Reviews For Azure in the Snow
Reviewer: h_vic
Date: 07/28/11 2:14
Chapter: Chapter 1

Well, finally here is some much promised and much belated birthday reviewage for you, Jess. It's only two months late!

I always thought I wrote messed up Ravenclaws but you've really taken it to whole new levels here and made it work so well.

You already know that I adored this story the first time I read it (admittedly that's probably not quite the way to phrase it with a story this dark, but I did find it moving, compelling, stark and so haunting that it stayed with me for a long time afterwards), and now that Hollow Soldiers has filled in the back story for me, it just takes my breath away.

This story did leave me with questions originally, but of course those have all been answered now. What makes it even more powerful for me is that with Hollow Soldiers, you didn't just answer the obvious question of what happened to Lisa, but you answered what was to me the far more compelling question of what happened to Michael, and now that I know that, it makes the state he is in here both more comprehensible and more tragic.

It's a given that we agree that people would be thoroughly messed up after the events of DH, but even set against that backdrop, it intrigued me that Michael seemed so much more of a mess than those around him, and I wanted to know why. In the light of the backstory of Hollow Soldiers though, it now makes perfect sense for him to be in such a state.

The only thing I find myself not entirely sure about though in light of the events of Hollow Soldiers is why Lisa's death doesn't kick him straight back to rock bottom (well apart from  the fact that from a storytelling point of view it wouldn't fit with the theme of healing and second chances that you are working with; I mean from a psychological standpoint though). I know his guilt over Lisa is only half the story and there's what he did to Miles traumatising him too, but as he blames himself for what happened to Lisa, even though her eventual death was pretty much inevitable by this point, I'd have thought her death might have hit him harder than it did. He seems very together by the end and the reconciliation between him and Padma feels far more stable than just a grief-provoked need for intimacy, which is perhaps the response I might have found a little believable. I do understand why you shaped the ending the way you did though, because it achieves the hopeful themes of the fic, which a darker ending wouldn't.

I just love the way that you've made these characters all so flawed and self-loathing so that no one is truly sympathetic. It's a brave choice in a story to have no character whose choices the reader can entirely condone, but you make it work and I find myself caring about the characters even as I'm angry at them. Everyone seems too caught up in their own issues to be there for Lisa, and that is so tragically reflected in the way that they miss the final moments of Lisa's life. Michael has screwed up royally and dealt with things all wrong and is too caught up in his guilt over Lisa to think about her rather than himself; Anthony is so lost in his own self-righteous anger; and Padma even acknowledges that she is more caught up in her issues with Michael than her friend's death. Yet I still feel sorry for them all.

Also with Padma, I find it very sad that it felt to me that she was compromising herself somehow by taking Michael back and that she was aware of that but it was better than losing someone else. Their relationship might help Michael heal but I feel like it might be more damaging for Padma.

On a different note, I have to say that, despite the fact that I'm usually a huge fan of imagery and description (as you well know), I actually think the very stark way you tell this story is really effective. Stripping away all the frills lets the reader get straight to the cold, hard heart of the story. It's effective too that the only time you let imagery creep in is within the flashback because of course that would be burnt in vivid detail on Padma mind.

I love the symbolism of her walking across the broken glass. It's a great image on its own but by describing it as her walking across the strewn vestiges of her plans for their night, you elevate it to something more. I get a feel of her walking across the sharp-edged shards of her broken dreams. It's just tragic and beautiful.

Tragic and beautiful are perfect words to sum up the story in general actually, Jess dear. It's so dark and yet hopeful, and I really hope you write even more one day in this messed up little Ravenclaw universe you've created, because I can promise you that you'd have at least one avid reader.

~Hannah

Author's Response:

Lol, I have a weird relationship with reviews like this. They make me squee, but then I have no idea where to start answering them. Eep!

This fic was originally meant to leave questions unanswered but alluded to in passing. Sort of like how we might meet someone with a lot of problems on a bus or a train, see what we see, hear what we hear, and make assumptions about the rest. I didn't really think anyone would care so very much about why Michael was the way he was or what had happened to Lisa outside of knowing, "Oh, it was in the battle. Gotcha." In a way, though, this fic ends up being more of an addendum to Hollow Soldiers than the latter is a prequel to it (if that makes sense). 

The thing about Michael is that his eighteen-year-old self was a child fighting in a man's world, so sure that what he was doing was right until the real war started. Mentally, he was just so very unequipped to deal with everything that was going on, with the addition to essentially having two murders hanging over his head. It took his emotional development and arrested it. taking away his ability to move on and to properly heal. For him, though, his watershed moment, his moment of clarity, had been when Padma walked in on him with the hooker.  Up until that point, he'd been in a self-pity coma, not realising that in his own destruction, he was taking other people down with him. That was why he had distanced himself from Padma until she sought him out, because he was fairly certain that she was better off without him. It wasn't until Lisa's death, which served as a form of closure for him, that he finally came to terms with what he'd done in the past. He always cared deeply for Padma and found that, in allowing himself to love her, he had nearly wasted what they'd had. He finally saw that he needed to let himself be happy, because steeping himself in misery and self-destruction wasn't going to bring back Lisa or Miles. That's what I was going for in the end. But, as the story was in Padma's POV, these are perimeter concepts that sort of have to be inferred.Yes, he will always be that damaged man-child who killed someone before he truly knew what it meant to do that, but that man-child grew up finally.

I really like that you picked up on the idea that all of the characters were reprehensible in their own way. Sure, it was easy to single out Michael, but the rest of them played a part in his implosion, as well. Padma left him to rot because she took his iniquity as rejecting her rather than a side effect of the battle that she didn't even know about and never asked. Anthony was busy judging him, and Terry was just trying to be friends with everyone, but that didn't help anyone, either.

I really thought that a stark, no-nonsense narrative was more poignant toward what I was going for than prose that would likely have bordered on wangsty. Instead of being an after-school special, it was a raw, heart-felt memoir of a group of people who lost everything because they lost each other.

Hehe, I will admit, I was going for a bit of symbolism with the broken glass. It was meant to show that, despite how badly their relationship was broken, shattered if you will, she would always cross any distance for him and always would've done. As you mentioned, her continued relationship with Michael seems self-destructive, but in the end, he was all she really wanted. She never dated anyone when they were apart.

All in all, I really owe my love of screwed up Claws to you. Before we bumped into each other, I had no idea who Lisa Turpin really was in my head, and Michael was just a guy that I gave a son whose mother didn't matter who she was. Now, I know them like friends, I know their buttons that get pushed, and I know how far they can bend before they break. I'm just happy to be able to share them with you and that you can partake in their richness. 

Thank you for the lovely review. :)

~Jess / Your Rarepair Soulmate!

Reviewer: xxbabewithbrainsxx
Date: 04/12/11 15:09
Chapter: Chapter 1

Well, Jess, tell Xelina happy birthday from me, and that she has a very fascinating name :)

Despite its dark tone, I really liked this fic. I never really read stuff about Padma or Michael. I tend to stick with the Gryffindors and Slytherins for some reason, and I sort of forget about the Claws and the Puffs. Call me cruel, but there you go :) And that's my own house, as well! Perhaps it's because in the books, the Gryffindors and Slytherins are the main focus, really. The Gryffindors more so, I suppose, but the Puffs and Claws, while still being characterised, tend to be in the background -- with the exception of Luna, of course.

Shamefully, for this very reason, I can't actually remember when Lisa Turpin's name was even mentioned in Harry Potter. It can't have been a big thing, otherwise I'm sure I would've remembered her name. Still, this was a great premise to base a story on, although I would've liked to have known more about why Lisa was in a coma in the first place, and what caused her to relapse the way she did. I have a strange feeling that that's already on your author page, and I will trawl through it later, but if you haven't wrote one yet, Jess, I suggest you do so -- NOW.

The memory, while being surprisingly short, said so much more than its length. The interlude was timed perfectly and it really intensified the moment. I can imagine Padma's pain because you painted the picture so very clearly, so well done on that. It must've been awful to see your boyfriend with a prostitute, taking drugs. I mean, that's just...ugh. What I thought was most effective was that you didn't waste time on description or anything -- you just got straight to the point and I think, here, you proved to me that quality really is better than quantity, because the memory spoke volumes.

The transition back to the present was smoothly done, although I did wonder what happened to Padma and Michael when she had that breakdown. I feel you could've gone into more depth about that, as it seemed to be...missing, somehow. Even just a sentence would've sufficed, to be honest, just to tell us what happened in the gap.

Finally, I think you portrayed Padma's and Michael's self-hatred so very well in this fic, and I think that that was so effectively done that it deserves (unheard) applause from me. The fact that Padma's friend was as good as dead and was going to die any time soon and supposedly, the only thing Padma could think about was herself speaks volumes about her character. Similarly, with Michael, he clearly showed that he hated himself, but this time, I think it was justified. The thing with self hatred is, in my opinion, that while it's never healthy, sometimes -- just sometimes -- it shows your humility more than anything, and I think you've displayed that fabulously in this fic. So overall, Jess, ta for writing, and let me know if you've written or are planning to write any Lisa Turpin fics, since I'd love to know her side of the story.

~Soraya~

Author's Response:

If you haven't noticed, I have an affinity for very minor characters. Lisa is the most minor of all, since she was only mentioned in JKR's class list for Harry's year. She never made an appearance in the books. What I wanted, though, was to show how painful memories and past events could tear people apart, but it could also bring them back together. What happened to Lisa occurred during the battle, and that story will come eventually, but this was meant to focus on Padma's pain from all that had happened and how it had affected her broken relationship with Michael. Hopefully sooner rather than later, I'll get that prequel written.

I'm glad you picked up on the self-hatred both of them were harbouring. Michael hated himself for betraying Padma, and Padma blamed herself for whatever she had done to drive him to it. She simply didn't understand that things just don't work that way.

As for what happened right before the memory sequence... nothing, really. As soon as she was fit, they went straight for St Mungo's. I didn't remark upon it because there was nothing there to relay, honestly. She cried for a while, he held onto her, she stopped crying, and they left. I had originally had a bit like that in there, but it sounded too 'He did this. She did that. They did this.', so I cut it. Trust me... it sounds better the way it is, lol.

Drugs are a delicate subject to tackle in fan fiction, because they are often used as a plot device or, worse, glorified. I didn't want to make my story about the addiction, but rather about loss and maybe a bit about healing. And though there is a fair amount of hidden backstory, most of it is fairly easily gleaned, at least enough to understand the toll something like a comatose friend could affect a group of people who had been together for over half a decade.

Anyway, I'll stop rambling now. This was an excellent review, and I'm humbled that you chose my story to visit. Take care and happy SPEWing!

~Jess

Reviewer: Equinox Chick
Date: 04/06/11 11:50
Chapter: Chapter 1

I really like this. I mean seriously, really, adore the story. I clicked on, not knowing what this was going to be about, but imagined - ah, it's Jess, bit of decent smut here to take the edge off my day. Instead I find a very powerful tale. The drugs came as a complete surprise, but they shouldn't. I doubt anyone came out of the battle unscarred, and I applaud you for not going down the usual route of Firewhisky.

I was a bit confused about Michael's relationship towards Lisa. Was Anthony's anger directed at him because he felt that all the Claws should be there for Lisa? Or was there something else he blamed Michael for? Was it Michael's fault that Lisa was in the coma, perhaps? Sorry, I'm rambling because there's a raging plot bunny hopping around in my head.

Padma knew she never could’ve dealt with seeing the blanching corpse of someone who used to laugh at the stupidest jokes yet had a wit sharp enough to cut. Gah, amazing line. I love it. Poor, poor Lisa.

Great story, ~Carole~

Author's Response:

I realised that I've never written drug fic before, but I've always wanted to. Every day, people surrender their lives and their futures for a bag of white powder, so it makes sense that someone we know from the Potterverse would have done. I picked Michael because he seems to be my Ravenclaw scapegoat, as he was in Seeds of Indifference as the douchebag, abusive boyfriend. I really must be nice to him at some point, though.

Anthony was mad at Michael for what he did to Padma. In my brain universe, Anthony and Padma had dated for a while before she pulled the see other people card and already had one in mind. I'm sure you can guess who. On top of that, Anthony is one of those judgmental people who thinks everyone with an addiction is weak and stupid, sort of like non-smokers who sneer and say, "Why don't you just quit?" 

And as for what happened to Lisa, her story comes with a pre-story. I might even use my Trio Era prompt to write it. I fascinated myself while responding to The_Real_Hermione's review below.

Glad you liked it, and I'm guessing you got the reference to drugs in the title now that you've read the story, hehe. I'm wagering no one else got it. :/

Heart,

~Jess

Reviewer: The_Real_Hermione
Date: 04/05/11 5:08
Chapter: Chapter 1

Hi Jess,

Firstly, congrats on your 50th fic!! That's pretty impressive for something like two years of writing.

Anyway, great fic. This was really well written and very realistic. I thought your characterisations of everyone were great, particularly Padma and Michael. I guess this story has things in it that we'd rather no think about, but happen anyway.

Your writing really impressed me, you have such an ability to show human emotions, particularly pain, and yet somehow show hope as well. Lisa's death worked really well as a backdrop, and it made me curious too about why she was in a coma.

The scene outside her hospital room, with Anthony, Michael, Padma and Terry at the end was perfectly tense and it really showed how friendships can be torn apart (after all, in canon, Michael, Terry and Anthony seem fairly close). I especially loved that part.

Although I have to admit, I thought the idea of Ron being at Lisa's deathbed was a little unlikely... surely there were a lot of people who knew Lisa better than him?

Anyway, loved the story. Oh yeah, one more thing, I loved references to the Battle, like "his battle-scarred face austere". I imagine for these people that the Battle remains a constant backdrop to their lives, and I think that worked really well.

~Katrina

Author's Response:

What I wanted from this story was to tell a tale of people who might not have had the picture perfect Epilogue that the series' main characters did. I know Harry and friends had their fair share of trials, and I've written about them quite a bit, but our Ravenclaw friends go ignored so often. Also, not everyone has the strong moral compass that the usual protagonists have. For instance, Michael was overwrought by job stress and just being damaged by what he'd seen in the Battle and even a few of the things he'd done. How all that happened will end up being another story altogether, but the short of it was that Lisa was cursed in the Battle. She hadn't wanted to stay behind for the fight, but her friends who had been in the DA told her that it was the right thing to do. In the end, she was the one who had died for it. That's why they were all so screwed up.

And about Ron... I need to fix that part. Originally, I had more DA members there, but the paragraph got long and rambly, so I cut it. He is there with Hermione, who would've felt obligated to come, and Ron would've come with her. However, Padma would've noticed Ron's presence before Hermione's due to the date disaster. I need to add a couple more sentences explaining that, so thanks for pointing that out.

So, I'm glad you enjoyed the story, and thank you as always for reviewing. :D

~Jess

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