C.J. Wells
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Last modified: November 03 2012 12:33:03

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

Alternative stories are designated as such with an [Alt] at the end of the title line.

This file features reviews of stories written by C.J. Wells. For any other fiction by this bard please visit any of the Xena fan fiction indexes.

In this sequel to the stories EMBRACE and FREEDOM, the Conqueror takes the first step toward some semblance of normality in her new life with Gabrielle when she frees the young slave. Together, the two start off on a long and difficult road toward healing that will have Xena struggling to keep her darker impulses in check and Gabrielle fighting to overcome her fears as she sets out to help the woman she loves emerge from behind those walls around her heart. Meanwhile, enemies of the empire will challenge the Conqueror forcing Xena to once again taste the savageness of war and calling attention to the young woman who's quickly becoming the Conqueror's one vulnerable spot. The story features some very emotional moments as it continues a fascinating treatment of the relationship between these two women. If you enjoyed the earlier stories make sure to put this one on your list. [See the sequel DARPHUS' REVENGE] - 22 pgs., 2/27/00

DARPHUS' REVENGE by C.J. Wells - [Alt]
CJ continues her Conqueror saga in this sequel to the THE ANTONIUS SITUATION which has the reality of who the Conqueror is and what her life is like testing the blossoming relationship between her and Gabrielle as never before. Aware that the Conqueror almost killed her friend Bahri and sensing that Xena's life will forever be immersed in darkness while she continues to revel in violence and revenge, Gabrielle tries to change the warrior without any initial success but in the process she embarks on a new life for herself that may ultimately motivate the Conqueror to reevaluate her own life. CJ does a good job here of bringing in an important part of Xena canon with the introduction of the Amazons into the equation. She also develops the characters further as Gabrielle finds a new sense of confidence and Xena confronts a will almost as stubborn as her own. Another entertaining entry in the series. - 29 pgs., 3/26/00

**EMBRACE (THE) and FREEDOM by C.J. Wells - [Alt]
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)

**FREEDOM - see THE EMBRACE by C.J. Wells - [Alt]

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