So... About me. I'm a... college student (defined in Fantastic Humans and Where to Find Them as a strange breed of nocturnal creature drawing life force from the computer... sounds about right).
I am a strong believer in constructive criticism. I'd like to know what you think of my stories, whether you love them or hate them. I want to know what I can improve on in my writing. That's what being in SPEW is about.
First two banners by the amazing Queen Hal, Until The Dawn banner by the wonderfully talented Noldo.
Apples, dear Nan? Someone's been thinking about the Garden of Eden.
Not really a SPEWly review here; more of an amused smile and a shouted "happy birthday!"
Author's Response: Yes, the apples were supposed to stand for loss of innocence, in some way. You know me too well. *hugs*
You wrote such a lovely story for me that I feel compelled to review it. Sorry I didn’t get to it a bit sooner (though I guess we’ve known each other long enough that you know about me and procrastination). Anyway, I really love what you did with this. I had no idea what to expect, but this is perfect. Milo is a very compelling character, and you also manage to tackle a very dark and difficult question while keeping the mood generally light.
A few nitpicks: “I wasn’t going to listen to this mothr talk about her baby boy whom she led to this fate as though he were born with an illness no one could cure.” You left out the e in mother. Just a typo, but worth fixing at some point if you have time.
I love everything you have, but it’d be sort of nice if you managed to explain the ‘rules’ a little bit more. I wondered who made the rules and whom they apply to, and I wished Milo would get Paige to explain. Are they just rules for residents of Riverbend, or do they apply to ghosts in general? It’d be nice if you could delve into that just a little bit more, though not too much, because too much could shift the emphasis away from the central theme of whether it’s right for very young children to become ghosts.
It’s funny, but what I really keep coming back to with this story is how much you’ve grown as a writer. I remember some of your earlier stuff, and while the ideas were always there, your execution of them has improved dramatically. This story flows well. The dialogue is well written (kudos to you; dialogue is hard to write convincingly). The storyline is clear and the narrator’s emotions are wrenchingly tangible. Not that your writing was bad before, because it wasn’t at all. It’s just amazing to me how much you’ve grown.
Oh, feel the Christmas-y Harry/Luna love! Given that it’s just after Thanksgiving, reviewing a Christmas story simply feels right. Not to mention cozy!
I really liked the way you showed the network of loyalties and relationships between the characters in this story. Our loyalties to the many people we love do not always coincide perfectly, and one of the hardest parts (in my humble opinion) of growing up and learning to behave as an adult is learning how to cope with conflicting love and loyalty. You did a beautiful job of showing that dynamic through the perspective and experiences of your characters. It’s a dynamic that only the best fan fic writers manage to capture, and many excellent writers only manage to really show that dynamic in two or three main characters at a time, not five. So really, my hat (or would that by my cow ears?) is off to you.
One nitpick that stuck out at me (comma demon that I am): Luna shook her head and patted the potted plant once more. "Sorry about that Elsbeth. The lighting in the tent wasn't good." There should be a comma after ‘that’ (e.g., Sorry about that, Elsbeth.) No idea why I noticed it, but since I did, I thought it worth mentioning.
I really like how you write Luna. She’s just the right combination of kindness, aloofness, obliviousness, and good humor. The whole thing with the plant was just priceless (and hinted at a possible former relationship between Luna and Neville, whether or not that was your intention), and you followed through with it enough that it became a storyline rather than a repeated and somewhat disjointed joke that didn’t go anywhere.
The humor didn’t overwhelm the rest of the piece, but provided a nice (not to mention cheerful and festive!) counterbalance to the drama, angst, doubt, and loneliness that the characters were experiencing. It also helped remind me just whose work I was reading; Ron’s comment about the reindeer looking stoned was in character for him, but it was also a very Bridget observation. And the cameo at the end with moustache man waking up at the bus… *snigger* Again, that’s you to the core. Anyway, I’m very glad I had the opportunity to read this. You really are an excellent writer, and I feel privileged to know you.
Another punning gift from his imagination? *snickers* Given how far you ahead you are with your writing, I doubt I'll be writing another long review for you before the next one's posted, so I figured I might as well pop in and comment.
It occured to me when reading the last chapter, and I thought it was worth bringing up, though it's not exactly a criticism per say: I know you work very hard to keep your different stories all in keeping with each other. However, you're getting to the point where to follow all the references in here one must both know and clearly remember your plethora of Severus stories, including all the oneshots, not just In The Eyes Of Others. Not that it's a bad thing, because frankly your stories are more memorable than most, but it IS something to be aware of.
Author's Response: Thanks! Just so everyone knows, Andrea hasn\'t read the whole set and is under orders to holler whenever something doesn\'t make sense. So far so good; she\'s made me clarify some here and there. Keeping consistent with myself has been hard, but it seems as though Severus and I know each other pretty well now, so usually I at least can remember where to look it all up again!
Given my adoration of Snape in general and of how you write Snape in particular, I’m ashamed that I didn’t notice that you were writing this earlier. I read the first chapter somewhere else before vanishing into the vortex of holidays and research papers–– OWL, probably –– but there is more of it here, to my great pleasure. I realized by the middle of chapter 2 that this is a continuation of In the Eyes of Others, even if it takes up after a 14-year lapse. I cannot tell you how happy that realization made me –– I love all your stories, but ITEoO is really one of my all-time favorite fan fictions –– one of the very few that I have gone back and reread multiple times, and I was pleased beyond words to see that you were continuing that storyline.
All right, I ought to quelch the urge to fangirl and review this constructively. Part of me feels like this isn’t the best chapter to review because there’s no interaction between Severus and Ginny, which is utterly fascinating to read, but the rest of me hope that this may constrain me from falling into endless gushing. Besides, my reviewing philosophy has always been to review the most recent chapter, and I wouldn’t want to abandon that.
I love your descriptions. They’re fresh and interesting, and acerbic enough to suit the narrator well. They just strike me as fundamentally Severus. I especially love how you describe his trip to the showers the same way you describe his breakfast: watery and bland. One wouldn’t usually describe a shower as bland, but it makes perfect sense as an observation, especially in context. The repetition also helps build the mood and heightens the reader’s sense of the environment.
Instead, he had carefully driven her away, though Lupin had not been his choice of a replacement. I’m not sure what exactly it is, but the second half of this sentence doesn’t feel as smooth as it should be. Something about “choice of a replacement” feels awkward, though I can’t say for sure why. Maybe it would be better without the ‘a’? Or maybe there should be an adjective –– ‘ideal’ perhaps? –– modifying choice? I can’t say why it’s not as smooth as the rest, and it’s entirely possible that it’s just me, but it’s worth reading over, I suppose.
I really liked the religious mediations. The combination of wry humor and desperation that characterize Severus’s thoughts shone through really beautifully. His struggle with faith highlights his humanity. That’s what you do with Severus: You take a character that is bitter, harsh, and cynical and you make him fragile and vulnerable –– and you do it beautifully.
Author's Response: You know, that\'s the sentence I glared at, then decided NOT to replace with a treatise on Lupin. It seemed a bit much. Anyway -- I kinda think that bitter, harsh, cynical characters and people often are fragile underneath, and that\'s why they develop that nasty spikey shell in the first place. Even if I\'m totally wrong about that, it seems to make for plotbunnies galore. Thanks for the lovely review!
Oh! The mixture of dry humor and beautifully crafted argument is just delightful. Thank you for making me grin like an idiot. And I do, of course, look forward to reading more. As always.
Author's Response: Thanks! There\'s more up!
Here I am, returning to review another chapter of this story... I’m afraid that your writing may be the undoing of my promise never to turn into a rabid fan girl. And I’d been managing so well for so long…
In attempting to keep from becoming too much of a fan girl (as I generally think it obnoxious, if I don’t know the author well), I am trying to be more determined than ever in my nit picking. Or maybe I’m just more determined to indulge myself in nit picking, so as to balance out the gushing that is sure to follow. You (and your beta) have left precious little to nit pick, but there were two tiny things…
A little food, a little kindness, and even he could scrounge up a fragment of good mood. It’s not a big thing (certainly arguable), and for all I know it could be a difference between British and American English, but I think “a fragment of a good mood” might be slightly preferable to “a fragment of good mood.”
“We request a date, they dawdle, we demand a date, they talk of two-year waits, we politely suggest that it would be acceptable if that’s the best they can do, and then it’s ‘How’s Tuesday week for you?’ And we’re off to the races.” The parallelism might be even stronger here if you put full stops after each pair –– e.g. “We request a date, they dawdle. We demand a date, they talk of two-year waits…” More a question of style than of anything else, but it would make the sentence slightly easier on the reader’s eyes.
This chapter is short, which is probably my biggest complaint, and yet there’s no where in particular where I would ask you to add more, nor would I ask you to extend it, as the ‘one chapter per day’ approach works so well. What I really like (okay, I’ll be honest: one of the things I really like) is how you are showing Severus become more and more the character we know from your previous stories. Looking back a few chapters, I can really see the difference, although compared only to the previous one the change isn’t nearly as noticeable. His sense of humor is returning. In this chapter I can see the boy Severus who proposed the creation of Pomfrey House –– yet he was almost unrecognizable in the Severus we saw at the beginning of the story. The smoothness and skill with which you have developed his character (or should that be redeveloped?) demonstrates nothing short of excellent writing.
I’ve said it before (probably multiple times), but I can’t get over how perfect your Severus is. He’s just the right blend or sarcasm and directness, crushing insults and gruff kindness. If I tried to find a line that demonstrates how exactly you do this and how wonderful it is, I’d probably end up quoting about a third of the story, and since this review doesn’t need an extra four hundred words plus added onto it, I’ll refrain, but… well, it’s incredible. It makes me grin insanely, yet also almost makes me want to cry. I don’t think I could explain it. But your characterization of Severus is… ‘just guh’ seems the most appropriate phrase.
I also really like (or, at the risk of sounding gushy, I adore) your characterization of Ginny. “Yes, Professor,” Ginny answered in a dutiful tone. He doubted she had ever used that tone sincerely, and she didn’t now. Ginny’s a hard character to write well, in part because our canon narrator is in love with her, but you’ve done a great job with her. I particularly love the paragraph quoted above, probably because I can see and hear it so clearly in my mind. It captures her spirit wonderfully.
I’m afraid that if I continue this review much longer I will be guilty of rambling as well as gushing, and so to avoid committing that double offense I will end here. Thank you for continuing to provide me with such wonderful reading material (and my apologies for subjecting you to my addiction to parenthetical remarks).
Author's Response: *blushes and scuffles foot*
I guess whether or not to use that \'a\' depends on whether good mood comes in individual servings or a vast heap. Since Severus tends to get his good moods in slivers and crumbs, rather than full servings, I went for the mass-noun structure -- but you\'re quite right, it could be either. This may be a sign of thinking too much...
The full stops, on the other hand, are a perfectly good idea. I made it a runon to go with a sort of rolled-eyes tone, but either would work for that.
And thanks for the lovely thorough review! I always feel funny answering the long ones. Best done with a chapter, perhaps?
Dear, dear. I came to this chapter and immediately found myself faced with a grave problem in your work. See, you’re not allowed to call the chapter “Epilogue.” Especially not as it’s only chapter 27. I’m disappointed, especially since I find myself doubting that you will be starting a new chaptered fan fiction in the near future, given the vast gobs of time that your original fiction has been swallowing.
My second complaint (and pardon the vague spoiler, but I know you have finished Deathly Hallows) is not aimed quite so much at you. If we’re going to go in for an everyone-has-children epilogue in canon, why on earth can’t the real one be more like this, with far less sap and far more actual personality? I think the difference is that while both are happy, this one is very human––mess, as you seem to have noticed, is excellent for achieving that feeling––and the epilogue to DH (I mean the book, not your husband) is very fairy-tale. This may be an epilogue, but it still counts as part of the story, as my brain wants to put it, because the interactions between the characters are real and meaningful.
Ride The Mutton gave me some priceless imagery. Hilarious idea. I suppose that if you can ride a sheep without magic, riding a broomstick would easy by comparison. And yet, I somehow doubt that anyone else would have thought of it. I can always count on your writing for refreshingly original (and wryly humorous) events, actions, and character observations.
My favorite bit, though, is the paragraph describing the tactile relationship between Ginny and Severus. It continues what you drew in the previous chapter, and more subtly highlights the motif of touch throughout twenty-five chapters the preceded them. Sleeve brushed sleeve, then bodies angled to suggest leg against leg, then shoulder lightly contacted shoulder. It was remarkable to watch as a dance, as if two strangers performed on a stage, but faintly annoying in family. I like that you don’t “fix” everything; Bill may be family, but he doesn’t necessarily like Severus. Beyond that, though… I love the Touching. Severus has always had an awkward, gloomy sort of grace about him (after all, he is the type to accompany one to the opera), and Ginny has always been graceful in a playful, cat-like way. The imagery of their sleeves brushing is so beautiful because it is so believable, so right, so entirely ordinary and extraordinary. The suggestion of a dance is brilliant, not just because I adore dance, but because it so perfectly encapsulates the relationship you’ve portrayed.
I’ve really loved reading this, and like In the Eyes of Others, it will probably be one of the rare fan fictions that I actually reread multiple times. Thank you.
Hi SPEW buddy! All of your stories looked interesting, but I decided to read and review this one for two reasons. One is that it centers around Padma, whom I have also written, albeit in a very different way. I was also intrigued by the title. I’m studying math in college and I love proof and formal logic, so the title appealed to me.
The premise of this story is fascinating, if dark. You do a great job of guiding us through Padma’s logic and helping us understand it, but you also allow us to see how her logic is flawed and incomplete, like a proof gone wrong. It’s intriguing to dissect the flow of her thoughts.
This is a spew review, so I will engage in nitpicking (which is probably my natural state anyway, so spew is a helpful excuse). It’s not a technical issue, but in one sentence your word choices seemed to clash. All this preparation, all this mental anguish, all this stress, only to be held back in the doorway by a spotty, runaway boy. Somehow it seems odd to me to have ‘mental anguish’ side by side with ‘stress.’ The one is so literary and poetic and the other is so colloquial that the combination jarred me.
Also, I noticed one little typing error. His grey eyes widened. “You — you don’tknow?” I think you managed to accidentally delete the space when adding the tag for italics before ‘know.’ It can be really tough to notice that sort of error in your own work, especially when it sneaks in there when you’re preparing the story for submission, but it’s probably worth fixing sometime when you have a moment.
As a whole, this story is really well written and the characters’ motivations are well thought out. However, there are two relationships that I think you could have expanded on slightly more. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the story behind Padma’s hatred for Parvati. You gave her a good rationale for anger and you showed Padma’s incredible (and, ironically, illogical) ability to hold a grudge, but I felt like I was left hanging about how their relationship had dissolved to that point or whether it had never been close to begin with.
Additionally, I would have liked to see more depth in the interactions between Draco and Padma. You are telling the story from Padma’s point of view, so of course we get more of Padma’s reactions than Draco’s, but I think it would make the story even stronger if you included more of Padma’s perception of Draco’s reactions. Not that you’ve done this badly –– in fact you’ve done it quite well –– but I think you could take it even further without overbalancing the story.
This is a really strong story, and I really enjoyed it. You’ve combined excellent writing with an equally excellent plot, and the result is wonderful. The ending is very dark, but you’ve done a great job showing us how Padma’s choice to kill her one-time friend is, to her mind at least, not a choice but the final result of a long chain of logic. And yet, like a grader going over a proof (I can’t help the simile, sorry), the reader –– who is more knowledgeable and more distanced than Padma –– can see the holes in the proof, the incorrect assumptions. And therein lies the tragedy of the story.
Author's Response: *gasp* My SPEW buddy whom I\'ve shamefully neglected! Thank you so much for this wonderful review, I really appreciate it. I\'m really glad you liked Padma\'s logic; for me, that was one of the hardest parts of the story, trying to show how her thoughts worked but at the same time demonstrate her jealousy and how it affects her reasoning.
I wasn\'t overly happy with Padma and Parvati\'s relationship either, but working within the Gauntlet limits made it difficuly to work on it as much as I would have liked. The same goes for Draco; I meant for him to play a bigger part in the end, but the prompt I was given didn\'t give much room for it. If I ever redo this fic though (it\'s a little big for a one-shot!) I\'ll certainly keep your suggestions in mind.
Thank you again for such a wonderful review!
I could write you a “normal” review for this story. I could sit here and talk about what you did well in this story and what you could have done better. I could go into detail about how the dialogue is slightly too formal and about how Rowena and Salazar don’t display the depth and complexity that your characters generally possess. But I’m not going to, because you’re a bloody good writer, and if you went through it and looked at the dialogue, you could make it more natural, and if you wanted to take the time to develop this as a story, you could also make your characters into something more. And honestly, I couldn’t tell you how to fix it better than you could tell yourself.
But there’s something else that keeps me from going on in the vein of “you could improve the dialogue here” and “you could make this character’s motivations less vague there.” Because… the formal dialogue and incompletely developed characters are a symptom of something else, something other than your writing skills. Because I know (and if you’re fair to yourself, you know) that you can write shiver-inducing dialogue and characters so real they get stuck in other people’s heads.
In a sense, this is less a “story” in the way that Secrets or Sins of the Father are stories, and more simply Jenna (if that makes any sense). I mean, yes it’s a story, but it’s more raw emotions than anything else. It has the same problems as Grey Lavender –– overly formal dialogue, characters who are conflicted but yet not highly developed, and a somewhat simple plot –– although this story is still better written. It’s simply not a story in the way most of your other stories are stories.
At a very basic level, this story isn’t about the characters or the plot, though arguably it is about an idea. I could be totally wrong, but… it seems to me that this story is really about Jenna. You’re a writer. And here… it seems to me that what you’ve done is use this story to work out your own emotions.
If the characters aren’t as developed as yours usually are, that’s because they’re more vessels and voices for emotions than they are characters in their own right. And if the dialogue is overly formal, that’s because it’s not really characters expressing themselves, but rather the natural eloquence of your own frustration.
What really comes through from this story is (unsurprisingly) the depth and strength of the emotions involved. Your characters are beautifully emotional ¬¬–– possibly because at some level they are emotions, but also because you write emotions very beautifully. You have a gift for writing powerful emotions and making them seem real. But your gift for writing extends far beyond exposing the rugged beauty of emotion. And that is why, I think, that while this is still a good story, it’s not as satisfying as your other work.
If you wanted to return to this, yes, you certainly could make the dialogue feel more natural and add depth to the characters. You could make the details of the plot less vague. In short, you could, if you chose, make this into more of a “story.” But if you stop looking at it so much as “story” and look at it more as a piece of yourself, you might be content leaving it as it is. Because in the end… well, this sounds stupid, and maybe it is, but… there IS an end. And to me at least, that suggests that this story may have served its purpose for you.
One line in particular was so beautiful that it absolutely made me shiver: “I am sorry you could not save me.”. *shivers* So… profound.
It’s possible that I’m completely wrong about this story, in which case I have given you a vague idea of what you can fix and I apologize for taking up so much space. If I’m not wrong, then … I’m not. You’ll have to tell me. Either way, it’s the absolute strangest SPEW review I’ve ever written. In any case, I lovest youest, Jennaest.
My first review from Hungary! :: cough :: Yes. Anyway, I enjoyed the byplay between the characters a lot. I love watching Molly Weasley bossing people around, and I particularly enjoyed your characterization of her, especially when she calmly repaired the plate that Tonks had dropped. Her brisk common sense comes through very clearly and makes great mental images as well.
All right. Nitpicking. My one major criticism is that it simply doesn’t seem plausible to me that Tonks would neither know nor recognize Charlie. Even if he has been in Romania for most of the past few years, all the Weasleys are fairly recognizable and I’m sure that Molly would have shown Tonks some pictures at some point. Additionally, they’re of similar ages (or so it would seem) and both attended Hogwarts, so we might also expect them to at least know each other’s faces from their school days.
I really liked the visible friction between the characters –– you made the emotions quite palpable. However, they both seemed to be acting rather immature for their ages, especially when they argue in the garden. It’s true that when people like each other they tend to act much less mature than usual when around each other, but even still they seemed more like sixteen or seventeen year olds than people in their mid-twenties. I’m not objecting to the playfulness –– we have certainly seen a playful side of Tonks, and I’ll happily believe that Charlie has one too –– but I think that to more accurately reflect their ages they could be slightly more controlled; most people get calmer as they age. Or you could make a point of how messing around in such an unrestrained manner is very unusual for them, if you were going to go back and make changes (which I understand is often simply not a priority for any of us, so feel free to ignore).
A smaller nitpick: Compared to the chink of a glass as it hit the floor, why, a plate seemed almost crude as it hit the ground and splayed across the floor. This should be a parallel construction, so it should be ‘the sound of a plate’ rather than simply ‘a plate,’ since you are comparing it to the ‘chink of glass’ (which is wonderful word choice, by the way).
All that said, you did a great job of showing rather than telling and also of conveying the characters emotions as they interact. Your writing is lively and exuberant (much like you), which gives it freshness and makes it enjoyable to read. :: hugs ::
Author's Response: YAY LIAN!
Aside from that >.> I know what you mean with the immaturity levels :) I think that, now I actually have enough time, that I\'ll go in and change it. Thank you for the heads up. And \"the plate\" makes more sense that way! I hadn\'t considered the way they\'d know each other >.> I forgot she was younger than Sirius, but old enough to know the Weasley boys *sigh* I\'ll work it out, hun! Enjoy Hungary!
This story. The first time I read it, in rough form, it floored me. And the second. And even now, it still floors me. It’s the stunning simplicity. And the overwhelming love of a mother for her son. It’s my attachment to those particular lines from Hamlet. It’s all of those things.
I’m going to make this one of my rare reviews not written under the “nitpick or die!” philosophy. Because honestly, I have nothing left to nitpick. Except that you’re missing a paragraph space between the second and third paragraphs, which I’m sure is an accident, because they were separate in earlier drafts. You might want to fix it, though, when you have a moment.
There’s something so tragic about a mother who cannot recognize her child. Heart-wrenching. Might the inspiration for this story have stemmed from your experiences with your grandmother during the last year or so? Something about the beginning reminded me of something you said to me… That sounds awfully vague, sorry. You show Alice’s lack of awareness beautifully –– it’s hauntingly real. Hauntingly. The contrast –– the very life of her (and she’s so alive) –– serves to really bring home the tragedy.
I love the imagery of the garden. The plants, coming to life, provide such a contrast to Alice, whose growth has been forever frozen by an early frost. The garden makes us realize the full extent (and tragedy) of what Alice –– and Neville –– has lost.
Lines from this story haunt me. They float into my head at random moments, like when I’m walking to school or on my way to the metro. I’m not going to list all my favorites, because that would make this review rather longer than the story, which would be silly. But… this one has a particular tendency to float through my internal dialogue: Flowers were not meant to live forever. Neither was she.
You said to me once that upon occasion, a story will have so much impact on you that it changes the way you read the books. That it becomes –– for you at least –– part of the canon. This story impacts me that way. As far as I’m concerned, it happened. It is Alice and Neville’s story. In my mind, Alice’s garden irrevocably existed (if that makes sense; “it’s so difficult” to find the words, as Prof. Snith would say). Alice tended that garden, and she imagined that the house that went with it (for it was the house that went with the garden, and not the other way around) would be haunted by their very happiness. When the wind blew through the trees, she heard them whisper. And when the world seemed to be collapsing under darkness, she pressed her flowers and put them into a book for her son. In my mind, those things happened, and will never unhappen, if that makes sense.
The last paragraph… “Just guh” is in the right vein, but it fails to describe its impact on me. The last line in particular: And he holds her hand, and remembers for her. You know, that may be one of the greatest gifts a person can give. Not bringing violets, though symbolically that’s breathtaking too, but remembering for someone. With, if they can remember too, and for if they can’t. That gift, like this story, is simply too incredible for words.
Author's Response: How does one respond to such a lovely review, especially when you already know most of my thoughts about the story? Yes, I think in some way I was relating Alice\'s loss of memory to Alzheimer\'s, which has - in my mind at least - a slower but very similar effect. And there are certain linelets in here that I am very proud of, so I\'m glad to see I\'m not the only one who loves them. *hugs* Thank you muchly for the lovely review, and for helping me so much with the actual story itself.
I'll have to return someday and review this properly, but I'm very glad I finally got you to upload it here. It's a beautiful fic -- and not just because you wrote it for me. It's about faith, like so many of your stories. And ... well, I have a thing for a sentient Hogwarts, actually. And the heart of the castle is -- in my mind -- certainly the RoR. *loves on*
Hello, Serwen mine. After badgering you into posting so many stories here, I think it’s only appropriate for me to review at least one of them. I picked this one both because it’s one of your most recent and because you did, after all, write it for me.
Knowing you and your interest in forensic science, I really shouldn’t be the least bit surprised by this story. If anyone was going to write Hermione examining the dead day in and day out, it was going to be you. And yet, I really wouldn’t expect this story to exist at all, if that makes sense. It’s a dark story, even a chilling story. But it’s also great story, because it brings home the reality of war in a way that I’ve never seen before. The aftermath, the moments of quiet after the battle, the long lulls of frustration and fear –– they bring home the reality so differently (and often so much better) than even the most firey battle scenes. Your stories are collectively remarkable for how well they show war outside of the battles. Perhaps it’s because that’s what you know, but you write the fringes and aftermath of war better than anyone else I can think of; in all the months you haven’t written anything HP related, no one has managed to fill that gap.
You know SPEW, you know SPEW reviews: you know I’m about to nitpick. But war is busy, frantic, when Death comes to pay her respects, and Death rarely has much to say. Either you need something stronger than a comma or you’re missing a conjunction after ‘frantic.’ It’s a beautiful line –– or possibly pair of lines –– and very representative of your writing. If you’re going to bother editing at all, that sentence in particular deserves to be fixed.
And so this is what Hermione Jane Granger does; when all is said and done, and the Ministry leaves their dead in a cold, pale marble room, Hermione sits with them. It’s taken me a few reads to figure out how you meant the thoughts to break up, because at first it made no sense at all, but it’d all make sense if you just dropped the comma after ‘when all is said and done.’
Beyond those punctuation issues, I only have one other nitpick. I want to know why she always leaves her hair down. It just doesn’t make much sense to me. Hermione, ever practical, would be more likely to always have it back –– in a braid, possibly. You might have had a reason for it, but it’s not there in the story and I can’t figure it out. However, everything else is explained: the story fits itself like a Swiss watch. Why isn’t Hermione out fighting? A bad limp in her right leg, an injury that has taken her out of willing combat forever. And just when the story is getting a bit hard to take, a small aside pointing out that she has neither tea nor biscuits. Genius.
I love the choice of Padma Patil for the last victim. Everyone knows she has a sister, so every reader will realize she has left family (and crushing young men) behind. And of course Padma has special implications for me, outside of canon, which I know you’re aware of. But even without that she’s a good choice –– someone Hermione knew, but not someone she knew so well as to mourn for her own sake. Beautiful.
Thank you, Voice, for thinking. Thank you, Voice, for writing. And thank you, Voice, for sharing.
Before anything else I should probably disclose the fact that I am not, in general, much of subscriber to the belief that “Dulce et decorum set pro patria mori.” So it should probably not be surprising that I’m not entirely comfortable with the phrase “noble death.” The choice to die rather than submit can be noble, I think, as the choice to die rather than to turn traitor, in this case. But that is a choice, an act, clearly belonging to the living and not the dead. Death itself is not noble, at least to my mind.
I like the idea of the last two lines, in abstraction, but “in penance” somehow doesn’t seem fitting for Pettigrew, though I love the description “each wretched, stolen breath.” Not only are those last four words beautiful, they are very apt.
I don’t really understand why dying in sacrifice for another would constitute dying twice. For each and every person, magical or muggle (except Harry, but Peter dies long before that, so I’m not sure how that could be a reference), there is exactly one death. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any arithmetic by which manner of death was a multiplier, though perhaps statisticians have their own arcane ways. Still, it’s confusing, and I’m clearly confused.
My favorite part is the first four lines. It’s the particular shades of nuance in the third and fourth lines that particularly catch me, but they’re far less effective and meaningful without the rhyme scheme of the first two lines preceding them. “For logic deems his life…” is just brilliant. It implies that Peter is too cowardly even to admit to himself that he has made a judgment, because it is logic that deems the worth, not Peter himself. The added beauty, of course, is that such logic is inherently incomplete (and therefore incorrect), as you go on to show. The mathematician in me squees and basks in your proffered paradoxes.
All right, this review is getting ridiculously silly, even for me, especially considering the seriousness of the nature. And so I go to haunt my restless sleep. Or… something along those lines. I really did like this, and shame on you for poo-pooing your own work.
Apologies for not managing to review any of this story before now. Lucas is an exceptional character –– quite the OC! –– and the plot is brilliant and well thought out. Clearly you know exactly where you’re going with this, but you manage to make the scenes flow smoothly and realistically without getting caught up in plot-centric details. Brava!
I find it interesting how you begin both of the first two chapters (not counting the prologue) with a description of the natural environment followed by Lucas’ reaction to it: first the summer heat in the park, then the morning sunlight. Is it an accident, I wonder? Or is it an intentional trend that you will be continuing, perhaps to highlight different aspects of Lucas’ character and set the mood for each chapter? I rather like it, and the two openings mirror each other so fully in some respects that I really want to know if it’s intentional, despite the fact that there are only two of them.
I loved the symbolism of Lucas getting dirt and slime on his hands in the corridors at Azkaban, and when he got stuck in the cell. It made fit into the plot very well, and was an original idea for getting the visitor some time alone with the inmate (I’ve seen so many bad or overused explanations for it in fan fiction that it was almost overwhelmingly refreshing), but I like it best because of its symbolism. Foreshadowing of the story to come, perhaps?
The only bit I think you might have done better was the section where Lucas reaches out to Lucius with his heart. It makes sense, but I would have liked a clearer explanation of what exactly he was doing. You’ve invented a new and beautiful magical ability, and I’d like to see you explain it in more detail and with more depth. Though, perhaps you will return to it in later chapters? I hope so!
Thank you for writing such a lovely story, and also for finding the courage to share it with us. I’m certain I will enjoy the rest. *pickles with love*
Author's Response: Hi Lian, and thanks for your review!
I never intended for the beginnings of the first two chapters to be similar, but I’ glad you like it. And while I don’t want to restrict myself to begin all the following chapters in the same way, it’s quite possible that many of them will look like that, as I like to skip from one scene/time of the day to another between chapter breaks, and because the story is from Lucas’ point of view.
What was intentional, on the other hand, was how I introduced Lucas’ “ability”. It is something that I can’t really take credit for myself, as it was mostly inspired by the works of an author named Jennifer Roberson, but I’m planning on using it differently from how she does in her novels. In this chapter I only wanted to show a glimpse of it, without any in-depth explanation, hoping to intrigue my readers a bit. Lucas will be using it more frequently in the upcoming chapters, and I promise to give you a full explanation before the end of the story.
Thanks again for the review! =)
I ended up clicking on your profile just because Hypatia of Alexandria is so cool, and I was quite pleased to see that you also like math. There are so few math people in the fandom, it’s rather wonderful to find another one. I also happen to really like Mr. Ollivander, so when I saw that you’d written a story about him I simply had to read it. I’m glad I did!
I can’t say the idea that Luna could be Mr. Ollivander’s granddaughter is new to me, but usually I’ve seen it as a convenient plot device or side story within a story centered on the trio or occasionally the group of six. I really like the family you’ve drawn for our mysterious wand maker, and it’s great that you’ve included Luna in it. Stories about Ollivander are pretty rare, anyway; I can only think of one other story specifically about him, and it’s very different from yours. I really like the relationship you’ve drawn between the two of them, and that you’ve done it from his perspective makes it even more special.
Your punctuation and grammar are generally pretty good, but you’ve left off the periods after the abbreviation “Mr.” I know it’s sometimes considered acceptable to leave it off, but not in fiction; using the more literary (and formal) punctuation shows more respect for your own work.
My biggest criticism is that a lot of your descriptions come off more as telling than as showing. Not badly so, but enough that I noticed it and that it could be improved. It’s hard to do, but perhaps you could experiment with minor changes to make it sound less like a description of Mr. Ollivander’s thoughts and more like him voicing them? As it is, I feel like we’re teetering on the edge between seeing what he’s thinking and observing him externally. Given this particular story, I think you’d want to go in the direction of showing what’s going on inside of his head, as so much of the story is internal. It’s hard to explain, especially since you’re already part way there, but… Maybe you could make his thoughts more his? Imbue his thoughts and the details he notices more with his personality?
I really liked the letter he wrote to Hagrid –– I’ve spent some time pondering whether or not Mr. Ollivander is in fact aware of Hagrid’s pink umbrella, and whether it was Ollivander or Dumbledore who actually put it together. I always enjoy reading other people’s takes on that one!
Also, I especially loved your descriptions of how wands are created and of how raw materials are collected. They make both the process of wand creation and Mr. Ollivander’s life seem more real, I think, yet cause neither of them to loose their mystical quality. Quite a fine line to walk, I think, and a testament to your writing. Once again, I really enjoyed reading this, and I would of course enjoy reading more about your Ollivander should you ever have the time and inclination to write about him.
Author's Response: Wow! Like I said before, my favourite type of review is the nice and long kind. Originally I had used “Mr.” however, I noticed that the Harry Potter books (well, the editions I have anyway) don’t have the period at the end. Being a math major without the first clue concerning English grammar, I decided to follow the books’ example despite the protests of Microsoft Word. As to your second suggestion, I’m afraid it will have to wait until I get a few more chapters of one of my other stories written. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the wand making process as I was worried about how it came across. Thank you again for your wonderfully long review!
An AU spin-off maintaining the opening of In The Eyes Of Others as well as canon, eh? Interesting concept. And really, Severus could have been a Gryffindor––and probably would have been, had he not been so set against Sirius and James. Perhaps I should add that I like this story in spite of its healthy does of Sirius, who I really despise. Perhaps it’s because you don’t try to make Sirius look kind or even nice, which always makes me sort of ill. You wrote him well.
Your Remus was just priceless. The werewolf comments were just … inspired. A beautiful plot device. Not the sneakiest thing you’ve ever written into a story by any stretch of the imagination, but extremely effective. You’ve transplanted the adult Remus, bashfulness and all, beautifully into the character of a child. His characterization sticks out in this story for being so incredibly apt. Lily, of course, you always do extremely well (and… if the masses got plaintive enough, might you be convinced to spin this out into an AU Severus/Lily? Please?). It’s the Remus that has me staring.
I have one teeny quibble (surprise). Snape nodded, either too disinterested to ask or too determined not to give James the chance to explain. It’s a beautiful insight into Severus’s character, but honestly I doubt that eleven-year-old James Potter would be thoughtful enough to realize how Severus protects himself by pretending disinterest. Since the story is told from James’s perspective, it gives the impression that James understands much more than I believe he actually does. But then again, the insight into Severus’s world might be more important than a bit of OOC-ness in James.
I really, really enjoyed this, and now I can’t help but think how much I’d enjoy an AU story examining Severus’s life and possible relationship with Harry (either as his father or as Lily Evans Potter’s best friend) had he been sorted into Gryffindor. Not that I’m trying to feed you another chaptered bunny or anything, of course. *scampers away before she can get walloped with a turnip*
Hi Abi! Sorry for being such a dilatory spew buddy, but I suppose DH rather distracted me from reviewing. I love missing moments, and I love Hermione, so it’s rather awesome that you wrote this story. I’m glad you took the dialogue from the books but then wrote the scene from another character’s perspective. I always think it’s really cool when people manage to do that without it sounding odd. And it sounds perfectly natural, so you should be proud.
There was one sentence in particular that could have been better written. In the first paragraph, you have: But as riveting as Quidditch was, Hermione wasn’t paying any attention. I think that this meant to be sarcastic, given that it’s Hermione and Quidditch that you’re talking about. However, using the word ‘But’ makes the intended sarcasm less clear. I think ‘Yet’ might be more effective, and you might think about putting ‘riveting’ into italics. You might consider rewording the entire sentence to get rid of the ‘was’ at the end of the clause.
I like the way you characterize Penelope. She doesn’t sound quite like Percy, but she’s both concerned with the rules and slightly pompous, so we can really see how they might go together. I sort of question a sixth year using the term ‘fraidy-cat,’ especially one whose British, a Ravenclaw prefect, and was raised in the wizarding world, but otherwise I thought her dialogue was quite believable.
My favorite part was the bit of humor at the end, when Hermione responds to Penelope’s assertion that “Those kinds of things never happen to me.” It’s a brilliant retort (very Hermione), and it made me chortle out loud. I really enjoyed reading this; I can’t say how happy I am that you wrote it. *hugs*
Awwww! What a sweet, sweet, lovely story you’ve written! Beautifully put together too, which is more rare than you’d think with one-shots. I particularly liked how you started each segment with a single word. The words really set the tone and help pull the story together in an interesting way. My only complaint about them is that the last two, Memories and Remembrance, seem a little too similar for two such different parts of the story. It’s a little jarring, because the first pulls you back into the past, as the title suggests, but the timing of Remembrance is, upon reading, clearly quite a ways after Memories, chronologically. I wasn’t exactly confused by it, but it did cause me to pause and think “Wait, what?” for a moment. The sudden, unexplained death of the son creates enough of a disconnect on its own (though, that part works beautifully and I wouldn’t try to change that), without binding the last two sections with their similar titles. Perhaps you could change Remembrance to Mourning? I don’t know. Only you can really know what’s right for it.
My only other criticism is that there are a couple of short paragraphs where you rely too much on telling (or explaining) emotions. In particular, I’m bothered by the paragraph beginning His uncle did not ask Joseph to explain what he meant. What his nephew had been through… The sentence about “What his nephew had been through” is unnecessary and brings down the level of your writing. You don’t need to tell us that––we’ve seen it. Moreover, you shouldn’t have to tell it. If you want to communicate the uncle’s understanding, you can just leave the mention of his reticence and maybe add a description of his facial expression or something like that, allowing the reader to comprehend the uncle’s empathy on their own. There were a couple of other cases when I thought you explain characters emotions too much, but that was the one that stuck out at me most.
Criticism given, I really did enjoy this story. It was beautifully written and heart wrenching. You started early enough in Joseph’s life that we were really able to empathize with him and care about what happened to him and to his family. You did a great job making Joseph into a very real and very human character, and you did a great job of showing his personality in how he approached obstacles in his life. The pacing is good and the story is compelling. All in all, excellent writing!
Thank you so much for the in depth review, HermioneDancr! I really appreciate that you put that much time and effort into it. You do have a couple things there I would like to respond to quickly. First, the funny part about my one word titles is I nearly dropped them out of the last version until my one of my betas influenced me otherwise. The original title of the “memories” section was “gifts”. I changed it when one of my betas expressed some concern over the timeline in the story getting confused. However, the version she got did not include the two paragraphs that immediately follow “memories” as it appears now. I added those the day I submitted the story. So, I may just change it back. I’ll have to look closely at that.
I agree with your criticism about relying too much on telling. I have a tendency to over-cook things sometimes, but I am much better at spotting it in someone else’s work as opposed to my own. Once again, I’ll take a look at the passage you specifically called out.
Thanks so much! I love your feedback and am glad you took the time to give me so much of it.