This was a phenomenal story. When the Quicksilver Quill Awards come around this year, I will certainly be nominating it, because I really enjoyed reading. Minor characters are right up my street, particularly Merope, who is one of the most interesting characters in the series despite her rather minor role in the novels. Also, I'm a huge fan of character studies, and I think you explored her character so well here, with your lyrical style throughout really enhancing the emotions felt and making every scene beautifully colourful and vivid.
I thought the metaphor of the seed and growth was really effective, with the description of the seed to begin with, because the simplicity of the concept makes the premise of the story so fresh and unique and a joy to read. Furthermore, I felt this metaphor lent itself beautifully with the title as well as the structure of the story. I loved the way in which you ordered the scenes, because I thought it made the story distinctive in that the story is centred around the pregnancy and Merope’s life, rather than her and Tom’s relationship, which I think is the common trope in fanfiction when it comes to Merope. It was an interesting perspective of Merope considering the focus and end product of such growth was Tom Riddle. Also, within that, I could see that Merope, too, was growing, but in a different way. By being with Tom, she betrayed her father and brother, and I think the way you chose to illustrate the plot was so well done that I think it could have very easily have been weaved into canon.
Although the focus was more on Merope’s pregnancy, I liked how you portrayed Tom and Merope’s relationship in this, too. There is something really disconcerting about the nature of their marriage because of Merope giving Tom the love potion, something which I think was only touched upon in canon. You expanded on that well, especially the description of Merope feeding Tom the potion. For example, the image of her kissing the “purple stains off the sides of his mouth” and even “licking the back of the spoon” are so disturbing to read. And going upon both your story and what we know in canon, I have to say, Merope’s lack of morals is so shocking to read and yet it fits in with her characterisation perfectly, especially in light of her upbringing. Also, the phrase “Tom and Merope and Merope’s special brew” makes it seem like there are three people in their relationship, not two, and that made Merope an incredibly pathetic character to me, even more so than in canon. Furthermore, the manipulation on Merope’s part just makes the ending of this story sadder, even if it is an inevitable ending.
What was really heartbreaking to read, as I said above, was Merope’s complete lack of understanding of right and wrong in this and everything she sacrificed for this dubious relationship with Tom. I was astonished at the lengths to which Merope would go in order to make the potion every day. The fact that she went so far as to tear her hair out for Tom again made me feel so sorry for Merope, but even more so were the mentions of Marvolo’s and Morfin’s treatment of Merope -- the way Merope’s “flesh crawls” at the mere thought of her father emphasised, to me, how abusive he was towards her. The way in which you addressed that issue was sensitive, and I think the fact that Marvolo’s abusiveness had a basis in canon meant you didn’t have to confront it head on. Instead, the references to the abuse, like “her jaw buckling beneath the sudden weight of his clout”, make the dubiousness of Merope’s relationship seem almost inevitable because of the way Merope was brought up, where she never had the same distinction between right and wrong.
Another scene which I think could have been carved from canon is when Merope croons to Tom in Parseltongue. That was so sinister, but it fitted with both the disturbing nature of the story and who Tom ends up being, and it’s interesting therefore that she intended to raise Tom as a Muggle. I felt this was another sign of what her upbringing did to her, because from this story, I think Merope wanted to punish herself for Tom leaving her, which I think she would have considered to be her fault, especially since her father blamed her for everything.
Merope’s memory of her eating dirt made me feel so sorry for her, and the fact that she then does the same thing during her pregnancy was even more uncomfortable to read. But that discomfort was one I think was necessary as a reader, because the emphasis on the harshness of her household when she was younger is really important in establishing Merope’s character. I also liked how you explored pica (which is something I’ve never heard of, so I’ve learnt something new today :) ), so her actions make sense, both in light of what she had done before, but also what her condition is now.
Most of all, though, what made your story so bold and intriguing to read was the lyricism in the narrative. With a character study, I think there are two things that can push a story forward -- the style and the characterisation itself. Here, you succeeded on both counts, particularly in your description of Tom and the “scarlet glimmer in his pupils”, which was excellent foreshadowing of Voldemort later. Also, I think that showed that maybe Voldemort being evil came from both his parents, in spite of his father being a Muggle, and that kind of irony is what makes the story such an interesting read.
Finally, I think the poetic style of your story extended beyond simple description of what things look like; I liked the focus on smell, too, since this was how Merope first came to the realisation that she was pregnant. The way Merope’s body was out of proportion because of her pregnancy fit well with the motif of growth, but it was also clear even before her pregnancy that that growth was stunted, right from the beginning with her hair falling out. I thought the growth of Tom inside her really emphasised how Merope slowly deteriorated as a result.
Overall, I was so very impressed after reading this story. It’s one of the best I've read in a while, and I can’t wait to read more of your work. Keep it up!
Author's Response: Hello Soraya :D
First of all, forgive me if the html tags are showing. I'm sick of having chunky monoparagraph author responses! Second, forgive me again for taking a phenomenally long time to respond to such a phenomenal review. I saw this last week and I've tried to respond several times but each time I try to say something my brain just turns to mush and I find I'm doing nothing but keyboard smashing and gushing and ajkflkashvkjdsnargaoluffas jfio;ji Yeah sort of like that. Wow. Just. Even now as I reread your review I'm still overwhelmed and I'm not sure I can respond adequately to such a cartload of compliments :D
I am so utterly happy that you liked this story. Really, it means everything to me. I wasn't too happy with this story but all the amazing feedback I've received from you and the other reviewers has been so encouraging and it's given my confidence a much needed boost.
I chose to focus on Merope's pregnancy because I'm absolutely rubbish at writing romance :P Also, I don't know how I could ever portray the terrible relationship between her and Tom Snr. in detail. Merope is certainly a character from canon who doesn't get much sympathy despite her ordeal, and I get the feeling that it's all because of her 'weakness of spirit' or something like that. Can't believe that Dumbledore even compared her to Lily Evans!! Merope is a product of her loveless environment, and I was trying to capture that in the story. I have this feeling that I didn't write her with much compassion; I was actually doing this for a challenge in another fanfic site, and the challenge was dark/horror. So I do feel that sometimes I compromised characterisation a little just to evoke an atmosphere. But I'm glad that you thought this character study of her actually succeeded!
Also, it's wonderful to hear that you found the narrative lyrical and intriguing! I can imagine it must be hard to read, what with the level of descriptive detail (I have this bad habit of layering in the description when I don't know what to say :P ) and the lack of dialogue throughout most of the narrative. Ah, and yes! SO HAPPY THAT YOU PICKED UP ON THE DETAIL ABOUT TOM'S RED EYES EVILEVILEVILLLLLL. I definitely think Voldy got some of his worst traits from his dad :D And I just had to make Tom Sr. have red eyes because EVIL. Blalsdkjhljsaf not making sense. THAT'S WHAT YOUR REVIEW DOES TO ME. IT SUBTRACTS ALL COHERENCE FROM ME.
Goodness goodness. "One of the best you've read in a while"?!?!?!? This is really high praise you're heaping on me and I. Can't. Thank. You. Enough. THANK YOU SO MUCH. SO MUCH SOOSOSO MUCH. For this absolutely wonderful review. For taking the time to read and review in such detail. I know you're a SPEW-er and all but STILL. This is just...gah. *hugs*
Wow. I am completely blown away by this fic and the absolutely stunning writing. I'd quote a favourite part if I could. Well, I can't. The attention to detail, the summoning of imagery, the description of her pain, both emotional and physical, are done so masterfully I kept gasping throughout. Fantastic writing, tarik (if I can call you that)! I can't wait to read more from you.
Author's Response: aslkjdhasjk;lfhljk goodness thank you so much, Natalie :DD I am blown away by your review! So so happy that you liked the details, and the portrayal of Merope and the imagery. I was a little worried the imagery might have been a bit overdone; usually my stories are a little sparser and flatter. Thank you so much for the whole pile of amazing compliments once again! And you can just call me teh :) Or by my real name, Nicole, though I'll always sign off as teh :) Cheers! - teh
This is amazing. I cannot believe you only had one other review. It is dark, of course, but the voice you captured, the structure, the way it is both compelling and disturbing at the same time - these all add up to something brilliant. I particularly loved the structure, the way you separated it into the stages of pregnancy. I've read a number of Merope fics, all fantastic and moving, but there is something different about yours. Perhaps it is the way you built up Merope's character. I pity her but unlike other fics, I don't like her. I think you gave a new take on her and I really enjoyed that. Or perhaps it is because you didn't focus on the relationship between Tom and Merope but only showed the end. I just really think the way you chose to structure the fic, the narrative voice you chose, and the characterisation are all brilliant. Sorry to repeat myself.
Keep up the great writing. I can't wait to read more from you.
Author's Response: Hello Julia :) Gah! What an amazing surprise review! I certainly wasn't expecting any more reviews for this story; perhaps the subject matter wasn't too appealing to many readers. Oh, I'm so glad you liked the structure and characterisation! This is indeed supposed to be a very character-focused fic; I did have some trouble portraying Merope, and I sort of felt like wasn't writing her with sufficient empathy and all. And I wanted to write Merope without all the trauma and unrequited love and her failed marriage - just as herself, alone and pregnant in the world. I'm glad this turned out well! Gah, you've just heaped ALL THE LOVELY COMPLIMENTS on me :DDDD Thank you so much for your wonderful review again! - teh
This is brilliant. Not my type of thing to read, usually, but I am so pleased I clicked on it today because honestly this is so well written and well characterised. I loved all the details about the pregnancy (I have heard of pica) and thought you captured the details of pregnancy incredibly well, down to the very strange dreams.
This is an amazingly powerful piece and I am now blinking in disbelief that this is the first review. I guess it's the subject matter, but honestly I loved it.
You write very lyrically and with lovely details. Well done! ~Carole~
Author's Response: Hello Carole! Aww...thanks so so much for this absolutely lovely review :D Sorry, I didn't notice it for a few days...I'd already accepted that this story wasn't going to have any reviews and then you surprise me here. Gah! Your compliments! I'm just floored by all the praise - thank you so very much! Yes, I was researching on pica a little :) And I was hoping that someone might pick up on the pregnancy symptoms and all and I'm so glad you thought that they were realistically written. I'm not as active as I should be on the forums; so I don't really know other writers here - which is why I'm always so incredibly grateful whenever someone comes along and leaves a surprise review :D Thank you so much once again! teh