Title: Beneath These SkiesAuthor: bendingsignpostPairing:
Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, Molly Hooper, Bill Murray, Mike Stamford; gen Length:
M (for violence and themes)Warnings:
references to past rape, trafficking, and torture, depictions of attempted genocideVerse:
Sherlock BBC, fusion with Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance/Radiant DawnAuthor's summary:
An ex-soldier-turned-healer, a priest, and an unhorsed knight flee for their lives after the invasion of their homeland. John didn't expect the road to safety to be easy, but the addition of a petite mage and a scowling former prisoner to their small band opens his eyes to horrors beyond imagining.Reccer's comments:
Bendingsignpost is one of my favorite BBC Sherlock authors. He excels at layered world-building, subtle characterization, well-paced reveals, and powerful prose. His John POV is among the best in the fandom, in my opinion, and I particularly appreciate the way he keeps the characters' emotional expressions trimmed down and indirect without reducing their profundity.
Though basically all his stories are widely read, in comparison to his other works this one has been relatively overlooked. I imagine there may be several reasons for this. It is gen. It is a fusion with a video game universe. And it has some serious warnings attached. But, although it is at times a grim story that deals with very dark subjects, pretty much all of the most disturbing themes are dealt with indirectly through implication and we only glimpse the aftermath. I found it much less harrowing to read than I had initially feared. The elements taken from the video game are a constellation of magical creatures and a political setup for war; to me it simply read like magical realism and my unfamiliarity with "Fire Emblem" was no obstacle at all to my immersion into the story, the political, natural, and supernatural contours of which Ben sketches with great skill.
A romance in the context of this story would have been inappropriate given the level of trauma Sherlock is dealing with, but the power of the relationship he forms with John is striking -- their mutual trust grows quickly, they work well improvising together in the midst of danger, and they wind up protecting each other and making sacrifices to save each other in ways that pay tribute to the depth of their connection. In addition to the lovely character work done on its two protagonists, this story reaches further to examine the ambiguities of warfare, where basically decent people can find themselves in the ranks of an army bent on atrocity, and where even justified battles for self-defense can descend into indiscriminate slaughter. A compelling, imaginative, well-grounded story that leavens its sadness with touches of humor and the healing that comes through friendship and loyalty.