ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
Once in a while I just glom onto someone's archive and go through it with the dumb determination of a housecat dismembering a beetle. No doubt this is a horrifying event for said person, suddenly inundated with overly long and often nitpicky comments from some stranger they don't know from Eve, so I understand if I don't get replies. No doubt the author is busy turning off her email notifications, hiding under the bed, or moving to Timbuktu. (Random example is random. I'm sure it's a lovely place.)

For the past few months my victim has been one meltinglacier (Lynn), who has posted numerous short stories for fandoms including Teen Titans, Harry Potter, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. I've gone through her ATLA archive and found some real gems. I won't do a full profile since there's no longer story to serve as a flagship title and because the author is probably in Timbuktu by now, but I did find three stories about Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee that I particularly liked.

Life Lessons, Saving Face, and Airhead show the author's talent for psychological exploration )

I found meltinglacier/Lynn's archive really interesting with lots of good stories and a few outstanding ones. It's a great pleasure of archive-trawling when I discover stuff that I wouldn't have otherwise. And now I can recommend these stories to my friends, and tell them to scare the author with comments from strangers. How's that for psychological horror?
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The orderofthelotus's 2012 fic exchange concluded in October. I've just read through them all, and here are my favorites:

Best Served Cold )

Caribou )

This lonely world without you )
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A Box of Pearls: FFN link | AO3 link

amanda91's profile: FFN | AO3


Jun from Avatar: The Last Airbender is hands down one of the coolest characters in the show. Not only is she a more than capable fighter in her own right, she also has a unique sidekick and asset in the form of a shirshu (an Avatar-style chimera that stole the snout from some poor star-nosed mole) that can find anyone in the world with its sense of smell.


She seems to enjoy Korra-levels of strength, emphasis on "enjoy."

Perhaps her defining characteristic, though, is that the lady don't give a damn. The backdrop and central problem in the show is a world war, a war that most of the cast is invested in one way or the other, but that's none of her business. She gets her money and lives her life, and that's enough for her. She helps out both sides of the conflict in "Bato of the Water Tribe" and "Sozin's Comet" arc respectively, and mostly for selfish reasons. She wants money in the first instance, and in the second, she presumably doesn't want to burn to death in Ozai's genocide (and was probably promised money). She's a Lovable Rogue much like Han Solo in the Star Wars movies, but unlike Han she doesn't get a character arc that puts her firmly on the side of the White Hats.

Enter [livejournal.com profile] amanda_violet's one-shot fic A Box of Pearls and character arc with a vengeance. Pearls is an [livejournal.com profile] atla_crackfic exchange story that Amanda wrote for [livejournal.com profile] amyraine, and I don't know about you but for me these two names by themselves are enough to catapult any project into the awesomesphere. It is also a Jun/Piandao story, which I'm guessing was Amy's request because Amy herself has written a story with that pairing called Can't All Be Heroes.

The strengths of Pearls lie in Amanda's skill in developing the central character in a believable and sympathetic way, giving the character new dimensions while keeping the qualities that make her interesting. Before I go into more detail I should note that I have kept the review spoiler-free, sticking to the content of the summary, but it may make more sense if you read the story first.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it... )

Overall, I found A Box of Pearls to be a fascinating read about an interesting but unexplored canon character. The unusual pairing is also believable and made a part of the main character's development. Pacing and story structure need some work, but the story does a solid job of portraying character development and the struggle for healing in the post-war world. I highly recommend it.
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This Open Review is on The Boy from Babel by [livejournal.com profile] lavanyasix (fanfiction.net profile, though this particular story is not in her ff.n archive plus ff.n link. Thanks [livejournal.com profile] somariel!). Written in response to the "Language Barrier" prompt at the Avatar Spirit forum, it takes off of what many fans might have thought of--namely, the different Nations and in some cases, regions having different languages.

The entire globe speaks the same language? Really? )

Stories like this is one of the many reasons I love fan fiction, because fanfic makes possible kinds of storytelling that are simply not possible in original fiction. The Boy from Babel is another example in a long line of examples why fanfic, far from being an inferior reflection of original fiction, opens up innovative avenues for new kinds of stories and expression.

Long story short, I highly, highly recommend this story just in case you can't tell from my ramblings so far. If you haven't read it, go read it! If you have, go read it again! That is all.
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As discussed in Part 1 of this review, Guide Me Home by Qwi-Xux is an inspiring and well-plotted story that gives much-needed depth to the character of Ursa. Now I will discuss what I see as the flaws in that story.

On the fierce warriors of suburbia and other complaints )
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There's an old saying in Korea, "It's the widower who understands the widow." In many ways, this seems an apt way to describe the Hakoda/Ursa pairing. Who would understand each other better than two people who lost spouses under traumatic (if very different) circumstances, and who know the complications of dating after the end of a prior marriage? Done poorly, this can be a "pair the spares" situation where an attractive widower and divorcee find Twu Wuv simply by virtue of being single.

And then there is Guide Me Home by Qwi-Xux. )

Links
- Fanfiction.net profile: Qwi-Xux
- Guide Me Home
- Tropes Page

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Open Review: The Azula Trilogy by MasterGhandalf

Part 2: Story, Executed

Previously, I discussed The Azula Trilogy stories Heart of Fire, Path of Fire, and Soul of Fire by MasterGhandalf and how the story was made meaningful by a merging of the outer action of saving the world and inner character growth of Azula's redemption. In this post, I'd like to discuss the specifics of the story's execution.

The story is made all the more exciting by the writer's skill... )

tl; dr version: In sum, The Azula Trilogy is an exciting yet meaningful adventure story that redeems Azula's character in a believable way. It has its flaws and blind spots, as all stories do, but overall I highly recommend this fast-paced, action-packed and moving epic.

Links:
MasterGhandalf's ff.n profile

The Azula Trilogy:
Heart of Fire
Path of Fire
Soul of Fire

TV Tropes fanfic recommendation page (under "General Fics")
The Azula Trilogy Tropes Page
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Open Review: The Azula Trilogy by MasterGhandalf

Part 1: Story, Inside and Out

Welcome to the first installment of Open Review, where I review Avatar: The Last Airbender fan fiction that I found particularly good and/or thought-provoking. As a rule the reviews will be on completed stories, whether long or short, so I can give a complete opinion. They can get quite spoilerific by necessity, so don't read past the cut if you don't want to know parts of the story in advance.

The first Open Reviewed story is actually a trilogy of stories, Heart of Fire, Path of Fire, and Soul of Fire by MasterGhandalf. Collectively called the Azula Trilogy, the stories deal with Princess Azula after the end of the war in a thrilling tale of adventure, growth, and good old world-saving. Fast-paced and well-plotted, they are written in a style reminiscent of good young adult fiction and are very much in keeping with the atmosphere and theme of the series they were based on.

I first found this story through the TV Tropes fic rec page, which I have found to be a mixed bag but useful as well. (And I can't denigrate it in good conscience, seeing how others have found my own humble tale thanks to [livejournal.com profile] amanda_violet's kind recommendation there.) Some stories that I found through the page simply did not catch my interest, but some I found excellent. The Azula Trilogy is one of the latter cases.

Azula is something of a conundrum... )

tl; dr version: The Azula Trilogy redeems the central character without making excuses for her, and it weaves the external action and internal change together in a meaningful way. Even better, it's fully in character! Next I discuss the writing and execution of the story.

Links:
MasterGhandalf's ff.n profile

The Azula Trilogy:
Heart of Fire
Path of Fire
Soul of Fire

TV Tropes fanfic recommendation page (under "General Fics")
The Azula Trilogy Tropes Page

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L.J. Lee

June 2016

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