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? Hell Is Empty by ashotofjac, rhaegar/lyanna & cast, 198.9k
Still unmarried and unbetrothed, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen is urged to find a bride at the tourney at Harrenhal. With King Aerys growing more unhinged as each day passes, the Dragon Prince must secure his line in order to overthrow the Mad King. Lyanna Stark is chosen to wed the prince, much to her displeasure, and must leave the North to play princess with the dragons. But she quickly learns that the fire burns deadly in the royal family, and winter has no place in King's Landing. Hell, she finds, is empty and all the devils are at Court.
One of the things that keeps me coming back to fandoms with heavy backstory is that point where everything went wrong, the point where everything else spirals out from--and with ASOIAF, it's the Rhaegar/Lyanna pairing and what that did to the Seven Kingdoms, which means that naturally I have fallen in love with the What If...? of them. This is a fic that's entirely centered on their relationship, it's not an easy one, it's difficult and trying, but it gives them a path towards a different outcome. I do wish that Elia had been treated a little more kindly (though, she's hardly villified terribly), but I appreciate that the fic takes a different path, where she and Rhaegar were never married, that instead Rhaegar married Lyanna first and so his attempt to overthrow his father is a bit more successful here.
The story is, at its heart, about these two and their difficult marriage, the path from an initial attraction to being thrown together far too quickly, to trying to make a life from the horrible circumstances (especially with Aerys making life so harsh), but the fic also does a really great job of showing them interacting with others, of showing that this really is a long, terrible path for these characters. I greatly enjoyed the slow burn of Rhaegar/Lyanna, how Lyanna feels so incredibly willful and stubborn, how Rhaegar is trying to balance everything in his life, how Lyanna forms a friendship with Jaime that's actually super great, how Lyanna comes to be so very close with Rhaella, how Viserys is both annoying and delightful as a child. I got sucked into this fic and just kept turning page after page after page because the fic really was invested in creating a whole story for these two, it was really invested in working with what we know of canon, keeping so many echoes of it, but turning things just differently enough to change their fates.
If you've ever wanted a fic where Rhaegar/Lyanna worked out, not easily but through a long, long road of loss and love and heartbreak and hope, I think this is the one. The writing is lovely, it's entirely easy to just sink right into from the beginning, and I appreciate so much of what this fic did, that both of them are flawed characters, who could have gone down the hellish path of canon, but could also have walked this one instead, with just a few little nudges. A really, really fantastic fic and I cannot wait to sink myself into the sequel!
? To Go Forward by togo, jon & cast, time travel, 67.7k wip
Jon Snow wakes up in Winterfell, two years in the past. He struggles with his knowledge of the upcoming wars, the mystery of his mother's forgotten letters, and the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised. How much time does he have until the Others invade Westeros?
I picked this one up because a) I am super into all R+L=J fic and b) time travel ASOIAF fic? GIMME. And, oh, boy, this one did not disappoint. Jon wakes up years in the past after being stabbed to death, remembering all of what's to come and trying to do his best to change things without giving away what he knows, because no one would believe him. And, of course, it's ASOIAF, hellish things are going to happen, but he is at least able to get Sansa and Arya out of King's Landing so Ned doesn't get trapped by worrying about their welfare, which changes so much, as well as Jon becomes wrapped up in the mystery of some old letters he stumbled over, wrapped up in a Targaryen symbol, in an unused tower of Winterfell. It's a slow burn to the realization, it takes until chapter 12 or 13 for everything to come spilling out, but it's so satisfying when it does, because it's just horrible and because they can't hide it anymore and it means everything is going to crack open and things will have to move.
I read the first 13 chapters in one sitting practically because I was so engrossed, because it does the time travel aspect so well, where the first time around meant something, but things are skewing off track now. I loved this fic because, oh, it has such a wonderful portrayal of Jon and Sam's friendship, I love it because this feels so very much like Jon to me, someone who doesn't want all of this being put on his shoulders, who hates what he's found out, because the one thing he at least had was that Ned was his father, and now even that's been taken from him. The writing is absolutely lovely in this fic and I cannot wait for Jon to have to go to Essos, I cannot wait for him to meet Daenerys, I cannot wait for all the epic shit to start coming down, given what Jon knows is coming about the Others and how he's trying to save everyone, while not wanting to be a leader. It's so, so satisfying a read already, even if the cliffhangers are probably going to be terrible for me now that I've caught up!
? Dead Man Walking by manic_intent, jaime/daenerys & cast, 10.7k
Jaime supposes that he really shouldn't be surprised in the least when he finds his little brother waiting for him outside the Great Hall of Storm's End. Tyrion is dressed almost all in black, with a long-sleeved jacket over leather breeches, all well-made, and high over his heart is pinned the only dash of colour: a dragon's claw, in rose gold. "Look at you," Jaime says dryly, perhaps a little recklessly. "Hand of the Queen."
I read this one awhile back and I'm not sure what prompted me to pick this one up, other than perhaps that I was curious about the pairing, as well as I'm always here for Daenerys having succeeded at taking back her throne, but I really enjoyed it a lot. I wouldn't have thought I'd be this into the idea of Jaime as one of the heads of the dragon, but it was pretty great and I found I really enjoyed his interaction with Daenerys and the future this story gave for Westeros.
? Love and Honor by DKNC, ned/catelyn & stark family & cast, 896.1k
What if Ned wasn't beheaded in King's Landing and Catelyn didn't die at the Red Wedding?
I know I haven't finished this fic yet, but I think I made it somewhere close to halfway last time I checked (I go in and out with ASOIAF fandom) but that was enough to be at least two (regular-sized) novels worth and it was enough to know that I really, really loved this fic a lot. It definitely comes with Ned/Catelyn as the heart of it, the author is very much into their relationship as the center of the story, but that doesn't mean the rest of things are skipped over, it doesn't mean that this isn't an incredibly huge, plotful story about the Starks getting shit back on track. The thing that sucked me into the story was that Ned lived in a way that I found worked really well for me, it was interesting and wasn't too easy, this is still an uphill battle for everyone, but the fic knew how to build up the tension of the looming reunions so that I was practically dancing in my seat to get to them already and then being so satified when they finally happened! In a fic like this, nailing the reunions of the characters was really important to me, because that's half of what I was here for, to see Ned reunited with his family, to see the Starks collecting up their children again, one by one, after they were scattered to such distant corners of the kingdom. I was here for how it took so much work for each and every one of them to be found again, but that made it all the more worthwhile.
This is an incredibly long fic, but that's because it does the slow burn work needed for a really epic story and it's so easy to sink into and just get lost in, it's so thorough (mostly) without feeling like it's just adding more words for the sake of it, this is about the plot (and many events of canon happen the same because Ned is thought dead for a long time even after the first book). I will say that the Ned/Cat stuff is far more prominent than you might otherwise expect, the fic is very much a shipping fic, but if you're into the pairing, it's certainly good stuff!
? Rebellion, Treason and Plot by joely_jo, rhaegar/lyanna & ned/catelyn & cast, 71.2k wip
Amid the turbulent waters of the Trident, a simple twist of fate allows the path of the Rebellion to alter – Prince Rhaegar Targaryen kills Robert Baratheon with a sword strike to the chest and the Royalist forces emerge victorious. But for the leaders of the Rebellion, and their families, the future suddenly looks very bleak.
This is a WIP that hasn't been updated since 2014 and so may not be anything more than what it is, but I found that it worked really well for what it is (Rhaegar wins at the Trident and becomes king, his family still died during the battle, but Lyanna and their child live) and it was so good for what I wanted: An AU where Rhaegar won and everything had to keep moving forward. I really, really loved the balance struck between plot and the bits of character relationships, that it's not really focused on romance, but the romantic pairings are important, that they're there just enough to be satisfying (for both pairings! it made me fall in love with them all the more), but even more I loved that this fic tackled what to do with those that survived who sided against Rhaegar. I love that it doesn't forget Elia, that her family is still very much present, that Rhaegar may love Lyanna, but he's heartbroken about what happened to Elia. I love that this Ned Stark felt so spot on to me, that he struggles with such a difficult situation, but he's such an honorable man that that always shines through. I love that no one here is perfect, I love that there's still so much pain and suffering, because it is Westeros after all, but that maybe things might be heading towards good again.
I read this entire fic in about two sittings and was just entirely enthralled with it the whole way through, I love that it's a fic that's directly about what if Rhaegar had won and what that would mean for the Seven Kingdoms, what that would mean for the Starks and everyone else, I love that the writing was really easy to just slip right into, I love that I fell in love with all these characters, that I became so invested in the relationships between the characters, that I'd never really read much of Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned Stark talking to each other, but each conversation they had here was spot on. I love love love how incredible Cat was in this fic, what stretch of character and purpose she has, even in the early, uncertain days of her marriage with Ned, I loved every inch of her here, she was spot on as well. I love that Rhaegar is a good man, but he's not perfect, and he certainly is obsessed with the prophecy, I love that Lyanna is so willful and stubborn and flawed yet it's easy to love her. I just really, really loved everything about this fic and all the good stuff it gave me already.