Reviewer: Oregonian
Date: 01/10/14 1:04
Chapter: Sybill Trelawney and the Unexpected Gift

Hello, Squibstress. This is Vicki of Slytherin House, giving you a tardy review (tardy because I read this story when it first appeared and failed to tell you then how much I liked it) of your wonderful story.
Although it is long and complicated, it still remains completely canon-compliant; it is one of those stories that one prints off and saves in a binder of appendices to the seven books.

You story accomplishes a difficult and yet crucial task: to make the character of Sybill Trelawney understandable and respected. In the seven books, she seems almost wacky, nothing but a figure of fun, and the one or two actual predictions that she makes are so unlike everything else she is presented as doing, that they seem to be Out Of Character. In the books she seems to have no redeeming qualities; she is the comic relief, in a way that no other character is.

I have observed that in “children’s literature”, the author often begins by conceiving of his characters and setting lightheartedly, with no gravitas (e.g. “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”), and increases the seriousness of the tone of his ongoing story as he begins to realize its depth, resulting in some unevenness of tone. Sometimes the author goes back and rewrites parts of the story, as Tolkien did with Chapter Five of The Hobbit, to raise those parts to the level of the rest of the work, and that is what I feel you have done here with your treatment of Sybill Trelawney. This is an important contribution to the canon.

What you have given us is a fascinating look into an aspect of the magical world that JK Rowling touches only slightly. The seven books tell us little more than that the Gift does exist, because Sybill exhibits it once or twice, but you have given an explanation about how the whole business of Divination functions. You sum it all up neatly in the short sentence of dialogue by Professor Dorsett: “You can’t use your Gift; it uses you.” That explains a lot. Your analysis of how it works makes a lot of sense.

I very much enjoyed how you interwove scenes from the books involving Sybill into your narrative, in order to tack your story firmly to canon. It was fun to search out these scenes as written by JKR and compare what she wrote (as seen through Harry’s eyes) with your version as seen through Sybill’s. Perhaps that is why Sybill emerged as a figure of fun in the seven books: because we were necessarily seeing everything through Harry’s eyes and could not see her inner self until you graciously spelled it all out for us.

Your characterization of Minerva intrigued me. You depict her as sharp and acerbic even as a seventeen-year-old Head Girl (though she could be friendly with her friend Gussie). In her dealings with Sybill as an adult, Minerva doesn’t seem to have much, if any, of the milk of human kindness in her. Her whole attitude is summed up in your line “…Minerva said something acid.” If she had a kindly or softer side, we don’t see it. By contrast, Professor Dorsett, who has friendly tea parties with Sybill, is kind and understands what is happening to Sybill; Minerva does not. I get the impression that Minerva is dismissive of Sybill because she does not understand. Unfortunately, it is easy to be dismissive of what you don’t understand.

You story recounts Minerva’s apparent change of heart towards Sybill, when she helps Sybill in the entrance hall, but neither JKR nor your story explains why. Nevertheless, after years of obvious lack of respect, Minerva suddenly becomes kinder and after Professor Dumbledore’s death she speaks as if she finally believes that Sybill does have Sight. Neither Sybill nor the reader understands why this change of attitude and behavior occurred.

I enjoyed your little touch of having Minerva say, in the end, that the teaching of Divination would be discontinued. If in truth one either had the Gift or one didn’t, and it could not be taught, then I wonder why the Hogwarts administration took so long to come to this decision. Institutional inertia, I guess.

It is a feat to cover an entire life in 8000 words without being episodic or choppy, and though you show only selected scenes from her life, these scenes flow smoothly one into the next. You writing is skillful and graceful. It was a pleasure to read your story.

Author's Response: And I have a tardy response (my apologies--my hard drive crashed and I've been setting up a new computer and trying to catch up with work, so I'm tardy with just about everything at the moment.) Thanks so much for your detailed review. One of the best aspects of writing for fests is that it gives one a chance (read: forces one) to look at new characters and situations. I've never been particularly interested in Sybill, as I share Minerva's disdain for her discipline, so this was a lovely challenge. I really wanted to find a way to make her something more than a figure of derision, so I'm especially happy if readers find her more interesting than she perhaps was in canon. I write Minerva a lot, and it was also fun to write her from Sybill's POV, which is probably why the acerbic aspect of her character is so prominent here. Thanks again for the thoughtful review.

Reviewer: Dad
Date: 10/03/13 11:47
Chapter: Sybill Trelawney and the Unexpected Gift

Interesting.

Author's Response: Sybill turned out to be more interesting to write about than I thought, certainly. Thanks for reading.

Reviewer: Trucker
Date: 10/03/13 0:04
Chapter: Sybill Trelawney and the Unexpected Gift

This is the first Trelawney story I've ever read that made sense... or explained how she could have actual visions mixed in with the tripe she spouted. Thanks.

Author's Response: Thanks. It was fun trying to make sense of her "inner eye." I'm glad you think it worked.

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