AO3 ID: 5386433/FanFiction ID: 11644460
Status: Complete (7 Chapters)
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Talk about good luck! Marinette draws Adrien’s name for their class’s Secret Santa exchange, giving her the perfect opportunity to give him the handmade coat she’s been designing just for him–with no excuse to back out in stammering embarrassment. Little does she know that he’s drawn her name and is putting a lot of thought into getting the perfect, thoughtful gift for her too. Gifts exchanged lead to more conversation, plans to hang out, and Marinette’s realization that for all the glamour of Adrien’s rich-kid/model life, he’s actually pretty lonely, especially when his other friends leave town for the holidays. Marinette’s not about to have that, so she pushes her (huge) crush on him down and determines to give him the happy family holiday he’s never had.
I know, I know, this is totally out of season, but this adorable story was too utterly sweet to not post about, regardless of the season. TheLastPilot is probably one of my absolute favorite Miraculous Ladybug fanfic writers because the tone is spot on (pun only slightly intended), the plots are thoughtful and well-planned, and the characters are the best, most enjoyable versions of themselves. Secret Santa is a great example of just that. It’s mostly this sweet (like, watch out for cavities, seriously), adorable friendship-to-maybe-more fluffy story with a big emphasis on the friendship. Marinette and Adrien’s awkward but growing friendship is really fun to read, especially with the way they esteem each other’s alter-ego without knowing their true identity woven into their interactions. And yeah, we do get a great reveal eventually. But there’s a lot of these two just being teenagers, too–shopping, playing video games, hanging out with Marinette’s parents (who are also awesome)–and that is lots of fun. The sense of humor that pervades this story is just perfect, balanced with just enough angst (mostly stemming from the notorious Gabriel Agreste) to balance it out and make the happy parts all the sweeter. Secret Santa is definitely recommended, regardless of the season.
NOTE: You can find Secret Santa at https://archiveofourown.org/works/5386433/chapters/12440687 or at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11644460/1/Secret-Santa.
AO3 ID: 7770289
Status: Complete (7 Chapters)
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Much as she and Chat Noir were careful to keep their true identities secret from everyone–including each other–Ladybug was well aware that they would probably find out eventually. But she never expected her superhero partner to be her hopeless crush, the boy she sits behind in class. And neither Marinette nor Adrien expected to find out by running into each other in a back hall of the school in the midst of transforming back to their normal personas. Awkward. . . . The two struggle to combine their images of each other–Ladybug and Marinette seem pretty different to Adrien, and Marinette could say the same about Adrien and Chat Noir. And how do they even relate to each other now?! The challenges of teenage awkwardness facing these two could very well be enough to break the good thing these two superheroes have together . . . or maybe, just maybe, it could be the start of something even better.
Okay, this fandom is totally killing me with cuteness. I blame it entirely for my lack of posting much recently (okay, and I’ve been in a slump, but mostly I’ve been reading ML fanfic). I feel like That Awkward Moment When . . . does something special, even for this adorable fandom. Because it takes the reveal between these two and gives it to us in a lighthearted, humorous manner . . . but it also draws out a real, human side of this pair’s situation, a side that has relevance even to normal everyday relationships. It shows clearly how these two focused on each other in a surface-only manner and obsessed over someone who wasn’t even the real person at all. And it also shows a growth of real relationship that goes way beyond the surface level, becoming something meaningful and lasting and beautiful. You get a beautiful, real friendship that, yes, eventually grows into something more (but maintains a canon-typical rating, which is nice). I enjoyed the characterizations in this story, the way the people were written, as well as the writing style itself. That Awkward Moment When . . . managed to make me laugh (a lot), think, and even cry a bit at the end. Definitely recommended.
Note: You can find That Awkward Moment When . . . at https://archiveofourown.org/works/7770289/chapters/17722588.
AO3 ID: 120495
Status: Complete (oneshot)
My rating: 4.5 of 5
John Watson finds himself awakened in the middle of the night by the looming form of his flatmate Sherlock Holmes at his bedroom doorway . . . demanding John hand over his gun to him. Because apparently, there’s an owl in the flat, and Sherlock wants to shoot it. And oh, look, there’s a fancy envelope the looks an awful lot like a wedding invitation that definitely shows signs of being held in said owl’s beak (John’s been learning to pay more attention to the small details). Only, since when do owls deliver correspondence? And who on earth would be brave enough to invite Sherlock to their wedding?
Oh my, The Case of the Unwelcome Owl was a delightful find for me. Basically, Sherlock receives a wedding invitation from his cousin Luna Lovegood, and John finds out about the whole wizarding world and (yay!) gets to meet Luna. Bordering on crackish (okay, it may have tipped rather far past the border at some points), it manages to be a charming character study. Really, as John says once he figures out what’s going on (sort of), it explains so much! And while it is remarkably quirky, this story also manages to be true to the characters in the essence of who they are, even while bringing in some very unorthodox backstory. I actually quite loved the way the author brings out the characters’ personalities through all sorts of little details, as well as the way the plot unfolds gradually with Sherlock holding on to his secrets as much as he can. On a side note, crossing other fandoms over with Harry Potter is basically the most done thing in the world . . . but this managed to be something unique and special. I love Luna, and she really doesn’t get enough attention–she’s got so much potential as a fanfic character, too, as is clearly shown in this fic. Also, kudos to the author for bringing so much humor into this story; The Case of the Unwelcome Owl had me laughing at every turn. Definitely recommended.
Note: You can find The Case of the Unwelcome Owl at https://archiveofourown.org/works/120495.
Status: Complete (4 books)
My rating: 4 of 5
It’s the start of your freshman year at Hartfeld University, and the future is bright. You’ve got a suite full of fun, interesting people who seem to want to be friends . . . maybe even more than friends. Hey, maybe this will be the year you find love! Either way, there are great relationships to build. But not everything is perfect–you’ve got sorority drama, financial crises, a cranky mentor/boss who wants to use your personal drama for his own ends. In fact, things get pretty complicated pretty quickly.
The Freshman is a choose-your-own-adventure sort of visual novel available through Pixelberry’s Choices app. I have to say, I really enjoyed this game. It brings out both the drama and the excitement of college, the thrill of defining yourself, building friendships, and making choices that will determine your future. I feel like they did a good job of making the main character–the girl you play–both developed as a character and open to interpretation based on the choices you make. That’s a hard line to determine, but I think the way they did it works. I definitely enjoyed the other characters as well; you’ve got some strong personalities, but it makes for an enjoyable mix. Although yes, also waaaaay more drama then I ever had at college, thank you very much. The creators manage to keep it fun though, mixing in humor and sweet moments in the midst of the drama and angst. In addition to all the school activity and drama going on with your group of friends, this is also a romance story (some might say it’s primarily a romance story, although I think it’s possible to stay single throughout if you so choose) with three dating choices. Again, I felt like this was fairly well-balanced against the rest of the game. The art and music were well done, and the text/interface are easy to interact with. Honestly, my only complaints are the main complaints I have with the Choices app itself–primarily that certain choices cost diamonds, and it’s impossible to get enough diamonds to afford all the choices you want to make without spending actual money. But I found I was able to enjoy the game in spite of not having the diamonds to choose everything I wanted to, so it doesn’t negatively affect the story too much. I would recommend The Freshman to anyone who enjoys a slice-of-life sort of story and to those who like western (as opposed to Japanese) visual novels.
AO3 ID: 4943506
Status: Complete (10 Chapters)
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Note: This is officially rated M, although I feel T+ is probably more accurate and the author’s just being paranoidly careful. There’s definitely some whump and blood, and yes some OC death, but nothing too crazy.
It all started when Gwaine and the other knights got the bright idea to go track down Merlin and find out his last name . . . since suspiciously no one seems to know. But when they find him in the marketplace of Camelot, Gwaine only just manages to warn Merlin in time for Merlin to avoid being stabbed by an assassin. And that’s not the only one to find him over the next few days. Not to mention, Merlin soon finds out that the twin Powysi crown prince and princess–officially at Camelot to sign a treaty with them–are actually there to “protect” Merlin. It seems that Gwaine and Merlin are the only ones who really know what’s going on, while the rest of the Round Table are clueless around them, but are these two friends even able to trust each other in light of recent revelations?
Enquiries was a very enjoyable Merlin fanfic for any number of reasons. For one thing, the writing itself is of excellent quality and is just plain fun to read. For another, the author did a great job of creating a unique, interesting plot and some complex, rich original characters–including Gwaine’s frenemy of a half-sister. Speaking of, we get some fascinating–and entirely plausible–backstory for the most secretive Sir Gwaine. Quite the can of worms to open there, I must say, but I thought that whole part was both well thought out and well executed. Plus, we get some great development on the Gwaine/Merlin friendship front, and that’s one of my favorite friendships in the whole Merlin fandom. It was nice to see a story focus so much on that, although it’s also weird to have so relatively little of Arthur in a story, if only because he figures so largely in most of Merlin’s stories. Still, both of Gwaine and Merlin and for other characters that don’t show up as much, I got the feeling that the author really understands the characters and the reasons the fandom loves them; these aspects of them are definitely highlighted. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a good whumpish bromance that also has some solid plot.
Note: You can find Enquiries on AO3 at https://archiveofourown.org/works/4943506/chapters/11347294#comments.
Author: Chauncey Rogers
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Laure hates Éclatant; she can’t wait to get away, just as soon as she can manage to come by (read “steal”) enough money to afford the journey. Seriously, the royalty here are either mad or idiots. Just look at this latest debacle–the prince dances with a girl at a masked party, falls madly in love, the girl disappears, and the prince can’t seem to remember her name or any defining features. But rather than do the reasonable thing and take the girl’s disappearance to mean that she’s just not that into the prince, the king issues a decree: the girl left behind a glass shoe, and whatever girl can be found to fit the shoe will be legally declared to be the girl the prince fell in love with at the party (whether she actually is or not) and will wed the prince. Pure absurdity! But . . . there may be a way Laure can use this to her advantage, if her newly-found concern for her mark-cum-traveling-companion Luc doesn’t get in the way.
What a delightful take on the classic Cinderella story this is! Rather than getting Cinderella’s view at all, we are presented with quite a different, er, well, heroine seems to be stretching it a bit, but she grows into the role rather. Laure is sassy, crabby–and open about it. She’s a girl who once knew a happy home but who lost it long ago, and it shows in the way she’s isolated herself from all close connections, living on her wits and making do as best she can. It’s actually quite vicariously liberating to read from the perspective of such an openly ornery character; she’s rather a delight. Moreover, it’s great to see the way that she grows and changes as a person through her time with Luc and the events that unfold; there’s some huge character development going on there. And the writing itself is just lovely–comfortable to read, humorous, vibrant, and rich. I was very impressed with the story, would certainly recommend it, and am looking forward to trying some of the author’s other books.
NOTE: I received a free review copy of Happily from the author in exchange for an unbiased review, which in no way affects the contents of this post.
Author: John Allison/Illustrators: Lissa Treiman & Max Sarin/Colorist: Whitney Cogar/Lettering: Jim Campbell
My rating: 4.5 of 5
School politics and a mysterious individual who won’t show his (her?) face manipulating the players behind the scenes. Relationship drama on multiple fronts. Camping trips! Old friends stopping in to visit. The wonky world Susan’s brain enters after too many days with nearly no sleep. Find all that and more in the third volume of Giant Days!
As with the first two volumes, volume 3 of Giant Days delivers quite the charming, quirky slice-of-life drama as it looks into the daily lives of Susan, Daisy, Esther and their friends Ed and McGraw. It consistently follows the first two volumes in the delightfully odd look at college life, the relatable and fabulous characters, and the wonderful art that so characterize the series as a whole. I enjoyed especially that the first chapter is an Ed-centric one, giving us a closer look into his life, as well as McGraw’s. Also, although it was totally random, I loved the “Night World” visuals when Susan, and later Esther, get to that point where reality warps due to lack of sleep–the trippiness of the art there is really fantastic. And, while much of the story in this volume is pretty episodic, with the characters kind of scattered at points, the last chapter where the three girls go on a camping trip together loops us back to the beginning, to that wonderful connection and relationship that these three have. This volume managed to be relatable, full of feels, and also laugh-inducingly funny, sometimes within the same page. Recommended. (Warnings for a major cliffie at the end, though!)