Everything about Carson's universe is pure gold to me. I love that she uses a religious backdrop, even though the story itself isn't religious; I loved that she dives into Spanish culture, language and architecture (which is especially fun because my flatmate is from Spain and I get to run into her room to ask her what various things mean); and I love the world that Carson has created, plain and simple.
But probably the thing I love most about her stories are her heroines. Alodia is not a dainty flower, by any stretch of the imagination. This is a woman who will brandish a sword and fight side-by-side with the men; a woman who wasn't given a lady to look after her, but was given a steward; a woman who isn't afraid to face death. I also love how emotionally vulnerable Alodia was as well and how the reader can plainly see the admiration and love she has for her sister, which can't be seen in The Girl of Fire and Thorns
because it's told through Elisa's point of view.
I also loved the relationship between Zito and Alodia. He is a scarred man, a eunuch and eventually loses his eyes as well. He believes himself to hardly be a man and even begs for Alodia to leave him to die. And she is a proud and reserved woman who finds it hard to express her feelings, even to her trusted steward. Surely I am not the only one hoping for a relationship here, right!? But even if my hopes don't come true, the Princess-Steward relationship that they share is beautiful and well-crafted.
I would always recommend anything by Rae Carson. I read this short story after I read her first novel, but I don't think it matters which way you read them.