted mother. Although Seanna’s problems are mentioned in both the full length Cainsville novels, it was still upsetting to hear about little Gabriel’s struggles at home. No one should have to worry about getting the crap beaten out of him by his mom’s boyfriends and strategize to keep her from stealing their hard-earned money,  let alone a child. It was even more heartbreaking to see that Gabriel still had some hope that Seanna would turn things around and extend him some affection. It certainly explains a lot about adult Gabriel’s behaviour.

Gabriel is a very intriguing and mysterious character; since his narration gets so little page time in the full-length Cainsville stories, I jump at any chance I can get to read from his perspective. At first I was a little thrown by how mature his narration was in this story – he is supposed to be a kid, after all. Then I realized if anyone’s going to speak like a calculating lawyer at age 10, it’d be Gabriel Walsh. Apparently some things never change. I enjoyed seeing him hustle kids and adults alike for the funds required to buy his aunt Rose the perfect gift: a genuine antique Victorian tarot card deck. The other plot line is Gabriel’s participation in the search for the gargoyles of Cainsville, statues that seem to appear and disappear without explanation. In typical Gabriel style, he attempts to rationalize this supernatural phenomenon by citing optical illusions. Oh, how you’ll learn.

It was very interesting to see the changes in Gabriel’s relationship with his aunt Rose from his childhood to the present events of the Cainsville series, where the two are clearly affectionate but they’re relationship is fraught with a lot of unspoken familial tension. Gabriel tries to protect Rose from the truth about Seanna’s deteriorating condition and his visits with her are the one bright spot in his life. Since he’s so reticent to show his feelings as an adult it was good to see that he is capable of loving someone and thinking of them before himself since so many people accuse adult Gabriel of being a sociopath. This story made me want more Cainsville ASAP!

The Puppy Plan 4/5

As per usual Kelley Armstrong fashion, the longer of these two shorts is about the Pack. In this novella nine year old Logan is getting ready for Christmas at Stonehaven with his family when he happens across a puppy in the forest surrounding the estate. It’s a sign! Logan’s twin Kate has been dying for a puppy, but their parents Elena and Clay have been reluctant to give them one since the Pack has been overrun with some troubling issues lately. But really, when aren’t they dealing with trouble? When he sets his eyes on the adorable pup, the usually logical and responsible Logan throws rules out the window and decides to take care of it in secret while wheedling his parents into letting the twins keep it.

While Elena and Clay are the fan favourites of the Otherworld, I’ve never liked them quite as much as everyone else. Seeing them as parents has changed my view of them though, as we get to see a much more mature and united front from them. They’ve obviously done an awesome job of raising the twins since they’re both really smart and unique kids. Kate is the rambunctious and dramatic twin with a fiery temper while Logan’s much more reserved and less reactionary – although when Logan does get mad, you will see that legendary Danvers temper come out. In terms of personality I’m probably more like Kate than Logan (much to my chagrin), but that just made me appreciate Logan’s narration more.

Apparently this is set shortly after the events of Forsaken, which is another Otherworld short coming out in the new year. The trouble that Kate gets into in Forsaken is alluded to in The Puppy Plan, and I have to say that my curiosity has definitely been piqued.

I’m not usually a big fan of holiday stories, but Kelley Armstrong is an auto-buy author for me – and she really knocked it out of the park with Gifted. While I would recommend “Gabriel’s Gargoyles” to anyone, I would recommend that those of you who haven’t read the Women of the Otherworld series should stay away from “The Puppy Plan.” As cute and fun as it was, what made the novella so great was all the easter eggs for the rest of the series that made an appearance. Overall I thought this was a fun fluffy read – perfect for the holidays!