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Please make sure to read the EXPLANATORY NOTES before reading these reviews.

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This first time story was written back in February 1997 as part of a fan fiction challenge to show possible scenarios under which Gabrielle would broach the subject of a romantic relationship with the Warrior Princess. As the first offering in A.L. Dunham's CAMPIRE CHAT SERIES, it is a sweet tale nicely depicting the nervousness and uncertainty of two friends deeply in love with one another and wanting very much to admit that love despite their fears. - 11 pgs., 5/23/98

**EMBRACE (THE) and FREEDOM by C.J. Wells
These two Conqueror tales recount the same story, told first from Gabrielle's point of view and later Xena's. It's a compelling story, at times troubling, at times deeply poignant, of two very different souls drawn together and yet kept apart by the insecurities and fears and harshness learned in a world where the struggle for survival can harden one's heart and the quest for power can require one's humanity in tribute. As the story begins, Gabrielle has been living in the Conqueror's castle for a while now, suffering mistreatment, abuse and humiliation in a situation growing more puzzling by the day. Resigned to her life as the Conqueror's slave, Gabrielle has learned to deal with the mistreatment. What is more confusing are her feelings for the Conqueror and the Conqueror's own mystifying behavior toward her - showing gentleness one moment and brutality the next, at times revealing vulnerability only to erase that in an instant with the Destroyer's traditional mask of coldness. What the young slave doesn't suspect is the tumultuous battle raging within the Conqueror's soul as Gabrielle's gentle presence is slowly tearing down walls put there by an indomitable will long determined to hurt and destroy others before they could get past those walls. It's a battle for the heart of a woman who long ago forgot how to love - a battle for the soul of a Conqueror immersed in darkness, responding despite itself to a spirit whose nobility even darkness cannot dim. CJ has based her stories on others that have recently appeared offering a very dark portrayal of the Conqueror. This type of Xena fanfic is heavily psychological in nature exploring the psyche of a character used to expressing her power and control by hurting others who is suddenly having to deal with a newly awakened conscience and the human being responsible for that change. Moreover, it's a character study as well of a young woman who somehow manages to keep her humanity despite the savagery of the world around her - in the process helping to change that world. CJ takes the story to a very satisfying conclusion that validates the struggle these characters go through. EMBRACE and FREEDOM offer an occasionally unsettling but very moving and ultimately reaffirming look at what our heroine's lives might have been under different circumstances. DO NOT MISS! [Note: The stories both include and refer to instances of physical abuse. See the sequel THE ANTONIUS SITUATION] - 11 pgs., 10 pgs., 1/29/00.
AWARDS: "Constant Arousal" Swollen Bud Award (June 15, 2000)
EMBRACE - http://www.cousinliz.com/fanfic/cjwells_te.html
FREEDOM - http://www.cousinliz.com/fanfic/cjwells_f.html

Mayt's latest is a poignant romantic mystery that unravels like a challenging puzzle making you think you have all the appropriate pieces only to later throw newer ones into the mix. It opens in the desert where a brother and sister are fighting their tribe's enemies when a masked warrior comes to their aid. It's not the first time they've seen the small warrior. Andre has noticed that whenever his sister Ravin is in a battle the mysterious stranger shows up to help. Unbeknownst to them, the warrior is in an emotional struggle of her own - sensing that the desert woman she's committed to protect is the beloved soulmate she lost months before but knowing also that recovering that soulmate will not be easy. Internal and external forces are at work keeping them apart and to overcome those they're going to both have to face the innermost truths about themselves, their pasts and any future they may share together. Once again Mayt delivers a very emotional, touching interpretation of the Xena/Gab relationship with insightful portrayals of the vulnerabilities and strengths in both characters. A riveting read that should keep you guessing AND on the edge of that seat. - 53 pgs., 7/1/01

**EMPATHY'S COST by Puckster
With the debut of CERBERUS' CHALLENGE on the Net back in June of this year, Puckster immediately claimed a place among the best of the best in XWP fan fiction. With this new sequel, her standing is assured. Starting where the first story left off, this tale has Xena and Gabrielle traveling toward the Island of Thera so the bard can meet the "master empath" - a mysterious figure who they hope will be able to help Gabrielle control the empathic powers growing stronger within her. Soon they are joined on their journey by a spunky teenage priestess-in-training who is able to tell them a bit more about the dangers associated with Gabrielle's newfound abilities. What none of them suspect, however, is that the fate of the world will soon rest on those powers for a destructive force of unimaginable proportions has targeted the earth and not even the gods of Olympus can hope to stand against it. With the concept of a "chosen one" and a proud warrior protector on a valiant quest to fulfill their destinies, this story is very reminiscent of grand epics of fantasy literature like Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS or Terry Brook's SWORD OF SHANARA. Unlike those, however, it is like Puckster's first story, a very passionate, dare I say "imaginative" romance, that continues to explore the Xena/Gab relationship and presents us with a very beautiful, satisfying interpretation of it. [See the sequel ALICE'S ALTERNATIVE]. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!! - 75 pgs., 8/8/97

Marking the first appearance in fanfic of the Empress and the Playwright from the episode WHEN FATES COLLIDE this story is told from Gabrielle's perspective as the young writer finds herself inexplicably drawn to the beautiful Empress - a virtual stranger Gabrielle's soul nevertheless recognizes and fights for, determined now never to know a world without her soulmate in it. This is a passionate retelling of this excellent episode with an intriguing look at what those days following that final scene in the episode could have been like. - 19 pgs., 5/28/01

**EMPTY HEART (THE) by WordWarior
Originally written in the Spring of 1997, this phenomenal story is the final entry in the trilogy WordWarior began with her masterpiece TRUTH OR DARE, and which she followed later with THE CHILD. Starting just after the events in that second story, THE EMPTY HEART has Xena emotionally decimated by the loss of little Ilsa and trying to deal also with the repercussions of a promise she made to a foreign god. Unbeknownst to the Warrior Princess, the fulfillment of that promise has brought into her life perhaps the deadliest enemy she has ever known. An enemy willing to hide in the shadows watching as Xena looses everything and everyone she's ever cared for. Exceptionally written and edited, this story features the return of the ever-popular healer "Widgie" we first met in TRUTH OR DARE and whom we learn a bit more about this time around. THE EMPTY HEART is a dark tale of guilt, regret and revenge all pitted against the power of love to heal and ultimately overcome. It is a treat from one of the finest talents in Xena fan fiction. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! - 138 pgs., 3/18/98
[Palm Pilot version available at XENA FAN FICTION FOR THE PALM PILOT]

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