Fandom: Game of Thrones
Word Count: 166,182
Summary: "Minnesota, State of Hockey, State of Dance, State of Sansan. Sansa Stark was the captain of the Minnesota Golden Gopher Dance Team, straight A college student, and decidedly single. Sandor Clegane was the assistant coach of the Minnesota Golden Gopher Hockey Team, notorious hard ass, and also decidedly single. Sansa was sure that her junior year would be focused on winning another National Championship, not her relationship status. But when she was rescued by the crabby hockey coach, she began to think that maybe there was something just a little bit more for her in Minnesota."
I do want to start this by admitting that I only started reading this fanfic because I have a friend who lives in Minnesota who was watching "Game of Thrones" for the first time and thought it would be funny. But holy crap did I love this fic.
For a fic to be as long as this one and to decidedly lack any major angst, and for me to still love it, is unheard of. If I'm spending over 100k words on a fic, there usually has to be drama or I will abandon it halfway through. What can I say, I'm really not an established relationship fic type of gal.
When I saw how many chapters were left after Sansa and Sandor got together, I was hoping for some sort of drama or scandal, but was pleasantly surprised when the only real issues they faced were Sansa's mom not approving and when to tell the people in their lives about their relationship. And that was such a good move for wandering_gypsy_feet to make.
This fic isn't a high stakes, change the world, knock-down-drag-out action drama, and wandering doesn't pretend it is. This is a mostly-feel-good, relationship building, modern AU and it knows it.
And while this fic stays mostly true to Sansa and Sandor's canon characterization, there are enough alterations to their personalities that can be justified by the modern setting to not make it feel like canon Sansa and Sandor were just plopped into current day Minnesota (which is probably a fic I would also read if we're being honest). Sandor still has some anger issues and some self-confidence problems, but not excessively as some fics make him.
Sansa's character arc from a self-sacrificing people pleaser with some not healthy tendencies to someone who puts themself first sometimes and learns how to prioritize and say no is so realistic that I was almost surprised she didn't undergo a complete personality change by the end. Because in most other fics, this slight change of habit wouldn't be enough, but in this one, it's perfect.
I also have a soft spot for fanfics that utilize source material characters for every character role they have instead of creating too many new original characters. So Sansa's dance team being full of ASOIAF characters made me really happy.
The side characters in "Minnesota" also feel like fully rounded people without spending an excessive amount of time establishing who they are. This could be due to prior knowledge of who they are in canon, but I think it's also due to wandering's careful handling of those characters' interactions with Sansa and Sandor. The Stark family just feels like a real family in a different way than they do in canon. Arya's rebellion, Bran's disability, Rickon's wildness, Robb's golden child treatment, Jon's outsider tendencies, Catelyn's care of how they're perceived, and Ned's love of his family are all believable adaptations of who they are in canon to who they would be in the specific AU they find themselves in.
I think that's the best way to describe this fic: believable. Nothing in it is far-fetched or fantastical. It's a realistic story about two people living and loving in today's world, and sometimes that's what you need in a fic.