Review: Paper Planes & Playground Games by Barkour

Well it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new Loki fanfic rec, but after rummaging through a stack of really wonderful recommendations this evening, this one in particular really stood out for me.

Written from Sif’s POV, Paper Planes & Playground Games is a lovely pre-Thor tale that spans the adolescent years of Sif, Loki and Thor. The rich history of these characters and the careful manner in which they’re written makes for a convincing read. The narrative has a poetic beauty infused with nostalgic undertones, a touch of angst, and an easy-to-read flow that I can’t help but envy.

Barkour builds wonderfully upon Lady Sif’s character; showing us not just how her friendship with Thor and Loki began, but developing a solid history for them to share, and an exceptionally convincing back-story for Sif herself:

“I’m not a lady,” Sif said. “I don’t want to be! If another girl wants to be a lady, then fine, but I don’t. I want to fight!”

“Like a boy!” her father scoffed.

“No!” she snarled. “Like a girl!”

Her father’s face was like winter. His mouth compressed.

“You will go to your room,” he said, “and you will stay there.”

Sif drew breath to shout that she would not go to her room and she would not stay there. But her mother took her wrist very firmly and pulled her down.

“No,” said Mother. “Sif is not going to her room. I am going to finish braiding her hair and then she will go to the palace. The princes will be expecting her, and,” said Mother, who had washed and mended all Sif’s dirtied clothes and clucked over her bruises and her scabs, “I suspect the swordsmaster expects her, too.”

Then she began to unpick what she’d plaited of Sif’s hair.

“You,” said Sif’s father, his voice shaking. “You would encourage her to cast aside propriety, to, to–”

“Someone must,” said Mother. She parted Sif’s hair into three long hanks. “Won’t it be nice to have a warrior in the family?”

“A maiden cannot be a warrior,” said Father quietly, cruelly.

“Perhaps,” said Mother. “Perhaps not. Now be still, Sif.”

 

For all the camaraderie Sif, Loki and Thor share, they pick on each other in the way that young people who care for each other often do, though Sif is capable of being fiercely loyal when the need presents itself:

“Don’t you touch him again!” she snarled.

“You can’t tell me what to do,” Hallormr shouted. His voice caught in his throat and he coughed. Still, he glared. “You’re a girl, and he deserves it, the little lying–”

His nose broke under her fist in two places; she heard the snap and felt it on her fingers. Hallormr screamed. Blood gushed over his lips. Shocked, and like all bullies, he began to cry. She felt calm, so strangely, oddly calm.

“If you touch him again,” Sif said, “I’ll throw you off the world’s edge. You won’t have to worry about Thor.”

She stood and brushed the dirt off her knees. Loki looked up to her as she approached.

“I’ll tell my father,” Hallormr swore. “I’ll tell my father what you did.”

Sif rounded on him, but it was Loki who said, “You’ll have to tell him why she did it, too,” through a nose and mouth thick with blood. “Surely your father would be proud.”

There is the definite sense of a fledgling romance developing between Sif and Loki, though it’s develop is wonderfully gradual and natural. So much so that Sif herself is unaware of its presence. Although for the reader, it’s existence is unmistakable woven into the fabric of the tale:

“I want for you to cut off my hair,” she said. She stared fixedly at her thighs, at the tiny red flowering weed crushed beneath her left knee. “I don’t care how high. I only want it gone.”

For a moment, he did not touch her.

Then his fingers swept up her nape, light as a kiss, and he caught her braid. The blade bit into her hair. A little rip sounded. His thumb pressed to a knob in her spine. Sif held herself still, so very still, and closed her eyes as Loki took her hair from her.

When the last of her braid separated, she felt as if she’d fly from her feet, so unweighted, so light, so bare. She began to turn. His fingers spread over her neck; his thumb, bent, touched her throat.

“I’m nearly finished,” Loki said.

Ghostly wisps tickled her neck, her shoulders. The flat of the knife brushed her skin. She shivered beneath it. Loki made soft noise behind his lips, and another delicate length of hair slithered down her back. If she had felt bare before, now she knotted her fingers in her trousers.

The blade withdrew. Loki ran his fingers down her neck then up again through her cropped hair. Hairs showered down upon her neck. She felt his breath on the back of her ear.

“There,” he said.

Sif turned. Her lips nearly touched his jaw. Loki smiled and held her braid up between them.

“Your hair, my lady.”

All in all, 14,000 words were easy to devour – too easy. When I reached the end I felt at loss to know the story was over. Fortunately, I see there are more Sif/Loki fics under Barkour’s listings, and I’m interested now in reading them…

Link: Paper Planes & Playground Games

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In a nutshell: 30-something. Mother of 3. New Zealander. Prone to escapism. Procrastinates over most things yet energised and enthusiastic when hit with alarmingly stupid and random ideas. Hasn't slept since the early-90's.