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: 976 recs in 229 fandoms; 64 links

Miscellaneous: Myth & history

Arthurian legends | Bible | Classical music RPF | Classical mythology | Finnish mythology | Historical RPF | Irish mythology | Jorinde and Joringel | Literary RPF | Norse mythology | Science RPF | Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio | Welsh mythology

Arthurian legends

A Disambiguation of Elaines by Raspberryhunter

'Elaine Garlot walks to the computer, ejects the code-chip with Elaine Astolat's algorithms stored on it, and grinds it underfoot.' Why are there so many Elaines in the Arthur myths? Raspberryhunter's answer reads as if Lois McMaster Bujold were setting the legend on a Jackson's Whole populated almost entirely by women, with all the complicated relationships you'd expect

[Added 12/08/2015; Drama; 2500-6000; Arthurian legends]

Green the Holly by Martha

'The Yuletide bonfires were burning low when the ghost of Gawain the Good, who in life had been the first knight of King Arthur's Round Table, finally came home again.' A novel twist to the Green Knight story, with a strong sense of atmosphere and excellent characterisations for all the brothers

[Added 28/01/2011; Drama; 2500-6000; Arthurian legends]

The Green Year by Selden

'Morgause was staring at the little rim of sun around Gawain, considering. "We need to clean you up a little before the night comes, my son," she said. / Gawain knew that other boys' mothers - mothers who were not queens - would follow this up by spitting on a corner of their apron and scrubbing at a smut on his face, or tugging the neck of his jerkin closed. / Morgause took out an axe.' A rich & complex reworking of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight', drawing on the Fisher King legend, densely packed with allusions & delicious details. There's a fascinating exchange between the author & the recipient in the comments. One of my very favourites from this year's Yuletide

[Added 31/10/2017; Drama; 6000-20,000; Arthurian legends]

The Handmaid's Veil by Alexandra Lynch

'She would die for Isolde.' I'm a sucker for minor character viewpoints, and this is a lovely example. A heart-breaking love story that can't end well

[Added 03/01/2007; Drama; 2500-6000; Arthurian legends; Adult]

The Tale Of Ragnell by Ankaret

'Ragnell knew his sort. He'd talk as if swiving her was doing her a favour, and then he'd turn round and call her a harlot for being fool enough to give in to him, and probably accuse her of imperilling his immortal soul into the bargain.' This tautly structured vignette develops a strong voice for the Loathly Damosel to be, with lovely flashes of humour. Most enjoyable!

[Added 28/01/2011; Character Piece; 1000-2500; Arthurian legends]

The Water-Horse by Thamiris

Thamiris creates a rich medieval atmosphere using modern colloquial language – a truly enchanting tale!

[Added 13/01/2005; Drama; 6000-20,000; Arthurian legends]

What Is And What Seems To Be by Lesserstorm

'She is a tool his king has provided for him, a weapon to his hand.' This original & clever tale completely reimagines Guinevere. The results are enthralling

[Added 21/07/2009; Drama; 2500-6000; Arthurian legends]


In the Shadow of Her Wings by Sinope

'She clung to the fragments of tales she overheard while learning how to carry a full vessel of water without spilling a drop, or how to pound barley grains into flour as smooth as her mother's kiss.' A lyrical version of the Book of Ruth. Highly recommended

[Added 03/01/2007; Drama; 1000-2500; Bible]

Made the Lord God to Grow by Viola Coye

'He -- and I say he, of course, because even though the young god had both beard and breasts I have to call him something, and he had no name yet -- was compassionate and cruel, curious and practical.' An original take on the creation story, weaving in Babylonian mythology. Clever & memorable

[Added 28/01/2011; Drama; 1000-2500; Bible]

Noah's Arkangel by Abluestocking

'Yaffy makes a face. "I interrupted him while he was..." He seems to notice Keziah for the first time, which is ridiculous considering he was just hiding behind her. But then Lia is quite used to her scientific brethren neglecting to notice the nose on their face. "...talking to God," he finishes awkwardly.' Imaginative recasting of the Noah's flood myth as space opera, with something of the feel of a TNG episode. Not all aspects of this novella worked equally well for me, but it's worth a try for the God jokes alone

[Added 04/10/2013; Drama; 20,000-50,000; Bible]

The Road to Jerusalem by Lakester

'The fish sizzled behind her, gutted and chopped. The fish that hadn't spoken to her as she lay there, that she hadn't cut small enough that she could be sure it wouldn't do so again.' Wonderful gritty portrait of Mary Magdalene, before & after she meets Jesus

[Added 21/07/2009; Character Piece; 2500-6000; Bible]

She Will Place on Your Head a Graceful Garland; She Will Bestow on You a Beautiful Crown by Raspberryhunter

'The figure unwraps the shawl from her head, and Bathsheba gasps. It is Abigail, the king's third wife. The one who was said to be the most beautiful of his wives when she was young; the one who is said to be the wisest.' David & Bathsheba refocused as a tale of trust, and mistrust, between the king's wives. Strong characterisations make the story as relevant now as when it was first told, and Raspberryhunter weaves together several sources to add twists to the familiar events. Highly recommended

[Added 27/05/2012; Drama; 2500-6000; Bible]

Classical music RPF

Clap, Damn You by Emily Shore

'It was not easy being an operatic muse when your natural vocal endowments meant that you were cut out for a life as a tenor--or possibly a baritone, who could be certain?--in the BBC Singers.' Britten, Pears & the genesis of Gloriana. Believable characterisations & a delightful wry humour

[Added 01/02/2011; Humour; 2500-6000; Classical music RPF]

Classical mythology

Agave in Illyria by Selden

'And I will hold my tongue which as we know is hardest for a woman, / Jackal and hide, laughing in doorways if you'll let them, behind the rows of little pots / In various shades of red.' The relationship between Agave & Semele, mixing ancient & modern, mad & sly, prose & poetry, and always slippery & disturbing

[Added 12/08/2015; Drama; 2500-6000; Classical mythology; Adult]

Bakcheios by Emilyenrose

'That kind of ghoulish nonsense is exactly the kind of thing guaranteed to please a boy of a certain age, and it certainly stuck with me. I had nightmares for months of being chased through the night by a disfigured woman-shape with gold-plated bone fingers.' Gorgeous retelling of The Bacchae, which renders the tragedy more profound by making Pentheus thoroughly human

[Added 25/11/2011; Drama; 6000-20,000; Classical mythology]

Dark and Bright by Morbane

'For generations - so long that the reasons behind it were scarcely discussed - a hood had been hung about the head of the statue, to hide the lady's face from the sun. It might be sailcloth or leather, woven rushes or fine silk, but as soon as one hood wore away, the people of the city made another, and replaced it in darkness.' A haunting take on the tale of Eros & Psyche, strange & sensuous

[Added 21/05/2015; Romance/Erotica; 2500-6000; Classical mythology]

Easy the Descent by Zdenka

'Bones are so heavy. She had forgotten. They seem to drag her down to the earth.' A thought-provoking vignette, which gives Eurydice agency and draws parallels with Persephone's fate (Orpheus & Eurydice)

[Added 09/08/2014; Character Piece; 1000-2500; Classical mythology]

My Father's House by Selden

'I knew what I was then, before I had a stone or arch or shady room, before the bull-boy ran down through me crying for his mother. I curled around my brother's fingertip, around my father's mind. I knew I was a place for loss, for keeping secrets, for forgetting, folding up and swallowing down.' A suitably dark & twisty story for the sentient Labyrinth. Original & creepy, with an ending that caught me by surprise

[Added 19/10/2017; Character Piece; 1000-2500; Classical mythology]

Patron of the Guard by Fresne

'While on patrol, they came upon Eualia, a down on her luck Heteara, who'd fallen a few ranks, and now liked to dip her sandals in red paint and mark the stones with the words, "Follow me," which at least meant she was looking for clientele who could read.' Enjoyable noirish casefic novelette, with an endearing Vimes-like OC. It's a bit uneven – I skipped all the dream sex on reread – but worth a try

[Added 31/10/2017; Drama; 6000-20,000; Classical mythology]

Persephone Lied by Spuffyduds

'Do you know what swineherds talk about? / Swine.' An amusing take on the Persephone myth. Helen Saito's expressive reading really brings out Persephone's emotions and the poem's humour

[Added 29/08/2013; Poetry; <1000; Classical mythology]

Persephone: Redux by Nightengale

'Do not tell me that you've been off gallivanting again with that Hades figure, Persephone, do not tell it me!' Neat revisioning of the Persephone story

[Added 03/01/2007; Romance/Erotica; 1000-2500; Classical mythology]

Small Step For Man by Toft

'She has a different name, here, but she is still the same.' Artemis & Apollo through the ages. A reflection on the pitfalls of immortality, anchored in sharp details

[Added 07/08/2009; Drama; 2500-6000; Classical mythology; Adult]

Finnish mythology

All the Old Knives by Selden

'Bind me with red thread, she said to the woods. / Bind my eyes with goat-gut and my mouth with bone splinters. / Bind between my legs with copper, copper teeth and bright red berries.' A fantastic alternative ending for Kyllikki, told in gorgeous harsh colours. Wonderful!

[Added 04/10/2013; Drama; 1000-2500; Finnish mythology]

Love-Rejecting Aino by Assimbya

'This was her home, and she would not leave it, ever, not even if it meant she had to leave hidden in the woods and surviving on mushrooms and berries, she didn’t care, she wouldn’t, couldn’t leave.' Moving take on Aino's tale, with a perfect ending

[Added 25/11/2011; Drama; 1000-2500; Finnish mythology]

Historical RPF

Amongst the Black-Haired People by Daegaer

'It was beneath Pu-abi's dignity to notice either the kindness or the disrespect of one who had been her slave for so long, so she kept her silence as Gurun carefully wiped her mouth and helped her to stand ready to wear the gold and lapis that an eresh should wear in the sight of all but their closest servants.' Daegaer has conjured a fascinating tale of political intrigue and peopled it with a cast of strong women, determined to make their lives -- and deaths -- serve their cause

[Added 06/06/2012; Drama; 2500-6000; Historical RPF]

Descent by Emilyenrose

'"Marcus Tullius Cicero," said Marcus. / The secretary looked as startled as if he'd claimed to be Mithras risen. After a moment of awkward silence one of the freedmen – Marcus didn't see which – hissed, "The younger."' The characters really come alive in this timeless tale of fathers and sons who don't live up to them

[Added 27/05/2012; Drama; 6000-20,000; Historical RPF]

The Queen and the Soldier by Hafren

'She has never seen why being what the world calls old should change the way she looks at handsome young bodies.' This clever weaving together of legends brings the 10th century Queen Gunnhild to life

[Added 04/08/2011; Drama; 2500-6000; Historical RPF]

Surpassingly by Skazka

'Perhaps he's inventing something out of whole cloth to pretend he had a life before being loved.' Antinous, beautiful & beloved of an emperor, contemplates his fate. A thoughtful study of power imbalance, chilling yet plausible

[Added 28/10/2014; Romance/Erotica; 1000-2500; Historical RPF; Adult]

Irish mythology

The Three Sorrows of the Deer-Folk of Ireland by Daegaer

'Like a doe without her fawn she returned to the far off home she had made for herself. So much then for Muirne, who had no joy from her association with the clan of her son but rather only pains and sorrow. The deer of Ireland have no quarrel with her, but only pity.' A clever, unusual tale with the feel of The Silmarillion. Wonderful!

[Added 15/04/2015; Drama; 2500-6000; Irish mythology]

Jorinde and Joringel

A Congregation of Nightingales by Quillori

'Did fabled lands become real when you visited them, she wondered? Did they too have rats and sewers and endless work, or was it only her city that was really real?' Thoughtful multi-faceted tale that weaves Jorinde's story into those of other women, and touches on the role of choice & fate for women. The neat structure is shot through with gorgeous descriptive passages. (Crossover with the myth of Procne & Philomytha)

[Added 26/12/2017; Drama; 2500-6000; Jorinde and Joringel; Crossover]

Literary RPF

A Change of Season by Lnhammer

'But then as if the Empress's words were power, her own returned. Wan-er knew what she must do. If the flood was so bad that groveling would not save her, and it wouldn't, she'd go out riding bravely. / She straightened up. "One might, but one would be wrong." / The Empress's eyes narrowed. "Would one," she said dryly.' A spare, tightly structured piece set in Tang dynasty China, centered on the evolving relationship of two strong women, a poet & an empress, with sprinklings of Chinese poetry & lashings of palace intrigue

[Added 25/12/2017; Character Piece; 2500-6000; Literary RPF]

For Him I Sing by Disenchanted

'Owen, for his part, was editing a hospital literary magazine comprised largely of interminable serialised stories and advertisments for Hardy Bros. fishing rods (in one issue there was a poem which rhymed ‘laugh’ with ‘quaff’). Siegfried observed that the work seemed fascinating to Owen, whose experience with the literary world had up until now consisted solely of a friendship with a flatulent country cousin who wrote in the manner of Tennyson.' A moving joint portrait of Sassoon & Owen at Craiglockhart, anchored in sharp details. Disenchanted does a good job of portraying the two very different men as both poets & soldiers, and Sassoon's perspective on the young Owen is particularly interesting

[Added 30/10/2017; Character Piece; 2500-6000; Literary RPF]

Like fruit, my soul by Breathedout

'For once it is easy. One could make any space needed, one feels; anything needed; with one's fingers gliding fireglow-warm over the smooth glass. So simple, it appears now, to be generous. Why is one not always generous? Why does one keep oneself back so, from one's fellows, twenty-nine days out of the month?' Thoughtful & suitably erudite stream of consciousness from a tipsy Virginia Woolf, while she's revising Mrs Dalloway & contemplating Vita Sackville-West. Reads like a censored extract from her letters

[Added 25/12/2017; Character Piece; 1000-2500; Literary RPF]

Quod Me Nutrit Me Destruit by Rexluscus

'At the sight of her new husband's handiwork, the sweet-faced boy playing Zenocrate wore a bloodthirsty smile of frank erotic promise far beyond what a child of his age ought to have been able to imagine, let alone perform. It left Will feeling lightheaded.' This take on Marlowe through Shakespeare's eyes runs with the William Hughes theory for the sonnets' dedicatee. Gleefully anachronistic & enormous fun

[Added 04/10/2013; Drama; 6000-20,000; Literary RPF]

Saving Mrs. Fleming by Selena

'Truth to tell, Mary had struggled with her ending. She always did. She had also struggled with what the secret would be. Her first idea had been for Julian's father to have been a man loving other men, a Greek hero lost in the wrong era, who'd tried to live the horrible married life and failed.' Intriguing take on what might have happened had Hitchcock tried to make a film out of Renault's Return to Night. Selena knows her Hollywood & the creative differences that inevitably follow are a hoot, but the meat of the piece is Hitchcock's unexpected empathy for Renault's situation

[Added 12/08/2015; Drama; 6000-20,000; Literary RPF]

Still Climbing After Knowledge Infinite by Aquila

'The rhythm of each line drives the play forward as much as Alleyn's performance does, serves as a heartbeat underneath the action. Will's veins throb to its time; indeed, his very bones seem to pulse with it.' It's hard to capture Shakespeare the writer, but Aquila pulls it off here at the beginning of his career. But it's the snappy dialogue that really makes this piece, balancing modern & archaic, realistic & performed

[Added 29/05/2012; Romance/Erotica; 6000-20,000; Literary RPF]

Norse mythology

(Some Say the World Will) End in Fire by Gloria Mundi

The adaptable Gloria Mundi turns her attention to the Norse legends. I'm not sure the result will be for everyone, but I felt it fit well into canon and was surprisingly hot

[Added 16/12/2004; Romance/Erotica; 1000-2500; Norse mythology]

Balance to the Flame by Tristesses

'Loki gives her a thoughtful, intense look, and Sigyn feels her cheeks warm; even after all this time, all this pain, he still has this effect on her. "Do you know, I'm sure that if we tried very hard, we could find a position that allows you to hold the bowl and still lets us enjoy ourselves—"' This lighter than usual take on Sigyn & Loki's story gives plenty of insights into this oddest of couples, and grants Sigyn more power over her fate than the original

[Added 04/10/2013; Romance/Erotica; 2500-6000; Norse mythology]

The Big Sleep by Fresne

'Loki's bed was wide as the sea and covered in fire proof satin.' A noir retelling of the trickster's story

[Added 03/01/2007; Drama; 6000-20,000; Norse mythology; Adult]

A Game of Shapes by Bagheera

'It was a very good changeling, in all outward aspects exactly like Baldr. ...But Frigg, who’d never had to lose an eye to see far, took one look at it and knew the changeling for what it was.' This tale of Loki & Thor's quest to recover Baldur cleverly weaves together many different legends into a seamless & original whole

[Added 25/11/2011; Drama; 6000-20,000; Norse mythology]

Just a Trick of the Light by Barrowjane

'...the other is -- ordinary. Except he's not. He's too big for the seat, for the table, for the room.' A spare take on the modern-day gods, with a wonderfully creepy atmosphere

[Added 01/02/2011; Drama; 1000-2500; Norse mythology]

The Tale of Hljod the Giant's Daughter by Zdenka

'"If the Norns have decreed it," Hljod replied, "then no one can prevent it; but I do not think that any man will take me to wife against my will. King Rerir’s son will surely be a great warrior -- so the raven-god has told me."' An original take on the Volsung saga that weaves so deftly into the source it's hard to tell where the seams lie

[Added 08/08/2015; Drama; 2500-6000; Norse mythology]

Trickster's Game by Alchemine

'If you've slain one three-headed fire-breathing monster, you've slain them all.' Beautifully characterised & hilarious

[Added 30/12/2005; Humour; 2500-6000; Norse mythology]

Who Gathers All Things Mortal by Raspberryhunter

'Before her is a bleak plain of stone and ice, withered stumps of trees and piles of bones. But she can also see dry grass, drooping but whole trees, huddled masses of skin and fur, overlaid on the ice and bones.' An intriguing, unsettling view of Hel coming to terms with her fate

[Added 09/08/2014; Drama; 1000-2500; Norse mythology]

Science RPF

The Ordinary Operations of Nature by Sharksdontsleep

'My mother ... fears the dangers of a turned Ankle or my being lost to the Waves of the Sea. But I feel as though I must - the Divine has blessed me with some sense of these things, and I must do my part to reveal what the Creator has given us, that through hammer and chisel we might search for the evidence of Things not yet seen.' Mary Anning's correspondence with Charles Lyell starts by charting Anning's journey from sycophancy to anger, and then takes an entirely unexpected direction, which I won't spoil here. Unusual & atmospheric

[Added 25/12/2017; Character Piece; 2500-6000; Science RPF; Crossover]

The Saga of Hearthruler Whitebeard and Snowsgrace Dreamfinder by Melannen

'All knew it was a place of great power, for the Old Ones had built a massive earthen rampart around it, in the shape of the storm's lightning, and in the center of the ramparts were many great standing stones with inscriptions of wisdom on them, and more hidden knowledge as well, in places known only to the most powerful of the priests.' A hugely enjoyable fusion which places 19th C London cholera outbreak figures into an original future based on the nuclear waste disposal report -- the kind of story that's one of Yuletide's joys. The saga voice is charming, the characters shine in their odd setting, and I particularly loved the investigation. My favourite of several interesting takes on the report for Yuletide 2016

[Added 24/12/2017; Drama; 2500-6000; Science RPF]

Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio

A Roll of the Dice by Lnhammer

'The snow was deep enough, there was no sign which way the road lay, and the brothers disagreed which way to turn -- Liu pointing one way, Wang another. Liu grinned and, following their usual method for settling their disagreements, pulled out his dice cup.' A slow-burning tale that builds to a conclusion both surprising & inevitable. It works well for those, like me, who don't know the canon

[Added 14/04/2015; Drama; 2500-6000; Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio]

Songs for the Jingwei Bird by Salifiable

'When she ran out of paper, she tore off panels of cloth from her clothes, and when modesty cut short that tactic, she plucked leaves from trees she passed. When she ran out of ink, she burned twigs and used the ashes.' Three delightful tales within a tale explore themes such as reality & unreality drawn from Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, and the whole is neatly framed within the story of the Jingwei Bird. An absolute gem!

[Added 04/10/2013; Drama; 2500-6000; Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio; Crossover]

Welsh mythology

all that's best of dark and bright by Betony

'You are my son, that is true; your hair yellow as your great-uncle's gold and your belt heavy with the very blade I gave you and your hand caught in matrimony with the woman my brother created for you.' Neat reworking of the Mabinogion from Arianrhod's side, with a lovely narrative voice

[Added 30/10/2017; Character Piece; 1000-2500; Welsh mythology]

Three fillings of Prydwen by CenozoicSynapsid

'You're not supposed to think of the rest of the men, the ones who died on the way. They don't have names. They're not who the story is about.' CenozoicSynapsid uses a brilliant female viewpoint to draw parallels between Y Gododdin & The Spoils of Annwn, and by extension other acts of male heroism, in this clever & moving tale-within-a-tale

[Added 09/08/2015; Drama; 1000-2500; Welsh mythology]