This piece was extremely fascinating. Now, I’m going to tell you what really struck me as a reader. : )
From the opening paragraph, this woman that you've created has been a mirror of the Tom that we know – with one minor exception. To me, the fact that you didn't give the countess a name added to that alluring mystique that you built around her. Her views on love, relationships, and the desire for power make her unusual, make her dark, and above all, make her dangerous.
One thing that really made the story of the countess more powerful is that she did not start off perfect. Far from it, in fact. From her humble upbringing in a single parent household, to her alcoholic mother, her shyness, and her abusive boyfriend, all of these things lent to a character that is real, multidimensional, and what I like to think of as perfectly flawed. Each one of these lemons that life has thrown her; she took them and made others eat them by turning the tables, by ‘improving’ herself. Her self-confidence is off the charts, and to me, that’s what really makes this whole story for me.
Her identity crisis after school, from leaving her boyfriend to live in the Muggle world, up to the point when she left her Muggle life behind, helped to establish a baseline for me as a reader. This was her at one of her lowest points in life, the point when she decided that there was nowhere to go but up, and she was the one that would make that happen. It takes some sort of guts and determination to decide to leave everything behind and start anew, and while having magic does help, it’s still an upheaval of an emotional sort. Her very fabric as a person, that inner strength that got her through a terrible childhood, shines through in her ability to make the necessary changes in her life, to achieve what she believes she wants – power. Ironically, she gets this power by leaving behind what other people wanted her to be, as illustrated by this:
She had found it fascinating that now, when she no longer dreamed or desired men or love, they yearned for her and her love.
Isn’t it funny, she thought to herself one day as she caught the attention of a man sitting at another table in the restaurant, when I no longer need anybody, they need me.
The countess’s demeanour, the way she made men turn and look, to exalt her as someone they must have, gave her something that she had never experienced, which was power over the gender that had repressed and abused her. Whether it was her father leaving her when she was a baby, the boys she crushed on that never looked twice at her, or the abusive boyfriend, she finally had the same power over them as they once had over her. That was what she (thought she) wanted. Each passing line makes me appreciate this character that you’ve built more and more.
The way you portrayed the actual Tom was very fitting. He was charming, silver-tongued, and disarming. His powers of deception, of course, were even better. It was like a dance, watching the countess and Tom dodge questions with satiny lies, which would have fooled anyone else but one another. This dynamic was so very important to your main theme, and may I say, you made it work for you quite nicely. You gave us a small glimmer of hope that Tom could change, could make the right decision about how he felt about love and needing people, but inversely, we knew that he turned down that chance, considering he became Voldemort/The Dark Lord and all. He was, as you pointed out, just like her – an equal.
I admit, at first, throughout a majority of the fic, while I loved the countess’s character, I was a little confused about what it had to do with Tom Riddle outside of the title and parallel of their lives. Then you showed her trip to Knockturn Alley and Borgin and Burke’s, and it all became so startlingly clear, you tricky devil, you. Each encounter between them, such as their first tea, their lunch dates, and eventually that final dinner together, added to this perfect storm, the symmetrical psyches.
The moment that he threatened her with his wand was a strong moment in terms of how alike both of them are, because even though a normal/sane person would most likely wet themselves at the sight of a wand ready to kill him/her. But not the countess; she was so certain, so sure – and so right – that Tom could not kill her, despite the fact that he had done so before, that she simply kept on with her point. To make this woman this worldly and this sure of everything, is a difficult task without making her a tragic Mary Sue, but you did wonderfully.
The countess was not saddened or disappointed, for she had already foreseen that that was his fated choice; the choice of Tom Riddle.
This is yet another feather in your cap as to the similarities between your character and Tom. She saw it because she lived it, but to show how she differed from Tom in that she learned her lesson – that power isn’t everything – made the end of the fic superb. The reason I believe that she had learned a lesson is the fact that she knew that Tom would always choose power over love, but she tried to change his mind anyway. That is something that none of the previous versions of her would have bothered to do.
Now, since I’ve summarily adored your characterisation, I shall move on to the next bit, which is writing style. One of the things that I, as a reader, look for is that the writing style leads me at just the right speed, but it doesn’t leave me lost or knowing the end before I get there. You did all of that so well. There was, at no point, where I could not follow or didn’t want to keep going because I already knew what was happening. The flow was excellent, which is very conducive to maximum enjoyment of the story.
I really appreciate the way that you used short and long sentences in all the right places. The way you used them really, in my perception, lent a great deal to how I interpreted the countess’s thoughts, like this passage:
He was tall, bulk and handsome. Most girls melted at the site of him, and so did she. To everybody’s surprise, at the end of her seventh year, the two were dating. They seemed like such a "cute" couple, but the girl held a dark secret: the man was abusive.
The shortness of her description of her boyfriend in the beginning made it seem like that is all that she noticed at first, as well as the ‘Most girls melted…’ part. As the sentences got longer and longer in this paragraph, the content and meaning behind them got deeper and deeper. Whether this was an intention of yours or not, I guess I’ll never know, but it still struck me as important to the meaning of several passages similar to the one above.
Overall, your original character came to life in this piece, and I hope you’re proud of what you accomplished with her. You should be, because having the ability to make such a complex and deep person out of a previously blank page is not an easy thing to do, yet you did.
The truly amazing part is that, if I’m not mistaken, this was written just after HBP came out, yet this Riddle that we see here is also in tune with the Voldemort at the end of DH. Harry gave him a chance to repent, to have some remorse, just like the countess did in your story, but both times, he refused. The way it conforms to canon that came after this fic is truly excellent, which speaks very well to how well you have a grip on Tom’s character.
Anyhow, I hope that you can look at this fic every once in a while and enjoy the work you’ve done, because I’m glad that I got the chance to read this. It’s enlightening on a deeper wavelength, and it’s extremely well written.
Take care and happy future writing!
Wow. I thought this was very beautifully written. GREAT job!
That was simply amazing. You wrote the characters flawlessly. I was in awe of their charisma, and power just from reading. Without overly going into details on every piece there was a perfect picture in my mind. I understand why this story is called "The Choice of Tom Riddle" This may be the best piece of writing I've ever read on mugglenet.
The quality of this piece is fabulous. You chose two difficult topics. Tom Riddle, maybe one of the most complex and simple characters in the entire series. You also chose the topic of human nature, and how you determine your own fate. It's your choices that form you and your life.
You made the countess glamorous and wise. Never did she seem like an airhead blond. This story had such high contrast within the characters and settings. You make the world seem perfect and beautiful, but with another dark side filled with deceit. Iím just awestruck; I donít know how to describe it. I may have to reread this over and over again, just because ití so, honest and beautiful. You could feel the tact she used and you could feel the deceit and regrets radiating off the words. *applause*
Author's Response: Wow, I'm speechless. First, I'd like to apologize for getting back to you so late. I'd like to reply to all reviews, but I've been really busy recently, and I was actually taking a break from the site for awhile. After reading this, I just feel so flattered. Thank you so much, and I'm extremely glad you enjoyed reading it! Thank you so, so much again!
It was written very well, although it leaves me wondering if there was an actual point to the story.
Author's Response: Hi there! I'm really glad you thought it was well-written. Thank-you! This story was more to show the point that everybody has a choice in life, which includes Tom Riddle. It was actually originally written for one of the challenges talking about a "Choice" theme. Thanks SO much for reviewing!
Wow...that was amazing. Your description of the Countess and her background was really well-written. At first, when I started reading...I was like, "When was Lord Voldemort a girl?!", lol!
One thing that really amazed me was how you managed to fit the whole plot, or rather the idea, into one chapter without making it seem unnecessarily long and dragged. It didn't give that rushed feeling, it moved along on a nice pace, which made it more intriguing and mysterious, and left the author craving for more.
All in all, a very well-written fic, and an original approach to Tom Riddle's life...it made sense in terms of HBP too, as it didn't go too off-canon, though nothing like this has ever been mentioned in the books. A very insightful one-shot, congrats on writing such a wonderful story! *10*
Author's Response: Lord Voldemort a girl? LOL! That's hilarious! I am SO glad you reviewed. It means a lot to me when people take the time to review this story! Most of the time people don't really understand it because it can be confusing, so I am very glad (and ecstatic) that you enjoyed it! Tom Riddle is a VERY difficult character to write, and I'm glad I didn't go off canon too much! Thanks again for the absolutely AMAZING review!
Wow... it really makes you think. A very good and detailed narrative, all that background information on the Countess made is much easier to relate to her... Wow...
Author's Response: Hi! Thanks for the awesome comment! I LOVE when people review this story because not too many people do, lol. I'm glad you liked all the background information I put on the "Countess". Thanks again!
wow... it was so beautifully written but so sad....
Author's Response: Hi there! I just want to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for your nice review. This story for the monthly contest has been up for about a month, and I was worried that no one would ever review it. It means a lot to me that you liked it! Thanks SO much again!