If you've never read any books by Sharon Shinn -- this is a great place to start. These four stories each touch on one of the beloved series and really work well at giving a taste of what the world is like, what difficulties the protagonists encounter, and what their goals are.
Flight was very realistically rendered -- Salome's character was very sympathetic and I appreciated how Sharon Shinn didn't portray her as some paragon. In that short story, Salome's character was fully fleshed out and her growth and evolution as a person was clear throughout the story.
In Blood, Sharon Shinn touches on some interesting aspects of racism and interactions between a privileged class and the under-dogs. I thought that the conflicts were very well drawn, especially Kerk's position within the Lost City and his mother. I did wish that there was some more resolution between Kerk and his mother, although I did like how there's a twist on Kerk's and his mother's perception of the world.
Gold, like Summers at Castle Auburn, left me with more questions than answers. It was a sweet, short, poignant love story. I couldn't help wondering though -- what exactly do the Aliora wish to accomplish when they try to seduce people to stay with them? I really would have liked more of Jaxon and Rowena's story.
Flame brings us right into the heart of the on-going story about mystics and their problems with the people around them. It introduces us to Senneth and her powers whilst carefully weaving the back-story around Senneth's problems so that this story could function as a prequel to the series whilst still being a fantastic standalone tale.
If you're having problems deciding if a series is right for you, these four stories with their very distinct voices might be helpful. If not, they're still lovely on their own.