Every time I read one of your stories, I always end up in the same position by the last word, with my eyes about two inches way from the screen and my mouth open -- they literally make my jaw drop (I should take a picture one day for you). This story was no different, and when I am done leaving this review I plan on adding this fic to my Favorites list. It is one of the most brilliant pieces I have read on this site.
The point of view is really interesting. It’s very different, but I think that you handled it extremely well. I read another entry to that challenge not too long ago, and if I remember correctly this monologue-type style was one of the requirements. It fits your story so well, though, that it would feel awkward reading this story from any other point of view (though I’m sure you could pull it off). It seems like such a one-sided conversation on Rodolphous’s part at first, but since he’s supposedly painting a portrait of Narcissa, everything normal. But once his questions get more persistent and he begs her to speak, her silence becomes eerie and ominous. I think it is actually because of this perspective that the story is able to unfold so carefully and beautifully to reveal the truth of Narcissa.
I don’t think I can ever leave you a review without commenting on your knack for nailing your descriptions. Even in the very beginning with the description of the sea ( I remember the look on your face when you saw the pale blue sky meld into the navy ocean along the horizon; it was a smudge of melting wax.) you had me awestruck. I loved how Rodolphous would recount some of their shared memories in such detail, and then pick a certain color from that time and use it for the portrait. It was almost like he was painting a collection of memories and things that had been rather than Narcissa herself. And the memories themselves are an explosion of sensory details -- from the slippery green seaweeds to the scent of freesias to the cold touch of Narcissa’s hands. These details weren’t meaningless fluff, either -- they painted the scene in my mind so I was watching your story rather than reading, and each of these details added up to the final reveal.
And then the ending. What an ending! I’m incredibly slow at recognizing these twists, so I didn’t realize what had happened until the third to last paragraph. I found these lines to be the most poignant of all: Why are you so stiff? Why is your skin cold to the touch? Why are your grey eyes now cold and indifferent, no longer the endless pits of desire they once were? Why are your lips a muted blue? -- they sent chills down my spine. I can see Rodolphous dressing up Narcissa’s body and forgetting that she’s gone. Your writing is just mind-blowingly brilliant there -- subtle, yet so powerful. And then the rest of the details began to fall into place -- how Rodolphous asked if her life was meaningful, how instead of freesias he would smell a rusty scent instead, how the Ministry was fruitless in its efforts to find him until now. It was just so dark and beautiful at the same time.
I really enjoyed reading this story. I am always blown away by your extreme prowess as a writer, but I think this might be one of my favorites that you have written.
Author's Response: Wow Ariana, thank you so much! Sorry for not responding earlier but I was left rather speechless by this review :) This is one of my favourite fics that I've written because I still remember how much fun I had writing and planning it out, which may sound odd considering the macabre subject but oh well. You're right, the challenge was to write a monologue from the artist's perspective. I was immediately inspired as I had been reading a lot of Nikki/fg_weasley's work and I was intrigued by her Rodolphus and wanted to give him a twirl myself. It was an interesting POV to use so I'm glad you thought I used it effectively. It was quite hard giving hints but keeping the big reveal until the end while keeping up the tension. It's great to know I kept you on your toes until the end!
Gosh, I am such a fangirl of your own beautiful writing, Ariana, so this review means a lot. Thank you so much!
Amazing! :) It's rare to find a story as intricate and well-written as this one. The narration is spectacular, because even before you know what he did to Narcissa, you get a sense that there's something's not right in his mind; that he's not wholly sane.
You did a great job of explaining the people and the circumstances even before the facts were actually stated. One of the best examples is, of course:
"... I will not smell your fragrance, but a rusty scent, instead. What do you think?"
I wasn't actually clever enough to put ALL the pieces together from the start, but reading the ending made a lot of the words make more sense.
Again, WONDERFUL story!
Author's Response: Hi Olivia! Wow, this review was a surprise. I have to say that although this fic is one of my favourites that I've written, it's one of my least read so thank you very much for popping by and leaving this review. I really tried to set up a sinister yet sensual atmosphere from the very beginning so I'm glad you liked it. And even though you didn't pick up on the clues until the end, I like that you were able to go back and appreciate them once you knew the full story. Again, thanks so much for the read and lovely review! Julia.
Ah, the memories...
I am, of course, referring to the way-back-when time that I was a scared little bunny of a newbie and never left reviews for anything I read. Well, I'm here to rectify that a bit.
I remember reading this when it was brand new. I just couldn't comprehend how someone could crawl around in the head of such an unknown character and still manage to convince me that this was really him, that this was the true Rodolphus. I love that fresh face that you put on every story as you take an unknown pocket in time and make it into your own, and this is yet another win for you here with PH Rodolphus. Even Narcissa is a different shade of herself here, but it was still her to me.
I suppose I do have one thing that I would want to nitpick, and it's in the following part:
How could I love her dark, unwelcoming eyes when I had your seductive grey ones in which to lose myself? I could stare into your eyes forever, my dear. Do not close them yet.
I will use this colour to render your eyes immortal, Narcissa. It will not do them justice; none of my paints could ever do such a thing, yet it is the best I have. I want Lucius to look at this painting and see your eyes staring back at him. I do not want them to be just anyone’s eyes; I want them to be yours, endless, lost to him in an eternity of nothingness.
It does read like a purposeful repetition theme, but I suppose seeing the same word five times in that short expanse and that word isn't 'a, and, the, you'... it's me being weird. Ignore me if you want (lol, I would). Just thought I'd attempt to be a helpful reviewer. :D
Again, such a fabulous fic, and it is a testament of how good you are by defailt alone, because even though this is one of your very first fics, it's still far and beyond 75% of anything on the archives, and you are better still today.
Author's Response: Wow, it always surprises me when this gets reviews. After I Am Alive, this fic is definitely one of my favourites I've written and yet it has so few reads. I guess it's the weird summary but oh well. I was definitely inspired by Nikki when writing this. I love her take on Rodolphus, Regulus and other Death Eaters so I enjoyed getting into his head for myself. I sometimes think that it can be harder to take a lesser known character as a subject. You have a lot of space to move around and yet, the character must still be recognisable and not someone completely new. I'm glad you liked the characterisation. Thanks for the nitpick! The repetition was intentional but I do realise that I do it far too much. I guess with this fic, since it was based around the portrait, I tried to structure it so that each section was focusing on one part of the painting and that's why I kept on repeating "eyes". Again, thanks so much for a lovely review, Jess. It was such a nice surprise :)
Oh! I so longed to fall on the floor and weep for Narcissa and Rodulphus. This was possibly the most beautiful and sorrowful piece ever. I enjoyed reading this fanfic. You deserve the best Honeyduke's can offer and a nice, big mug of Butterbeer. Great Job!!!
Author's Response: Wow! Thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it and that it moved you so emotionally. I will gladly take a mug of Butterbeer :)
Oh, Julia. I had a feeling I would love this, and I was right.
There was that air of knowing everything that had and hadn’t happened, and yet not knowing anything at all, if you know what I mean. There was just this large sense of mystery that you managed to keep up, while at the same time giving the reader details. The effect leaves me in awe, to be honest.
Perhaps, the next time I open my window, the next time I look down onto the bobbing pointed hats and billowing robes and small children throwing tantrums on the cobbled street, I will not smell your fragrance, but a rusty scent, instead.
I knew immediately what he was alluding to – the scent of blood, of her bloodshed. As soon as I realized it, I was struck by how intricately and expertly you wove that in – it’s obvious and yet still only an allusion. All that is there are the words ‘rusty scent’ but they tell so much, those two words. The possibility that he had already killed her came to me early on, but what it was here, at this line, that the reality came to light in my mind. What I particularly liked was that you used this technique throughout the story, but as the end of the fic nears and Rodolphus is more frantic, the rate and depth of these references rises. As the end nears, you give more and more clues until the final resolution. It wasn’t overdone, nor was it underdone; the resolution was perfect.
As I told you on AIM, Rodolphus/Narcissa is a pairing by which I have recently been intrigued. I’ve really only read one other and it was very good. Yours certainly did not disappoint as well. I really like relationship you set up, through the eyes and memory of Rodolphus. The way he would describe a certain encounter, and then skip to another, had me watching it in my mind’s eye like a movie reel.
I have to comment on your Rodolphus, of course. Though it is strictly a monologue, you managed to bring his character completely to life. We know so little of him, but you gave him flesh. I know it was part of the challenge, but I just adored that he wasn’t just doing a painting in that moment, but that you had him be a painter professionally. I adore artists, and I love Rodolphus, so having the two together was a treat. You also showed an angry, violent side to him that worked really well within your story.
It is the colour I choose to paint the blood on your silk robes; the darkened liquid spilt from within, as if your heart burned black.
I think this might perhaps by my favorite line in the entire story. I just … love that line so much. Its beautifully written, but I also liked it so much because it holds a lot of meaning beneath the surface. It speaks of Rodolphus’ pain and anguish, his anger and resentment. This is the line that really shows that he is a lover scorned. It’s wonderful.
And the end. God, the end. It was beautiful. It was wonderful. I LOVE the end, those last few lines. I can actually hear the desperation in Rodolophus’ voice as he tells her he warned her, tells her, basically, that it is not his fault, that she brought this on herself. And then you tie the whole story together with that last Do you remember? It was poetic, is what it was. It was just … just … amazing.
I admire you for this, because I could never write something in this style. It’s a brilliant concept, and the result turned out really well. I’m definitely adding this to my favorites.
Really, really well done, love. Its fantastic.
Author's Response: Oh my, Nikki. You have no idea how much your review made me smile. Thank god I'm at home alone today and no one can see me grinning like the biggest oddball on earth. Thank you so much! Such praise and from the Queen of Rodolphus! The prompt was inspired by Poe so I really wanted to have that air of allusion, mystery and knowledge all woven into one. I wanted it to be obvious that she was dead already yet not, so that if you went and read it all over again it would be much clearer. So I'm glad you liked that aspect. It was quite challenging to do without giving out too much. Oh my goodness, you thought my Rodolphus worked as well! I was worried that it wouldn't work with having a Death Eater as a painter but as I wrote and used the references to painting and art in his monologue I think it made more sense to me and hopefully to readers. I wanted him to have this quiet danger about him, that soft sort of menace that remains below the surface but suddenly snaps in a fit of anger as it did with killing Narcissa. It's funny that your favourite line is mine, too. You are very perceptive, Nikki :) I also like that line because it has Narcissa's name, Black. I like using that sort of double entendre. Thank you so much for this review, Nikki. And for the recommendation in the SBBC. That really made me squee! -Julia XD
That was awesomely intense...I LOVED IT!!!!!
Author's Response: Thank you so much for reading and reviewing! I'm glad you found it intense :)