Neville Longbottom has been a favourite character of mine since either PoA or GoF. As I was browsing through the SPEW 007 thread, this fact is what caused me to check out your thread, and thus, this story. Iím glad I did, because this one was definitely worth the read. You have done a very nice characterisation of the two primary characters in this story, Neville and his Gran, and the storyline is good as well. Short the first chapter maybe, but I think it accomplishes one of the most important tasks I think an opening chapter has: seizing the attention of the reader.
One of the strong points, in the chapter, is how you captured Nevilleís passion for Herbology. The whole idea of the family green house and Neville becoming the main keeper of it works really well. I also liked the idea of the Faire, and how much Neville wanted to go, but was worried about whether or not his Gran would approve. It seemed so much like his Gran to tolerate his fervour for Herbology because he as good at it, while trying to steer him in other directions at the same time. The whole idea of her saying something about his dad was an Auror, which paid well, is definitely something a parental figure would say.
In regards to constructive criticism, I cannot say that I have much. The only thing I would have perhaps liked to see mentioned somewhere was Nevilleís feelings on the darkening situation with Voldemort. I know none of that was really the focus of this chapter (perhaps you deal with it later on). It just seems to me like it became such a central theme in Nevilleís life, as it did for many others, around the time of OoTP.
In this sentence, Neville had never wanted to do anything quite so badly in his life, the word quite feels like an extra word. Personally, I think the sentence would read better without it, and I donít think you alter the meaning at all by dropping it. Is that picky enough for you? Itís a testament to how well this is written, I think, that I have to pull something like that out to have any suggestions for potential improvements.
Great job so far!
Author's Response: Oh, yay! Thanks so much for reviewing. This is one of those stories that I like, but I haven't gotten it nearly to its full potential. Pretty much everything I write, I go back and edit into shape much much later. Thanks also for pointing that bit out--nitpicky is fine. Again, thank you so much for leaving such a nice, thoughtful review!
Love the beginning. I think these two chapters in general are the best Iíve ever seen your writing; not only does it flow well, but itís really funny, in a JKR-esque way which is really quite hard to achieve (I have tried and failed Ė I completely lack the knack for it). But the first two paragraphs win a star Ė they hit just the right note after the last chapter.
A few nitpicks, to start out with: Iíve signed up to buy a round-trip Portkey, itís very safe.Ē While itís not completely necessary, especially since this is dialogue, Iíd recommend changing the comma to something else Ė period, semi-colon, or dash would all be fine Ė just because you have two distinct clauses. At first, she nudged Neville towards the things Frank had enjoyed, only to find that her grandson showed very few of the same tendencies. Youíre talking about something that happened in the past, but before the past that the entire story takes place in, so it should be ďhad nudgedĒ. If that makes sense. It had been a hope that if Neville kept trying, something of the son she had raised might reappear. ďIt had been her hopeĒ might fit a bit better.
I was surprised by the shift in POV, but not bothered, and you sustained Augustaís perspective very well. I love what you do with her, capturing her straight-forwardness and abruptness, and yet still allowing her to be real and even gentle. You have a great handle on both characters Ė close to canon, and yet still refreshingly original.
My favorite part (besides the beginning): They were so different, he and his Gran. Come to that, she wasnít much like his father either. Fascinating observation! I hadnít thought of this Ė hadnít thought much about the relationship between Frank and his mother at all, to tell the truth. I wonder how much of reverence for him comes of the nostalgia of looking back (the grass was always greener last decade, after all) and how much is regret for failed opportunities with Frank? Now I want to read fic exploring that relationship!
Great start, and youíve done a great job of hooking me on what didnít originally seem to be an exciting plot. One of the marks of a good story is that you enjoy reading it even when youíre not hanging on the thread of the action, and youíve totally succeeded in selling this story, through your characterizations and subtle humor.
Author's Response: Squeee! Thank you so much for yet another wonderful review. You make me want to re-analyse my own work O.o. The bit about Augusta and Frank was a little random -- I wrote that part about Neville and realised suddenly that I've no idea where Frank's personality came from! I'm sure he wasn't like his mother (after all, he was popular; I'm not sure Augusta ever got there). It's not really about the plot. I'm sort of cheating on that one in order to find Neville (and, incidentally, Augusta) out. Again, a thousand thanks!
I have to admit, when I started reading this I was wondering if a story about Neville and a Herbology contest would be able to hold my interest. It did, and it was the quality of your writing that allowed it to do so. Not only was the writing style fluid and easy to read, this chapter is peppered with great lines, worthy of JKR.
To name a few: Your characterization of Nevilleís Gran is spot on, and I love the inevitable, predictable follow-up to her Herbology comment. Rare, flesh-eating, or floral. *giggles wildly* Perfect! I can say nothing more. Neville had never wanted to do anything quite so badly in his life (unless it was to sink through the floor in some of Professor Snapeís lessons). Aw, Neville. This line totally captures him Ė itís humorous and pitiful at the same time.
The Faire was a worthy, harmless time, and highly prestigious. [Paragraph break] His father had not cared for Herbology. I love the combination of those two lines, with the paragraph-break pause in the middle. They donít seem to be related, and yet, of course they are. This is a heart-breaking idea, and these two sentences indefinably capture it; he wants to prove himself worthy and break free of his fatherís shadow Ė and yet, I wonder if there isnít something else there as well. Iíd love to see a bit of conflict Ė him wanting to break free and yet not wanting to let his father down, or trying to prove himself and yet fearing that he will fail to live up to his fatherís standard.
What a great set-up for a story; I definitely did not expect that from a Herbology contest. Heading off to read more now.
Author's Response: Eeee! Yes. Thank you! The contest is basically a vehicle to get Neville out there. I know he's got more in him than good Herbology grades; it's just a matter of finding it. Rather, of finding him.
Some young wizards dream of becoming the first-ever Dragon Tamer. Many hope to be famous Quidditch stars. Now and then, one will desire to be Minister of Magic.
And some wish to win renown for fertilizers, honking daffodils, and plants that try to eat their gardeners. Neville Longbottom was one of these.
Shall I mention again how much I love your characterization of Neville? I shall sign-up on the first available application sheet as your very own fangirl, I swear. *grins*
She had not forced Neville to follow in his fatherís footsteps because it was the only successful way she knew; it had been her way of coping, of remembering. It had been a hope that if Neville kept trying, something of the son she had raised might reappear.
This is just perfect Ė I love how youíve show her to be still grieving for her only child under her very tough exterior. I donít think many of us often think about how difficult it must be for Augusta.
They were so different, he and his Gran. Come to that, she wasnít much like his father either. By all accounts, his father had had an easy laugh, a quick sense of humour, and a love of life, none of which his fatherís mother seemed to possess.
Iím only mentioning this because it really struck me as I was reading it Ė I think, perhaps a semi colon would work better in place of the comma between Ďlifeí and Ďnoneí, because the last bit is more of a separate clause Ė Iím positive itís still correct as it is, though, it just might be clearer with the semicolon.
I love the way you express their thoughts, deep revelations and understandings all mixed up with the more mundane thoughts of every day Ė clean socks and how time passes. Itís very real, and touching and gaugh. I just adore the whole ending. The new equilibrium he and his Gran achieve is wonderfully understated and full of comfortable melancholy; the familiar ache of time passing and faint regrets gentled by the acceptance of how well they turned out, almost right under your nose.
Author's Response: My day has just had a very dramatic upturn! Thank you so much! I love how you can say in words why something works, when I only know it does *insert eyeroll smiley here* And thanks for the note on the semicolon -- I'll probably go back and change that.
Neville is just such a wonderful character, isnít he? I love how you captured him so perfectly just the first two sentences. Already youíre reader knows that you have a perfect grasp of just who this character is, and how he thinks. Nice :-)
Neville had never wanted to do anything quite so badly in his life (unless it was to sink through the floor in some of Professor Snapeís lessons)
Loved this bit *sniggers* and yet, itís just so very Neville - and how very interesting and sad that he would clash with his domineering Grandmother over his one real achievement. You did such a marvelous job showing us his Gran - from just the few hints given to us in the books we know her to be a very formidable lady, and the scene in St. Mungoís has clearly been captured fully in your portrayal of her.
Neville wondered if his eagerness to pursue Herbology was pride in knowing that he was someone besides his father, or if it was desperation to get away from his legacy. Maybe both.
I loved this - itís just so telling, and yet sort of poignant at the same time. From the only scene in the books between Neville and his parents, we are sort of left with the feeling that he feels very much trapped in the shadow of what happened to them, and I love how you capture that, and his own struggle with those feelings, like heís not being a dutiful son by even thinking them here.
Author's Response: Eeeee! A really good review! *jumps happily* Leaping aside, thank you for your reassuring comments. Working with Neville's been interesting; I figure out a structure and then rewrite it about ten times, by which time I'm not sure if I'm too close to know if it's good or not. So thank you!
Author's Response: Thank you!
Good job. I always liked Neville. It's nice to see a story that gives him credit for his accomplishments.
Author's Response: That's what I was aiming for. He may be a klutz, but he's a caring, intelligent, courageous klutz!
neville's always been one of my favorite characters and i always like to rwad a good story about neville in his own right
Author's Response: Thank you! I've been really discovering a lot about Neville, and I also am coming to like him a lot. I appreciate your comments!