Jul. 15th, 2017

avawatson: (Default)
Better known to the ao3-reading world as Back in the Day, which was part 1 of Keeliethompson1's series, Faithful Compass, all of which is now deleted from ao3. Because it's now available for purchase! So of course I bought it, because this is my favorite series by this author.

Buy it here on Amazon.

My review:

I imagine that I'm one of many folks on this page who've read an earlier version of this story and wanted to support all versions of this universe and all endeavors by this author. And to you, I think that my review goes something like this: after all this time, I still really love this story and the journey that these characters are on and LT Brady's original take on an early imagining of these two iconic characters.
 
John Watson who's young and soft, long before war and life have hardened him up, before he's learned to take command of situations, is easy to love, I find. Ridiculously sweet and horribly naive. Although ultimately, I must admit that I'm personally a total sucker for the character of Sherlock, and I relate enormously to his compulsion to protect John (even from himself). I've long been fascinated by this Sherlock and all his idiosyncratic sharpness (and moments of softness). None of that has changed, and that's what I'm here for, all the ways that they find each other and get together.
 
But to readers who may have never come across this story or this author, I've been thinking of what might be useful to go into and it's been throwing me for a loop. I would guess such readers would come from one of two basic places: an interest in an LGBT story and an interest in a Sherlock Holmes story. So I'll direct my comments in two different sort of directions.
 
 
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I think fans of LGBT romance who aren't big Sherlock Holmes fans will enjoy this story enormously. Because if you squint, they're very close to being original characters, given the university setting and age lowering. This particular John Watson isn't terribly much like the John Watsons you might know from Arthur Conan Doyle's 60 stories, from Jude Law in Guy Ritchie's films, from Martin Freeman in BBC Sherlock (and definitely not Lucy Liu in Elementary). He's SO much younger and...I don't want to say dumb, but he's an innocent. An innocent with a drinking habit anyway. He's only 20-21 in this story and he's just got *so far* to go before he's the Watson you've heard about in those other stories, the competent army doctor who can take command in emergencies and warzones (and Sherlock, when the situation calls for it).
 

And Sherlock in this story is also similarly removed from the contexts you usually find him in. He does definitely do the deductions you learn to expect from any Sherlock Holmes in any universe, but he's not an actual consulting detective -- not yet anyway, due to the timing of this particular story. He's only in his 20s as well, and he's just not *the* Sherlock Holmes from any of those franchises; he hasn't found his calling. He's committing crimes more than solving them, which I find delightful if I'm honest. But what he has found -- is John. And that's the story that I'm here for. I find this coupling to be full of fresh possibilities, and their sexual tension, burgeoning feelings, control issues, and substance abuse paint a rich story even without any kind of mystery or crime-solving (although there is that as well). The emotional throughline of Sherlock in this story is one of my favorite things about it, even if (and especially if!) it's actually experienced through John. It's a wonderful feat of writing, and LT Brady does it all the time.
 

This being a romance and all, I do think that explicit-rated fanfiction will often *not* fade to black as much as this story does; if you're looking for sex every chapter, then you should probably keep on moving. Which isn't to say that there isn't explicit sex here, but it's the setting, story, emotion, and struggle that are the main event, and less so crazy hot banging on every surface in London.
 

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For fans of a very canon-focused Sherlock Holmes...I thought about you a lot during my most recent reread, to tell you the truth, and I'm still not sure what to say. To like this story, you must be open to them getting together sexually and romantically (in case the summary doesn't make this obvious), which means interpreting all the tension between them as sexual, for a start. And you must be open to John Watson being something of a happy-go-lucky college kid who gets sloppy drunk...not even sometimes. A lot. And that may stretch the imagination if you're used to picturing him as a stodgy Victorian who smokes pipes in front of the fire and constantly ejaculating (*ahem*) his amazement at Holmes' deductions.
 

In a way, I think it might be helpful to be an adherent of the bumbling Watson characterization that's popular in some adaptations, because there's arguably a straighter line between that idea of Watson and this John than there is between, say, Martin Freeman or Jude Law's considerably snarkier and sharper (and more mature) John Watsons and this one. But ultimately, I think you need to be a big fan of John Watson to get into this story; you need to accept his unsuspecting, disarming brilliance as what draws Sherlock Holmes to him, even if it's not something you necessarily got from the books. But if you can picture Sherlock Holmes meeting a limping army doctor who was down on his luck, with no money, perhaps a bit of a gambling habit and a danger streak, and him saying "yes, this one, I would like to keep him," then you should see that all the more clearly that when this Sherlock does the same with this John, even against his own better judgment. If you can read that initial meeting in the 19th century as something star-crossed and romantic, then this is a beautiful reimagining of their relationship, just with gay clubs and unhealthy uni food thrown into the mix.
 

I suspect canon fans will also delight in seeing certain characters and references revealed, and a very imaginative delving into Holmes' cocaine and opium use (heroin in this case), which is never delved into enough and not often imagined in a modern context.
 

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P.S. I'm attaching photos of the physical copy of the book I purchased in addition to the Kindle ebook. It probably shouldn't have surprised me, but the physical thickness of it took me aback when I first opened up the package!

Pictures of the physical book under the cut )

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