Fidus Amicus

Author at Wolfpup's Den

Blair's Choice (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 17th January 2001 (1)
Tags: Novelette

This story is a total angst fest. We have angst coming out of our ears. Mind you, it isn't over-the-top angst, and it is built up nicely with present-time vigil and past-time flashbacks which show how we got there. The opening is very dramatic:

"Damn him to hell," I swear softly, but with enough vehemence that it resounds within the confines of the ICU room. I cringe at the outburst, but the fear and anger remain.

Jim and Blair are good here. I liked the bit at the start where Blair argues with Jim about his hovering, which then causes Jim to later ignore something he shouldn't have... I also particularly liked the bits from the point of view of Simon, Joel and Megan.

However, I am getting a bit tired of the "Bracket is released in order to be recruited by some black-ops outfit" scenario; nobody with any sense at all would trust him, he's a tool that will turn in the hand, and they know that. He's already murdered an agent -- why would any agency be loony enough to recruit such a betrayer? That aside, the way Brackett was used here was very skillful, playing games and manipulating the situation for his own benefit.

There's a few bits of non-canon fanon here, like the "Jim was a right bastard until he was reformed by Blair" one, and the "Jim can't function as a Sentinel safely without Blair nearby" one. I also noticed they seem to call Blair the kid quite alot, and while this is arguably canon, I'm not comfortable with it.

The theme here is, of course, Blair's choice. Or, I should say, Blair's choices, and letting him have them, even when everyone else wishes he would take the easier, more comfortable way. Absolutely brave, plucky unbending Blair.

Blair made a face. "You can be so dense sometimes, big guy. I'm not going to lie in bed for three days just for an extra couple of hours of lying in bed."

This story won the SentinelAngst Creative Endeavour contest.

Addendum: nominated for favourite angst story in the 2001 Cascade Times Awards.

Four Play (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 28th March 2002 (1)
Tags: Novel

This is a looong case story with politics, attempted murder, a femme fatale, shady business dealings, frame-ups, forgetting, remembering, a cute streetwise girl, a Sentinel-Guide connection, Sentinel sense use, Jim clenching his jaw, hugs, life lost, life saved, banter -- oh, and golf. A good solid story, though I could see some things coming a mile off, it was still nice to curl up with.

Lookin' For Eight (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 28th March 2002 (2)
Tags: Novella

This is another Jim-didn't-meet-Blair-in-Switchman Alternative Universe story from this author; it takes a slightly different tack from her "Road Not Travelled" universe, in that Jim still managed to save the day in Switchman, but asks for time off. The other difference is in what happened to Blair before that point, but you can read the story to find that out. As is not surprising for this author, we have an "instant instinct" Sentinel-Guide connection as soon as Jim and Blair meet; an easing of Jim's senses by Blair's presence, a protective instinct, and an instant friendship. I get bothered by that kind of thing in Alternative History stories because as far as I can see, that changes the "rules" of the universe, since I don't believe the "instant instinct" thing happened in canon, however much people like to read that interpretation back into the text. With Parallel Universe things it often doesn't bug me, because I feel there's more freedom there to change the "rules" since one is changing the setting radically. All that said, however, it was only a minor irritation, and I like this author's stuff so much anyway, I just live with it. And what was the "stuff" here that I liked? Two structural things stood out: the meaning of the title was cool, and the parallel between Blair's situation and Jim's situation, where both of them have to admit that they need help. I loved the repetition of Jim's line that he's helping "because he wants to, not because he has to". And it is nice to watch Jim and Blair being friends. Also for those who have a visual imagination, consider Jim in cowboy gear (grin).

A Soldier in the Rain (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 19th December 2000
Tags: Novelette

I enjoyed this story very much. It was about friendship, friendship, friendship! Not only Blair's friendship with Jim, but the friendship Jim forms with the guest-character Brian was lovely to see unfold. Angst (the warning of "extreme angst" actually scared me away from this story, but then someone recommended it, so I had a go and I'm very glad I did) and smarm. This has a Sentinel/Guide connection, which the author didn't bash you over the head with, which was good. Good characterisation, both Blair and Jim -- Jim was a recognisable Jim even in the situation he was in.

The next day, Jake sat in a corner of the community room on the floor, rocking back and forth as he stared at the monster fly climbing up the wall. Its buzzing filled all of Jake's hearing. None of the other twenty people in the large recreation room seemed to notice it, but it held Jake's entire attention. His bladder told him he should get up and go to the bathroom, but he couldn't leave. If he did, the fly might hurt someone. He had to protect the people.

The actual setup of the situation I found a bit hard to believe; I must admit I had assumed that it was Evil Government Men-in-black who had done it, and was a bit surprised to find it was one man. But that's a minor quibble compared to the rest.

Addendum: nominated for favourite angst story in the 2001 Cascade Times Awards.

The Sounds of Silence (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 13th October 2000 (1)

The summary declares this to be Blind Man's Bluff with another sense, and the title makes it clear what sense that is. This sounded intriguing, and was set up well. Unfortunately for my suspension of disbelief, however, this story belongs to the school of thought that says that Jim not only listens to Blair's heartbeat habitually, but uses the sound as an anchor to help him with his senses and prevent him from zoning. So a deaf Jim starts panicking and losing control of his senses when Blair is outside of touching-distance (touch enabling him to feel Blair's pulse). It's all very hurt/comfort-y, but I simply can't buy it. We already know from canon that Jim is perfectly capable of using his senses without Blair being there, even in Blind Man's Bluff, when he was crippled in one sense. If you don't have any problem with this heartbeat thing, then you will enjoy this story. The resolution is clever, and there's good character and senses stuff along the way.

Addendum: nominated for favourite long story in the 2001 Cascade Times Awards.

Road Not Travelled

(1) The Road Not Travelled (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 13th October 2000 (2)
Tags: Novella

This is an alternative universe story which explores the question of "what if Blair didn't meet Jim in Switchman?". I've read others on this theme, and this one again does what those others have done: declare that the bond between Sentinel and Guide is an instinct that comes into play as soon as they meet. Normally that's not an idea that I go for at all, but this author has done things so well, that I don't care. The opening scene where Blair first sees Jim is simply riveting.
    "Who's that?" Blair asked.
    Peter followed Blair's forefinger and squinted at the man. He removed his pipe and tamped down nonexistent tobacco. "Nobody you'd want to know, Blair, lad."
    Startled, Blair swung his head around to meet Peter's unusually somber eyes. "Why?"
    "He's cursed," Peter finally replied, his voice low as if imparting some horrible knowledge.
    "Cursed?" Blair's gaze drifted back to the stranger in spite of himself.
    "Don't go looking at him, Blair. It's said his eyes are colder than the blackest ocean and can turn a body to stone." Fear flickered in the man's expression.

Blair is drawn to Jim in spite of the warnings, in spite of Jim's own hostility -- and it is something wonderful to see. This is full of Jim angst (and I like Jim angst, I must admit) and is well-written. I look forward to the next story in the series.

Addendum: nominated for favourite alternate universe story 2001 Cascade Times Awards

(2) Paved With Good Intentions (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 13th March 2001
Tags: Novelette

This is the next story in the "Road Not Travelled" AU series, and I've been looking forward to it. Again, this author proves that she can write Jim and Blair wonderfully and angstily. I wasn't sure at first if her Simon was in character, but the author managed to retrieve the situation quite nicely. And there was a great bit with Jim and Blair where Blair was lying to save face, and Jim caught him on it.

On the downside, this Jim is more prone to zone-outs and sensory spikes than canon-Jim. We have the fannish cliche that Blair and Jim have to be joined at the hip or Jim can't function. But I can rationalize part of that by saying that Jim got worse than he was in Switchman because Blair wasn't around to teach him how to control it all. Also I felt a bit as if the visions were happening a bit too soon (and why was Blair seeing things, too, huh?) But visions are cool, too, and were decently subtle.

I was a bit thrown by the bit about lie-detectors, because I was thinking of the kind of lie-detector which measures how much someone is sweating (the electrical conductivity of the skin changes when a person sweats more) whereas here the reference was to lie-detectors which measure pulse, which I wasn't familiar with. There are three physiological indicators that someone is lying: (a) they start sweating (b) their heart-rate jumps (c) their pupils dilate. If I recall correctly, in canon, the first time Jim tried lie-detecting, he used all three indicators (or at least, the first two) to tell if the witness was lying. Later it became simpler (or possibly cheaper on the SFX budget) to just use the heart-rate as the lying-test.

Ah, lovely angst -- where Jim feels he doesn't deserve Blair, and Blair isn't sure, doesn't want to admit how drawn he is to Jim, that this could be more than just a temporary arrangement.
    "God, Chief, how can I live like this? I mean, I thought I had gained control and something as simple as a pen clicking throws it all out the window."
    Blair grasped his arms, feeling the rigid muscles beneath the layers of cloth. "You are gaining control, Jim. Remember when we got back to Cascade? You couldn't leave your apartment without zoning. Think how far you've come, Jim."
    "But will it ever be far enough?" Jim asked, his voice husky.
    The student wanted to reassure him and tell him that total control would happen in time, but he would be lying. As he had admitted earlier, he was flying by the seat of his pants -- following some weird intuition to help the sentinel. "I don't know," Blair finally answered honestly, and added with more than a hint of reluctance. "Maybe a sentinel will always need someone to help them with his or her senses."
    Jim rubbed his brow, his expression a study in frustration and despair. "Just because I'm some kind of throwback doesn't mean you or someone else has to be dragged down with me." He spun around. "Come on. We have to get to the station."

Oh, yes, there was a plot here too, just in case I'm giving the impression that it's all just talk and angst. Some parts of it seemed a little improbable, because there was no hint of it before, but it was still fine. And I really liked the development at the end; I'm really looking forward to the next part, seeing how that pans out.

Addendum: nominated for favourite long story in the 2001 Cascade Times Awards.

(3) Blind Intersection (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 26th October 2003 (1)
Tags: Novella

This is the third story in the AU series where Jim and Blair meet in a different way. Since it had been a while since the last part, I went and re-read the previous two parts before I read this one. Some things I noticed a bit more than I had before, such as that Our Heroes seem to be seeing the wrong spirit guides! For example, that Blair sees a panther when Jim is in trouble, which doesn't quite seem to fit with the traditional idea of a spirit guide... Also, remember that this series uses an instant-instinct Sentinel-Guide bond and dials with numbers on them; just in case you're not into that level of fanon.

In this story, Jim and Blair get their first case... and it seems to lead them up blind alleys and dead ends. An over-protective Jim adds to Blair's frustration, but little does he know that soon he's going to have a lot more to worry about, and one over-protective Sentinel is his only hope...

This one didn't work quite so well for me as the others. On the one hand, the mystery was nicely set up, and we have a good mix of understanding and misunderstanding between Jim and Blair. However the things that happened when Blair was kidnapped were just too much, like something out of a hurt/comfort novel, not something real. I couldn't believe it.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra Holiday Trilogy

(1) Between Friends (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 25th May 2001 (1)

This is called the Trans-Siberian Orchestra Holiday trilogy because all three stories are based on songs by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. As ever, Fidus Amicus shows her mastery of good Jim-angst, with a dose of affirmation at the end. It makes me go "Awwwwww". These guys care about each other... and poor Jim winds himself up so tight...

(2) The World that She Sees (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 25th May 2001 (2)

This story opens well:
    "How can you see anything?" Blair asked, one hand braced on the dash and the other against the door of Jim's Ford Expedition. Realizing what he'd said, he suddenly laughed. "Duh, you're a sentinel."
    "Good guess, Darwin," Jim tossed back, though he didn't shift his gaze from the dim taillights of the car in front of him.

Another one full of angst and smarm. I like that this is a noble Jim but not a Saint!Jim. He pushes himself for others, but he's only human. And Blair is right there, caring but not a doormat.

(3) The Snow Came Down (Sentinel)

Reviewed by Kathryn A on 25th May 2001 (3)

I stumbled a little on the Jim-zones-when-Blair's-not-there stuff; but apart from that, it's another good sniffly dose of angst and smarm. Jim alone at Christmas, and he did it to himself, for the good of Blair, but he's missing him...