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Following are the five-star recommendations for February, 2010. You can find these stories tagged on Delicious under the ***** tag, where you can further explore by navigating the tags. You can also find all the five-star rec posts on this journal under the five-star recs tag (five-star recs tag on Livejournal).

Since I've recommended a few older stories in this batch, I've split the post up into older and newer stories and also added publication dates to all the stories.

Five-Star Recommendations for February, 2010

Older Stories

Title: It'll End in Tears
Author: [livejournal.com profile] invisible_lift
Fandom: Torchwood
Date Published: April 23, 2009
Characters and Pairings: Ianto/Andy, Jack/Ianto, Jack/Ianto/Andy, Team
Rating: NC-17
Length: 75,000-100,000 words
Summary: An idea that wouldn't die, encouraged into bearing fruit by szm's anti-ship war.

Comments: Jack is encouraging Ianto to push his boundaries, and Ianto does so by entering into a relationship with Andy, one involving BDSM. While this does, in fact, result in a lot of really well-written, hot sex, the story is much more about the dynamic between Ianto, Andy and Jack. These are three screwed-up men living in a hopelessly screwed-up world, and the author has done a fantastic job of exploring their emotions and issues. Things aren't easy or smooth or even fair, especially for Andy, and issues of trust and responsibility are a steady, painful theme throughout the story. There are no quick fixes--at least, not ones that work--and the strength of this story lies in watching Ianto, Andy and Jack work through their very real, very human relationships.

Title: Waltzing the Bruise, the Mechanism Unspools
Author: [livejournal.com profile] kayliemalinza
Fandom: Torchwood
Date Published: September 2, 2008
Characters and Pairings: Jack/Ianto
Rating: PG-13
Length: 1,000-5,000
Summary: Jack and Ianto negotiate their new "official" relationship through a series of dates. Ianto's gun-shy, Jack's secretive, and they're both trying as hard as they can.

Comments: Jack and Ianto's relationship grew behind the scenes during series two, and this story takes us into some of those unseen moments. In this story, though, "date" is sometimes a euphemism for "arguing," and also for "negotiating" and "sharing secrets." We know that Jack confides certain things in Ianto, and this story shows how that happens and why. But Ianto is more of a cipher in canon, and that story deals with the reasons for that, as well. This is an insightful piece of character study, taking canon events and building on them in the background to show how Jack and Ianto changed each other.

Title: From Which Come All Things
Author: [livejournal.com profile] mclachlan
Fandom: Torchwood
Date Published: May 5, 2008
Characters and Pairings: Ianto, Jack/Ianto, Team, John Hart
Rating: PG-13
Length: 25,000-50,000 words
Summary: From the chaos, life.

Comments: This is not your everyday Torchwood story. I admit, I made the mistake of approaching this story as a traditional narrative the first couple of times I tried to read it, and stopped in frustration because I wasn't getting all the answers in order when I thought I should expect them. Then [livejournal.com profile] torchwood_house (bless them) brought it to my attention again and this time I let the story take me where it wanted to go instead of trying to force it to be what I wanted. It worked much better that way. It's a truly amazing piece of work, and one of the reasons I gave it three tries was that I was so intrigued by so many things the author was doing. I especially enjoyed the way the story built slowly, allowing the characters to grow and develop, particularly John Hart. One of the particular strengths is that, while the story might involve epic matters of universal good and evil, it's also played out in the basic human emotions of of the characters and their desire to protect the ones they love. The author had a long way to go with the story, and took the time to get the reader there gradually and logically. This is an excellent example of plot development, characterization and world building, well worth the label of fandom classic. Please don't make my mistake and expect an ordinary tale from this. Let go and enjoy it for what it is.

Title: Threads That Are Golden Don't Break Easily
Author: [livejournal.com profile] paperclipbitch
Fandom: Torchwood/Chronicles of Narnia crossover
Date Published: July 31, 2008
Characters and Pairings: Eventual Jack/Susan [hints at past Susan/Caspian and past Jack/Digory]
Rating: PG-13
Length: 5,000-10,000 words
Summary: Susan meets Captain Harkness at various points in her life.

Comments: Susan is the odd one out of the Pevensie children, and this story gives some telling insight into how and why that might be. In the books, Susan is portrayed as bossy and somewhat shallow, ultimately dismissing the magic of Narnia as a child's game. This story doesn't ignore that, but instead provides an alternative take on Susan, showing that it might have been the longing for Narnia, rather than the desire to forget it, that shaped her path in life. Jack and Torchwood turn out to dovetail nicely into Susan's needs and wants, and her relationship with Jack turns into a commentary on both her life and the world outside Narnia.

Current Stories

Title: WYSIWYG
Author: [livejournal.com profile] cupidsbow
Fandom: Torchwood
Date Published: February 11, 2010
Characters and Pairings: Ianto/Lisa, Jack/Ianto
Rating: PG-13
Length: 1,000-5,000 words
Summary: Here's the thing about Ianto Jones: what you see, is what you get

Comments: This is a perfect little gem of a story, not a single word wasted. It reads as a character study of Ianto--which in some ways it is--but it's also very much a study of the people around him and by extension a study of the human race. I have a weakness for good vignettes, and this story is told in a series of very, very good vignettes, all of them adding their own piece to the story until it's complete. It's a lovely piece that demands to be read and re-read.

Title: Pons Asinorum (Elefuga)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] curriejean
Fandom: Torchwood
Date Published: February 7, 2010
Characters and Pairings: Tosh, Jack, Ianto
Rating: PG-13
Length: 1,000-5,000 words
Summary: Geometry. | Ianto, blank-faced, is carrying the dead men's mouths and the dead men's mouths' roses. | Post-Small Worlds | Follows The Treachery of Images.

Comments: There really aren't enough post-Small Worlds stories out there, nor are there enough Tosh-centric stories. The fact that this story provides both is just icing on the proverbial cake of this lovely, beautifully written piece. The story begins with Tosh, Ianto and Jack in the Hub after the others have gone home, but what happens in this story actually doesn't matter so much. What does matter are the author's descriptions and the characters' reactions and Tosh's feelings about it all. It's the kind of story where the reader can just let go and ride along and not worry too much about trying to figure out what's going on. I recommend just wallowing in the wonderful writing and sensual images and enjoying the hell out of the journey.

Title: Dovegrey and Crystalline
Author: [livejournal.com profile] jenwryn
Fandom: Torchwood
Date Published: February 17, 2010
Characters and Pairings: Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys
Rating: G
Length: 500-1,000 words
Summary: The thing about life is that it never runs in a straight line.

Comments: I think there's a rule that really good stories have to be difficult to describe, and difficult to review without giving things away. What I can say is that this vignette does what vignettes do best, which is to show the entire world in that tiny little slice of life. In just a few words, the author paints a stunning portrait of Gwen, Rhys, Jack and Ianto, one that's sweet and funny and heartbreaking. This is a great piece of writing, the kind that builds so subtly that the reader doesn't even realize where the story is going until it's already gotten there. So well done.

Title: Madrigal dei Traditori
Author: [livejournal.com profile] nancybrown
Fandom: Torchwood
Date Published: February 25, 2010
Characters and Pairings: Jack/Ianto/Lisa, Gwen/Rhys, Tosh/Mickey, Original characters, Various Whoverse characters
Rating: R
Length: 50,000-75,000 words
Summary: Putting one's thumb on the scale of history is generally considered a bad idea.

Comments: This story does two things that are usually notoriously hard to pull off in fanfiction: First, re-telling the narrative from different points of view and second, involving original characters as major players in the action. Nancy Brown gets both these things done in ways that make them essential parts of story, instead of distractions from it. The multiple narrative is so well-done (and once you've read the story, you'll realize that I mean that in a lot of different ways), filling in the pieces like a jigsaw puzzle until it all falls into place. The original characters are served up in just the right proportions, each of them filling their roles, whether great or small, without ever overwhelming the story. This is something I've always really enjoyed about Nancy Brown's work, that she obviously crafts extensive backgrounds, and yet uses only what's needed, letting the richness of her imagination fill in the gaps.

Title: The Cricket and the Bird
Author: [livejournal.com profile] solsticezero
Fandom: Torchwood
Date Published: February 2, 2010
Characters and Pairings: Jack/Ianto
Rating: PG
Length: 1,000-5,000 words
Summary: On the nature of immortality and the longevity of birds.

Comments: First, this is beautifully written. Second, this is a gorgeously painful look at Jack's immortality, and what it means for both Jack and Ianto and their relationship. It's a tricky thing to have a profound philosophical discussion on the nature of immortality without being pretentious or boring, but solsticezero's writing doesn't falter for a second. She has turned the philosophy into something human and heartbreaking, worth every word.

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