Title: Out of the Ordinary by Eruanna17
Fandom: Gokusen
Pairing: Yankumi/Shin
Categories: humor, drama
Length: 119,000 words (!)
Warnings: n/a

Review:
A novelization of the first season (i.e., the season with Shin) of the live action TV show, from Shin's POV.

I'll admit, I wasn't sure about this fic in the beginning, as I didn't particularly like the live action version of Gokusen and because the author consistently uses incorrect punctuation with regard to dialogue. Then again, epic Gokusen fic is rare and epic Gokusen fic based on the manga is nonexistent so I stuck with this fic through the first couple of chapters and by the end found myself hugely impressed. Between the slow build of Shin's affections, the smooth integration of Shin's internal monologue with canon dialogue, and the slight shift in characterization that makes Yankumi just a bit more like her manga version, this proved to be a truly engrossing story. Best of all, it continues past the incredibly unsatisfying TV ending and gives you a couple more chapters of Shin and Yankumi that's even more satisfying than the end of the manga.

For those who have only read the manga or seen the anime, this fic can easily be read as a canon-verse AU. For fans of the live action show, this fic offers you an in-depth look into Shin's mind as he learns to trust Yankumi (and more!) Fans of either should find lots to love in this fantastic story.

Out of the Ordinary

Sequel: The Substitute (apparently not complete, but I didn't realize that until after I finished reading it and looked up the link for this rec. At any rate, the first three chapters stand alone perfectly well.)
Title: other things the road to hell is paved with by LuciaZephyr
Fandom: Dresden Files
Pairing: Dresden/Marcone
Categories: action, angst, hurt/comfort, drama, AU, pre-slash (at least until the very last bit)
Length: 140,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
The first (and thus far only completed) book of The Matter of Chicago series, an AU in which Marcone coerces Harry into signing an extremely sketchy contract during Fool Moon. Through the rest of the events of Full Moon and the events of Grave Peril, Harry comes to grip with his position as Gentleman Johnny's wizard as well as his growing feelings for his boss.

I thought about waiting until this series was finished to rec it as a whole, but as that could literally take years (or, considering my luck with WIP series, never be finished at all) and as this story stands perfectly well on its own, I'm going to rec it as is with the understanding that if the rest of the series holds up as well as this fic, I'll be reccing that down the road.

That said: damn. This is a hugely epic story, with a word count that rivals the combined word count of the two books it's based on and with nearly as much action. Marcone and Dresden are both in character and both of them grow and develop throughout the course of the fic so slowly and naturally that it's barely noticeable until you get to the end and suddenly realize how much they've changed (an inevitable change, and one that stays very true to the canon characters). Their relationship builds equally slowly over course of a year and a half as Dresden gradually adapts to the concept that a) he's working for Marcone and b) that might not actually be the worst thing in the world to ever happen to him. The end result is probably the most leisurely and believable Harry/John pairing I've ever read.

The biggest downside of the story is one that is unfortunately inevitable considering the premise but still makes me sad: Harry and Murphy's friendship doesn't survive the new alliance. That said, I'm hoping that future stories in the series will change this (as well as bring back Thomas, who barely got a cameo). To make up for the lack of Murphy you have Hendricks, who is dramatically more fleshed out than he is in canon and who ends up being surprisingly endearing, and considerably more time spent with the Carpenter family, who are universally awesome.

While this fic is sadly lacking in my favorite guilty pleasure (melodrama), it is a well-written action story that should appeal to anyone who likes the Dresden Files novels.

other things the road to hell is paved with
Title: Horseshoe Nails series by Dyce
Fandom: Firefly
Pairing: River/Jayne
Categories: AU, angst, romance, action, hurt/comfort, humor, virgin, favorite
Length: 200,000 words
Warnings: amputation

Review:
Thanks to a couple of mishaps, everyone is gone from Serenity for two days except for River and Jayne. Shocking everyone (including themselves), they bond. The resulting friendship subtly but significantly alters everything that follows, most especially everything to do with Miranda.

At one point in this series, Inara explains why she likes the idea of River and Jayne being friends: "There's something about a man who really believes that what an attractive, vulnerable young girl really needs is to learn to shoot everyone who tries to hurt her in the head." This statement neatly sums up why this series is far and away my favorite Firefly story and why I come back to read it over and over again. I love the fact that, while Jayne will protect River if she needs it, both of them agree that the best thing for River is for her to be strong enough and prepared enough to protect herself. It's beautifully in character for both of them, and while the path to self-sufficiency for River is a long and at times bloody one, it's also immensely satisfying.

Making things even better is Dyce's characterization, which is nothing short of brilliant. Every canon character, from Firefly crew down to the Operative are pitch-perfect, both in their actions, their thoughts, and (most impressively) their dialogue. Her River is especially good; she juggles River's coherence and craziness with a deft hand and never falls into the trap of making her speak actual nonsense. Mix in phenomenal writing, slow-building romance, fast-paced action scenes, and a perfect balance of humor and drama and you have one of the most engrossing, satisfying series I've ever read.

Two Gorram Days
Kinship
Bank Job
Miranda

NOTE: there appears to be a fifth story in the series, but as it's not finished and (as it hasn't been updated in three years) likely never will be, I haven't read it and won't be listing it here. You can find it easily enough on Dyce's FF.net profile page (accessible from the top of the page on all of the stories linked above)
Introducing the '*favorites' tag. Stories with this tag not be the best written or most lauded fics that I recommend (though many of them are both), but they the fics that I come back to again and again, either as comfort reads or if I've hit too many crappy fics in a row and just need something that I know I'll enjoy. Most of these fics have already been recced at Epic Recs, but I'll be posting them here as well, because no recs collection of mine can be complete without my favorite stories. Each one will be getting a whole new review; if you'd like to see what I originally said about them check out the memories section of Epic Recs on LJ.

Title: Cambiare Podentes by Jordan Grant
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Harry/Snape
Categories: angst, bonding, romance, action, au, hurt/comfort, virgin, marriage of convenience (sort of), slavery (technically), BDSM (technically), favorite
Length: 600,000 words
Warnings: graphic rape, dubcon (the author adds about a zillion others, but these are the only ones that are actually present enough in the story for me to warn about)

Review:
Another prophecy comes out, this time stating that Voldemort's going to kill Harry on his first post-Hogwarts birthday. The only way to prevent his death is an arcane ritual known as Cambiare Podentes, which will exponentially increase Harry's power. The downside? It would mean becoming Severus Snape's (sex) slave.

I'll be honest, this particular post is about 25% of the reason why I started this community. Cambiare Podentes was originally recommended by meishali over in Epic Recs a few years ago and while I'd resisted the Harry Potter fandom up to that point, her recommendation was good enough for me to give these fics a try.  I was simply blown away. The intricacy of the plot, the depth of the character development and interactions, the sheer *size* of the story (at the time, this fic was about six times longer than my previous long-story record) -- all of them were so much more than I'd ever thought I'd find in the Harry Potter fandom. The novel was an instant favorite for me and I have since reread it more than any other fic. Unfortunately, because it had already been recced at Epic Recs I never had the opportunity to post my own review of the story, which is something I've always regretted. Now's my chance.

First, the premise, which I was hesitant about when I first started reading, but which completely won me over very quickly thanks to the author's deft handling of the matter. The idea of Harry becoming a slave to save the world isn't a unique one, but Jordan does a brilliant job of delving deep into how that slavery would actually play out, without ever skipping past potential emotional minefields or glossing over the unpleasant bits. In the end, I consider this fic to be less of a story of slavery and more of a story about how two people do everything they can to *subvert* that slavery; to me the most fascinating aspect of this fic is how much time and effort Severus (and, to a lesser extent Harry) puts into meeting the technical definition of slavery while at the same time working so very hard to ensure that Harry never actually feels like a slave.

Which brings me to the characterization of Snape, one the most vital parts of the fic. Turning Snape into a decent human being while still keeping him in character is a challenge for any Snape-centric HP story and I think Jordan's Snape is one of the best. On the one hand, he's still acerbic, poor with people, and often cruel. At the same time, he's not a monster and, in the name of enlightened self-interest, can sometimes even be kind. It's a thin line to walk, but is handled so subtly and deftly in this fic that it looks easy.

It helps that Harry's characterization is equally well done. He's still brash and impulsive and at times immature, but at the same time he's someone who has lived a life under siege and who has many times had to behave older than his years. The end result is a consistently inconsistent character who reads very much like a teenager stuck in a crappy position and while there are times that I want to smack him (especially during a section of the novel that cleverly draws a comparison between Harry and Snape's behavior in a specific circumstance), in the end he's deeply sympathetic and his personal growth is fascinating to watch.

It's the relationship between Harry and Severus that is what makes this book so compelling. The plot has enough unexpected twists and turns to keep you reading, but the awkward dance of Harry and Severus learning to cope with each other and with their unwanted bonding is what kept me glued to the page. If you like marriage of convenience type fics with slow building romance, plenty of moments of intense emotion, action and angst, and the occasional flash of melodrama, you should check this one out. If you're like me, you'll find Cambiare Podentes one of the most epic, involved, entertaining stories you've ever read.

Cambiare Podentes: Invocare
Cambiare Podentes: Madurare
So I totally lied when I said I was done for the day. Enjoy!

Title: Miss de Bourgh in Bath by SwordSwallower17
Fandom: Pride and Prejudice
Pairing: Anne de Bourgh/OMC
Categories: romance, drama
Length: 125,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
After Lady Catherine's planned marriage between Darcy and her daughter falls apart, she takes Anne to Bath in search of a prospective husband. Out in the world for the first time, Anne finds that there's a lot out there to see and to love.

I never thought of seeking out fic about Anne de Bourgh; honestly, she wasn't the most interesting of Austen's secondary female characters and I don't think she actually said a word during the course of the book. That said, I love stories about minor Austen characters and wanted to take a break from the endless variations on the Elizabeth/Darcy theme so I gave this fic a try. And wow, am I glad I did.

Sheltered to the point of reclusiveness while at the same time raised with a highly elevated view of herself and her class, Anne is an intriguingly complex character and SwordSwallower does a brilliant job of delving deep into her psyche. Anne's growth from a snobby but uncertain wallflower parroting her mother's beliefs into a thinking, interesting woman capable of interacting with the world around her is a slow and fascinating process and just by itself is enough to warrant this rec.

Of course, Austen fic wouldn't be Austen fic without romance and this fic delivers in that regard as well. SwordSwallower does a tremendous job both with all of her OCs and while I really like Anne's love interest, I love his family even more. With miscommunication and high drama, but also with a firm foundation of friendship and family, it's a realistic and satisfying romance.

(As a side note, can I just state how happy I was to see a fic where Colonel Fitzwilliam is *not* the male love interest? As one of the very few Austen bachelors who doesn't turn out to be a villain, I think he's been married off to every single second-string Austen female.  Multiple times. He's a nice guy and all, but really, I think he deserves a break.)

With a writing style very reminiscent of Jane Austen's; a layered, complex leading lady; and an elaborately researched world fully populated with interesting OCs, Miss de Bourgh in Bath is a long, engaging, and very satisfying story.

Miss de Bourgh in Bath
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