Tag Archives: magic

Tempests and Slaughter

Author: Tamora Pierce

The Numair Chronicles, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Arram Draper is one of the youngest students at the Imperial University of Carthak, sent there by his family to hone his Gift–before he accidentally burns up everything they own! It swiftly becomes clear that his Gift is special, powerful, enough so that he rises quickly through his classes to get special training with advanced teachers, along with his best friends Varice and Prince Ozorne. As if being friends with a prince didn’t come with enough complications on its own. Not to mention the problems Arram gets into once he gains the attention of various gods and other supernatural beings. It’s pretty clear that he will never really fit in, not that he really wants to, but as Arram experiences more of the troubles facing Carthak–the threats to the Imperial succession, the horrific place that slavery and gladiatorial entertainment play in the nation–he finds himself more convinced than ever that he can’t stay in this country, even if it means leaving the people who mean the most to him.

I love Tamora Pierce’s writing, always. And Numair has been a favorite character of mine in her books for quite a while now, so it’s pretty cool getting to go back and get his backstory. Having said that, in the past, I’ve always watched characters grow up into legends in her books, so it’s a bit weird to know the legend first and then go back to that character’s childhood. (He even has a different name as a kid, although we’re already introduced to that fact in some of Pierce’s other Tortall books.) It works though, and I feel like his character is consistent while allowing room for his growth into the adult Numair that we know and love. It’s neat to get a look closer look at Carthak, and at this time period in this world’s history, too, since most of the stories we get are set in Tortall and are a bit later chronologically. As far as the general storytelling, if you like Pierce’s writing, you’ll like this. It’s solid, engaging, character-driven fantasy writing with an easy, gradual pacing, lots of character development, and a unified plot. Lots of room for development in future volumes, too. At its core, Tempests and Slaughter is a school story, so a lot of it revolves around Arram’s classes, teachers, and friendships, as well as a bit throughout about the physical and emotional changes he goes through during this time and the complications of handling that without a real father figure around to talk about it with. So, warnings that there may be some content that’s a bit old for elementary/middle-grade kids . . . okay, considering the exposure Arram has to the gladiator’s ring in later parts, I’d make that a definitely. Recommended for high-school and up, but definitely recommended.

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To Be Shared (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: clotpolesonly

AO3 ID: 2212308

Status: Complete (19 Chapters)

My rating:  4.5 of 5

Rated T for violence; otherwise, no warnings

Arthur is mortally wounded when their small hunting party is attacked, and the only way for Merlin to save him is to use magic–openly for the knights accompanying them to see. Not even a choice, in his mind, between staying safe himself and saving Arthur, his best friend and his destiny rolled into one. But, being Merlin and having a great deal of raw power but very little training in using it, he basically shoves his magic into his injured friend. It works . . . but it also leaves Arthur with magical powers himself, a warlock in his own right. Now they have to deal with not only Arthur’s reactions to finding out Merlin’s secret(s) and the knights’ reactions but also must keep Arthur’s condition from the king and teach him how to control his magic–fast!

To Be Shared was a unique and very enjoyable fanfic that I would definitely recommend. As the author mentions, it’s rare to find stories in which Arthur has magic, and I think both the concept and the execution of it in this particular fic is wonderful. The author does a great job balancing the shock and emotional conflict with the easy bromance and friendships that are present within Merlin and Arthur’s small inner circle. Add in the tensions brought by Morgana’s dark presence and the fear of discovery by Uther, and you’ve got quite a nice plot going–very engaging, and balanced by enough humor and warmth that it makes for a pretty great read. Seeing Arthur’s reactions to magic, both Merlin’s and his own, was very fun and in character. I loved how the relationship between Arthur and Merlin was handled too–“soulmates” of a sort, but NOT slash. So you’ve got that warm, supportive Arwen dynamic going on, coupled with this intimately close brotherly connection between Merlin and Arthur; let’s just say that it works really well and is also pretty consistent with what you see in canon. On which topic, it should be noted that this is a bit AU from canon right at the start, and gets moreso the further on you go, but in a way that works and is logical considering the plot development. Honestly, my sole complaint for this story is that I wish that author used clearer section breaks; you go from reading about one scene and the next topic is a completely different section, only it’s not indicated visually, so it took me a moment to recover and figure out what I was looking at a few times. Other than that, To Be Shared is a really great story that I would definitely recommend to Merlin fans everywhere.

Note: You can find To Be Shared at https://archiveofourown.org/works/2212308/chapters/4849671.

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The Big Reveal (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: Anonymous

AO3 ID: 237304

Status: Complete (14 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

The cast of Merlin are filming a scene deep in a cave, working up to their upcoming scene where Merlin reveals his magic to Arthur. Unexpectedly, the lights go out, and Colin and Bradley find themselves alone together in the dark. When Bradley uses the magic he secretly has to light a candle, they discover that all the filming equipment and such is gone, and upon exiting the cave, it soon becomes apparent that they have been transported to the world of Merlin–and everyone there believes them to actually be Merlin and Arthur! Meanwhile, the real Merlin and Arthur find themselves in the baffling modern world where everyone thinks they are famous actors, not that they really know what that entails. Now they’re all going to have to play their parts until they can figure out a way to get home. At least Merlin and Bradley can finally reveal their magic to their best friends, right?

The Big Reveal was my first experience reading RPF (real-person fic), and I have to admit I’m still a bit conflicted as to how I feel about that. Because reading fictional stories about actual present-day people feels a bit . . . intrusive, to be honest. But, for this particular story, I felt like the discussion of these individuals was handled appropriately and with respect. A lot of the concepts and characterization used were pulled from publicly available sources like interviews and the YouTube videos they’ve posted. Of course, some bits are pure fiction as well, like Bradley’s having magic . . . but that did make a nice parallel to Merlin and his reveal, so it worked really well in this story. Merlin and Arthur’s characters were handled well, too–just in general, the characterizations were quite well done. The story was well written as well, again with some great parallels, solid plot development, and a good sense of balance between humor and poignancy. The final result is similar, in some respects, to something like “The French Mistake” in Supernatural, and it works surprisingly well. It makes me kind of sad that this was released anonymously, because I would read more by this author.

Note 1: You can find The Big Reveal at https://archiveofourown.org/works/237304/chapters/363763.

Note 2: If you don’t know what the fic is referring to when it talks about Colin and Bradley singing, please, please check out this video. It’ll make you smile. 😀

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Enquiries (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: StarlightInHerEyes22

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.

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Please Help My People (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: M1ssUnd3rst4nd1ng

FanFiction ID: 12509765

Status: Ongoing (10 Chapters)

My rating: 5 of 5

King Arthur has had all too much experience dealing with both sorcerers and traitors, so when it is revealed that his best friend and personal servant Merlin is a liar and a sorcerer himself, Arthur thinks he knows what he’s dealing with. He demands that Merlin reveal his secret plans, his desire for power or revenge or whatever it is that sorcerers usually want. But what Merlin says in response shakes him to the core and forces him to re-evaluate his most basic beliefs about the nature of magic and those who use it . . . because Merlin asks nothing for himself, only for the good of other magic users and for Arthur’s own safety. And what is a king and a friend supposed to do when faced with a request like that?

M1ssUnd3rst4nd1ng is such a great writer of Merlin fanfic, and Please Help My People in particular is a fabulous, moving piece. It’s not so much a reveal fic (although the associated reveal itself is available as a separate fic, which I may review in the future); rather, it’s a thoughtful, rich development of the aftermath of the reveal. I love, love, love that the author actually takes into account all the various political and personal pressures that Arthur must consider when making his decisions about Merlin’s fate and about the laws regarding magic in general. Because yes, those fics where Arthur’s just like “Merlin’s my best friend, magic’s legal now, deal with it,” are adorable and sweet, but stories like Please Help My People show us the great, wise king that Arthur has always shown promise of being. The pacing in this story is slower because of the development, but the deliberation is part of the story’s charm rather than a detraction from it. I feel like the author absolutely nailed the characters, Arthur, Gwen, and Gwaine in particular. Merlin’s character feels different from normal, but seems in character considering the circumstances in which he is placed; no, really, if anything his character is richer for bringing out aspects that you don’t see as much of sometimes. And no, the story’s not all just political conversation; the balance of angst, whump, bromance, and humor is perfect. Of note, since humor isn’t really something I’ve mentioned above, I particularly love the part where the knights (sent by the king and coached on what not to do by Leon) exact revenge on the guards who hurt Merlin–satisfyingly vindictive and quite funny as well. I would highly recommend this story to all Merlin fans.

Note: You can find Please Help My People at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12509765/1/Please-Help-My-People.

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Ransoming Emrys (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: Emachinescat

FanFiction ID: 6735319

Status: Complete (25 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Rated T, mostly for whump

They were only out there hunting that impossibly hot summer day because Prince Arthur wanted to annoy his manservant Merlin–something he would later kick himself for, repeatedly. Because as unreasonable as it was to be out doing anything in that heat, the two young men were not alone in the forest. Set upon by a band of renegade druids, Arthur finds himself magically incapacitated and incapable of doing anything to help Merlin, the object of the druid’s attack–clearly a case of mistaken identity, since they keep calling Merlin “Emrys” and claim he has powerful magic that people will be interested in paying lots of money for. Arthur ought, by rights, to be insulted about being left behind (a prince!) while his manservant is taken to be sold to the highest bidder . . . but the truth is, he’s mostly worried. About where Merlin is and what’s happening to him. About what the druids will do when they find out the mistake they’ve made, kidnapping the wrong person. Or worse, about what could happen if they’re right and Merlin actually is this Emrys person.

Emachinescat consistently crafts some of the best fanfiction out there, and Ransoming Emrys is no exception. The writing is excellent throughout, and moreover, it manages to capture the feels that make me love Merlin and these boys so much. The author manages to get in their heads, to show us not just what is going on at any one time, but also why. And there’s definitely a lot going on in this story. It manages to be a big plot sort of story while also giving us all the worried tension and emotional strain of a good whump story. And yes, there’s definitely whump here, but it’s the kind that brings out the BAMFery in Merlin, which is always fabulous. And we get a solid reveal here, with just the right amount of tension and bromance surrounding that and a nice open-ended conclusion so there’s some things left to the reader’s imagination. I loved the way Gwaine, Lancelot, and Percival get drawn in to the story, even when they’re not knights at Camelot yet at this point. The coincidence of Lancelot and Percival happening to show up on the scene would, in another author’s hands, have been just too convenient, but here it fit. And using Morgana and Morgause to move the story along was brilliantly done. It was also interesting to see the druid’s opinions on Emrys and his loyalty to Camelot and Arthur developed more, to see the disillusionment of some people in him. All in all, Ransoming Emrys is an exciting and feels-rich fanfic that I would highly recommend to Merlin fans.

Note: You can find Ransoming Emrys at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6735319/1/Ransoming-Emrys.

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Wisdom’s Kiss

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

My rating: 4 of 5

You might say that there were many different things–different people’s lives interacting–that ultimately contributed to the debacle that later became known as Wisdom’s Kiss. The Princess Wisdom (better known as Dizzy) herself, for one, what with her tendency to belie her name and throw herself headlong into drama and adventure. The Duke Roger whom she was to wed, as well, although he was truly a pawn in the hands of his overbearing and scheming mother. Then there was the dowager queen Benevolence, Dizzy’s grandmother, who with her far-too-intelligent cat Escoffier discovered the schemes of said Duchess. Less immediately obvious, yet equally influential, were the presence of Trudy, a young kitchen maid with second sight; Tips, her childhood sweetheart; Felis el Gato, Tips’ mentor and a grand performer; and the Emperor of the whole land himself. But it was the interweaving of these individual lives that allowed even the possibility of such an event, one that would shape the course of the land for generations to come.

I’ve enjoyed Murdock’s writing before in her story Princess BenWisdom’s Kiss actually ties in with this earlier novel, although it is certainly not necessary to read the one to enjoy the other. They’re more loosely connected tales rather than anything like a series. Wisdom’s Kiss is really fascinating in the way it’s written. You don’t really get any straight-up narrative, although the sections taken from Trudy’s memoirs read essentially like a regular novel. But for the most part, the story is told in letters and diary entries and, yes, even articles taken from an encyclopedia. It’s honestly enough to be a bit hard to piece together where the story is really going at times, although everything comes together nicely by the end. And I did enjoy the different perspectives and the way the different characters’ personalities came through from the different sources. It was interesting–and something I haven’t seen done much–to see the same character from multiple different perspectives, including their own; it gives a different appreciation for the individual. As for the writing style itself, I’ve heard the author’s writing described in the past as “frothy,” and I can’t honestly think of a better word to describe it. There’s a lightness and wit to it, even in the sections where things seem dark and awful–but in this particular story, there’s also a busyness and a constant activity from all sides that I might almost better compare to the fizz you get when you first open a soda. I think that this is one of those stories that would tend be polarizing; you would either love all the novelty and the different perspectives or it would drive you mad trying to keep up and make sense of it all. Personally, however, I enjoyed Wisdom’s Kiss and look forward to reading more by this author.

Note: It’s implied at the end of the story that this is a retelling of Puss in Boots . . . and I guess it sort of it, but I would never have caught it if it hadn’t been mentioned directly. For what that’s worth.

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