osprey_archer: (window)
I have been meaning to do the snowflake_challenge for years, but I also forgot until the middle of January. But this year! This year [livejournal.com profile] egelantier's post reminded me, and so I am doing it.

In your own space, create a list of at least three fannish things you'd love to receive, something you've wanted but were afraid to ask for - a fannish wish-list of sorts. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your wish-list if you feel comfortable doing so. Maybe someone will grant a wish. Check out other people's posts. Maybe you will grant a wish. If any wishes are granted, we'd love it if you link them to this post.

1. Ficlets! I always like ficlets.

-Sutcliff fandom. I'm particularly fond of Lucius from Frontier Wolf, or fix-it Alexia/Jestyn/Anders from Blood Feud, or anything Bonnie Dundee.

-MCU. I am into most combinations of Steve, Bucky, Sam, and Natasha, shippy or otherwise. Actually, a fic where they all just hang out and have a pleasant afternoon might be nice. I could totally see Bucky insisting that they all watch The Matrix, and he and Natasha practically end up crawling under the couch because it hits so many of their paranoia buttons, but they refuse to turn it off because that would mean the movie wins. Okay, that's actually not a very pleasant afternoon after all...

- Agents of SHIELD. Simmons/Bobbie, Simmons/Skye, Skye/making ridiculous faces - okay, probably that would make more sense for fanart than a story. I feel like I could be into Fitz/Mack, but I'm leery about reading the fic because there are so many ways that could go wrong (chief among them bashing Simmons, who is my favorite. I probably would never get over her either if I was Fitz. Nonetheless, Fitz, you should work on that.)

2. Fic recs of any of these things! I think I've read most of the Sutcliff stories on AO3, but I know I've only skimmed the surface on MCU fics, and I'm not sure where to start with AoS fic.

3. Related works for my fics. I am especially partial to fanart or related fics (or ficlets), but podcasts and translations are glorious too.

I would also probably die of joy if someone wrote fic for my books, although I realize they are completely the wrong genre for that sort of thing. I would probably ship the characters with anyone they aren't actually related to, though. Just throwing that out there.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light, which is not quite what I expected (in particular, I expected more Claire), but liked quite a bit nonetheless. It’s as much a series of interconnected short stories as a novel: each chapter focuses on the story of a different character (Claire’s father & Claire, the cloth-seller who Claire’s father wants to adapt Claire, a young man who worked at the radio when the cloth-seller’s husband was shot, etc. etc…), all working together to create a mosaic of life in Ville Rose, Haiti.

It’s a rather odd book. Most of the things that happen are sad, even grim, and many of the characters have done awful things - which is made harder, perhaps, because none of them are awful people usually. The two I’m thinking of are basically decent people who each did an awful, unforgivable thing in emotional extremis, and they don’t even seem to realize how awful their actions truly were.

But the overall effect of the book isn’t grim, and I’m not sure why that is. The language and the images are very precise, and there is something lovely in that precision. But I think it is more that Danticat loves all her characters. The book is full of mercy, or perhaps grace in a religious sense: Danticat offers understanding to all the characters, even the ones who don’t deserve it - even if they haven’t even begun to realize how much they need to repent. The understanding is there, if they ever grow strong enough to feel it.

I’ve also finally finished Rider on a White Horse! Which I have been nattering about reading on this meme for...an embarrassingly long time, I don’t even want to look. Anyway, it’s one of those Sutcliff books that takes a very long time to get started: I was about halfway through the book (and we’d already had two battles) before it really caught my interest, when Anne got captured by the Royalists. But that was very exciting! I always enjoy it when the characters are thrust into a situation like this, surrounded by enemies (even though, in this case, the enemies treat her quite well) and scraping by on wits and chutzpah.

What I’m Reading Now

Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star. So far, it’s mostly the story of Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux acclimating to life at a London boarding school for her senior year of high school, and I’m enjoying that so much that I’m almost sorry that it’s soon going to switch gears for a murder mystery. Possibly a murder mystery with ghosts or time travel or maybe vampires? I’ll find out!

What I Plan to Read Next

Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unmade came out recently, but the library doesn’t have it yet. Come on, library! You can do it!

In the meantime, I have Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons, which looks like tons of fun. Emma recommended it to me, so hopefully I will like it.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Finished Reading

Jaleigh Johnson’s The Mark of the Dragonfly, which never quite gelled for me, unfortunately. The premise of a world where objects from other worlds fall out of the sky intrigued me, but the book doesn’t end up doing much with it - the objects don’t seem to have had any real effect on the world’s culture, except as curios. Moreover, the pacing is off, and I felt the romance was shoe-horned in. (I often feel this, especially in YA books. Nothing is so damaging to YA as a genre as the fact that romance has become absolutely required.)

Not that a boy who can turn into a dragon...bat...creature isn’t cool, but I felt like we were told rather than shown why they liked each other. Moreover, it distracted from Piper’s friendship with Anna. Which we were also told rather than shown to a certain extent, but at least I haven’t been told about this sort of relationship five thousand times before.

Also William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, because I am a glutton for punishment. Why do all of Faulkner’s characters have such issues with women? And they all have different issues with women. You have Quentin’s weirdly incestuous obsession with his sister - it’s not so much that he actually wants to bang her, he just wants to make sure that no one else ever touches her ever again. If only they go down to hell together, where they will be cut off from the rest of humanity by eternal flame!

But this is positively cuddly in comparison to Jason, who I am pretty sure is a sociopath. He sees himself as the only sane man in a family of lunatics and the only person in the world who is of any value, and therefore finds it easy to justify to himself when he does things like have his mentally challenged brother Benjy castrated (!!!) or steal all the money his sister sends for the upkeep of her illegitimate daughter.

It’s all so unpleasant. Is there a minimum unpleasantness number that books have to reach before they're allowed to be American classics?

What I’m Reading Now

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Rider on a White Horse. Yes! After hauling this around for the last five months, I’ve finally started reading it! Um, probably because its due date is finally approaching. I’ve only gotten a couple of chapters in, but I’m really enjoying it so far. Why did you put it off so long, self?

What I Plan to Read Next

The Goblin Emperor.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

By popular demand, I read Hilary McKay’s A Little Princess sequel, Wishing for Tomorrow, and I’m happy to say I quite enjoyed it! I read the whole thing in one evening: the narrative force tugged me along so fiercely that I almost forwent an ice cream excursion because I wanted so much to keep reading.

I don’t know that it’s quite the future Frances Hodgson Burnett would have given these characters (in particular, I strongly suspect that McKay is more forgiving toward Lavinia and Miss Minchin than Burnett might have been). But McKay’s interpretations are all reasonable extrapolations from the characters’ portrayals in A Little Princess - it fits with the other book (in a way that Maleficent, for instance, doesn’t fit with Sleeping Beauty). And I think McKay did a beautiful job showing that Ermengarde feels lonely and abandoned after Sara left, without villainizing Sara.

My only quibble is that I am pretty sure no one in A Little Princess ever called Ermengarde “Ermie,” and I disapprove very much of the fact that McKay inflicted such an awful nickname on her. Doesn’t Ermengarde have enough troubles without a nickname that rhymes with wormy?

Also Rachel Bertsche’s Jennifer, Gwyneth, and Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time. I really loved Bertsche’s earlier book, MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend, partly because Bertsche is a very personable writer, but also because I really connected with her topic: making friends is something I struggle with, and it is so validating to read this book and realize that my standards for friendship really aren’t impossibly high.

Anyway. Bertsche is still a very personable writer in Jennifer, Gwyneth, and Me, so I did enjoy the book, but I didn’t connect to it on the same personal level as MWF Seeking BFF. But probably I’ll read her next book when it comes out. (Especially given that the next book might be a parenting book. I have a strange weakness for parenting books.)

What I’m Reading Now

Hilary McKay’s Forever Rose, which is the fifth Casson Family book and is...not quite as charming as the earlier books. I really enjoyed the ensemble aspect of the earlier books, but this one is more all Rose all the time, and while I like Rose...that is really too much Rose.

Also Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Shield Ring. I think I should put Operation Read All the Sutcliff on hold, because I am really struggling to get through this book, and I think perhaps I’m just too accustomed to her narrative tics.

What I Plan to Read Next

I have gone on a Kindle binge in anticipation of my upcoming trip. I have Lia Silver’s Prisoner, and also a whole slew of ancient (well, pre-1923) books that are FREEEEEE. I'm also thinking about getting E. F. Benson’s David Blaize, but it is not FREEEEE, so I’m waffling. Has anyone read it?
osprey_archer: (writing)
Sutcliff Swap is open! I got a lovely story from [livejournal.com profile] bunn, Audrsaga (it even has a Viking title!), about Aud's journey to Iceland. I love this take on Aud's character: of course she had youthful dreams of leading expeditions as a shield maiden, but even though those dreams are only coming true now that she's a grandmother and a queen, she can still enjoy them even though they aren't quite what she envisioned.

I love all the description of the Viking ship, with its steering oar on the side, too. And there's a driftwood fire with blue flames! I've always thought driftwood fires sounded like just the coolest thing.

And here's the fic I wrote for Swap:

Fic: The Fall of the Sparrow
Fandom: The Silver Branch - Rosemary Sutcliff
Rating: G
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] sineala
Summary: Justin and Flavius were not the only fugitives Honoria helped.

(Honoria seems to be the star of this year's Swap: there are three other stories about her, as well as [livejournal.com profile] motetus's beautiful portrait.)
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Nothing really. I haven’t read very much this week. :(

What I’m Reading Now

I’m still listening to Sandra Cisneros’ Caramelo. [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume, I think you might like this, particularly if you run into the audiobook: it’s this rich melange of detail, the physical details of the setting, stories about the history of Mexico and family history, and little character details that bring the people to life.

Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, which I’m not very far in. I need to apply myself to it more assiduously.

Also Rosemary Sutcliff’s The High Deeds of Finn mac Cool, which seems to be the retelling of a loose corpus of stories all wound together in one. I sometimes wonder if this sort of thing is what would happen if someone a thousand years from now tried to bind together shreds of Sherlock, Elementary, Guy Ritchie’s films, and The Great Mouse Detective all in one story. Because it’s all the same story, right? Of course Holmes sometimes becomes a mouse and Watson sometimes becomes a woman and the setting oscillates unnervingly over centuries! From the perspective of a thousand years, one century is much like the other.

What I Plan to Read Next

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Rider on a White Horse.
osprey_archer: (cheers)


Sutcliff Swap is upon us! I AM EXCITED.

Greeting, Sutcliff Swap creator! I am fairly easy to please, as I like most things: gen, het, femmeslash, slash, OT3s, ridiculous adventure. Deliciously bittersweet fic is delightful. And I love art, even though I'm not as articulate about it as I am about fic!

Likes:
• Characters who understand each other, even if they sometimes drive each other up the wall
• Loyalty, especially characters doing stupidly amazing things out of loyalty for each other
• Relationships with trust issues, either because the characters can't trust each other but want to, or because they trust each other without reservation
• Relationships that are difficult but affectionate
• Angst leavened by humor, or humor leavened by angst
• A sense of place (scenery porn!)
• Hurt/comfort fics
• Pining
• Cuddling, for warmth or otherwise
• OT3s
• And of course hound metaphors.

Dislikes
• Non-canonical character death (I mean, it is Sutcliff, you can’t swing a cat without hitting a dead character. But I’d like the ones who made it through to stay that way.)

Art
• Pairing art is fine, but I would prefer it to be work safe
• Any of these pairings cuddling would be totally adorable
• I also like portraits! Sutcliff offers great opportunities for pretty costumes.
• Also opportunities for pretty scenery and adorable animals. I am a sucker for adorable animal pictures.
• I'm fond of pictures of people reading.

Details of the requests: Frontier Wolf, Sword Song, Bonnie Dundee )
osprey_archer: (writing)
I wrote a ficlet! A ficlet for the Sutcliff companion animals comment fest. Naturally it involves people transforming into animals, because that's just how I roll.



Title: Metamorphosis
Fandom: The Silver Branch - Rosemary Sutcliff
Pairings: None
Rating: G
Disclaimer: So not mine. :(
Prompt: trope_bingo, transformations
Summary: On a stormy night, Justin and Flavius discover that Cullen can transform into a dog.
osprey_archer: (books)
I've read enough Sutcliff at this point that I found The Witch's Brat something of a breath of fresh air: it's quite different from much of her other work and doesn't push the same buttons. The book takes place in medieval England rather than ancient Roman Britain (or the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries), the hero Lovel doesn't have a dog, and he is neither a warrior nor an artist. Instead, Lovel occupies the third and least common Sutcliff occupation: he's a healer.

Sutcliff's style and her thematic preoccupations are usually so distinctive that her books don't remind me of anyone else's work, but The Witch's Brat put me in mind of Elizabeth Janet Gray's Adam of the Road. Gray's novel focuses on a medieval minstrel's son who, in the most Sutcliffian thing ever to happen outside a Sutcliff novel, goes chasing after his kidnapped dog with nary a backward glance and thus gets separated from his father for months.

However, The Witch's Brat is not a total outlier among Sutcliff's work. Lovel does have a hunchback and a limp, and at one point he compares himself to a lost dog.

It's also one of her most sustained treatments of religion: Lovel becomes a monk after his fellow villagers chase him out of his village, and religion seems much more pervasive than it does in Sutcliff's other medieval novel, Knight's Fee. (Even then, Lovel notes repeatedly that he isn't very good at praying. I guess making him a devout monk was simply a bridge too far.)
osprey_archer: (books)
At the beginning of Mark of the Horse Lord, the gladiator Phaedrus receives his wooden foil and is swiftly cast adrift into the world. But he doesn’t drift long before he finds himself recruited by some Dalriadain tribesmen: Phaedrus is the spitting image of their lost prince, and they want Phaedrus to impersonate said prince in order to take back the Dalriadain rulership from the usurping queen.

Naturally, this involves marrying the usurping queen’s daughter Murna. It’s not a proper Sutcliff book if no one is forced to marry!

Actually I’m quite fond of Murna - I think she may be my favorite thing about the book, with her conflicting loyalties. She helps her mother escape, but later helps Phaedrus and the Dalriadain fight against their former queen.

There is an underlying consistency to these actions: both are attempts by Murna to win and maintain some kind of independence from her mother’s emotional domination, which she describes to Phaedrus in a chilling passage about how she retreated inside herself, sometimes even beyond her own conscious thoughts, to try to maintain herself as a separate human being. (Murna’s description of her relationship to her mother reminded me somewhat of Sutcliff’s description of her own mother in Blue Remembered Hills.)

Plus, of course, Murna has a sword, and she knows how to use it. The scene where she and her women do their sword dance as a mixed honor and insult for the obnoxious envoy is a thing of beauty.

Murna is also the occasion of probably Sutcliff’s most egregious moment of “WTF how do you not notice that what you are saying about gender is completely the opposite of what this story has actually shown?” Phaedrus and his BFF Conory discuss the possibility that Murna might know Phaedrus is an imposter and might nonetheless feel no qualms about raising their child as a true royal heir. Because women, you know! They don’t really understand honor like men do!

How do Phaedrus and Conory, who have been conspiring to fool the tribe into believing that Phaedrus is a prince, believe they are in any position to scoff at anyone else’s honor? Especially given that their actions put Murna in this awkward position in the first place? It’s not like there’s ever going to be a good moment for Murna to be all, “BTW, everyone, the guy you thought was king? Secretly just a slave gladiator! Crazy, amiright?”

Conory is alone in the Sutcliff canon, I think, as an important (and positive) character whose self-presentation is - at least to Phaedrus’s Romanized eyes - very feminine. The first time he sees Conory, Phaedrus all but falls of the dais in horror. Conory’s wearing eye makeup! And bangle bracelets! And he’s curled his hair! Like a girl! (Eventually he realizes Conory is awesome and they become BFFs despite Phaedrus’s initial recoil.)

I wonder how much of Conory’s self-presentation is personal taste and how much of it is a result of trying to make the queen underestimate him…and how much of it is simply a cultural misunderstanding. When they’re teaching Phaedrus how to recognize everyone, none of the conspirators tell him, “You’ll know Conory, he’s the girly one,” even though that would seem to be a much easier way to recognize him than “his eyebrows are uneven.”

***

Also - I feel so proud of myself for noticing this allusion, I have to share - there’s a scene in this book that’s clearly borrowed from Kipling’s Kim: the Little Dark Person priest tries to make Phaedrus see a crust of barley bannock as a bird feather, but Phaedrus, to the priest’s stunned surprise, shakes off the illusion.
osprey_archer: (books)
I think Sword at Sunset may have officially edged out The Lantern Bearers as the most depressing Sutcliff book ever. Not only does Artos spend most of the book miserable, alone, and interminably describing battle tactics, but unlike Aquila and Ness, Artos and his bride Guenhumara never really manage to come to any kind of emotional equilibrium, in part because of Artos’s massive issues with women.

One could argue that many Sutcliff heroes have issues with women, but Artos’s are off the charts. He’s basically incapable of mentioning or thinking about women without being denigratory and also slightly panicked about how their mere presence will DESTROY THE BOND OF THE COMPANIONS by introducing jealousy and infighting.

He yearns to make his whole army (who are already called the Companions) into a Theban band where the soldiers are each others lovers. Considering a pair of his soldiers who are lovers, he muses, “it did keep them in fighting trim, each of them striving to be worthy of his friend, each to make the other proud of him; and I have known the love of a yellow-haired girl to make life too sweet and unnerve a man’s sword hand.”

Whereas if the Companions just sleep with each other, they will magically fall into fated pairs! And no one will ever jealously scheme steal someone else’s boyfriend, or suffer unrequited love, or do any of those other things that cause discord. Obviously.

(I think this is just how Artos thinks relationships between men work. For instance, when Artos talks about his meeting with his BFF Bedwyr, he says he felt a “mood of intense waiting, the certainty that something, someone was waiting for me in Narbo Martius - or that I was waiting for them. So might a man feel, waiting for the woman he loved.” Not only is Bedwyr Artos’s beloved, but their love was mystically fated.)

To be fair to Artos, he has a lot of trauma... )

One might imagine that Artos’s yearnings to create a Theban band would also make the slashiness level of the book off the charts, but actually it’s fairly low for a Sutcliff book. There’s the line about Artos & Bedwyr’s meeting that I already quoted, and a line near the end where Artos compares his friendship with Bedwyr to David & Jonathan and mentions that he would like to call Bedwyr by love names that men don’t use with each other, and...that’s really it. They don’t spend much time together. I really think Bedwyr has more chemistry with Guenhumara.

But! But! Even they are not allowed to be happy! They have an adulterous liaison (which, incidentally, destroys the shredded remains of Artos’s ability to trust anyone ever again, male or female), for which Artos banishes them to the mountains. Bedwyr comes back for the final battle and is all, “Guenhumara and I were miserable in the mountains, we mostly sat around and thought about how bad we felt about betraying you.”

At this point my mind cracked under the strain of an entire five hundred page book covering a whole lifetime worth of misery. I decided that Bedwyr and Guenhumara were clearly blissful, dammit, and Bedwyr is lying about it to Artos because he knows Artos is heading into his final battle and doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, because Bedwyr is a good BFF even if he doesn’t return Artos’s unrequited crush and realizes that Artos’s fragile emotional stability would probably crack under the strain of imagining Bedwyr and Guenhumara frolicking through meadows together, sparing barely a thought to Artos’s misery.

I suspect that after Artos’s death, Bedwyr fetches Guenhumara back out of the nunnery and they go off to frolic in the mountains some more. I’m not sure if the timeline works for this, but I also like to think that Guenhumara & Bedwyr had a child or two after they got banished together.

Spoilers. )
osprey_archer: (writing)
The time for trope_bingo is upon us! I am posting my card here, in order to beg for your aid and assistance in brainstorming story ideas!

The one square I am wedded to using is “character in distress,” because that is pretty much perfect for the fic about Lucrezia Borgia’s descent into the catacombs of Rome in order to save her brother Cesare, who is in the clutches of his vampire lover and needs a lot of saving. It will be glorious!

That leaves me with three possible lines to use:

curtainfic rites of passage / coming of age au: mundane soul bonding / soulmates in vino veritas / drunkfic
amnesia hurt / comfort transformations character in distress immortality / reincarnation
fuck or die holidayfic FREE

SPACE
deathfic bets / wagers
mind games presumed dead against all odds language and translation trust and vows
au: alternate gender norms time travel marriage metafiction au: crossover


I am kind of yearning toward the “language and translation” square, because I have a strange and terrible fascination for stories about characters who connect despite the unfortunate fact that they don’t speak the same language and can only communicate nonverbally - like Jamie and Aurelia in Love Actually, or that one couple in the first Call the Midwife episode. Those are the only examples I can think of now.

One would imagine Sutcliff would lend itself to this sort of thing, but actually I think her protags always speak the requisite languages or learn them really fast. (Although IIRC [livejournal.com profile] seascribe had a fun Eagle AU where Esca didn’t know Latin?) I think there’s a reason both the examples I listed come from visual media; this would be really hard to get across in writing, because this would be quite hard to write, I think.

In any case, I feel pretty burnt out on Eagle fic right now. Or, actually, this is not quite true: I have one Eot9 story left that I want to write, a Cottia story during her summer in Aquae Sulis while Marcus and Esca were haring around Caledonia. Cottia has been misbehaving, and Aunt Valaria decides she needs a firm lecturing about How the World Works:

Aunt Valaria: You are Iceni in a Roman world, a woman in a man’s world, and a child in an adult world. You must never tell people what you really want or how you really feel, because to do so is to give away your only weapons: secrecy and charm!
Cottia: I refuse, I refuse, I refuse to believe that this is true (I am secretly afraid it is true), I REFUSE.
Aunt Valaria: How did I fail you, how did I fail?

But I don’t think there’s a trope for that.

Anyway, this is all a moot point, because if I used that vertical line I would have to write metafiction, so probably I should toss it on that account. And possibly I should toss the diagonal too, because of the “au: alternate gender norms,” tag. I don’t know what I would write for that.

Plus, if I did the horizontal with “transformations” I could write the Black Swan story about Nina the wereswan! I don’t know what I would do for amnesia, but I already have a title idea: “Lest We Forget.” And you know titles are always the worst part! (Thoughts who I could give amnesia?)

And for immortality...maybe I could write something about Tortall’s gods? More Tortall fic is always good. And of course hurt/comfort would be perfect to Tortall fic too. Hurt/comfort is generally a perfect prompt for any fandom, but especially for fandoms where characters canonically spend a lot of time getting swords thrust at them.
osprey_archer: (history)
I have been steamrolling through the university library’s Sutcliff books. Every time I search a new library for her books - I think I’m up to seven libraries by now; I’ve moved twice over the course of this quest, but still - I find Sutcliff books that I’d never even heard of. My newest find is Rider on a White Horse, an English Civil War book, but not the English Civil War book that I’m looking for, which is Simon, which no one has. Simon is fast becoming my white whale.

In any case, some reviewlets of the books that I’ve read.

1. The Capricorn Bracelet, which is a bit like the Dolphin Ring cycle all smushed in one book. It’s a series of short stories that span most of Rome’s history in Britain, linked by the Capricorn bracelet that the family passes down through its members. Not only is the concept like the Dolphin Ring writ small, but many of the stories echo incidents and themes in the Dolphin Ring books: the commander winning his troops’ loyalty, the horse raid gone wrong, the steadily encroaching Saxons, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

Therefore if you like the Dolphin Ring stories, you’ll probably enjoy this, but it doesn’t really add anything new.

2. The Hound of Ulster, which is a retelling of the epic (epics?) of Cuchulain. I continue to find the appeal of epics utterly baffling, because the characters always seem so cartoonishly over-the-top (and proud of it, too!), but I daresay for people who like this sort of thing, this is the kind of thing they would like.

3. Bonnie Dundee, which, like many of Sutcliff’s works, is slow to get started. The winner in this regard is still Blood and Sand, which takes approximately two-thirds of the book to really get off the ground (although I’ve heard Sword at Sunset is even worse at this, how is that even possible?).

However, I’m still rather fond of Bonnie Dundee, because its trademarked Sutcliff love polygon is not merely triangular but actually quadrilateral, and it has a pair of female best friends at the center: Lady Jean and her lady-in-waiting Darklis. (Do any of Sutcliff’s other novels have female bestest best friends? I’m not thinking of any at the moment. I guess Lady Aud has her ex-queen of Ireland handmaiden, but that’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment.)

Lady Jean marries Captain Claverhouse! But Claverhouse gets called away on their very wedding night to put down a little rebellion! So Darklis spends Lady Jean’s wedding night with her. Like you do.

Our narrator, Hugh Herriot, also adores Captain Claverhouse. In fact, Hugh loves Claverhouse so much that he actually sets aside the opportunity to apprentice to a Dutch painter (!!!) in order to join Claverhouse’s cavalry unit and follow him around Scotland like a faithful hound. Sadly for Hugh, Claverhouse is only vaguely fond of him, in the way of a man who has an awful lot of hounds to be fond of.

But it’s all right! Because Hugh is also in love with Darklis, and he loves her enough that it makes up for any pangs that not being Claverhouse’s bestest of best friends might cause him. Not only do Hugh and Darklis actually snatch quite a number of moments together over the course of the story, but Hugh seems to be legitimately attracted to her: they kiss repeatedly. And he goes into battle wearing her brooch over his heart, and remembers her even when she is not directly in his line of sight!

This last is surprisingly difficult for many Sutcliff heroes. I find it more and more grating as I read more Sutcliff books: I don't understand why she feels compelled to highlight the fact that the hero barely ever thinks of the girl he supposedly loves.

But so anyway: Darklis! It's hard to go wrong with a name like that.
osprey_archer: (history)
For the ask me questions meme, [livejournal.com profile] carmarthen asks: the Sutcliff fic you really want someone else to write so you don't have to.

Ha, I should think the answer would be obvious by now. A Sword Song fic about Lady Aud’s adventures in Iceland, of course! Preferably involving trolls, possibly involving geysers, no strong feelings about whether there should be hound metaphors or barley bannock.

I can’t write it myself because even by my extremely low standards, I don’t know enough about Vikings or Iceland. My sole knowledge about Scandinavian trolls comes from Jan Brett’s picture book The Trouble with Trolls, in which trolls kidnap young Treva’s dog so they can eat him and Treva has to trick them into giving him back.

Actually, if Lady Aud met Jan Brett-ish trolls, that would be awesome. I love Jan Brett's work, and I could totally see Aud the Deep-minded coming up with a way to trick the trolls. And what could be more Sutcliffian than a story about saving a pet dog?

***

Alternatively, someone else could write a sequel to Wings. Because everyone wants fic about Esca slowly growing to trust Marcus to preen his wings, right?
osprey_archer: (window)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Dawn Wind. I really liked it! I worried vaguely beforehand that it might be just as depressing as The Lantern-Bearers, as both of them involve heroes enslaved by Saxons, but Owain hates the world considerably less than Aquila and is therefore less draggingly miserable to read about.

(Of course, it helps that Owain sells himself into slavery by choice, more or less, to save his friend Regina when she’s ill. It’s not a free choice, but it’s still more of a choice than having his home burned down, being tied to a tree, and then kidnapped, as Aquila was.)

Oh, and I liked Regina an awful lot! She’s a study in contrasts, hardened by her life but with flashes of kindness as well. I think what I find particularly appealing is that her hardness is genuine, not merely a defensive protection for a soft squashy heart: she tried to kill her old caretaker, who used to beat her. But her softness, as in her love for birds, is genuine too.

On a more macro level, one of the things I find fascinating about Sutcliff’s work is the sense of the sweep of history in it. Tribes and states and empires never just are in her work, they are always in a process of becoming. Either they are rising and replacing the empires that have come before, or decaying and being replaced in their turn.

What I’m Reading Now

Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, about Sophie, a bookish white girl in 1960s Louisiana who, under the influence of too many Edward Eager novels, asks an uncanny creature to send her back in time. She winds up on her family’s plantation in the 1860s, where she gets mistaken for one of their relation Robert’s bastard slave children.

I suspect things are going to start going very badly for Sophie once her many-great ancestors realize that this is not so, but so far she’s coping with her situation by trying to convince herself that this is a perfectly acceptable adventure, if perhaps rockier than she anticipated. Oh, Sophie. :( This is going to end in brutal disillusionment and I feel bad for her in advance.

Before I started the book I felt trepidation about the potential anviliciousness of the message - I mean, just look at that premise - but so far the book has lived up to the laudatory review that convinced me to read it. Sophie’s characterization is a great triumph. She loves books and exploring and is a little awkward, is in short very easy to sympathize with - but at the same time, she’s imbued with the racism of her surroundings.

It’s not a virulent racism: it’s subtle and insidious enough that merely meeting black people on a level of equality is not enough to blow her tiny mind. Given how thoughtfully she’s been portrayed so far, I feel cautiously hopeful that the book will avoid anviliciousness.

Also I’m reading Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin. I’m reading this before bedtime, which means I’m getting through it rather slowly. But it’s also going well: it’s a book with a lot of book talk in it, which is always fun, and Dean has a gift for creating a sense of place and atmosphere at Blackstock College.

And it’s interesting just how different the college experience was, even just twenty years ago. I don’t mean only the lack of computers (although that does catch me up), but Janet’s comment on her anthropology professor: “Nor did it seem that he communed with the dead - the dates on all the books except one showed that the authors were either still alive or but recently dead.”

I think there is more of an assumption, now, that new books are better than old.

What I Plan to Read Next

I have a whole slew of Sutcliff books on hold from the university library, having just realized that this is my last chance to get at them. I’m particularly looking forward to reading The Mark of the Horse Lord.
osprey_archer: (books)
A collection of short Sutcliff reviews for the mostly short Sutcliff books I have been reading.

1. The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup. Basically this is a vintage Sutcliff “boy with dog” story, except with a baby dragon instead of a dog. It’s a picture book, so the story part is pretty short, but the illustrations (by Emma Chichester Clark) are gorgeous and the dragon is all sorts of adorable, so if you run across it, it’s very cheering.

2. Chess-Dream in a Garden, which is totally trippy. So this chess set - actually, only one half of a chess set - lives in a garden, under the watchful eye of a stone bird, and the queen dreams she’s a unicorn and the knight dreams he’s a zebra (and he’s also totally in love with the queen) and the pawns dream that they’re armadillos, and then the knight confesses his love and causes discord in the garden which brings in the evil half of the chess set, but the queen...somehow summons up the force of the garden...and all the good chess pieces transform into their animal selves and defeat the evil chess pieces!

Yes. It’s kind of trippy.

3. Brother Dusty-Feet, which is about Hugh, who joins a troupe of traveling players in Elizabethan England. I would have bet money that Hugh was going to run into Shakespeare at some point, and I would have been wrong; he doesn’t so much as perform a cobbled-together form of any of Shakespeare’s plays, as Hugh’s troupe trades mostly in miracle plays.

This seems to be written for a slightly younger audience than most of her historical fiction: there are lots of asides to explain customs to readers, which the Roman Britain books don’t do. But it's still rather fun: I particularly liked the pilgrim-piper who might be one of the fairy folk.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Brother Dusty-Feet. But I intend to write a post about the Sutcliff things I’ve been reading, so I shan’t detain us here.

What I’m Reading Now

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, though I am almost done. SO MANY PEOPLE DIE IN THIS BOOK. SO MANY PEOPLE.

Also I’ve gotten a copy of The Wind in the Willows without all the annoying annotations, so yay! I’m going to read that, too.

What I Plan to Read Next

I have the audiobook for Madeleine L’Engle’s And Both Were Young, so definitely that. Otherwise I’m not sure. I’m thinking I should finish the Sutcliff books at this library, because every library seems to have a different selection, so who knows when I’ll get another crack at these in particular? I definitely plan to read The Shield Ring.

Otherwise the library has mostly Sutcliff retellings, which I’m less interested in: Black Ships Before Troy, The Wandering of Odysseus, Tristan and Iseult, The Sword and the Circle, and The High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool. I might read Finn Mac Cool just because I’ve never heard of the story before….Does anyone feel strongly that I should read any of the others.
osprey_archer: (Sutcliff)
Title: The Threefold Tie, chapter 5
Fandom: Rosemary Sutcliff, Eagle of the Ninth
Pairings: ALL THE PAIRINGS. Esca/Marcus, Esca/Cottia, Marcus/Cottia.
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: So not mine. :(
Summary: After an argument with Esca and Cottia, Marcus is left alone on the farm. Can they repair their ties?

Also on AO3: Chapter 5: The Threefold Tie.

Chapter 5: The Threefold Tie )
osprey_archer: (Sutcliff)
Title: The Threefold Tie, chapter 4
Fandom: Rosemary Sutcliff, Eagle of the Ninth
Pairings: ALL THE PAIRINGS. Esca/Marcus, Esca/Cottia, Marcus/Cottia.
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: So not mine. :(
Summary: After an argument with Esca and Cottia, Marcus is left alone on the farm. Can they repair their ties?

Also on AO3: Chapter 4: Cottia

Chapter 4: Cottia )
osprey_archer: (yuletide)
Hello, dear Yuletide author! I am fairly easy to please, as I like most things: gen, het, femmeslash, slash, OT3s, ridiculous adventure. Deliciously bittersweet fic is delightful, and so are fluff and rainbows and fun.

Likes
- Characters who understand each other, even if they sometimes drive each other up the wall
- Loyalty, especially characters doing stupidly amazing things out of loyalty for each other
- Characters who are passionate about something (aside from just each other) – who love their work, their art, their stamp-collecting, anything
- Hurt/comfort fics
- Friendship
- Witty banter
- Cuddling
- “Five things…” stories
- Epistolary fic

Dislikes
- Non-canonical character death

On to the fandoms! Black Swan, Code Name Verity, Dostana, Queen’s Thief, Sword Song )

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