Chapter Twelve - Search
I love this story! Isla is so sweet, and her emotions are so conflicting! I loved the German as I study it in school-I could actually understand most of it! So, keep up the good work and I look forward to your next chapter.
Author's Response: Thanks! It's great to know that you even understood the majority. :)
Chapter Twelve - Search
I was wondering when the silver fir would show up. Is Isla's wand made from the first silver fir? How intriguing. We see a return to Isla the Dreamer in this chapter, and I'm quite glad because I've been missing the daydreaming Black. I feel like the main plot is being set in motion, and this is quite possibly my favorite chapter.
I do have a few nitpicks, though.
wounds its way across the firmament
'winds' would be much more appropriate here.
wide-awake yet from the sleep still stinging eyes
The phrasing here is awkward. It would read better if you eliminated 'from the sleep'
another time that night the dream’s images
I think in this instance 'for the last time' would work much better.
Thanks so much for another great chapter! *huggles*
Author's Response: *huggles back* Thanks, Bella! And I'll have a look at the sentences you nitpicked. I'm afraid though another update will have to wait. Sorry. I see what I can do with writing. One day I'll finish the story for sure.
Chapter Eleven - Halloween
AH! AN UPDATE! *squishes*
Other than that, I feel so bad for Isla and Robert. I can tell that Isla feels trapped, and Robert is trying to help. I just hope it works out.
Author's Response: *squishes back* I'm happy that you liked it. Thanks for the review. And chapter twelve is in the queue.
Reviewer: jenny b
Chapter One - Soon
Hello, Bine! I was looking for another fic to review, and I thought I might do this one, seeing as it was in the Hufflepuff Review Thread. It looked lonely, way down the bottom of the page there. So hopefully this will revive it. :)
This was a lovely first chapter; it definitely sets the setting for what is sure to be a very intriguing story. I admit I have a soft spot for the Blacks, especially the ones who aren’t usually written about. The Black family are very intriguing, and it’s so interesting to read about the Pureblood mania back when it was still a big deal.
That said, I think you’ve created a family that are perfect Blacks. The way you’ve described them – their gracefulness, the discipline the parents have over their children, and the obvious pride they show – it’s wonderful. I love Phineas’ character – he reminds me a lot of Regulus, and how proud he was to be better than everyone.
Having the story written through the eyes of a ten year old girl was certainly a good idea – I haven’t read the rest of the chapters, so I don’t know if this changes, but it was definitely a good start. Usually when fics are centered around children they’re written in third person, so this was very refreshing – and also very interesting. Isla sees her world differently, being so young and not yet exposed to the wonders of Hogwarts.
Now, am I right in thinking that English is not your first language? If it is, then just ignore this. XD But if I’m right and it isn’t, then I have to say that you write amazingly well for that. Your description is amazing – I love how you depict the bedroom at the start. It immediately shows that girls are obviously a treasured thing in the Black House, and Isla is quite a spoiled little girl.
I was rather curious at how Phin described the Hogwarts houses. The way you wrote them, it sounds like being in Hufflepuff was not a bad thing for a Black – although, when the books are written, the Slytherins look down on Hufflepuff almost as much as he does Gryffindor. I’d imagine this is because the fic is set so much earlier, but still, the friction between houses has been going on since before then. So is it maybe because of your soft spot for your own house? ;)
The ending surprised me a little, I wasn’t expecting Isla’s father to beat her. For some reason, I’d imagined her to be their little darling – surely she would be a sweet girl after Elladora. But I actually really liked how it ties into the story and the characterization – the Blacks are clearly not a family who want to be embarrassed in public, especially by a daydreaming daughter who takes off her shoes without realising it.
All in all, I really enjoyed this. It was a brilliant portrayal of a typical Black family, and I think I may have to continue and read the rest now. You’ve got me interested. :) Thank you!
Author's Response: O.O SPEW review! Yay! I love getting SPEW reviews. *hugglesquishes* And thanks for reviving the Hufflepuff Review Circle - I thought I'd killed it with asking for a review for my WIP-baby. :(
And yes, you're right. English is not my mother tongue; German is (I'm from Germany). Therefore, thank you very much for the compliment, Jen. And yay that I got you interested with the story so that you want to go on reading. I promise it's getting better as the story goes on. =D Much better. lol
And hehee, about the soft spot for Hufflepufflyness... eh, yes, maybe, I'm not sure. Actually, it's more or less because relatives of Isla (not Blacks by birth) are/were in Hufflepuff, so as long as they fit into the pure-blood, well-behaved world view of the Blacks, then I guess even Slytheriny Blacks have nothing to say about family members being in Hufflepuff. And really, influence and money play a much bigger role than in which house relatives were, at least that's what I think.
Anyway, enough with me rambling. Thanks for your amazing review! *picklesquishhuggles* You're more than welcome to come back. ;p
Chapter Ten - ... Sixteen
Wow. That was a really awesome chapter! It's a really good story so far. I particularly liked that he gave her the cat.... I liked the fight too, but I think they should have been yelling at each other too.... Anyway can't wait for the next chapter! Good Job!
Author's Response: Thanks for *fighting* yourself through the story. lol And more thanks for reviewing and the kind words.
Chapter One - Soon
This is a really good chapter! I'm about to go add the story to my favorites. And about the spanking that's not considered abuse. Anyway good job!
Author's Response: Thanks for your lovely words. And I appreciate your comment about spanking not being abuse. *hugs*
Chapter One - Soon
This a great story and I can't wait for the next update.
Poor Robert. I feel so sorry for him.
Okay, I'm off to put this into my favorites list.
Author's Response: I'm happy that you liked it. Thanks for reading and reviewing. ~Bine
Chapter Ten - ... Sixteen
This chapter was definitately worth the wait. You described the conflicting feelings of Savaric and Atreus beutifully, and their duel was vivid in my mind. I really appreciate the hard work you put into the chapter, and am quite glad you battled through until you were satisfied with it instead of submitting it beforehand. I can't wait for the rest of the story.
Author's Response: Thank you for having a lot of patience with me. *huggles loyal reader* And know that chapter eleven is as good as written; it just needs another paragraph and some polishing up after chapter ten turned a slightly different route than it had been originally intended, and it should be with my beta at the beginning of next week at the latest. Thanks for not letting me down and for reviewing.
Chapter Nine - Sweet...
*sigh* As this chapter opens, I find myself frustrated with Isla for falling for Savaric's change of strategy. Yet, by Christmas morning, I find myself falling for it a little, too. Of course, I can't resist a little developing romance, and a kiss on the forehead. And, naturally, it doesn't help that I love a Slytherin.And I find myself wondering if maybe Savaric can learn to change a little? Maybe now that he's older, he might develop actual feelings for Isla, which might soften him - which is all ridiculous because I know that Isla Black marries Bob Hitchens. *sighs*
I don't know how to feel about his Christmas Present. On one hand, I'm glad that he did it. On the other hand, I'm a little miffed that he thinks his permission is the equivalent of a gift.
And this, I believe I only got impatient once and made to slap him on his cheek, but he had caught my wrist before gently turning my hand and kissing the top of it... I mean, ah! The fact that he still has enough control to catch her wrist, but he doesn't retaliate outright. Instead he charms her - and me. x.x
I'm so conflicted. I blame you.
And, Robert, on the sidelines, feeling jealous. *sigh* This story, despite the wavering bond between Isla and Robert, and despite the betrothal between her and Savaric, was not yet a romance. But now it is, and I'm all a flutter at everything. And, I don't even care that I know Savaric can be dangerous, I still treasure the kiss they share, and find myself craving more. It's just so wrong that it's right.
I winced at the description of what happened when Perseus hit Isla, and all through the scene when she woke up and Savaric was healing her. *shudders* And then, ahem, the scene after he healed her. Well, I'll just say it was written very well and leave it at that. >.> (Also, quickly, want to note the use of the word "jerk", which is a modern slang term.)
And, she's naming the cat Solaris. Gah! I love that, too. What a wonderful web you weave.
And, I get to the end of the chapter, and am very, very excited for the next - only to gladly remember that it's sitting on my computer in a folder :D *runs off*
And. Damnit. I just realised I've reviewed all these chapters while logged into TheVault, my other screename, which I generally don't review on. Alas. x.x It's still me, Jenna. I think you might have probably figured that out, though.
Author's Response: I didn't notice that you typed under TheVault either, but I know it's you, so - no harm done, Jenna. Thanks for another great review, and I had to chuckle at your statement that you're conflicted and that you blame me. Good to know that my characters allow others to feel with them.
Chapter Eight - Seeing Beyond
Once again, I'm having a little trouble breathing normally while reading.
The insight to Savaric's mind was fascinating. Atreus's advice was -- all too perfect. While it would seem to put Isla in less danger, physically, I'm worried that if he does start behaving as Atreus advised, Isla will take a couple of steps back. Whatever happens, it's a fascinating development, and again, it paces the story wonderfully. Instead of just plowing through with Savaric's merciless cruelty, the flow has shifted slightly.
I enjoyed the flashback to when Isla first met the Muggles. And I liked how it echoed the scene in the compartment when she replied to Savaric that the Robert and Helen didn't look diseased, just like she said that the Muggles didn't look poisonous. And I think this is also a nice overall affect of her being logical, just as you developed with her interest in Arithmancy.
Another note I enjoyed was how she's manged to hide some of her emotions using her pureblood facade; it's interesting that her family should hand her a tool that she can use against them, and it also reinforces the idea that, whatever her own beliefs, she is still a Black. I don't think we really see that enough in the estranged-pureblood-type characters.
I enjoyed Lyrae's letter, and I do feel rather sorry for her. It did clear up the meaning behind her snapping at Isla at St Mungo's though. I had been wondering about that; I don't know if I remembered to mention it in my review. I like that you've used the surname Moon; I've noticed that one at Harry's Sorting myself and have it on-hand if I ever need next-generation characters to fill in the blanks. And of course, you've used Longbottom, Greengrass, and Potter as well; very nice. :)
I did notice one particularly modern speech usage, and that was "You are way unprepared." I think, even in the 20th century, someone such as Perseus Black would probably avoid this phrase. "You are far too unprepared," would be more fitting.
I'm glad to see Elle again. And her character shone through even in the small glimpse of her. I can see that Bellatrix inherited her ancestor's disposition ;)
The level of complexity in the conversation between Savaric and Isla at the end is astounding; I'm trying to wrap myhead around it. Savaric is so incredibly pureblood. I almost feel a slight twinge of pity for him, not because I'm think he is isn't perfectly happy, but because, I wonder if he truly thinks for himself at all, or if it's all pureblood upbringing mixed with a raging temperament. It doesn't surprise me that he would be the sort to look at an 8-year-old and see his future bride.
Of course, his reason for choosingIsla makes perfect sense. He has such a hunger for control, of course he would want someone who was a challenge. Something like a particularly wild animal he could beat into submission. I'm surprised he told her, mainly because I wouldn't have expected it. But, while it makes Isla aware of his intentions, it also traps her a little because he's saying that he knows what she's about and isn't going to let her get away. It's more fear; but at the same time, I'm glad that Isla has the awareness.
Author's Response: Another great review, and slowly I'm running short on adjectives of how describe them: brilliant, wonderful, fantastic, awesome... and many things more. And I don't know if you're already tired of hearing it, but I once more give out my most humble thanks. I'm flattened by your compliments, and in the light of Shining Through Blackness being my first ever published fanfiction, it really means the world to me to know that my characterisation and plot went the right way. Thank you.
Chapter Seven - Surprises
Okay, Chapter 7! :)
I really enjoy the opening to this chapter; again, we step out of Isla's POV again, which is sort of peculiar, but I find that - because this is the second time you've done this - it's more justified. It's, perhaps not a pattern, but an occurence. On top of that, it is written very well. The flow and structure is lovely, and it's always wonderful to start a chapter with a nice, well-put together bit of narration. It's also, in general, a very nice introduction. (Chapter introductions are a bit of a weak spot for me, personally, so I have a deep appreciation when I see a chapter that opens as smoothly as this one.)
I also like the little bit about Isla's choosing her classes; it of course fits her upbringing very well that she wouldn't take Divination or Muggle Studies. And the note that she's not taking CoMC because "father and Phin" didn't recommend it is a good one, too. I like that you're developing her over time, and in steps. She's still a Black, clearly, not evening giving Muggle Studies a thought, and making her decisions based on the "recommendations" of her father and brother - but she's also willingly (and sneakily) befriending a Muggleborn. A lot of authors would just do this sort of change overnight, but this is much more natural and believable.
On two minor notes: I like the recurring mentions of Robert's sloppy handwriting (little touches like that are fabulous), as well as how he used Stella & Solaris for nicknames. *small squee* >.>
Robert and Isla's exchange, when he asks her "is this what you call friendship" - very well done. I like that she walks away. In any real situation, when confronted with something as complex and as emotional as what Robert has said, it's difficult to respond, and you do sort of need time to process. I think her walking away is as much a sign of strength as it is weakness. Weak because she's confused and human, and strong because some people might have stayed and just said whatever nonsense came to their head.
I'm growing even more fond of Robert. He's just so sincere, about everything - his beliefs and his feelings. He's really a beautiful person, and he's exactly the sort of person who would help someone like Isla escape from her upbringing. You have built is character wonderfully.
Now to Savaric. He's getting more dangerous, this is clear. He's controlling his temper, but that's making him worse; it merely shows that he's more methodical, and can release his anger at will. I honestly had difficult breathing during his "conversation" with Isla.
And, ah! The letter from Isla's father (who I now know I can refer to as Perseus) was - so powerful. Just, him referring to Savaric as Isla's superior, and saying his word is Isla's law. Ugh. I hope they all perish in a very painful fire. The letter was written absolutely exquisitly. (The only thing that caught my eye was the stressed words with bold or a change in italics; in letters, I think it would make more sense to represent stresses with an underline, as that is the way one generally stresses something in writing. Either that or all-caps, but I think that Perseus would be more of an underliner than a capslocker)
Oh, and then the letter from Lyrae. That made me happy. And it was an absolutely wonderful, wonderful note to end the chapter on: "you are first you. That should be your most important duty." It's such a resounding, and very important sentiment.
Again, I think I will leave this review at this chapter. I think that this is my favourite chapter so far. It is so very well written, your characterisation is magnficent, and I could really, can still feel a tension in my chest from reading, because it was so intense. *applauds*
Author's Response: Jenna, once again thanks for your thought-out review. It's great to know what you feel and see when reading the story. And I had to laugh at your comment that you hope they all perish in a very painful fire. LOL And thanks for the applause at the end. *humbly bows*
Chapter Six - Solaris Stella
Oooh, back at school for second year and Savaric's possessiveness has clearly increased. He's treating her like his own property, completely, no. I like that the Professor took points and Silenced him, though - whatever Savaric and Phineas think, they aren't actually on top of the food chain.
Ah! So, that's where that all those inner thoughts came from. -- I'm referring here to Robert's mention of people bowing to one another, and her needing friends, etc; Oh, love that. Being betrothed to Savaric while having Robert's words echo in her mind. I really love how you've worked that around, giving us a flashback after the incident, that was really much more powerful than it would have been if you'd just done it in order. Love it!
I've been paying closer attention to your dialogue now, though, and I'm picking up things. Such as "I was blown away" or "I think it was rather cute", "girls like romantic stuff" referring to the seventh year couple, have distinctly modern connotations and usages. Other things, not particularly modern speech, but with such casual intonations to them, like "Don't be stupid", or "I got it", which in the context you've used them in, isn't really 19th century type speech.
Moving on, though, I also like that she's still very aware of her position in the wizarding world, and still rather arrogant about it. "No one will ever poison a Black." -- Not something she's going to give up easily.
This line struck me particularly, as well "...Robert’s theories weren’t just theories. That they were truth." Because it brought to mind the Sorting Hat's words -- that Isla is searching for truth.
And then the end of Isla's conversation with Savaric, once again, we see him very clearly being controlling and possessive of her. I suppose it's right to worry about what's going to happen when Isla's starts becoming more defiant? *grim expression*
I really like Robert's point about, basically, professing love with clichés. That's so very true. Even at my fluffiest, I like for my characters to say things to one another that are heartfelt, rather than paraphrased lines from Shakespeare plays.
And I'm really growing to like Robert. I love people who can think for themselves. A great character you're developing here, and the foundation for his ability to form his own thoughts and opinions has really been there since that "She's different" on the train.
Now, all the astronomy information! I really like how you worked that in there, and I like the broader implications. The idea of perspectives changing over time, for instance, and the specific relationship between the Black family and stars/constellations really deepens it. That was a very, very nice read.
Hm, "The Cheshire Cat" stuff, Alice in Wonderland isn't a fairytale so much as a novel. And, I double-checked because I knew it was a 19th century publication - coincidentally, it was published in 1865. The same year that Robert mentions it, so he couldnt have heard the story as a child. You could, however, say it's a "new book" that came out that he read over the summer. I think that would be rather amusing. -- on top of that, I like the little bit of him giving her an original compliment ;)
Okay, I'm utterly exhausted. So, this one is just going to be for this chapter. And I believe that just leaves three more chapters to go, for the time being :) Looking forward to it.
Author's Response: Thanks for the compliment with the flashback scenes. It was a struggle to get this one right, and I couldn't publish the fifth chapter without having got back chapter six from my beta. And she took her time with this one... <.< *sigh*
The thing with "The Cheshire Cat": Unfortunately, I haven't researched the publication date. >.> Otherwise I might have pulled that off correctly... *another sigh*
And the scene with the astronomy information took me ages to pull off. There I've probably read half of the available sites in the internet to gather the information I needed. *phew* I'm glad it worked out and that you liked it.
Once again a thousand thanks for your reviews. They mean a great deal to me.
Chapter Five - Stanton Drew
And so we properly meet Savaric, and get a glimpse of some of the other players. I admit, I had a little trouble breathing during that exchange in the compartment after Isla contradicted Savaric. It's rather extreme, the reaction that followed, but I think it's perfectly understandable, given the era. Not only is their probably more prejudice against Muggleborns at this time, there's likely more oppression of women, particularly represented the way Isla and Lyrae are treated, and how it seems to be acceptable. I enjoyed the moment between Isla and her mother - I had a surge of affection for Lyrae, and it was a very admirable and brave thing to do. Only the tiniest break in that wall of things left unsaid, but a significant one.
I had some mixed feelings about the exchange between Robert and Helen; it was odd to step out of Isla's POV, it's not something you usually see in a first person narrative. It threw me off for a moment, because I lost grip of the point-of-view, but it was a good scene. Helen is a bit typical, I found myself mentally registering that she was being just as prejudiced against the pureblood families as the purebloods typically are against Muggleborns and half-bloods. It's perfectly fitting for the wizarding world, and I liked that she portrayed that cynicism towards Isla. But I still wanted to sort of Apparate in the compartment and stand up for Isla, because it's hard enough to defy family tradition without everyone else resigning to themselves to the fact that you're no different than those you're related to. I'm not sure how I felt about Helen's 'You’re not falling in love with her, are you?’ - they're eleven years old, and they only met for a couple of minutes, and all Robert did was say that she was different. So, I thought that was an odd reaction for her to jump to. Also (assuming that Robert is "Bob"), I think that the events in the compartment, and him seeing that she was different, would have been enough foreshadowing and foundation for a possible future relationship, without being quite so upfront about it.
The closing of the third chapter amused me greatly. I liked what the Hat saw in Isla, and I'm glad that we're seeing catalysts, things for Isla to think about, so that she doesn't just go with the flow. The last line made me smile; "This should get interesting". Yes indeed.
Onto chapter four. I like the presence of Professor Myth. I do feel a bit sorry for her, but I like to see Slytherins who aren't quite Slyth in appearance, and the manner in which she seems to fear Phineas is really striking. The dynamic between Phineas and Savaric is also worth making note of. Despite the difference in their ages, Phineas speaks to him almost like an equal. I think it says something about now only how much store Phineas sets by blood and name, but it also attributes this absolute power from Savaric. It's something that is very clearly present in his character at all times; he is just absolute unbending, and the thought of him really does frighten me a little.
Then we have the events at Orwell Manor, and - it's so intense, how quickly Isla's life is being flung before her and decided. The only thing I would comment on is I think that you need to be developing this world Isla lives in, just a bit more. I can't quite put my finger on what's missing, but I think you could be adding narration to paint a picture of how, like Savaric, unbending this world is. In places, the narration almost seems a bit too lighthearted to support the intensity of the situations Isla is finding herself in. (I think part of it is that there isn't enough attention paid to the setting; I noticed in this chapter that Asterion says "Hey there" and that's a very modern greeting. I admit personally I haven't been paying close attention to your specific word use, but I know that I do have to keep reminding myself that this is the latter half of the 1800's. But, the setting should remain clear throughout your narration, especially when the world which the characters' live in is so important to justifying their actions.)
The very ending, with Savaric stepping out, and Isla's father saying they're betrothed -- I said it before, that Savaric seems to emanate a sort of power. I felt it forcefully here, especially. The dyanmic between Savaric and Isla is - captivating. He doesn't seem to admire her, instead, his fixation seems to be based on a need to control, and the satisfaction he gets from dominating Isla. The way in which you've displayed this is just so vivid, particularly in the closing scene of chapter four. I'm very, very anxious for Isla to get away from Savaric. He's bad for my blood pressure.
Hm, admittedly, I have some issues buying the scene that starts with the Gryffindors turning on Isla. For a few reasons - to start, it seems wizards and witches always have their wands with them. So, it was peculiar for Isla not to have hers. Then, the remark that if she'd had her wand, some of the curses she'd shouted might have even killed them also seemed a bit much. The precedent set by Dark Magic is difficult to perform, and killing someone is not an easy task for an eleven year old. (In GoF, Barty Crouch, Jr - in the guise of Moody of course - said that every student in the DADA class could probably point their wands at him and try to cast Avada Kedavra and he doubted he'd get "as much as a nosebleed" - and that's a classful of fourth years. Not one single first-year.) It might have been enough to say that she knew several of the curses were illegal, and she probably couldn't have pulled them off, had she her wand, but they came streaming out as a result of her anger. Moving on - Savaric being able to overcome three students at once with such advanced magic, and the professors not being able to intervene - I think there I sort of drew a line. I think the professors should have been able to stop him, and they wouldn't resort to using Stunning Spells on a first-year student. I think the scene may have been better if you'd kept the magic use down, and created a tension, instead. You could have made Savaric appear strangely powerful with simply even one, fast, dangerous curse aimed against one student. (Something along the lines of "Sectumsempra", though clearly not that exact spell, as Snape invented it). But, I think the scene just went a bit overboard, and instead of convincing me of the depth of Savaric's power, I just... as a reader, my mind rejects it because I don't believe it. Sometimes, less is more.
Of course, then you have the next scene, and I must say, you're right back on track. The Headmaster is very well written, very powerful, and I think that his dialogue was flawless. He definitely has a sense of authority, and the manner in which he assessed the situation is thoroughly appropriate.
I liked that you used elements of handfasting in the betrothal ceremony, it seems very fitting, and it's nice to see outside reference show up in fic. (I'd always wanted to use something similar to handfasting for a wizard wedding; I haven't gotten around to it. Interestingly enough, the idea I had in mind turned out to be very similar to the Unbreakable Vow.) Though, on reading your notes at the end of the fic, I think would have preferred if the "death" issue had been left as was, and brought up later in the story. In storytelling, writers don't generally have the luxury of stopping and explaining something to the reader, and I think it works better that way. I think you could have used that line to your advantage, making the reader wonder how on earth Isla was going to get out of the betrothal, but with the note at the end, you sort of gave the game away.
My favourite thing about that scene, however, was Isla's questioning the bowing or kneeling to other's. I think it's magnificent that she's not simply questioning her upbringing, but she's really being philisophical about it. It's not just the blood prejudice, it's equality in general. And I think on the whole it's developing very nicely. My favourite thing about this story so far is the characterisation, Isla's thought process, and how well you develop and justify the feelings rising within her.
Another three chapters under my belt :) I hate to leave this review here, after being rather heavily critical of the most recent chapter, but I also think this review has gotten long enough. You do have some very strong and powerful things going for you in this story, as I hope I've made clear, and I really am enjoying reading it. I rarely invest time in a chaptered fic , so I hope you take my enjoyment as genuine and take my critique as nothing more than my opinion and, if anything, chances to make this story even better. :)
Author's Response: I really don't know how to ever thank you enough for your review. You grasp every single detail, and it still amazes me how you see Lyrae. And you're not the only one that kind of "detests" Savaric. All of the other reviewers said he was bad for Isla, but - I admit - I'm much too fond of him by now. I therefore hope you'll forgive me the plot tweaking I made from chapter seven onwards. =) Your opinion on this would be brilliant, but with three (I can't think of adjectives anymore to describe your awesomeness) SPEW-reviews you've done more for my story than I can ever say thank you for.
I noticed myself that the scene with the daggers and all was a bit overdone, but I had it written much more grotesque in the beginning than it is now. <.< I really should rewrite it someday, and all your comments will be brought into it then.
And don't worry to be critical. It only allows me to see my mistakes and avoid them in future. Thanks again for the honour of you reading and reviewing my story. *humbly bows*
Chapter Two - Silver Fir
Hello! You hinted? ;)
The first chapter was the perfect opening - such masterful exposition of the characters and setting. You introduced the readers to the basic foundations of the story - Isla as a character, striving to live up to her family's name, but still innocent and naïve about herself, her family, and what lies outside what she knows; the world in which Isla lives, not only the time setting, but her little piece of it and the way she has been taught to percieve the rest of it; and, most importantly I think, where each of these things is brought together - the expectations of her family, particularly her father, and how severe the reprimand is for Isla's "shortcomings".
I particularly enjoyed the way you first introduced us to the family members, through the sound of their footsteps. This told us not only something of their individual natures, but also told us a bit about Isla's feelings towards and/or relationship with each one. Furthermore, you gave us our first peek at what sort of people the Blacks are, when - of Elle - you write, "It was not the usual behaviour for a member of our family." The description of Mrs Black's footsteps caught my eye, and it said something to me of someone of subdued nature, someone quiet because they're trying to remain unnoticed, someone afraid, perhaps. This impression was reinforced by the nature of Mr Black shown at the end of the chapter, and the sob that escapes her mother before Isla is punished.
Then, once again, you employ a wonderful tactic for acquainting the reader further with the characters - Isla passes the portraits, and here we learn physical descriptions. I thought this was very nicely done. And I enjoyed seeing Isla, again, grouped into her family and compared and contrasted. I did, however, find a slight issue with Phineas being described as "tan". This is something that is somewhat of a personal pet peeve, as I see it used a lot particularly in the OC forum, but I do have my reasons. I'll try to share them as concisely as possible: "Tan" is not typically anyone's natural complexion. People of certain ethnicities may be naturally olive-toned or brown-skinned, but tan tends to imply that they're skin has taken a darker tone due to exposure to the sun. Now, on occasion it's a good word to use to describe someone's skintone, particularly people who might be naturally lighter skinned but live in sunny climates and therefore whose skin has more permanently grown shades darker than it is naturally. This, however, is not something you'll commonly find in Britain. Due to a combination of weather and ethnicity, British people are naturally, if not "pale", are not "tan". They might adopt a tan during the summer, particularly if they go South for the holiday, but a few months back in the rainy mother country and they'll likely return to their natural skintone. 2. The reason there seems to be such an amount of describing skin as tan is that many writers feel the need to have a full available physical description of the characters they author, meaning having a standard available word to describe each of the aspects of their physical appearance. And, when writing a character and not wishing to particularly describe them as pale, the inclination seems to be to seize "tan". But, these are characters, not wanted criminals. If there's nothing particularly milky or pimply or freckled or fair about their skin, then there's no reason to feel the need to specifically describe it. Though, there are other options. If you want to say that Phineas was not quite as pale as his sisters, you can simply say he's not quite as pale. Or you can say that he has a "darker complexion" than them. The idea of him being "tan" though, seems off, particularly in the 19th century when it was more fashionable to be fair.
So that was longer than I'd hoped, but as concise as I could manage. It wasn't a big issue, just the reasons behind it are particular, and I think that they can be applied to other aspects of physical description as well, so hopefully you'll find it useful.
The only other things I find out of place, and which I think can be viewed from a broader spectrum, were the descriptions of the school uniforms and a slight contradiction in Isla's perspective of the Houses. As to the first, the school uniform you described seems to mainly be something brought up in the movies. In the books, they are only ever described as having wizards, with no Muggle-type school uniforms beneath. This tends to be written into fan-fic a lot though, and it's not really a big issue - however, I think it's particularly unlikely for them to have been wearing such clothes to school in the latter half of the 19th century. I used to mod the Historical category, and in that time, I noticed that one of the most common issues was little things slipping in that don't fit the setting of the story, and so that's something you have to watch out for. As to the Houses, I was confused because first you write, "He had said Slytherin was the only true house to be Sorted into," but then Ravenclaw is described as being "for students with a sharp and witty mind; they were the best at school." It seems to contradict the perception that was just expressed that Slytherin is really the best house. Would they really admit that the Ravenclaws were typically the best students in school, or that they were any more sharp and witty than the Slytherins? Something more condescending and sceptical would have been fitting here, perhaps along the lines of, "Ravenclaw was for students that, while not quite good enough for Slytherin, were reasonably intelligent and generally got good marks and did well in lessons." When writing about people who put themselves and their beliefs above others, you have to show that they do see things differently, how they justify their choices, and how they're perception is often distorted in their favour.
As I said, the chapter, structurally and content wise, is a very good introduction to and foundation for the story. Building up slowly, painting the picture of Isla, her family, her life and her world, and then bringing that very tense ending in which we see the dark side of how she lives. Rarely have I seen a first chapter done so well. It sets a fine example. I don't know how to commend you as highly as I wish to, except to say that if I were to teach a class on how to write an opening chapter, I would choose this chapter as a perfect illustration of doing so.
Moving through the next chapter, you continue to build on this pressure that Isla is under, by showing just how much Phineas, too, has become a domineering male figure in her life. Also, we get a greater insight to the demands placed on Isla - she's supposed to be so poised she doesn't even allow her stomach to growl! (I'm also suddenly aware of my own hunger). But, you don't overdo it. At the end of the exchange, Phineas smiles at her, encouragingly, and it almost seems that he's fair. So by the end of the incident, you have both shown the reader the severity with which Isla is brought up and justify why it is that she still respects her father and brother so much.
I was confused by the closing of the scene, when Isla says she's going to "be a good witch", and Phineas says "No, a Black’s never “good”. We’re to do well, Isla. Got that." My first impression is that he's correcting a grammatical mistake (but, he isn't; Isla's grammar was perfectly acceptable.) The other possibility is that he meant the Blacks are "more than good", but I'm not inclined to jump to that conclusion because "well" doesn't mean "better than good." Good is an adjective and well is an adverb. Something is good, and something is done well. I hope to "be a good witch", but to "perform magic well." So, I think it should have been either one of two ways: Isla should have said "I'm going to do good at Hogwarts", and Phineas could have corrected her as he did. Or you could have kept Isla's statement the same and had Phineas say something such as "No, a Black's never "good". Blacks are always exceptional..."
I enjoyed the glance of Lyrae in this chapter, again, my impression of her as someone who has been oppressed is strengthened. I don't know if this is your intention, but both by saying it's uncommon for her to show emotion and then shortly after seeing her reprimanded by her husband, it's the most sensible conclusion, and I think that I like you've characterised her this way. It's almost as if Isla is her mother, on a second chance, and she still has the opportunity to stop herself from ending up like that. So, two things there: one, I like that you're constantly developing your characters through their dialogue, actions and interactions. It strengthens the image of them, and it's wonderful how well you show rather than tell. The other thing, is that I do like this rather unspoken connection between Isla and Lyrae, two prisoners, trained to obey. It's just another wonderful facet of this family unit. And, judging from what we know about Isla Black, I'm looking forward to seeing Isla break away from this.
Then, the closing of the chapter, brought with the Isla getting her wand and being told the legend of the silver fir. First, let me tell you, I absolutely adore folklore, so -- *flail*. Yes, the tale in itself I thought was wonderful, but also how you used it. Possible upcoming plot points aside - Isla's fascination and her father's blatant condescension and disapproval. I absolutely love the conflict. And, aside from the mystery itself, it's already set up as a likely factor for the thought-wandering daughter and reality-bound father to have such opposing feelings about. So, other than the possibilities presented by the tale itself, the note you close this chapter on, the unspoken family conflict, Isla being of a different disposition than her father, is a very strong, important note, and once again you have masterfully structured the chapter, making excellent use of exposition and development of both the characters and plot and tying them together powerfully.
I suppose I shall leave this review at the first two chapters, as it's clearly long enough already. I do plan on carrying on with the other chapters, and I'm trying to be broad, but we'll see how many reviews it takes to catch up ;)
Author's Response: *le jaw drops* ... *silence* ... *even more silence*
Thank you sooooooo much! But that's just an understatement. I can't say "thank you" often enough for the review you've written for my story. I feel honoured to have got such a wonderful, lovely, long SPEWly review for my story. Maybe I should hint more often... ;p
The explanation for the usage of "tan" was wonderful, and it helps me a lot for future stories where I'll look out for it. And also your paragraph with "doing good" and "doing well" and Isla's view of the Houses; I'm definitely going to keep in mind what you said for future stories I'll write. And the part with the description of the school uniforms: the mod pointed this out to me, too. I didn't think about it when writing, a mistake I admit. But I'm trying to look out for such small details now when writing because a reader and reviewer like you will catch on those easily.
And... *breathes deeply* ... I'm even much more honoured that if you were to teach a class, that you would take my first chapter as a good example. It really means very much to me, I can't say that often enough.
What impressed me a lot was your impression of Lyrae - and that only from the few glimpses I gave in both chapters! Wow. I'm not going to tell if you're right or wrong with your impression, because where would the suspense be?
Since I joined the forum and learned about SPEW I'd always loved to get a SPEW review of my own. Now I have - my wish has come true. Thank you so much for it! And I call myself the luckiest person on Earth that you've decided to read my story. Again thanks so much! *cuddles the best reviewer I've ever got*
Chapter Nine - Sweet...
Solaris the cat, Solaris the Hufflepuff....I like the Hufflepuff better. Although, he seems to be a bit stalkerish (is that a word?) around Isa in this chapter. Not that I blame him. The problem being, of course, that Savaric was only pretending to be kind and I think he's not; yet Isla doesn't realize that he is a fake.
Another great chapter and I hope you get through the writer's block soon.
Author's Response: Thanks for another review, and I'm working on chapter ten. I have ideas again, but currently paralelly write for a challenge which is a little bit more urgent in my eyes because of a deadline. But I try to not let my STB readers down. In three weeks I'm on working holiday and will then have time to dedicate myself some more to STB.
Robert isn't stalking Isla, they just run into each other quite regularly considering the fact that both live and learn in the same castle. Funny though he seems to have only eyes for Isla...
Ah, and Savaric... I admit, I've grown attached to him and don't want to present him in a too bad light, but it's hard - very hard - to stay true to my story. I'm tinkering with another unthought of plot twist, so watch out for how the story will continue.
Thanks again for being a dedicated reader - and repetitive reviewer. Your words make my day! Cheers.
Chapter Eight - Seeing Beyond
Who will come out on top, Savaric or Isla? Hmm...quite difficult to guess. The trust that has grown between Isla and her mother is a wonderful touch and I'm glad you've included it.
Author's Response: Thanks for your comment, and I'm glad I took on the idea when it hopped into my mind the first time. I somehow had the urge to show the readers more about the relationships within the family.
As for who will come out on top: read on and find out.
Chapter Two - Silver Fir
Awesome! Wow, Ollivander as young...I can hardly imagine!
Author's Response: Didn't we all start younger than we are today? Then again, I never really thought about Ollivander being the same person that will sell a wand to Harry in... *quickly counting* ... 127 years - a little bit old then, don't you think? Although wizards and witches can get really old...
Whatever. Thanks for reading and leaving these kind words.
Chapter One - Soon
I really like it! Good description and characterization. The only thing that bothered me was that some of their family members weren't in Slytherin. I thought that all Blacks had been in Slytherin.
Author's Response: Thanks for reading and reviewing with this kind comment.
As for the Houses: as a fact, all Blacks had been in Slytherin, only Isla's cousins and other relatives that weren't Blacks hadn't been in Slytherin (they didn't carry the family name Black, like e.g. Isla's mother who was born as Moon and had been in Ravenclaw).
Chapter Eight - Seeing Beyond
ooooh *shivers* theres is something wonderful yet sinister about Savaric. I simply adore this story! keep up the good work :D
Author's Response: Thank you so much for your lovely comment. Chapter nine is already with my beta, and I expect it returned any day now. Watch out for it.
Chapter Seven - Surprises
I knew Savaric was no good. I'm quite glad Isla has finally wised up to that fact. The continuance of Robert worked out very well. His is and Isla's relationship has become more strained, but I'm sure they'll pull through, especially with Isla's mother's advice. "You are at first you." Take that to heart, and Isla will be better off than most people, even though it probably won't seem that way at first.
Author's Response: Thanks for your thoughts. I'm happy that you're still reading and continuously reviewing. And although I'm bursting to tell you how this story goes on, I'm afraid you (and all other readers) will have to wait ;p
My beta's computer is up and running again, and I've got back chapter eight around an hour ago. So hopefully it won't be too much longer until it's going online.