Compiled by the Espresso Addict

Espresso Recommendations

Innovative and stylish fanfiction, showcasing the very best across multiple sf, fantasy & literature fandoms. Good writing in all its forms can be found here, including gen, het, slash, OCs, AUs, crossovers, future fics, humour & pastiche

Contents: 1010 recs in 235 fandoms; 65 links

Rosemary Sutcliff

Blood Feud | Eagle of the Ninth | Frontier Wolf | Knight's Fee | Lantern Bearers | Outcast | Silver Branch | Sword at Sunset | Warrior Scarlet | Witch's Brat

Blood Feud

Born in the Purple by Bunn

'Anna's mother, the Empress Theophano, had screamed, at the end. Anna remembered it vividly. Sometimes it came back to her in dreams. Mother had screamed and ranted and sworn, like the tavern-keeper's daughter she was, at Patriarch Polyeuktos, at the Patriarchs solemn, ugly nuns, at the new Emperor, John Tzimiskes.' Rich world-building and a wonderful voice for Anna, tough, clever, yet ultimately realistic about the choices for a princess make this short story a real treat

[Added 26/08/2014; Drama; 2500-6000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Blood Feud]

By Blood Undone by Carmarthen

'...Thormod's words had bitten, when Anders still remembered the sharp hot feel of the knife and the press of Thormod's wrist against his, and the way the scatter of blood had looked bright in the snow under the bare birches.' I don't know Blood Feud, but this powerful tale of love rejected, and birth brothers pitted against blood brothers, stands on its own merits

[Added 29/08/2013; Drama; 1000-2500; Rosemary Sutcliff – Blood Feud]

Once Given by Carmarthen

'I did not expect Thormod to blow into the sleeping-lodge, bringing with him the sharp bite of the wind off the frozen Dnieper and a gust of snow that melted at once in the warm woodsmoke dimness.' Beautifully characterised first-time vignette with a wonderful sense of place & time

[Added 04/10/2013; Romance/Erotica; 1000-2500; Rosemary Sutcliff – Blood Feud]

Pilgrim by Jay Tryfanstone

'Constantinople's the stink of piss and dead fish down on the Kontoskalion on a winter evening, when the sleet comes rolling in off the plains and the gold ran out with the tide. Wine watered down to the rot-gut skins and whores too poor for the baths, dung-heap cockerels and mangy dogs and beggars that might have been soldiers, once.' Jay creates a believable OC and gives him a fantastic narrative voice, far from Sutcliff's yet somehow wholly in keeping with her world. There's a beautiful sense of place, too. Simply enthralling!

[Added 09/01/2014; Drama; 2500-6000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Blood Feud]

Eagle of the Ninth

A Broken Spear by Isis

'A year, Liathan thought, should have been sufficient. An entire year to wash away his shame in the turning of the wheel of the seasons, to make him new and whole again.' A thoughtful study of the aftermath of The Eagle of the Ninth from the loser's point of view. The drumbeat motif binds the vignette together

[Added 19/07/2012; Character Piece; 2500-6000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Eagle of the Ninth]

Fastened Down by Sineala

'His fate and that damned Aquila's were as weights on the opposite ends of a scale. And now, as Aquila's fortunes rose, his own were sinking. Aquila must have done something to him. There could be no other explanation.' A delicious little humorous take on post-canon Placidus. Sineala really knows her history

[Added 15/01/2019; Humour; 1000-2500; Rosemary Sutcliff – Eagle of the Ninth]

Like a Lioness by Tanaqui

'"A Red Crest?" Shula snorted. "We should knife him and throw him on the dung-heap for the dogs!" / Murna had been about to kneel again, but she swung her head up, sudden fury surging within her. "Has he not claimed the guest-right?" True, the man was more outside than in, but he had crossed the threshold.' The herstory of Murna & Guern. A brilliant example of canonically plausible minor character building, which, in the words of the recipient, is 'practically Jane Austen in Roman Britain'. Simply adorable!

[Added 14/01/2019; Romance/Erotica; 2500-6000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Eagle of the Ninth]

To Suffer Brave Things by Carmarthen

'Placidus knew he was handsome, and he had the connections and wealth to do much for a man who pleased him. ... And no one had ever been any less than pleased with him, he was sure of it, except perhaps Claudia, and that was only because she was a chaste woman who did not feel such desires.' A meaty novelette, mixing book & film canon, that tells of how Placidus grows up. Book-Placidus seems to exist to be Marcus's opposite, and I love stories like this that develop a more-balanced picture. I suspect his portrayal here could be classified on the autism spectrum, and his fumblings towards a meaningful relationship with his wife feel raw & authentic. There's bags of fascinating historical details to enjoy along the way, too [archive locked]

[Added 15/01/2019; Romance/Erotica; 6000-20,000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Eagle of the Ninth; Adult]

Frontier Wolf

The Disciple by Riventhorn

'A colony of bees, Lucius thought. They would make such a sweetness of honeycomb, golden as the amber necklace his mother used to wear. He must have bees. And a little pond by the orchard to keep stocked with fish.' A delicate meditation on Lucius: his faith, his hopes, and his unlikely friendship with Hilarion

[Added 09/01/2014; Character Piece; 2500-6000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Frontier Wolf]

Not the Emperor's Bodyguard by Bunn

'Julius Gavros did not know whether to laugh or cry, seeing his new command for the first time: a tumble-down fort in the furthest corner of the world, with the gulls crying over it in the grey drizzle, a thin mewing that sounded utterly remote from the world of men.' How did a man like Gavros end up in command of the Frontier Wolves? Bunn's plausible answer conjures a wonderful picture of the abandoned Castellum

[Added 09/01/2014; Character Piece; 1000-2500; Rosemary Sutcliff – Frontier Wolf]

This Last Thing by Isis

'"You – you gave me this wound." / "I did," agreed Cunorix. His smile broadened as he turned on his side, looking at Alexios; the corners of his mouth turned cruel, and his eyes darkened. "And I shall give you many more."' The tragedy of Alexios & Cunorix is central to the novel, and this eerie story continues their relationship after Cunorix's death, to a poignant conclusion. Superb

[Added 24/08/2013; Drama; 6000-20,000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Frontier Wolf]

Knight's Fee

A Little Wind Through the Bramble Bushes by Isis

'Around him the fields waxed ripe with bursting grain and the trees grew heavy with fruit, as his boots turned to spreading roots and his body became the trunk of a sturdy tree.' Ancret's perspective on the novel's events. A neatly structured vignette displaying Isis' usual flair for embedding the numinous into Sutcliff's world

[Added 15/10/2015; Character Piece; 2500-6000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Knight's Fee]

Lantern Bearers

Bearing Gifts by Ursula Kohl

'"You have a long walk before you," he told her, "and I have a long rowing. Will you come quietly?"' Perhaps my favourite of several takes on how Flavia came to be married to a Saxon in the 2012 Sutcliff Swap. The sharp & spare style fits the subject matter, and the crisp little details are well chosen

[Added 29/08/2013; Romance/Erotica; 1000-2500; Rosemary Sutcliff – Lantern Bearers]

Declining by Northland

'Beside the terrace steps, the scorched skeleton of an old fruit tree still stood; a damson, by the seedlings its disregarded rotting fruit had thrown up.' Five moments missing from the novel. Sparse & evocative

[Added 05/09/2012; Drama; <1000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Lantern Bearers]

A Singing Magic by Bunn

'Flavia had been waiting for the end of the world all her life. ... She had never thought about what she would do after that.' An unusual look at Flavia's story, also from the 2012 Sutcliff Swap, which grabbed me straight from the wonderful opening. Rich & thoughtful, with strong characterisations

[Added 29/08/2013; Drama; 6000-20,000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Lantern Bearers]


Liminality by Jay Tryfanstone

'Inland, the fringed reeds hanging over the drainage ditches and the stubborn, salt-stiff grasses of the sea wall could have been the painted, sepia foliage of a dining room frieze. Even the tide was slow and sullen, unbreaking, as if some great beast rose through the sea towards the shore.' A shuddery little story for Samhain. The author's usual tight grasp on Sutcliff's descriptive prose brings the autumnal landscape to life

[Added 14/01/2019; Drama; 1000-2500; Rosemary Sutcliff – Outcast]

Sons From the Sea by Isis

'One afternoon on the beach he found a stone that was a deep and lustrous orange-red, the color of the anemones that had carpeted the hillsides near his father's house. It had been polished by the waves to a smooth round shape that fit just inside his palm, comforting in its weight.' An enjoyable happy-ending AU in which Jason survives, with a strong structure enlivened by colourful details

[Added 17/04/2015; Drama; 2500-6000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Outcast]

A Straight Road by Isis

'...he imagined the road as being all of the world, and the stones laid for its bed all the peoples of the world, and the road that was to be, that would carry travelers from one place to another, something to connect them all.' A thoroughly appropriate character study of Justinius the engineer, cleverly structured around a Roman road (complete with diagram!). Thoughtful & moving

[Added 14/01/2019; Character Piece; 1000-2500; Rosemary Sutcliff – Outcast]

Silver Branch

A Siren Call by Riventhorn

'The Aquila family has a proud heritage of British and Roman blood, as many of our families do. Certainly I should like to see the fortunes of our land raised and suitable honor accorded to us—honor that cannot come when one is treated as the backwater of the empire, a dull and barbarous place that must accept the dregs of the senate chambers and barracks.' Three excellent Honoria stories were written in the 2014 Sutcliff Swap. 'A Siren Call' is perhaps my favourite for its proud, brusque Honoria, its friendships between women, and its window into a part of Romano-British history that Sutcliff never gave us

[Added 17/04/2015; Character Piece; 2500-6000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Silver Branch]

Sword at Sunset

Hunting the Boar by Makioka

'She can tell them stories that will make their blood sing, will make their heads pound with the longing to be doing the deeds that she speaks of; then she can cool the fires with a song of the harvest, and the land each man calls his own.' Lovely rich writing in these tales of Artos and of Gault & Levin, but it's the gem of an OC narrator that really makes this piece for me

[Added 15/01/2019; Drama; 2500-6000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Sword at Sunset]

Warrior Scarlet

But One Wolf Slaying by Tanaqui

'But he had always been unhandy with such things: treading in Midir's shadow; or interrupting his mother as she spoke the necessary charms over the salves she was mixing, so that she must begin again; or spilling the mead from the guest-cup set at the empty place at the Samhain feast as he reached for his own food.' A canonically plausible portrait of Vortrix, stifling under the weight of expectations heaped upon him, and his long friendship with Drem. The end is very moving. I also enjoyed her Kindling, Blai's perspective on the novel

[Added 14/01/2019; Character Piece; 1000-2500; Rosemary Sutcliff – Warrior Scarlet]

Witch's Brat

The Pottery Lamp by Jay Tryfanstone

'Lovel had the image of it as clear as the painting in a book, all miniature jewel-bright leaves and flowers, as he dug and hoed and forked over the heavy clods.' A quietly beautiful short in a medieval-setting Sutcliff that one doesn't in the least need to have encountered to enjoy. Simply lovely!

[Added 14/01/2019; Drama; 2500-6000; Rosemary Sutcliff – Witch's Brat]