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- Final Fantasy 8 - A Game of Cards by Ellcrys - I admit that I don't really know a whole lot about FF8, but Noel has gotten me into the series, given me primers on the characters, so I know enough to at least start feeling my way out for fanfic--and given that I absolutely adore the author's Get Backers fanfic, I figured I'd give this one a shot. And what I love about the fic is that it's quiet and subtle, but says so much because of that. I liked the soft, subtle characterizations, no major melodrama, it was just a quiet moment before the storm. And, of course, I love the little mentions of everything that had happened to Squall up to that point, the bits and pieces and people from his past being brought to mind through this game, the hints for things that'll be revealed in the future, and so on. Was lovely. (No pairings/warnings.)

- Final Fantasy VII/Final Fantasy VIII - Bandages by Konitsu - It is difficult to explain my affection for this story without resorting to squeaking noises because it was so good. It was one of those all-rounder stories that just... damn, did it hit all the right buttons. Sparkling characterization, lovely writing, genuinely funny humor, plot, gorgeous Sephiroth machinations, gorgeous Cloud angst, brilliant weaving of the two worlds together, and more. Everything about this story makes me burble happily, I don't know if I could pick out any one thing. But I'll try, of course. For starters, the characterization. Oh, god, the characterization. I could actually see and hear these characters, they have all the little touches that make them who they are and yet not devolving into stereotypes--Cloud is angsty and tortured, but he has damned good reason and he's a resilient little bastard. Zack's voice in his head is just absolutely, utterly gorgeous, you can feel his character, his charm and charisma and caring, coming through just in the dialogue. The dynamic between Cloud and Zack is just... awesome. *squees* Sephiroth is actually properly creepy and insane, but still that something to him when dealing with Cloud. And. Oh. God. Vincent. Cid and Vincent and the brilliant subtlty and hints and dialogue and interaction and dynamic and it's just so breathtakingly good.

Then there's the FFVIII side of things and, holy shit, did this story give me an insane love of Zell Dincht. He's bright and funny and adorable and just a bit of a dork, but still such a good fighter, a good friend, and smart and chapter seven (I think it was seven?) had me laughing so hard, I couldn't read for awhile, I just had to turn my face away and cackle. I love him so, so much. And, oh, god, somehow the fic manages to make Squall interesting, even being all broody and shit as he is, he's actually a person, a rather likable one at that, the author does a brilliant job of writing his character, of how he feels about Rinoa, about his Garden, about his life and making the character work. How she plays him off Cloud, how they clash and the interaction is so natural, it's breath-taking. She also makes Rinoa work, giving me even more fondness for the character, not making the Squall/Rinoa relationship perfect, but still very genuine. She even makes Seifer interesting and, god, did I love the interaction with Tifa, who is another brilliantly herself, kind and caring and feeling guilty or angry or happy. I admit, I was a little wary of Tifa-bashing towards the beginning, but the later chapters with her are lovely, so I'm not quibbling. <3

Then you add in that there's actually a plot going on, that the romantic tangles actually tend to work together with the plot or take a back seat to it and the crossover just... it works so well, I can see it so easily, the characters fit together so seamlessly. Now, I admit, the writing started off with just a hint of stiffness, but the only reason I even notice is because the later chapters are so sharp and every chapter just keeps getting better and better. I was literally kicking my feet in excitement by the end of chapter eight and then the end of chapter nine and, god, if I have one complaint about this story, it's that I don't have the next chapter yet! *chews on the furniture in anticipation* Okay, I can forgive a lot from the FF7 fandom now that I have shiny crossover fic. *___* Loved this one. (Sephiroth/Cloud, Squall/Rinoa, some Cid/Vincent, hints of other pairings here and there, none of them are entirely the point of the fic.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - untitled by grayout - I was a little wary of this fic at first, I wasn't sure Seifer would actually say the things he said... until he kept going and then this fic suddenly clicked right into place for me and it just worked. This is why I have such a fondess for Seifer, even if he is a stupid, arrogant bastard much of the time. He goes through more than a lot of people may realize at first and Zell is a great choice to play off him in this scene. This fic is also fantastic because there's just enough violence, a real hard edge to it that's backed up by harsh movements, hitting things and knocking things over, there's real anger in this that was necessary to make the fic work. There's a real point to this fic, one that gives a bit of depth to the characters and that makes it all the more interesting. *__* (Seifer/Zell, but there's no romance involved.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Misery and Company by Gen X - *squees* Seifer/Zell dialogue fic! Well, it's not really Seifer/Zell, it's gen more than anything, but I have such love for their dynamic. I tend to be wary of dialogue-only fics, just because I like a little bit of prose around them better, but this one was just so sparkly and clear with their voices that it didn't need the prose. You know how sometimes you can tell the author is trying too hard to get the facial expressions across through the words and it ends up being awkward and the dialogue sounds stilted? This dialogue totally worked for me, it sounded like things they would actually say and, oh, the characterization was lovely and there were so many little details and I totally squee over this. (Not Seifer/Zell, this is gen, but I'll put it in that section anyway.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Theme 008: Our Own World by grayout - *bounces* More Seifer/Zell fic that makes me squee! I really love the use of this theme, the way it could have been cheesy or cliche, but the author's talent and natural charisma with these characters totally pulls it off, so I can feel that odd sense of connection between the two characters. I love that none of the snarking at each other is love, that Seifer is still an ass, but a human one, and Zell is still a bit of a spaz, but also a human one, and, god, did I grin like an idiot at Zell's internal monologue. I loved that the author really pulled that off... and managed to flip over and give a real weight to Seifer's characterization, the way he feels just a little off/detached from the rest of the world. Great fic here. ♥ (Seifer/Zell, except that it could be entirely gen.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Theme 13: Excessive Chain. by grayout - This was actually a pretty clever use of the theme, clever enough and amusing enough that I sailed right past the type of characterization that might otherwise trip me up. Admittedly, Zell's more hyper in this fic than I usually like him, but I like the little quirk that the author tossed in for why he's acting that way (ie, 12 cans of JOLT! will do that to anyone, I'd bet), but also because it's just damn funny and Zell's thoughts on all the people around him are just terribly amusing. I giggled the entire way through, for the right reasons, and that's all I needed from this fic. ♥ (It's from the Seifer/Zell comm, but it's not actually a pairing, I'd consider it more gen.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - A Bullet With Your Name On It by Abbykat - I was wandering about FicWad tonight and happened to browse someone's favorites page, and noticed, oh, Zell fic. What the hell, it looks short, so I'll just skim the beginning, I said. The writing is smooth and clean enough that it pulled me right in from the beginning and I read the whole thing before I'd even really noticed that I'd read more than the intended paragraph or two. I adored this fic because of the sense of speed and fighting and movement without being hyper, where the author doesn't make Zell perfect, but actually makes him intelligent and thoughtful as he watches Squall get hurt and it sort of shakes the things Zell always counts on, but doesn't destroy him by a long shot. There's a strength and surity and subtly to the writing and a great ending because, yes, that's how Zell should react. (No warnings/pairings.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Boy Scouts by fyre_byrd - Oh, god, this should not have worked. It was the FFVIII kids going to the Boy Scouts set from Seifer's point of view. The Boy Scouts. Yet from pretty much the first page onwards, I was alternately laughing and cooing over the fic, little!Seifer's terrible attitude was just too damn perfect, all ego and casual insults and it's just like how Seifer would have been as a kid. It helped that he seemed permanently stuck with Zell (ad;lfkjad;fjasd, god, the running list of insults was beautiful) and it was the cutest goddamned thing ever, especially when Seifer wasn't really mean when Zell was constantly crying or messing up, just annoyed and it was the perfect balance. And adsklfjal;sdfjkas christ every scene was more fantastic than the last, Seifer complaining that they don't know how to build a real fire and Zell saying he's not allowed to use kerosene anymore, he'll tell, and Seifer being all, god, this place is stupid and alkdjfalkjsdfls LOVE. I mean. Maybe others won't get the same insane joy out of it that I did, but for me... it hit so perfectly. Just so, so perfectly. Every last one of those little brats was beautifully done. Just... I can only keyboard mash in love so often. (No warnings/pairings.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Clarity by Pandora Ramirez - There were a couple of things that almost turned me off this fic. The author comes rather close to purple prose at times and her Squall is very bitterly angry with Laguna, which I didn't get off him from the game. However, the more I read, the more her style evened out somehow and I came to actually kinda like the way the author writes. Second, her build up for Squall's anger felt right somehow. When it finally burst forth, it felt natural and like, yes, that's how Squall could have reacted in that situation. Especially the way he thinks of Rinoa, how wonderful she is, even while it makes him all the angrier, all these things he'd buried before. There were too many new emotions awakening from hibernation inside him today. Love, attachment, rage, hate. The ice of apathy had melted away with Rinoa's kiss, and now boiled off. It ended a little more sadly than I would have liked, but not heartbreaking. It's a fic I'm very glad I read and wished the author had a few more like this. (Some Squall/Rinoa, but it's only half about that.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - The Weakness and Power of Flawed Depth Perception by Renay - [Note: This is an Alternate Reality story, it really helps to read the author's notes to understand the premise of the universe before diving into the fic.] This was... you know, I love the FFVII fandom because it gets some of the most brilliant fic, often with plot even. But if FFVIII fandom continues to put out stuff like this, I'm going to be very, very torn over which I love more. (Not that that's a bad thing, I suppose.) This fic takes the FFVIII world and tweaks it a little, then shoves the ball rolling off down the hill to watch it snowball and make something entirely fascinating out of it. It's not just the concept, though, it's the execution of it, the fabulous timing and scene switching back and forth so that you uncover each new piece with every new scene. The story starts off with Seifer in the infirmary and you know something really bad happened, but you don't know what and then the story switches over to the beginning of the mission and this pacing actually works really, really well.

It's not just that, though, it's also the characterization and effectiveness of the piece. Seifer is gruff and prickly, recognizably himself, but having taken a different path because the situation was different. Zell is beautifully himself, being all speaking-before-thinking but quick with words and even quicker with his fists when he needs to be. I love this Zell because he gets to do stuff and he's such the fully realized character here. And even better? The subtext between the two of them is beautiful, you can feel the unresolved tension, the way they like each other under the banter, they way they can spar against each other or fight together. You can definitely feel the author's affection for them both, for the idea of them as a pairing, even as the fic maintains a careful balance, not tipping them too far over into pairingfic. This story is actually more about the plot than it is anything else.

There are torture scenes that are effect--not so much that they'll make you, the reader, want to curl up into a ball and cry, this isn't a horror fic, but enough that they made me uncomfortable and enough that they justified the reactions of the characters. I believed that Seifer went through hell. And, asl;dfkjasldfkjaslkjdf, god, I loved the ending. Not just the rescue (because you know he was going to be rescued), though, that was awesome, too, but the last two paragraphs were just a beautiful, perfect ending. LOTS OF HARTS. (This is gen, it's about plot. But Seifer/Zell fans will be interested anyway.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Reunion by Yati - You know, the longer I'm familiar with the FFVIII series and its fandom, the longer I have such great affection for the characters and the fics. This time it's a short little Laguna piece that just... quietly breaks my heart. I've loved him ever since he tossed Kiros and Ward off the side of the cliff, said no way he wasn't jumping himself, then slipped and fell anyway... and this fic contrasts against all the moments that made me fall in love with dorky Laguna and reminds me that sometimes he's as much a tragic figure as any of them. He's lost so much, some of it his own fault, some of it he blames himself unfairly for, and all of it is written beautifully here. This is one of the best fics I've read on the Laguna - Squall thing, how much it hurts that he never got to know his son, not too over the top about it, the subtle, reflective style of it all the more effective. (No warnings/pairings.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Lost Time by Yati - Another Laguna - Squall fic, even shorter than the previous one, but still something that I've been pining for with this fandom. Sure, it's angsty, but not over the top like so many fics I come across, instead it takes a quieter, almost tranquil style (though, the characters certainly aren't tranquil, but they are quiet, Laguna easily lost in thought, lost in the past, lost in the what-might-have-been) that appeals to me a lot more. And, okay, see, I have this kink for Daddy Issues and Squall's got them and so few people play on them very well and this fic starts to scratch that itch and does it well and alsdkfjal;dksj what I wouldn't give for an epic by this author. She actually writes them as... well, people, not like Laguna is this wounded martyr or Squall's over the top dramatic or anything. Just... quiet and all the deeper for that here. (No warnings/pairings.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Reaching Out by Arafel - There are moments in this fic when I felt Squall's characterization was stretched a little thin, especially in the overdramatic scenes with Laguna (as well as I might quibble with certain aspects of Laguna, even if canon makes it difficult to refute sometimes). However. I don't want to be too harsh on the fic, either, because the author built up the scenes well, because the situation was very personal for Squall, so I can sort of buy that he would get this wound up. I did miss the complete lack of Rinoa in this fic, but... at the same time, I sort of didn't miss it because that's not what this fic was about. I know I'm making a vague, half-assed rec so far, but I wanted to be even-handed about this, I wanted to mention the little things that niggled at me before getting onto the squee. Because I totally squeed over this fic. Oh, Squall. Whiny emotard that he is, I still love him and I love, love that this fic focuses on how Raine was his mother just as much as Laguna was/is his father. The way Squall wanders through Winhill, the way he gathers bits and pieces about her, the way the author built the final scenes up was just lovely. My fangirl heart positively ached for the entire last third of this fic. It's something that should have been too over the top, too ridiculous, and maybe some will find it that way, especially the very end. But for me... it's so much of what I wanted, it managed to capture so much of what the author was going for, it managed to hit the right buttons for me and had a certain sort of charm to it that I just... flailed and wibbled and all the usual fangirl things. (No real warnings/pairings.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - into oblivion by Lk Ivy - This was a really interesting piece from the first person perspective of a GF user (from the tone and details, I assume it's meant to be Selphie, but I could always be wrong--edit: ahh, the summary says it is indeed Selphie), what it's like to know they're always lurking in your mind and feeding on your memories. The cool thing about it, other than that the writing is lovely, the little details are gorgeously used, is that it's kind of creepy when you stop to think about it, much like the content of the FFVIII game itself. The tone of the story is cheerful and upbeat and it's not manic or super creepy or anything. It's almost well-adjusted. In that same way most of the SeeDs are, with just a hint of eerie underneath sometimes. It's really quite a lovely fic. (No warnings/pairings.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Opposites Repel by Lk Ivy - It's more than just that this is a nicely written little fic between Squall and Selphie. I often tend to skip anything that's less than 500 or 600 words, but this one somehow caught my attention and I'm glad for it. There's a hint of something potentially darker lurking around the edges, but it's not the kind to leave you dispirited. Instead, it's one of those little touches about what might be that made the game kinda cool for me. Also, Selphie and Squall interaction is fun. <3 (No warnings/pairings.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Once by dotscribbles - I've heard of the Rinoa = Ultimicea theory before and it seemed intriguing, but I was wary of reading fic for it, because it would have to be done just right. This fic? Brilliant. There's this gorgeous, dreamy sort of quality to it, like it's all colors and golden and silver edges, like watching one of the FMVs from the game, there's something about the style that captures those beautiful scenes. There's something about the style that captures the sense of time shifting almost in a mercurial sort of way, the imagery that flitters past with every sentence beautiful and breathtaking. The emotion of this piece, the way I nearly ached while reading it, the way I felt like my fangirl heart wanted to cry a bit over it, was all brilliantly done. It was gripping. It was gorgeously written. The characterization is perfect. The concept is pulled off nearly flawlessly. I feel... almost devestated after reading it, like I can only jabber endlessly instead of making coherent comments. Just. Wow. *breathless* This was exactly what I was hoping for. (Implications of Squall/Rinoa, but it's not really the point.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Lesser Demons by andromeda3116 - I... I am kind of quietly in love with this author's work now because this Rinoa piece is both lovely and poignant, just the kind of fic I itch to read in this fandom. It's a lovely look at Rinoa wondering about the "evil" people in the world, the Sorceresses and the people who've done bad things, and there's this really hopeful, almost naive but not quite, tone to the way it's written that's perfect for Rinoa. She's been sheltered, but she's trying and she wants to know things and wants to get back up again and wants to know more about Squall and it's just... this is why I adore Rinoa's character so much. (Some Squall/Rinoa implied.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - I Spy by andromeda3116 - This was a cute, fun Laguna fic where... I feel like I should be going o_O or skeeved out that he's basically trying to spy on Raine, but something about it seems so friendly and good-natured that I have a difficult time crabbing about it. Perhaps it's just the author's talent for writing fic that's actually good that wins me over with just about anything she writes. At any rate, I had fun with this one. :D (Laguna/Raine.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - A Sorta Fairytale: Tutor by harechan - This is such a short piece that I almost considered putting it in with the ficlets, but... it's also such a lovely Rinoa piece that I couldn't help myself. Just a tiny moment in her life, a spark of something in her that shows the kind of person she's going to grow up to be. One of those that I can completely believe her having gone through, making a very nice, quiet little fic. (No warnings/pairings.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Darkness by argle_fraster - I was browsing ff_press and noticed a fic with a listing for Rinoa, Squall, and the rest of the cast. I was curious enough to check it out and kind of... quietly fell in love with this fic. I'm generally not one for fics that try to bridge a line between the FF series and Kingdom Hearts (since that means that the FF worlds have to turn out badly for it to happen) but I love when an author really puts a lot of thought into it and comes up with a creative, intriguing way to do it. Everything about this was a really enjoyable read, Rinoa's characterization and the way she's slowly learning to use her power, the way there's a tension running underneath everything that you don't know what it means until later, the way the Squall/Rinoa relationship is present in the fic, but not necessarily the focus, all of it created this really cool, very nicely paced little fic that was a lot of fun to read. I'd definitely like to see more in this vein, especially from this author. (Some Squall/Rinoa, it's not entirely the point.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Yes by first_seventhe - I picked up this link from ff_recs, thinking maybe I'd get a semi-readable Rinoa story out of it. What I got was a fantastic story from Rinoa's point of view and set in the Final Fantasy VIII world, one that blended the gameplay mechanics with how they would feel to the characters and the effects they would have on the various people, including the different styles each one had (I loved the author's descriptions of Squall and Zell and Quistis and Selphie's attack styles) and the put it all together with the plot of FFVIII and Rinoa's role in it. It's a fantastic look at her character, she just shines here, both for good and bad (her imperfections only make me like her more, just the way the game was for me), it's got a killer ending, and it's utterly engrossing. Easily one of the best Rinoa pieces I've ever read. Hell, easily one of the best FFVIII pieces I've ever read. ♥ (No real warnings/pairings, implications of canon if you want to see them, though.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Ghosts With Steel Shoes by tsubaki-hana - I was browsing ff_press and stopped by this recs post and my curiosity was caught by the VIII rec for an Ultimecia fic. She's not a character that particularly fascinates me, largely because so little is known about her, which leaves room for interpretation, but also leaves me feeling like it's not as connected to the canon as I'd like. But with this fic... somehow, this fic makes up so much for the character, but does it with such lovely writing that I don't mind, because the author actually does weave a rather creepy, disturbed person and how it seems almost inevitable for a Sorceress to end up like this, even when she starts out as such a bland little girl. The imagery used is effective and the ending is especially... almost whimsical in its insanity. Very nicely written. (No real warnings/pairings.)

- Final Fantasy VIII - Carbon Made by venefica_aura - I was browsing my flist when I saw a link for a FFVIII fic with Rinoa (and a bit of Squall and Laguna) and, as I am wont to do, clicked on the link to start reading. What I got was a tremendously gorgeous story that hooked me from the very first chapter, there's something really smooth and almost lyrical about the writing and the descriptions here, without being too purple with the prose. I love absolutely everything the author did with this story--the Rinoa characterization, the way it's about her as her own person, trying to figure herself out after the events of the game, the way she handles being a Sorceress, the undercurrent of longing to be normal that's so clearly felt without having to be stated overtly. It's something that fits so perfectly with that tremendously difficult balance with her character, you can tell the author has given Rinoa a lot of thought and it shows in the writing. Admittedly, I clicked on it because I do like reading Squall/Rinoa fic, which is present here, but it's not precisely the focus, despite that it's still a big part of her life, there's so much uncertainty there, without moving the themes away from what I felt they were in the game. The use of the supernatural elements, the awesome scenes with Laguna (who was brilliantly done here as well, the interaction between Laguna and Rinoa were spot on), it was all a fantastic read, definitely one of the best I've managed to stumble over in the fandom. ♥ (Some Squall/Rinoa, it's not entirely the point.)

Final Fantasy VIII: Mail Call by astrangerenters - I was browsing Scribbler's recs again and noticed a fic listed as Squall and Rinoa, my curiosity instantly roused. And, sure, that part of the fic was nice, but really what you're reading this fic for is the totally hilarity of it. I was grinning the whole entire way through the fic, enjoying the hell out of it, but I totally had to LOL at the end, it was just... it was so delightful and used a bit of gameplay and made it brilliant. Plus, Rinoa is totally cute and Squall is LOL-worthy and even Zell is adorable, too! I'm just. Really charmed by this one. (Some Squall/Rinoa, but it's only half the point.)

Final Fantasy VIII: I Believe by Touch of Gray - This is one of those stories that has an almost surreal or dream-like quality to it that wouldn't necessarily work with a lot of characters or series, but somehow works really well for me when it comes to FFVIII and Rinoa. It's very pretty and uses tiny little flashes of scenes, sometimes little more than a handful of lines of dialogue, to tell its story and yet somehow this shows so much of all the characters that Rinoa interacts with. The idea that she wanted to be a dancer, but is kind of afraid of it, while not showing that on the surface, is one that I find fits her character well. (Some Squall/Rinoa, but it's almost more background than anything.)

Final Fantasy VIII: Heliocentric Girl by Denebola - I am often intrigued by the idea of a Squall - Selphie friendship, but haven't really dared wade too deeply into the fandom to find it. I stumbled over this one tonight and was really kind of delighted with it, it really shows a lot of thought was given to the characters and the kind of friendship they would have, that seems so simple on the surface, but there's so much more going on there. I really liked that the author didn't take the easy route with Squall, he is kind of a jerk at times, and yet their friendship still somehow comes around again anyway. I loved the use of parallels between them, the snippets of flashbacks of moments during their friendship, the contrasts against the other people in their lives. This really just. Worked for me. (Some Squall/Rinoa, some Irvine/Selphie, but neither is anywhere near the real point.)

Final Fantasy VIII: Find Your Way by Joie de Combat - Well, after reading so much FFXII fic lately, it was time to dive back into FFVIII for a little bit as well. And this was a lovely Rinoa piece, set not quite mid-game or so, where they're trying to find Cid and Rinoa is determined not to be dead weight with the group anymore. I love that she's not perfect, I love that she still has to try really hard and is hesitant, but she at least tries suggestions and works on being better. That's the Rinoa I know. ♥ (No real warnings/pairings, aside from implied Squall/Rinoa on the level of canon.)

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