Second Chances by Kishijoten (NC-17)

  • Oct. 15th, 2014 at 12:30 AM
A day late and probably a dollar short too. Fortunately I work in sterling :-)

Title: Second Chances
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Draco/Harry
Categories: Slash, romance, kidfic, non-canon compliant.
Length: Epic (96,000 words)
Warnings: Sex, depression, suicide attempt

Author on FictionAlley: Kishijoten

For the first time in over a decade, Harry Potter crosses paths with Draco Malfoy. Both have changed a great deal, but what do those changes mean to them - and to each other?

This is another one of those stories that is over a decade old — well before Half-Blood Prince came out, so don't expect canon compliance — that has stood up to the test of time.

At heart it's a love story initiated and complicated by children. Harry is single, and a teacher at Hogwarts; Draco is divorced, and his youngest twin children have just started their first year. They meet when Harry notices that Adrian Malfoy, who has been sorted into Hufflepuff, is suffering from severe depression. What follows is a slow-burn romance, with parent and teacher bonding over the child's problems and desperately trying and failing to maintain their professional distances.

The strength of this story is in the characterisation. Harry and Draco are still recognisably themselves, but equally have changed in the way that you might hope a decade of maturity would give them. They don't instantly fall into agreement with each other, but then neither do they instantly dismiss each other either. The children are clear and distinct individuals, the right sort of mix of angel and demon for their ages, and really they are the ones that drive the story through. Harry and Draco are driven together by the children, and when their romance hits a bump, as it frequently does, it is almost always because of the children too.

Don't be too scared by the warnings. Bear in mind that I'm reccing this, and I'm a depressive with a real hot button about suicide. Without wishing to minimize either, the writing doesn't over-dramatize the issues and as a reader you do still feel in control.

This is a very good example of fanfiction romance, and I have no qualms recommending it to you even after all these years. Go on, enjoy yourselves.

Second Chances

Matters of the Heart by dragonmist310 (R)

  • Oct. 7th, 2014 at 12:35 AM
Title: Matters of the Heart
Fandom: DCU
Pairing: Tim Drake/Kon El
Categories: Mystery, adventure, romance
Length: Epic (51,000)
Warnings: Murder scenes, minor fight damage

Author on AO3: favicon dragonmist310

With Clark off-world as an ambassador to Earth, Conner has to watch over Metropolis. Though it should be straightforward, there appears to be something amiss with seemingly random crimes happening around the city. Conner has a hunch that they’re connected and calls in his best friend to help. But as the two of them spend time together working the case, Conner realizes that his feelings for Tim might not be what he had thought.

I've been enjoying watching this story unfurl. There is an ingenious, in-genre mystery to solve, and perhaps Connor calls in Tim a bit early, but it fits with other story elements. The villains aren't stupid, either, and make the World's Finest juniors work for their victory. Most of all, there is a consistent, well voiced viewpoint to watch it through.

The Connor of this story sometimes comes off as a bit young. That's actually OK in my book; he is dealing with multiple murders here unlike the relatively bloodless supercrimes he normally has to stop, and it's understandable that he takes it to heart more than usual. Lois's observations of how similar Connor and Clark are spot on in this regard, and its good to see how Connor matures a little as things progress.

The romantic elements didn't convince me quite as much as the crime drama, but then it is a good crime drama. The romance still works, and everything that is pointed out about the ways the boys have behaved around each other is perfectly valid, it just doesn't sit quite as easily in the narrative as the mystery. That's not an excuse to skip a nicely done story, though.

Go. Read.

Matters of the Heart

Aftermath by Josan (NC-17)

  • Sep. 30th, 2014 at 12:39 AM
Title: Aftermath by Josan (NC-17)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Severus Snape/Ron Weasley
Categories: post-canon, drama, romance, slash
Length: Epic (50,000 words)
Warnings: Non-con, rape, torture (mostly off-stage), serious medical problems

Author Website: Josan
Author on LJ: [ profile] tales_of_josan (moribund)

It's long after the War, and Severus Snape discovers there is more to life than potions.

This is another one of those stories I first came across years ago, but which has stood up to re-reading. I admit I read it the first time because I saw the pairing and couldn't believe anyone could write a story matching Ron and Snape that would work at all. It does, though.

The main reason it works is that both men have changed after the war. Snape has resigned from teaching and is hiding himself from unwelcome attention in Muggle Liverpool. Ron, refusing to accept charity and suffering from a curse that has left his motor control shot, crosses paths with him. What starts off as something of a challenge rapidly becomes more than that as Ron and Snape find themselves dealing with what might be the resurrection of the Death Eaters.

Fascinatingly, that's only half the story, pretty much literally. At least as much time is spent on dealing with the other Weasleys' reactions to the pair, which are not exactly friendly to start with. The Weasley women in particular take a long time to come to terms with Ron flourishing with Snape as he didn't in their care, and it takes a suitably long time for those emotions to work themselves out.

This isn't a perfect story. While the wordsmithing is just fine and the plot entirely credible, the characters' voices don't quite ring true to me. In some respects the story has been thoroughly jossed through having been written well before the final books were out, though that's hardly its fault. Even so, for me it stand head and shoulders above the crowd for coming up with a remarkable story of triumph over adversity.


Or on LJ without the annoying ads: Aftermath Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

Instinct & Taste by Kelleigh (NC-17)

  • Sep. 23rd, 2014 at 1:18 AM
Title: Instinct & Taste
Fandom: Supernatural RPF
Pairing: Jared/Jensen
Categories: Drama, food, slash
Length: Epic (45,000 words)
Warnings: Some sex. Shocking, I know.

Author Website: favicon Kelleigh (girlfromcarolina)

As a young chef trying to break into the sizzling hot world of Charleston cuisine, Jensen Ackles spent more time in the kitchen than he did sleeping, eating, or socializing; he was absolutely dedicated to his craft and to the mentor who’d given him a chance. When all of that work paid off in a big way, Jensen was thrilled, but from the moment he accepted his dream job, other aspects of his life began to sour, quickly.

Now, shouldered with the extra burdens of caring for his brother’s house and keeping his job safe from a brown-nosing new sous chef, Jensen tries everything, up to and including therapy, to keep his life from boiling over. It’s not until he hires college senior Jared Padalecki that things start to turn around, and Jensen learns that if he can stand the heat, fate might cook up something even better.

This is the story I was going to rec a few weeks ago before I got distracted with humour. Written for the 2012 SPN Big Bang, it is a much angstier Jensen-centric piece, but it attracted me early on because I'm something of a foodie and this story does a very good job of projecting the chaos and pressure of a Michelin-grade kitchen.

In many ways, the summary is as misleading as book blurbs get. Most of the action doesn't happen the way it implies, and in any case practically all the events it touches on happen within the first few hundred words. What we have in reality is a study of someone who loves creating gastronomic delights, but who has to do so in an increasingly poisonous atmosphere. Most of the thrust of the story is everybody else trying to get Jensen to realise that he hasn't actually enjoyed his work in a long time.

Tangled around that, we have a slow-burn romance between Jensen and Jared, the student who is his dog-sitter, gardener, house-keeper and one of the few people he can just relax around. This is a very slow-paced and confusing affair, mostly because we only see it from Jensen's blinkered viewpoint. It's not the usual coming-out issues, since both men know perfectly well that the other is gay, but it isn't until Jarod actually explains why he has been keeping his distance that we the readers can see everything tie back together.

I could go on about this detail or that, the use of real people vs original characters, but I'd be here all night and I'm already eating into my beauty sleep. Just believe me that this is a damn good story with credible characters, and go and read it yourself.

Instinct & Taste

Three Drabbles

  • Sep. 16th, 2014 at 1:13 AM
Drabbles are hard. That's one reason why I'm a drabble purist; if it isn't exactly 100 words, you're taking the easy way out and I won't be impressed if you claim it's a drabble. You have just enough room to show an idea, set up a punchline or whatever, and making that sound plausible while still keeping to the strict word count is quite a challenge.

In an effort to have less words of review than actual content, I hereby offer you three drabbles from three different authors that I picked off Twisting the Hellmouth. All are PG, gen, and need no warnings. And they're all 100 words long, of course.

Title: The White What?
Author: P.H. Wise
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Dune
Categories: Crack, crossover, eugenics, real family

Xander has a powerful magical heritage that he is only beginning to discover...

"Real families" are a common trope in BtVS crossover fanfic. It offers an easy way into a crossover to declare that someone (usually Xander or Willow) was adopted/kidnapped/hidden, and have them discover or be discovered by their real (crossover) parents. This drabble is the reductio ad absurdam of that idea, and a caution to overly enthusiastic breeding programmes everywhere. The repetition at the end is a little weak, but I'll let it off that for a good idea well expressed.

The White What?

Title: What's in a Name?
Author: Speaker to Customers
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Star Wars
Categories: Crack, crossover, real family

An incredibly stupid variation on the 'Character X's Real Father' theme.

If "The White What?" was a reductio ad absurdam, this little gem is just plain absurd. If you're faster than me you might well see the punchline coming, but enjoy the concise, clear writing anyway.

What's in a Name?

Title: Hiding in Plain Sight II
Author: Marcus L. Rowland
Fandom: Highlander/Top Gear
Categories: Crack, crossover, driving, faked death

If Richie Ryan isn't dead, where is he?

Marcus is one of the most prolific drabble writers I know. I picked this story not because of the surprise idea — if you know anything at all about Highlander and Top Gear you'll have already guessed it — but because it's a great demonstration of how to structure a drabble to read naturally.

Hiding in Plain Sight II

The Wolf in the Woods by morrezela (R)

  • Sep. 2nd, 2014 at 1:18 AM
Title: The Wolf in the Woods
Fandom: Supernatural RPS
Pairing: Jensen/Jared
Categories: Crack, fantasy AU, werewolves, future mpreg
Length: Medium (6,800 words)
Warnings: Be careful what you're drinking when you read this. Also, some swearing.

Author on AO3 favicon morrezela

Jensen is a baker who keeps getting accosted by a wolf with a sweet tooth every time he tries to deliver food to his grandmother’s house.

This wasn't the story I was going to review. I had another story in mind when I started paging through AO3 looking for the links. As usual I browsed as I went, because that's half the fun, and in the process I came across this one. Snorting hot tea is not recommended.

Yes, it's yet another Little Red Riding Hood parody, and Lord knows there are enough of those in the fandoms I read. This one however is written with such verve and sweeping silliness that I had to rec it. Honestly, it practically recommends itself; the writing is good and solid, consistently mildly absurdist in its humour, and the whole thing makes sense on its own level.

If this is what I get when I go "walking in the woods" of AO3, I really must get out there more!

The Wolf in the Woods

The Lodger by Mad Martha (PG-13)

  • Aug. 26th, 2014 at 11:53 PM
Last week I was late because of computer trouble. This week I'm late because I was enjoying myself too much. Sorry!

Title: The Lodger
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Harry/Draco
Categories: Drama, romance, canon divergent
Length: Epic (44,500 words)
Warnings: Talk of suicide, accidental(?) near-suicide, depression

Author on AO3: favicon mad_martha

Years after Voldemort's death and the end of the war, a lonely and alienated Harry Potter decides to take in a lodger. The result isn't quite what he anticipated. He has more in common with his new housemate than he expected, and together they learn to look life — and the wizarding world — in the face again.

This story delighted me many years ago when I first read it on Martha's now-defunct LiveJournal. Coming across it again on AO3 when I thought it lost forever was a particular joy, and now I get to pass the joy on to you. Better yet, it turns out that there are prequels and sequels to enjoy as well, though they are by no means necessary to make sense of things.

The story pre-dates Order of the Phoenix, so needless to say diverges from canon. All the information we need as readers is there in the text, spread about as necessary rather than dumped unceremoniously at us, allowing us to slip naturally into this variant world. A slightly different selection of people lived and died, but it's close enough not to matter; it's perfectly clear how both Harry and Draco turn into lonely young men with complicated lives. The trick that brings the two of them into contact some years after Voldemort's death is probably the least convincing part of the whole story, but it works well enough that I can't really complain.

This is a well-written, well thought out story, full of keen observations of personality and social reactions. It's not perfect — Justin Finch-Fletchley is particularly hard done by, but someone recognisable had to turn out to be a plonker to make the story work, and better it be Justin than someone whose nature would have had more obvious violence done to it.

I take particular delight in Martha's portrayal of Ron Weasley. This Ron is no temperamental ham-fisted side-kick to the famous Harry Potter. This Ron is the Chief Auror, the man who quite literally spread Bellatrix Lestrange across the main street of Hogsmeade. He can be extremely intimidating when he wants to be, but he's still the same old Ron. He reacts to the news of Draco's arrival with characteristic Weasley temper, but he and Harry can still have a reasonable approximation of a rational argument about it, and he doesn't hold the grudge past the point of reasonableness. Indeed at several cruicial points, Ron is the one to decide to trust Draco and casually back him up in public. This is a breath of fresh air compared with all the stories out there where Ron causes all of the conflict in the story.

The Lodger
It's Epic week, and I've been saving this one up! This should have been posted last night, but I fell foul of misbehaving hotel wifi. Sorry about that.

Title: The League of Extraordinary Women
Fandom: Harry Potter/Buffy/Stargate SG-1/DCU/The Secret World of Alex Mack/Bionic Woman
Pairing: Gen
Categories: Crossover, action/adventure, crossover,
Length: Super!Epic (134,500 words)

Author Website: Diane's page on the Whateley Acadamy fanfiction wiki.
Author Website: Twisting the Hellmouth author page.

Hermione Granger has to recruit six women to help her stop an army of monsters before her world is overrun. But none of the women are even in her dimension...

This massive story is a response to a site challenge that basically amounts to "get a bunch of women together to save the world." The resulting story is so much more than that.

Yes, OK, so a lot of women from different worlds do get together under the direction of Hermione Granger to defeat a hellgoddess intent on invading other dimensions, but they do it with intelligence and style, making full use of the widely varied skillsets they have. There are fights, but they are conducted with tactical sense and use of such extra resources that are available. In general it hits that wonderful balance point where the characters are intelligent and competent, but not so smart and capable that you stop believing in them.

It's not perfect, of course. The prophecy has all the usual credibility problems of prophecies in being both too specific and too vague, as well as a bit cringeworthy; as usual it would have been more believable if we didn't see the whole thing and immediately treat it as an indifferent acrostic. There is also maybe a bit much random discussion and phoning home before the main event, throwing the pacing off a bit. It's still a very good story with a great deal to commend it to all readers.

There are two sequels, using the term loosely. The first, Cross Purposes is really a collection of shorts in which various characters look up the equivalents of their team-mates in their own universes. Thus SG-1 attempt to recruit Rupert Giles from the British Museum, unaware that he is a double-oh; Bruce Wayne contacts an embittered Sam Carter just before she turns into a supervillain; the Scoobies discover just how paranoid a retired air-force colonel can be; and so on. Some of the stories have been extended into novellas, but are confusingly intertwined and could do with a good sorting out.

The second is the super-epic The Secret Return of Alex Mack. Weighing in at a whopping 1,000,000 words — yes, you read that right, one million words — and still climbing, it continues Alex's story as she returns home and takes up the the identity of "Terawatt." Crossovers abound; I won't spoil your enjoyment by saying much. Suffice it to say that an awful lot of my B-movie guilty pleasures get checked off, and my admiration for Riley Jerome Finn knows no bounds. Again, there are faults; I could cheerfully live without ever seeing Alex's morning exercise routine again, and the emphasis on how much Alex has to eat to fuel her powers is a overdone. Personally I'm not at all taken by the teen drama parts, but that's probably more a reflection of me being a middle-aged man rather than a sixteen year old girl; either way none of the flaws are fatal.

Just a little light reading for you as you head off on holiday :-)

The League of Extraordinary Women
Title: Three Corn Fed Farm Boys
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Stargate SG-1/Superman
Pairing: None
Categories: Crossover, humour, action
Length: Short (1,600 words)
Warnings: None

Author on TtH: DireSquirrel
Author on DireSquirrel

Three men meet at their ten year college reunion and discover they have more than the same school in common.

So it seems that Riley Finn did his undergraduate degree in Kansas, at the same time as Cameron Mitchell and Clark Kent. Their ten-year reunion gets interrupted, which is just too bad for the cyborg responsible.

This is a nice little romp, reminiscent of the superhero team-up stories of my youth. Not a lot happens, but the entertainment is in the by-play of the characters as they work together to deal with the crisis. It would be nice for someone to take the idea and run with it at greater length, but this isn't that story. This is fine just as it is: something light and fun, just the sort of thing to perk you up after a tiring day.

Three Corn Fed Farm Boys

Sam's Girls by Grundy (PG-13)

  • Aug. 4th, 2014 at 11:32 PM
Title: Sam's Girls
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/CSI
Pairing: Gen
Categories: Case fic, supernatural, crossover, family, drama
Length: Epic (45,600 words)
Warnings: None

Author Website: Grundy on Twisting the Hellmouth

When a Slayer comes to Vegas to deal with a vampire problem, Catherine discovers she isn't Sam Braun's only daughter.

Set shortly after the end of Buffy and during season 4 of CSI, this is a properly meaty story. Briefly, Buffy goes to Vegas ostensibly to deal with a vampire problem, but also to get away from all the chaos of Slayer Central. Blending the background sketched out in Angel with that of CSI, it shouldn't be a surprise that the major casino owners are well aware of the supernatural side of life, and that the "night life" is generally well-behaved (or else).

The police are much less well aware of what's going on. Some people, like Warrick Brown, have had encounters with vampires and generally keep their mouths shut about it. Most haven't, and the CSIs in particular dismiss the supernatural as nonsense or camouflage.

So pity Catherine Willows when Sam Braun turns out to have a very personal reason for wanting to talk to Buffy.

This is one of those rare things, a crossover between the super-powered/supernatural and the normal (if very smart) that doesn't feel horribly one-sided. The resolution of the plot does depend as much on Catherine's investigative abilities as Buffy's slaying technique. There's no clumsy full disclosure to the CSIs after decades of keeping magic a secret, nothing really to break the worldview of either show. It's a skilful bit of plotting, and the writing is well up to carrying it through.

I often find that when I come back to stories I read and loved a while ago that they don't stand up to a second reading. I start to notice things like characters' voices going awry, or plot-holes that memory had papered over, things like that. Sam's Girls is still as good as when I first read it, and that's very much to Grundy's credit.

There are a bunch of sequels, all rather short. I'm going to stick with the main story as my rec, but they are all linked together conveniently if you want to spend a few pleasant minutes reading them.

Sam's Girls

Extreme Wormholes? by MissE (R)

  • Jul. 29th, 2014 at 12:24 AM
Title: Extreme Wormholes?
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Stargate SG-1
Pairing: gen
Categories: Crossover, YAHF
Length: Short (2,000 words)
Warnings: None

Author on LJ: [ profile] misse
Author on AO3: favicon MissE
Author on TtH: MissE

It's come as you aren't night. What might that mean for the Scoobies?

If this story had more substance to it, I would have been using it for last week's cliché rec. It's a simple enough idea; the Scoobies dress up as SG-1, become their costumes, fix the situation and retain a certain amount of their characters' attitudes and knowledge. The twist is that everyone dresses up as the person they are least like (dragging Angel in to play Teal'c), so the result is much more balanced and mature than you might have first thought.

While the story itself is only sketched in, there is enough presented to have made a decent long (or even Epic!) fic. It has certainly fired my imagination, and what more can you really ask for from a story?

Extreme Wormholes?

Jedi Harris by Scribbler (PG to 15)

  • Jul. 22nd, 2014 at 1:40 AM
Title: Jedi Harris
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Star Wars, plus Stargate:SG-1/CSI/NCIS/Haven/Castle/Father Ted (yes, really) in later stories.
Pairing: Gen
Categories: Crossover, action, drama, occasional crack, YAHF
Length: Super-Epic (230,000 words, and that's just the first story)
Warnings: None (though the Wish-verse section is appropriately nasty)

Author on TtH: Scribbler
Author on The Dark Scribbler

“It’s a prop,” said a British voice to one side of him. “There’s a rumour that it was used, I believe, on one of the Star Wars films. I’ve no idea which one, but it might have been the original Star Wars.”

It's Cliché Week, and for Buffy crossover fans that can mean only one thing: YAHF. Yet Another Halloween Fic. That season 2 episode has launched more fanfics than any other single episode, in part because it's so easy to base a crossover from it. Just have your favourite characters pick up a costume of the show you want to use, and when Ethan Rayne's spell begins you have an instant crossover.

Needless to say, Sturgeon's Law applies in spades. Far too many stories use the idea as a cheap power-up for their favourite character, usually Xander, and let him keep his powers at the end with not the slightest hint as to why no one else gets to keep more than fuzzy memories. At first sight, Jedi Harris looks like it falls into that category; Xander dresses as a Jedi, becomes a slightly confused version of Obi-Wan, and still has Force powers at the end.

Fortunately, that's barely the beginning. Scribbler does have an explanation that the characters toss around; the Force is real, isn't the same thing as magic, and Star Wars gives the right metaphors to approach it despite being fiction in this world. It's a deliberately incomplete explanation, and it doesn't explain how Xander can remember large chunks of Obi-Wan's life that were never in any of the films (and aren't part of the Obi-Wan he dressed as, for that matter), but it does explain why Xander and (eventually) others can learn to manipulate the Force. It even comes with a built in balancing mechanism, not falling to the Dark Side, that stops Xander taking primacy from Buffy.

It's really cleverly done, in my opinion. The characters feel true to themselves throughout, though Jedi do tend to end up calmer and more self-assured, as you might hope. The plot moves on logically, taking into account both canon and where it would logically be changed by events. Many characters move in and out of events in ways you might not have expected, but which fit perfectly well when you think about it. There are even little cameos by other crossover characters, such as Don Camillo (give yourself a pat on the back and feel smug if that made sense to you).

Jedi Harris has turned into a whole sequence of stories of varying lengths, all equally well written, as more and more Jedi are found and trained. I thoroughly commend the lot of them, complete or not.

Jedi Harris (takes things up to Graduation)
The Terran Jedi (incomplete: introduces SG-1)
Train From The West (medium-length story in which the Vegas CSI team investigate an impossible crime scene).
Craggy Island: Vampire-Free Zone (purest crack)
The NCIS Jedi (how a member of the NCIS team becomes a Jedi)
A Jedi, a Mage and the Troubles (a case takes the NCIS team to Haven while Audrey is in the Barn)
The Alley and Jedi Castle (strange things happen in New York too).

Night-Blooming Heartsease by Julad (NC-17)

  • Jul. 15th, 2014 at 1:58 AM
Title: Night-Blooming Heartsease
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Neville/Snape
Categories: Romance, drama, war
Length: Long (~32,000 words)
Warnings: Character death, slash

Author on LJ: [ profile] julad
Author on AO3: favicon Julad
Author Website: Ambivalent Pleasures

Snape swooped around the room like a giant bat, adding ingredients to some cauldrons and stirring others. Then he stopped and tapped his wand against the benchtop impatiently. "Well? What is so important that I must risk a vital brew of Animaserum by having you in the room with it?"

His tongue was so dry, he didn't know how he would ever get the words out. "Heartsease, Professor." There, that wasn't so hard. He took a deep breath. Dementors were worse, surely.

There's a little throw-away remark in Resonant's story Transfigurations (which unaccountably hasn't been recced here (yet)): Then George raised his glass. "To Neville Longbottom," he said ... "And to Severus Snape, may he rest in whatever he prefers instead of peace." This is the story of that remark.

It is a gloriously impossible romance, and it tugs on your heart-strings the whole way through. We know from the start that Snape won't live to the end of the story, and the Snape we meet still terrifying Neville at the beginning of the story isn't the sort of man that we would mourn much, just as he should be. By the end, he's still the same man; it's our view of him through Neville's eyes and Neville's growing self-confidence that has changed. That's the great achievement of this story, keeping true to the characters but making us care anyway.

It's worth saying that Neville's viewpoint is appropriately odd all by itself. He is a pureblood, and there's a lot that he takes for granted, particularly about magical plant breeding. There's enough logic to it that we get drawn into accepting what Neville accepts, and correspondingly have to think a moment before recognising ordinary Muggle things like credit cards.

If you haven't read this story, you definitely should, even if you have to put your fingers in your metaphorical ears for the short slash parts. It's the romance and the growth that matters; just keep a hanky near to hand.

Night-Blooming Heartsease

Weasley, Percy Weasley by Teague (PG-13)

  • Jul. 8th, 2014 at 1:52 AM
Title: Weasley, Percy Weasley
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Oliver/Percy
Categories: Romance, slash
Length: Short (~1,800 words)
Warnings: None

Author Website: Breagerey

Percy is doing his part in the battle against Voldemort. He’s just not entirely sure what to make of this part of his duties.

It's very annoying when stories you read and loved years ago disappear on you (and if anyone can find me a working link to Kirsah's Virgin Sacrifice I'd be much obliged!). Fortunately Teague's fiction is still present on the 'net, and while that's so I'd like to bring this lovely little piece of Percy/Oliver fiction to your attention.

It's very nearly canon-compliant, in a strange sort of way. Suppose, as many O/P stories do, that Percy's blind loyalty to the Minister was an act, and he's actually a spy. More than that, he's Dumbledore's spymaster, and so he has to get reports from his contacts in a variety of ways. With Oliver, he has dinner at a really nice restaurant once a week. Where Oliver flirts gently and Percy is confused.

The writing style is very gentle, and fits the couple well. Despite the brevity of the story we get a sense of Oliver's passion for Quiddich and of Percy's quick-thinking nature very clearly, but without having it thrown in our faces. It's rather sweet, and that's probably it has stuck with me all this time.

Weasley, Percy Weasley

North by North East (NC-17/PG13) by Alyse

  • Jul. 1st, 2014 at 12:37 AM
Title: North by North East
Fandom: CI5: The New Professionals
Pairing: Chris Keel/Sam Curtis
Categories: action, case, slash (optional), first time, hurt/comfort
Length: Long (gen version: 32,000 words) or Epic (slash version: 46,000 words)
Warnings: Minor character death (mostly off-screen), murder investigation; nothing unusual for the genre.

Author on LJ: [ profile] alyse
Author on AO3: favicon Alyse
Author Website: Unconscious Mind

Following the mysterious death of a government MP, Curtis and Keel are sent north to investigate.

I ought to declare an interest: Alyse is one of the women who dragged me into fanwriting lo! these many years ago. She's still a friend, though our fannish interests have drifted apart, and I still have a high regard for her writing ability. In other words, I may be a tad biased here. By way of compensation, you get two reviews for the price of one here; North by North East exists in two versions, one gen and one slash, hence the peculiar rating above.

The plot has about the right level of complexity for its source material; Our Heroes are sent to investigate a suspicious death, uncover the plot behind it and avert a disaster, with the requisite number of twists, turns and arguments with the local police. It's over-long to be an episode, but the structure is familiar and fits nicely. It works as a mystery too; all the information is there, just well enough hidden that you aren't sure until the right moment quite what is going on. The slash version necessarily goes further into the thoughts and feelings of Curtis and Keel, but the gen version doesn't sacrifice character for action either.

The flaw in this diamond is that it was written for a challenge, which was to work sixty particular words into the story. Mostly this is seamless, but one or two of the words are peculiar and at least one of them stands out as just plain odd. There's an entire scene which appears to have no purpose in the story other than to provide a place for one of these words to sit without sticking out too far, and I did find that quite annoying.

That said, sixty words out of 32,000 do not make that great an impact on the story. On the whole it's a very good read for action enthusiasts, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

North by North East (gen version: PG-13)

North by North East (slash version: NC-17)

Old School Superheroics (R) by batzulger

  • Jun. 24th, 2014 at 12:47 AM
Title: Old School Superheroics
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/The Champions
Categories: Crossover, action/adventure, nostalgia-fest
Length: Medium (4,600 words)

Author Website: Batzulger's author page on Twisting the Hellmouth

There is something unspeakably horrible lurking in the London drizzle. Slayers aren't the only ones hunting it.

The actual summary is "Bringing in some 60s awesomeness," which I have to agree with but isn't all that helpful. The awesomeness in this case are the three stars of a 1960s ITC show The Champions, who in retrospect are absolutely ideal crossover material with the Buffyverse. While in their own show they faced only mundane challenges (blame the TV technology of the time), they make the transition to dealing with supernatural in a very natural way.

The plot is fairly basic; two groups trip over each other hunting for a nasty, spend a while interacting and deducing each others' abilities, and team up to defeat the big bad. The story is all in the interaction; how the two sides get on and deduce little things about each other.

All in all it's a simple story nicely told, and a great comforting dollop of nostalgia for oldies like me.

Old School Superheroics

Christening Gift (PG) by Marcus Rowland

  • Jun. 17th, 2014 at 12:01 AM
Title: Christening Gift
Fandom: Good Omens/The Saint
Categories: Humour
Length: Short (1,900 words)

Author on LJ: [ profile] ffutures
Author Website: Marcus's profile on Twisting the Hellmouth

1947, and The Saint goes shopping for a christening present.

This story is part of a series of The Saint crossovers that Marcus has hosted on TtH. It does stand on its own, however, and I'm including it here because it's a splendid example of understated British humour.

Believe it or not, this is a fix-it story. Marcus wanted to explain Simon Templar's longevity in a way that didn't use Highlander-style Immortals, the Holy Grail or the Fountain of Youth. Somehow this turned into The Saint wandering into a bookshop owned Mr A.Z. Fell and, despite all the odds, buying a book from him. Several, in fact.

It's not laugh out loud funny, but it fits very nicely with the gentle humour of both sources without needing to get into the more action-oriented realms of either. The characters are all spot on; Simon and Patricia are suitably amused at proceedings, Crowley is cheerfully misleading, and Aziraphel bumbles in the right direction in just the right way. In short, it's a light enjoyable literary pick-you-up for when you need some refreshment. Excellent stuff.

Christening Gift

These Are Great Days (PG) by atlanticslide

  • Jun. 10th, 2014 at 1:52 AM
Title: These Are Great Days
Fandom: Hollyoaks
Pairing: John Paul McQueen/Craig Dean
Categories: Drama, slash, recovery
Length: Medium (6,800 words)
Warnings: References to suicide, canonical character deaths (off-screen)

Author on AO3: favicon Atlanticslide

He’s still got some of that surreal feeling, but it’s slipping more and more each day, leaving him feeling achy but alive.

Sometimes it seems that the only way soap characters can get a happy ending is if they leave the show (and stay away; I'm looking at you, James Sutton :-). That's exactly what John Paul and Craig did, heading off into the sunset for the delights of Dublin to live happily ever after.

Except not. When they first leave Hollyoaks together, John Paul thinks his previous boyfriend committed suicide, possibly because he was getting back together with Craig. That's bound to put stress on their relationship, and atlanticslide does an excellent job of charting what happens next. John Paul and Craig's continuing relationship makes heavy weather of the canonical McQueen family drama, as well it should, and the result is a hopeful ending rather than a happy one. The boys are together, but they take some getting there.

I particularly like atlanticslide's touch with the characters. Both JP and Craig's voices are spot on, quite a feat given how different they are, and you feel for both of them as events pull them to and fro. Those events are just touched on enough to give the reader the idea of what went on without descending into re-running episodes just to pad out a story. It's very nicely done.

These Are Great Days

Province (NC-17) by ChessM

  • Jun. 3rd, 2014 at 12:47 AM
Title: Province
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supernatural
Pairing: Xander/Dean
Categories: Crossover, slash, angst, gradually diverging from canon.
Length: Super!Epic (~217,000 words across six stories)
Warnings: Explicit sex, suicidal talk, believed character death, angstorama

Author on TtH: ChessM's author page on Twisting the Hellmouth.

Dean and Xander are the same sort of self-sacrificing idiot. It shouldn't be surprising that their relationship is made of angst.

I'm cheating slightly here; Province is a series of stories that chart a not exactly idyllic relationship between Dean and Xander. I'm not entirely sure that the series is complete — the major plotline clearly isn't resolved &mdash but nothing has been added for quite a while now, so I'm going to claim that all the important stuff is at least rounded off. As far as timelines go, it asserts that the first episode of Supernatural occurs shortly before the fall of Sunnydale, and starts bending canon from there on.

It begins with a break-up. Set The Fire To The Third Bar alternates between Xander and Dean having enthusiastic sex, and Dean calling to break up in the immediate aftermath of Jess's death. It's short, bitter, and makes perfect sense from Dean's point of view, and it's patently obvious that neither of them knows that the other knows all about the supernatural.

From there we watch Xander struggle through the fall of Sunnydale with plenty of taunting from the First Evil, not really having the time to deal. It feels a little strange because we're used to seeing Xander the goofball, and this Xander has too recent a hurt to play that part. Then Dean sees the news reports of the destruction of Sunnydale and loses it, because he knew that was where "Alex" lived. We are treated to exactly the sort of meltdown I'd expect from Dean; tightly controlled until he's too drunk to manage any more, and with Sam hovering and trying to stop his brother self-destructing.

The next story turns the screws. We reach the end of season 1 of Supernatural, and of course the Yellow-Eyed Demon lets John Winchester know that his oldest boy is gay, and lets Dean know that Alex is still alive and now its number one target. This naturally gets the Scoobies involved and things kick into high gear for a while, until Dean and Xander meet up in relative safety. And then the real fun begins.

For all the plot I've just described, and all the rest that I haven't, this is really a family drama. Xander and Dean are both damaged in their different ways, and have both been keeping secrets for that matter. It's not surprising that they have a hard time rebuilding trust. Throw in John, who has a whole barrelful of prejudices of different sorts all pushing his buttons, and a Sam who can't go five minutes without exploding at his father or wanting to know more than Xander will trust him with, and you have a highly volatile situation. The story takes a justifiably long time to work up enough trust that Xander and the Winchesters can function (albeit badly) as a team, and Dean and Xander both come out darker if marginally happier by the end. From Xander we get the overwhelming impression of weariness, and very little of his characteristic humour; from Dean we have a massive lack of confidence after his big decision went so badly wrong, and his trademark cockiness is sorely missing as a result.

This isn't a light or easy read, but it is very well written and nicely observed. The little nods to canon throughout the earlier stories help to anchor the later ones and make the crossover work. All in all, worth the effort if you can stand the angst.

Set The Fire To The Third Bar (first story in the series)

Demons of DC (R) by Laimelde

  • May. 26th, 2014 at 10:58 PM
Title: Demons of DC
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/NCIS
Categories: Crossover, gen, drama, supernatural, post-series (for BtVS)
Length: Epic (46,800 words)
Warnings: Nothing "on-screen", nothing worse than an episode of either show.

Author on Twisting the Hellmouth: Laimelde
Author on the Pit of Laimelde

Xander joins NCIS and has to prove himself to become a proper Federal Agent. Keeping his past secret is hard enough by itself — will he be able to do so when the supernatural manages to find him in DC?

Xander becoming an NCIS agent is a common enough means of crossing these two fandoms over. It's been done a few times, with varying degrees of success. What sets this story apart for me is how it resolutely refuses to fall into the usual lazy writing traps. This Xander isn't a Superxan; his Halloween memories give him an expertise with firearms but his Sunnydale instincts are for hand-to-hand, and his eye-patch is offset by Willow giving him perfect depth perception. Similarly this Gibbs is somewhat open to the possibility of the supernatural, but isn't omniscient and has no idea that demons are anything more than indistinct shapes in the desert. And Tony is an ass to the probie, but not to an extreme.

It makes for a refreshingly well thought out story, with just the right levels of trust and secrets flying about. Xander actually has the perfect foil for the team's curiosity about his past; in the official reports, the Scoobies were treated as civilian consultants to the Initiative, so Xander is officially not allowed to tell Gibbs anything. Gibbs doesn't have to like it, but without good reason he does have to lump it, and again the author plays this nicely.

The supernatural element turns up in the form of a vague and ill-defined prophecy that is taken to mean that the someone in DC in the right government job at a particular time will come into lots of power and money. The NCIS team become involved through missing marines, and then Angel and the Slayers show up separately, and Xander has to walk the tightrope of keeping everyone cooperating. This is not easy when Gibbs doesn't trust civilians and the Scoobies don't trust the military, and possibly my only criticism of the story was that I felt Xander didn't quite have a hard enough time of it. It's a matter of degree only, and personal preference at that, but I would have rather seen both Gibbs and Buffy take a little more convincing to play well.

All in all, a well-balanced story.

Demons of DC


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Epic Recs

Length Guidelines

Short: under 2,000 words
Medium: 2,000-15,000 words
Long: 15,000-40,000 words
Epic: 40,000-100,000 words
Super Epic: 100,000+ words


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