Ariana, I really enjoyed reading this, despite the fact that it's kind of depressing. This story story is stunning. You capture so many emotions in such a concise and poetic piece, and I really hope this does well in the QSQs-- it definitely deserves to.
As a character, Elladora feels very realistic and very unique to me. Most stories seem to focus on characters who are willing to disregard the expectations and opinions of others in order to be happy, which, I think, makes Elladora's inability to escape her family's expectations more interesting. I really like how you focus on a character who doesn't inwardly fit the mold of the good daughter, but outwardly she does. Elladora's rebellion against her family's expectations, in the form of her relationship with Isabel, keeps her from feeling weak, while her unwillingness to openly cast off the mask of the perfect daughter keeps her from feeling entirely autonomous. I think that Elladora's compromise between these makes her incredibly relatable, and makes me feel like her choices were understandable, even though I wanted her to leave her family to be with Isabel.
I really like how you develop Darius's character solely through his interactions with Elladora. He comes across so vividly that I either want to shudder with disgust or to punch him (or both). The callous way he has sex with Elladora contrasts with her tender and sensual relationship with Isabel, emphasizing how little Darius cares about Elladora. When he tells Elladora that he's sorry after he kills Isabel, I just shuddered. You show him as so cruel and remorseless so well and in so few words-- least to say, I'm thrilled that Elladora didn't marry him.
One of the things that really impresses me about this fic was how you use sex to develop the plot and to develop Elladora's relationships, rather than using it just as something to add drama to the story. When Isabel tells Elladora that she's beautiful, as she undresses her, I feel like their relationship was as supportive as it was sexual-- she's telling Elladora that she's beautiful even when she's not being a good daughter. The scene where Darius discovers Isabel and Elladora, and then Darius's cruel presence replacing Isabel's tender one are both heart-wrenching.
My favorite line of the fic is: [i]"She would whisper scream my name but I would never let myself say hers because I was afraid and Isabel was not"[/i]. The phrase [i]"whisper scream"[/i] is incredibly vivid and, I think, sums up their relationship quite well. The scream part shows the passion of the relationship, while the whisper shows how carefully the relationship must be hidden. This line also shows Elladora's fear of being discovered-- and not being a good daughter-- incredibly well through her fear of whisper screaming Isabel's name.
The narration of this fic emphasizes, for me, the contrast between the perfect daughter and whom Elladora actually is really well. For most of the piece, Elladora's narration feels incredibly detached, with her emotions being hinted at but not outright given. I think that this makes the moments where she explains what she's feeling much more powerful (e.g. when Darius rapes her, [i]"I felt like I was part of him and the thought disgusted me"[/i]; when she's with Isabel for the last time, [i]"I thought for a moment that I could be hers."[/i]). It feels like as Elladora becomes more emotionally engaged in the narration, the mask of the perfect daughter slips (e.g. when Elladora is with Isabel). This really strengthens the story, in my opinion, by accentuating the conflict between what's expected of Elladora and what she wants.
I think that the comments in parentheses work really well. They add another layer to the narration, for me. In my opinion, they add a little more subjectivity to Elladora's otherwise detached narration; the comments in parentheses show that the story isn't exactly the way it appears on the surface, which emphasizes that Elladora isn't exactly the way she appears. They also suggest, for me, that even though she has thoughts and feelings that don't conform to her image, she isn't ready to have them openly. By underlining the compromise Elladora's tries to make between her family and herself, I think, that it made Elladora easier for me to relate to.
This piece is really beautiful. It's so vivid and focused that it almost feels like a memory. I really enjoyed reading it, and good luck with the QSQs!
Author's Response: Oh wow, this is such a beautiful review! Thank you so much for reading the story and taking the time to leave a review -- I was blown away by the amount of thought put into this and I'm so, so happy to hear that you liked it. The stories I write tend to be shorter (maybe because I run out of plot ideas, maybe because I have nothing else to say… :P ) but I'm glad that you found the fic more focused because of it. It was difficult for me to write Elladora and not make her appear cowardly because it's more that she understands how happy her success will make her parents and she doesn't want them to suffer simply because she can't comply. I loved writing her and I'm happy you found her relatable…especially because she's as close to an OC as I will probably ever write :).
It's interesting that you mentioned it felt like a memory, because that's *exactly* how it felt to write it. Thank you again for leaving me such a lovely review! xx Ariana
Did you know that you're amazing? Okay you probably do, because every story of yours I've read has been amazing... I can't believe this story is less than 1500 words, because it tells such an amazing and complete story and it's just done so perfectly.
I loved that you chose to write about Elladora - it's more common for people to write about someone like Isla, who we know was different, but I love the idea that no matter how people seem to conform, everyone has their own story, and everyone will always be different.
Ella is a fantastic character. I loved the reiterations of how she's the "good daughter" and how she always keeps quiet and seems to do the right thing around her mother, but in reality she's not living like that. There's a wonderful contrast in that, and also a really believable side - I think in that situation, many people would pretend that they were doing the right thing rather than do what Isla did and throw everything they've ever had away.
I loved your use of repetition in this - often it can be overdone and grating, but it's just perfect in this. I also don't think I've ever read such a great use of brackets - lines like I was perfect (except I wasn’t, really). are just amazing.
I also liked that you put the dialogue in italics, I think it put the focus on Ella and how she felt/what she thought about everything, rather than strictly what was happening.
Darius was interesting too - I loved the contrast between how rough and violent he was, in comparison to the gentleness of Isabel.
I wasn't expecting them to be found, but it made a lot of sense because I think they suddenly felt a desperation to be together and nothing else mattered.
It was so sad to read Isabel had killed herself - I think it's interesting too, because she seemed the more confident in their relationship, and the one who was less scared, and yet it's Ella left at the end, and considering her marriage started like this, I can't imagine she would have had an easy life.
So basically, this is really fantastic - beautifully written with intriguing characters and a really original idea...
Author's Response: Your reviews always leave me speechless and smiling - thank you so much for that :). They are a pleasure to read after a trying day.
I've been planning to write about Elladora for a while (first of all, because I think her name is gorgeous, and secondly because like you said, she's far less written about than Isla). I thought it would be difficult to suddenly have all the pressure on you to be the one that upheld the family honor and make everyone proud. If Isla hadn't been disowned I think it would have been easier (but not easy) for Ella to disappoint her family, but instead she was forced into a role she wasn't ready to play.
I'm glad the repetition wasn't too boring, or the brackets too distracting. When I type stories and read them in my head it sounds a certain way, and I have no idea if it will sound the same way to readers (or if it will just confuse them). Similarly, I never know if I'm overusing the italics-as-dialogue thing, because I see it a lot in my stories. It always makes me extra happy to hear that everything worked and that nothing took away from the story itself.
Darius was horrible to write. I found towards the end that I didn't really want to kill Isabel off anymore, so it was hard to finish this story. Did she kill herself - or did Darius have a hand in her death? Either way, her death ensured that Ella would not end up with Darius, so maybe the story did end positively in a way :).
Thank you again, so so much for this review. I am beyond flattered :). xx Ariana
I adore your style of writing, the use of italics as speech works perfectly, and makes it seem like a memory she's so vividly replaying in her head. The beautiful simplicity of your words is heartbreaking, lines such as 'we were not a whisper, but a plea' are so powerful, and really stuck with me.
I found the almost repetitive nature of it to be almost entrancing, and it really got the message across, particularly the repetition of names, which for me connoted how important identity was for her, and how close she was to losing her's altogether.
I found this encapsulated so many emotions, yet most pertinently it was heartbreakingly powerful, and I liked how you didn't shy away from giving it an emotional, somewhat ambiguous ending.
Author's Response: Thank you for this review! It makes me very flattered to hear that you like my writing style, and I'm even more happy that you thought it worked well for Elladora's story. I am glad that you enjoyed the story - nothing makes me feel better than that. xx Ariana
Ariana, this was amazing for too many reasons to count. This was amazing for so many ways that I can't give you a reason. Alex recced this for me and I went straight to read it, and honestly I didn't expect it to be this...amazing.
I love the style that this is written in--the italics, the parentheses, and above all the figurative language that you've used here. Like this line:
She would whisper scream my name but I would never let myself say hers because I was afraid and Isabel was not.
I think this is maybe my favourite line in the whole fic because of the weight that it carries, especially towards the end. I also loved the end. I feel so terrible for Ella though, honestly. You kill off Isabel and give her Darius? :(
Anyway this was a craptacular review for a spectacular story that flew by far too fast. I just have no idea what to say--this was lovely.
Author's Response: Lily, thanks for stopping by! I am so happy that you liked this story more than you thought you would (one of my biggest fears in writing is that someone will expect a story to be better than it actually is, because I hate disappointing people like that). Writing this felt like a deviation from my normal style, although it might just be the historical aspect of it, but whatever it is I'm glad you liked it! And yes, Ella does suffer the most in the end - though according to JKR's Black Family Tree she never technically marries anyone…make of that what you will :). Thank you again for the review! xx Ariana
Ariana--I should be used to using the adjectives heart-breaking, beautiful, sad, stunning, and just so full of heart for you to then go and break it, about your stories, but I'm not. This was beautiful. How two characters leap into life so quickly, with the repetitiveness, and the soft thoughts of Ella, and Isabel and their conversation and meetings--and the way there's so many contradictions, what she's perceived to be doing, and what she's actually doing. And then the contrast between Isabel and Darius (the detail about how he could have had her on the bed, but somehow it was less dignified to have her against the wall and that's why he did it) and then her trying to make that space good by being with Isabel there...just gah
So good. And when Isabel died....this was fantastic. I am not at all surprised it won the SBBC Genre Challenge--it was such a good drabble andis now an excellent story and so painfully sad. This review is about the definition of incoherent, for which I apologise. This was beautiful--Alex
Author's Response: This review makes me so happy on so many different levels. Thank you - and thank you for reccing this on LS, that was incredibly sweet of you. It was strange writing this story, actually, because when it came to finishing it I realized I didn't want to give it an unhappy ending (strange, I know :D). I liked writing Isabel/Ella too much. And I'm glad you liked the little details about Darius…it was hard to characterize him in so few words (for the drabble, at least) so it's good to know that you thought it worked.
Your review made my day. Thank you. xx Ariana