Fanfic Reaction

Review: Fire in the Mountains

Fire in the Mountains by EllaBesmirched (El_Bell)
AU: Fantasy
Main relationships: Bakugou Katsuki x Todoroki Shouto; Katsuki and his multiple spouses
Status: Completed
Rating: Explicit

Official summary:

“I’ll do it.”

Enji froze, fingers curling into a fist at his side, and didn’t turn around.

Shouto froze too, feeling his own eyes widen in shock at the words that had come out of his mouth, at the fact that he had actually stood up, followed his father out of the room, and dashed after him all just to say… he’d do it? He would do it? Him. Shouto Todoroki. He would–

Enji finally turned around and fixed Shouto with an expression so scathing, Shouto had to fight to keep his chin raised. “You’ll marry the Barbarian King.”

Shouto blinked. “Yes.”

I came across this story earlier in the year and almost didn’t give it a chance because it centered around TodoBaku. I am so glad that I did though. It is so well written and captivating.

The setting is a marriage for diplomatic ties. Shouto is a 20-year-old prince of the Endeavor kingdom and Katsuki is the 28-year-old King of the Outlands’ unified tribes. Shouto volunteers to go in his sister Fuyumi’s place as Katsuki’s spouse. He’s worried about what the “barbarian” would do to her in general and afraid that she couldn’t carry out their father’s spy mission. Because ya know why would Enji ever NOT be a conniving asshole?!

recurring theme is that Shouto doesn’t understand why the Outlanders’ customs are so different from his. He was raised to live his life in such a regimented way that it confuses and stresses him out to lose the predictability.

He doesn’t like people in his space and doesn’t like to be touched. A defense mechanism from his childhood that is constantly tested because the Outlanders are a VERY touchy feely people. It’s hard for Shouto and the Outlanders to understand this difference and Shouto snaps a lot early in the story.

Something I love about this story, though, is that it is a story of Shouto’s personal growth. He learns to open up to people, that he’s worth more than his father ever allowed, that he’s worthy of love and friendships and that it’s ok to be FREE.

Shouto & Katsuki
When Shouto first meets Kastuki he THINKS that Katsuki is just like his father, evil and cruel. Immediately, the barbarians threw him for a loop when Katsuki flew in on an effing DRAGON and then they all get excited when Shouto loses his shit and lashes out with his magic. Over time he realizes that Katsuki just pretends to be cruel but is a caring man.

Shouto discovers that he is Katsuki’s FOURTH spouse and the others (Kirishima, Mina and Denki) he married for love and not political gain. Shouto struggles to figure out how to fit in when he feels no love for Katsuki and has to live in a shared room with everyone. Katsuki treats him with kind acts but Shouto is so convinced that he’s being conniving. He’s never known a kind act without a trick at the end and very few pure kind acts.

It’s interesting contrasting Shouto’s “civilized” world and the barbarians’. The way Katsuki twists Shouto’s thoughts on his head:

  • The Outlanders celebrate loudly because life is hard and the only thing they have is to be grateful for live;
  • Their clothing is actually more convenient than the Flatlanders’;
  • Shouto was taught to not acknowledge servants and not thank them. Katsuki calls him and his people out, “you’ve got pretty formal clothes and your pretty, stupid fucking ceremony and you all use it to cover up how fucking rude and cold and condesending you are.” DAMN! Shouto had never heard it expressed that way.

Shouto and Katsuki spend a lot of time together early in the story antagonizing each other. They both expect the worst and then live up to it. Little by little, though, they start revealing their true selves:

  • Shouto’s welcoming celebration. Shouto challenges Katsuki to fight him. Shouto gets so enraged because he thinks he hates Katsuki and gets a chance to go all out with his magic like he’s never been able to before. He knows that Katsuki can take it and doesn’t hold back. Katsuki learns that Shouto isn’t some pretty pretty little princess and Katsuki leaves a great quote that describes Shouto, “thought you were spoiled but you were really just caged, huh?” Shouto earns Katsuki’s respect in the end and maybe Katsuki gets a little of Shouto’s;
  • The fight against Dabi and Tomura. Shouto is badly injured while still recovering from injuries from the previous fight and new injuries. He instinctively protects Kiri with his life. After the fight Katsuki antagonizes Shouto to keep him moving during their hour long trek to Katsuki’s home village for help;
  • Katsuki repeatedly tells Shouto that he doesn’t have to do anything that he doesn’t want to and never forces himself on Shouto;
  • The Winter Solstice celebration. Katsuki surprised Shouto with an Outlander version of a stuffed sweet potato treat that Shouto had mentioned in passing. And they danced. Oh did they dance and maybe Shouto became a little aroused. Oh;
  • The nickname “Princess”. Katsuki starts off calling Shouto “Princess” as an insult but it soon becomes an affectionate nickname.
  • And the two of them letting down their walls a bit when Katsuki asks Shouto to use his ice magic for fun by making an ice slide. “You want me to. Use my magic. To make you an enormous. Toy.”

Katsuki and Shouto hide their feelings for each other and finally admit everything when faced with Enji coming to take Shouto back home. Enji’s ass with his deceptions and manipulating plans. Shouto doesn’t want to leave and knows that he loves Katsuki. He’s angry with himself for waiting so long, for waiting until they may be separated and never see each other again. But Katsuki finds a way. He keeps Shouto in the kingdom, even conceding some in the new treaty to keep Shouto by his side.

Family & Relationships
Running parallel is the fuckshit mess that is the Todoroki family. Touya (in this fic Dabi is the eldest Todoroki son) was executed for trying to kill their mother. He was brought back by a necromancer. Natsuo and Fuyumi were just trying to fulfill their roles as royal children and keep their mother safe. Queen Rei is locked up in a tower due to her mental illness and there are suspicions that it was unnaturally caused. And then we have Enji’s ass throwing his weight around everywhere as is he was the rightful ruler. How could Shouto NOT be emotionally stunted when Enji kept him locked up as a tool?! All he was was something “pretty” for the nobility to look at and try to take advantage of. Sigh.

Touya, as Dabi now, remembers some of his past and keeps hinting at a family secret involving their mother but Shouto can’t figure it out. It torments him to see his brother like this. His brother that he WITNESSED being burned alive 10 years prior. Again, how did Shouto make it to 20 with his sanity intact??!!!

And here’s where we get to the complicated part. Are you with me? Good. Like I mentioned before, Katsuki has four spouses. He fiercely loves and protects them. The first three sleep with Katsuki and sometimes play with each other and the others. Shouto absolutely loses his mind the moment he finds out. Shouto knows nothing about intimacy so he really thinks they’re all faking it and it takes him a while to realize that there’s really love there. And then he starts hearing sounds at night. He’s disgusted and a little turned on and he doesn’t understand why. His puritanical upbringing clouds his mind and makes him feel so guilty for his thoughts. He’s barely touched himself, let alone had fantasies. He’s so uncomfortable even talking about sex. Each of the spouses tries to help Shouto break out of his shell. They gave him thoughtful wedding gifts and tried to engage him in one-on-one conversation.

Kiri is such a loving and generous soul. Oh, did I forget to mention that he’s actually a dragon who can take human form?! Yeah. So anyway, he took Shouto on an outing to an old dragon’s nest where they talked, ate and kissed a little. They had a discussion about love and intimacy and it opened Shouto’s mind to the fact that there are many types/levels of “love.” Mina for her part can’t understand why Shouto isn’t interested in sex and not with Katsuki of all people. And Denki is just a FLIRT! Taking advantage of how “pretty” Shouto looked at the Winter Solstice celebration and giving Shouto his first kiss.

But there is a hole in the family. Everyone dances around it at the beginning of the story. After visiting Katsuki’s home village, though, we learn that the hole was left by Izuku. Katsuki and Izuku used to be together in the early days but something tore them apart. Katsuki has so much animosity towards him it’s scary. There’s so much bad blood but also longing. And Shouto has an interesting reaction. With Katsuki, he was wary and slowly realized that Katsuki’s savageness just did something to him deep in his core that Shouto wanted to pretend wasn’t true. But with Izuku, his inherent gentleness made Shouto want to be near him and let him in. It’s a heartbreaking situation because Izuku misses Katsuki and he sees that Katsuki is falling for Shouto. At the same time Izuku feels something for Shouto but doesn’t want to make things worse with Katsuki. It all comes to a head after Shouto and Katsuki’s joining ceremony when they ALL admit to having feelings for each other and it’s off to the races, kids! Cause Izuku’s gentle giant persona QUICKLY fades in bed and Katsuki easily falls back into his submissive role that only Izuku had seen before. Inexperienced Shouto is in for the ride of his life. That second to the last chapter in the story was HOT!! All aboard the TodoBakuDeku train. LOL Shouto “needed them both. Izuku to ground him. Katsuki to make him bold.”

The storyline with the necromancer (hello League of Villains) is interesting. But of course we don’t know WHY and WHAT is the group’s motive. We end the story with a cliffhanger of the fall of the Endeavor kingdom but what’s the end goal??!!! And why did Tomura keep mentioning to Katsuki that it wasn’t time for him, yet? So many questions and so little answers!!!! I’m so glad that the story is continued in “Fire in the Blood” that delves more into the aftermath of the displacement of the Todoroki family and Shouto’s continued personal growth.

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