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Old 08-20-2015, 07:07 AM   #1
Taure
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A Cadmean Victory by DarknessEnthroned - M

Title: A Cadmean Victory
Author: DarknessEnthroned
Rating: M
Chapters: 103
Words: 520,268
Updated: Feb 17, 2016
Published: Aug 14, 2015
Status: Complete

Pairing: Harry/Fleur
Summary: The escape of Peter Pettigrew and Harry's inherent nobility leave a deeper mark on his character than anyone expected, then comes the Goblet of Fire and the chance of a quiet year to improve himself, but Harry Potter and the Quiet Revision Year was never going to last long. A more mature Harry bearing more effects of 11 years of virtual solitude. GoF AU. There will be romance...
Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1144695...admean-Victory


This is a highly readable fic that I found entertaining but is riddled with imperfections and annoyances that make it "Almost Recommendable" rather than Library material. The update rate is also impressive: 63k words since it was published on August 14th.

Ignore the summary, it bears no real relation to the fic - it's got nothing to do with Peter Pettigrew. What we're dealing with here is a GoF AU that gets going very quickly - no never-ending summer here, we jump straight into things. There are two main divergences: firstly, Harry has become significantly more studious over the summer (referenced but not shown, as the fic starts at the end of summer) and Barty Crouch Jr is killed at the Quidditch World Cup. Point of view is Harry-centric, but with occasional Fleur-centric chapters.

The author avoids a lot of indy!Harry pitfalls, largely because he skips the summer almost entirely. It's almost like he wrote an indy!Harry summer training fic then cut out all the training part. The result is rather jarring, in that Harry feels like he's had an almost complete character transplant, and his magical ability has jumped up out of nowhere, simply explained by Harry having reread previous years' schoolbooks over the summer. This stretches belief massively and is continuously immersion-shattering, but it's still better than the indy!Harry standard of going through the tedious training routine step by step. At least this way it's more efficient -- you just have to buy the divergence and go on from there.

The author's choice of specialism for Harry -- Transfiguration -- is particularly strange, as it's the subject Harry struggled with most in canon. You'd expect either DADA or Charms specialism. Again this breaks immersion. We also have the old standby "Harry switches to Ancient Runes and Arithmancy and is suddenly great at them", better even than Hermione (if fact he's now better than her at basically everything). At this point the author's desire to super Harry up begins to feel massively excessive, but the author kinda gets away with it because Harry's main antagonists in the fic won't be his peers but Triwizard contestants. Still, the complete character assassination of Hermione gets repetitive and tiresome. Not only does the author downgrade her abilities in every area other than essay writing, she's also made far more petty and less loyal than canon.

Changing things from canon is fine -- this is fanfiction after all -- but you have to make sure your changes are actually for the better. Unfortunately the majority of DarknessEnthroned's changes just make characters shallower and situations less complex with less conflict/challenge/room for character growth. It doesn't roam into full-on bashing (yet) but it could be said to be "bashing lite", i.e. it commits the same sin that makes bashing bad, which is that supporting characters are artificially downgraded in abilities, intelligence, depth and independent agency in order to make the protagonist (and his chosen allies) look better by easily knocking down these cardboard cut-out character conflicts. The "Gryffindor turns on Harry" storyline after his name comes out of the Goblet is the perfect example of this.

But really, the biggest problem with the fic is the aforementioned character transplant for Harry. He's significantly more studious, aloof, and disinterested than his canon self, and there's no real motivation for these changes or growth to reach this point. Harry just starts the fic like this: disinterested in Quidditch (he falls asleep at the World Cup), disinterested in the Triwizard (both the tournament and the other schools), so obsessed with reading that he can't even put a book down to eat during meal times, etc. It's extremely frustrating to read, and a lot of it can only be got away with because it's fanfiction so the author can rely on us already knowing about things Harry is ignoring. That's just lazy writing.

There are certain elements of the fic that make me wonder if the fic would have been just as bad as regular indy!Harry if the author had written the skipped summer. In particular, we have some alarm bells ringing in the Dumbledore zone, where we're dangerously close to manipulative/incompetent Dumbledore territory. It's strongly implied that Dumbledore either entered Harry into the Triwizard tournament himself, or directly allowed its occurrence. We haven't really had enough Dumbledore interactions to tell for sure, but the signs are not good. The author has already arbitrarily changed things from canon to cast Dumbledore in a worse light - for example, Dumbledore doesn't believe Harry about not entering his name into the contest.

Other indy!Harry warning signs include Harry getting a new uber wand with a liquid basilisk venom core, which is of course created in the space of a single day on demand, thus bypassing the potential for interesting and tense conflict while Harry is wandless. Similar "superspeed advances" occur elsewhere, such as when Harry completes two significant rituals in a single day, with zero preparation. He literally reads about them then performs them immediately after, reaping huge benefits with no cost. Assisted, of course, by the portrait of Salazar Slytherin and our old friend "Slytherin revisionism" where Salazar wasn't against Muggleborns or racist, he's just misunderstood. Making such huge gains without cost (especially the cost of hard work and time) cheapens Harry’s abilities and makes you wonder why he’s the only person doing this. Another example of everything happening easily and conveniently for Harry is his just happening to stumble upon the Room of Requirement and immediately figure out its use. If it was that easy, far more students would be using it.

The magic in generally disappointing, on several fronts. First off, we have magical cores and all the well-discussed problems that come with them, though fortunately they're not a major part of the fic (yet). Magic is generally just too easy/simple, with Harry often picking up spells without any effort, on first try. The fic is completely vague on the links between understanding theory and being able to practice magic... like canon, there are hints that knowledge of theory is required to properly cast powerful/advanced magic, shown by the fact that Harry's new-found skill corresponds with increased reading, and yet we never see any kind of knowledge requirement when Harry uses magic. Often he just waves his wand around a bit, thinking hard about what he wants to happen and it just happens. The fic is very inconsistent on that front - it seems committed to "knowledge magic" in principle, but is happy to use "wish magic" in practice.

Still, the fic has some nice visuals, such as Harry's "elemental basilisk" spell, and also some moments of originality, such as how Harry dealt with the First Task (though technically it was against the rules, as he took more than his wand into the arena).

The final big problem area in the fic is Fleur and her interactions with Harry. Now, the fic feels like it’s trying to do something new with Fleur, but without leaving the comfort zone of fanon Fleur tropes which sabotage any attempt to make her interesting. I’m not sure if the author even realises how unoriginal he's being with Fleur -- one gets the feeling that the author is quite proud of the direction he’s gone with her. We have a greater focus on her canonical snobbishness/haughtiness, which is a welcome change from “nice Fleur”, but we’re stuck with this tiresome Veela narrative which reduces Fleur’s character to her heritage. For once I’d like to see a fic that explores who Fleur is as a person, not as a magical creature. A fic which realises that she’s a witch first, and any “Veela identity” she may have is a distant second. She’s a student at Beauxbatons, not a mascot for a Quidditch team. The way the author writes Fleur’s history and interactions with other girls suggests that the author doesn’t really understand friendship dynamics too well, especially female friendship dynamics. The boring “allure” as a magical aura that can be adjusted at will is present here too, and once more is something which directly manipulates the minds of others rather than enhances Fleur’s beauty (and thus her attractiveness to others) to supernatural levels.

The line taken with Harry is just as well-worn (and it wasn’t a good line even the first time). As usual, we have a Harry who isn’t interested in Fleur, not even how beautiful she is independently of the magically-enhanced elements of her beauty. He acts like a eunuch around her… and Fleur, for some reason, finds this interesting/attractive. It’s yet another popping up of this incredibly neckbeardy idea that women are attracted by noble intentions/”being nice”, a rather misogynistic idea about women that perpetuates double standards of sexuality where women are expected to be “pure” or “modest” and find such traits attractive in others. For (unfortunately not) the last time: women (and men) like feeling sexy. People like being desired. Of course unwelcome advances can be irritating, but that’s a different thing from being seen as desirable. The vast majority of women find confidence and directness attractive. Harry being noble and nice and treating Fleur as a friend rather than potential partner isn’t going to make her lust after him, it’s going to make her place him in the “friendzone”. For once, please, someone give me a Fleur who embraces her sexuality, who appreciates confident, direct men. You know, canon Fleur, who was attracted to the rough and ready, talented and confident Bill Weasley.

As usual, this review focuses on the negative, but I do advise rereading the first paragraph of the review: in general, this fic is entertaining and readable. It’s just that there’s a lot of areas where it could be improved, and several warning signs for problems in the future.

3/5

Edit: note that this review was written after chapter 14. Chapter 15 was published today and I haven't read it yet.


The author added another Epilogue as separate oneshot:

Title: A Taste of Ismenian Water
Words: 2,469
Published: July 26, 2016
Summary: The original epilogue to A Cadmean Victory before I decided to make the last chapter the epilogue and leave things hanging. Obviously it's just a single chapter and scene, but I thought I might as well share it as a separate story for those who wanted to see my version of the ending.

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1207036...Ismenian-Water








Edit by Minion, July 28, 2016: Added the additional epilogue.
Thanks to Ghosthree3 for the information
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Old 08-20-2015, 07:20 AM   #2
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You say it's entertaining and readable, your essay says otherwise, lol.

I was in after Harry/Fleur, OOC and Transfiguration. Everything you said after that was like a punch to the gut though...
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Old 08-20-2015, 07:22 AM   #3
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My reviews are always massively negative and make it look like the fic is terrible, but that's just because I review relative to a standard of perfection. It should be noted that I read the entire fic and enjoyed it, which says a lot. It's the first new fic I haven't put down in utter disgust in months.

The author manages to avoid most of the worst tropes of the genre, and the prose itself is very readable. Also, if you dislike Hermione you'll be able to forgive a lot of the worst parts of the fic.

On the topic of Fleur, like I said the author tries to do something new with her within the constraints of the fanon tropes. That means that, while Fleur is still disappointing compared to her potential, she's still better written than almost every other Harry/Fleur out there.
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Old 08-20-2015, 08:26 AM   #4
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I got this off you favorites list Taure. Its a pretty decent time waster over all. However I wouldn't go back to read it a second time. I would give this a 3/5 mostly because of the "House turns on Harry" BS that pops up. Harry meeting Slytherin's portrait is interesting but after 14 chapters you would think there would be more H/F interaction.
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Old 08-20-2015, 08:31 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Definitely Not Taure View Post
MIt's the first new fic I haven't put down in utter disgust in months.
I've just taken a gander at this.

Good things:

-The story clearly has been planned out (in some form) in advance. This critical step is oft ignored by the vast majority of FFnet crap.

-The story has been prewritten. Not only do we get to see a huge pile of words very quickly, it has (relatively) few grammatical/spelling errors.

-Its imaginative. When reading this, I am inspired by its evocative imagery. The cliches that it does have are awful, but at least its not formulaic.

Bad points:

-Unjustified, unsupported OOCness. Hermione in particular doesn't taste quite right. I could see her doing XYZ in certain situations, and a chain of unfortunate events driving a wedge into her relationship with Harry, but this feels more like random setup for an unjustified face heel turn than anything else.

-Magical Cores. I've encountered good fanfics containing those two words before, but they are rare.

-Poorly supported explosive spike in Harry's power level. Bad fics justify this with time-dilated training montages. Mediocre fics use 'Harry is a descendant/reincarnation/heir/pony-snowflake of Gryffindor/Merlin/Slytherin'. This story barely even tries.

-The white-knighty concept that sexually charged and worldly hot babes are magically attracted to white knights for exhibiting asexuality. I cringed.

I don't believe this fic is of the quality required to even get into the almost recommended category. It may change in the future, but current patterns are not favorable.
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Old 08-20-2015, 08:48 AM   #6
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I don't believe this fic is of the quality required to even get into the almost recommended category. It may change in the future, but current patterns are not favorable.
I'd remind you that the Almost Recommended forum is short for "Almost Recommended: From Barely Readable to Almost Good". The whole point of Almost Recommended is to allow DLP to archive fics that don't meet the site's normal standards, because those standards were leading to a drought in fic reviews. Almost all discussion was taking place in the Almost Recommended threads and For Review was empty.

If we suddenly erect barriers to entry to even Almost Recommended, then we're back in the original situation where there's no place to discuss the fics that we're all actually reading, even though there are numerous things wrong with them. Which is like 99% of fanfiction these days.

Only now, without an Almost Recommended thread to fall back upon, the discussion simply won't take place at all.

If there was public access to the fics that received 1 or 2 stars that would be another matter, as we'd still have an archive of all those fics we found lacking. There would be a place to discuss them if we kept reading them, and a place for people with lower standards to go to find fics to read. But since we don't have access to those fics, DLP needs a place where lower-quality fics can be found and discussed. The only venue for that right now is the Almost Recommended forum.
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Old 08-20-2015, 10:08 AM   #7
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'Miss Granger and the Weasley family were all quite worried, but otherwise fine. You however, Mr Potter, have somehow exhausted your magical core and in recovery you have set a new record for your lengthiest stay in my hospital wing. I daresay it is the first time that a student has manage that before term has begun.'
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Old 08-20-2015, 10:48 AM   #8
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-Magical Cores. I've encountered good fanfics containing those two words before, but they are rare.
I don't get Taure's magical core issue and indy!harry bashing either he can't seem to suffer for years. It's all about execution in the end which gives a meaning to gimmicks and ideas.

If a story wants to explore the concept of changing the body, magic and soul through rituals then these rituals need a target and from that perspective magical cores make perfect sense as a tangible metaphysical concept to me.

I can't stand stories which don't develop personality changes in a meaningful matter with proper motivations or if they just drop gimmicks like buying a meaningless "super" wand for self aggrandizing purposes only.

And just reading the summary of this fic and some comments make this look exactly like that.
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Old 08-20-2015, 02:49 PM   #9
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I tried reading it. Every character interaction seemed forced, each piece of dialogue seemed scripted. Something was off about the entire thing. The characters were either OOC or Flanderized. Hermione doesn't sigh with exasperation at everything Ron says and call him Ronald. Did Molly even once call him Ronald during the entire series?
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Old 08-20-2015, 02:59 PM   #10
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I agree 100% with everything Taure said, especially these points:

Quote:
But really, the biggest problem with the fic is the aforementioned character transplant for Harry. He's significantly more studious, aloof, and disinterested than his canon self, and there's no real motivation for these changes or growth to reach this point.
Quote:
In particular, we have some alarm bells ringing in the Dumbledore zone, where we're dangerously close to manipulative/incompetent Dumbledore territory.
Quote:
The fic is very inconsistent on that front - it seems committed to "knowledge magic" in principle, but is happy to use "wish magic" in practice.
Quote:
We have a greater focus on her canonical snobbishness/haughtiness, which is a welcome change from “nice Fleur”, but we’re stuck with this tiresome Veela narrative which reduces Fleur’s character to her heritage. For once I’d like to see a fic that explores who Fleur is as a person, not as a magical creature.
I'll add something to the negative pile: the author's writing is "workmanlike." It gets the job done, but it's functional rather than actually good. I'll also note that the author succumbs to a classic beginner writer's mistake:

Quote:
'And your classes? Divination?' Hermione pressed insistently.
Quote:
'Trelawny was starting to run out of original predictions for my death,' he shrugged in explanation.
Quote:
'I'm sure I'll find a way,' Harry answered casually.
Quote:
'Bulgaria will win,' Ron confidently declared
Quote:
'Isn't that a love potion?' He asked amusedly, raising an eyebrow suggestively.
These are all from the first half of the first chapter. So... yeah. Not great.

I will also echo Taure that despite the glaring problems, I did read the whole thing and was reasonably entertained. Because of the buildup of cliches and bad tropes, the fic has the potential to nosedive pretty sharply, but it's also established itself as reasonably readable and enjoyable, so...

3/5

That feels right.
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Old 08-20-2015, 03:21 PM   #11
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-snip-
I like the concept of an independent harry. I dislike the execution.

I'm fine with magical cores... in theory. Most authors use this as a way to justify "Oh my harry/oc/etc is uberpowerful because his/her magical core is superior due to birth/lineage/etc."

That in itself would be... okay, if we saw the sociopolitical changes that would be present in a society where lineage/magical core size/etc de facto mattered.
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Old 08-20-2015, 05:51 PM   #12
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Harry seems significantly out of character - ironically, Ron ends up looking more mature than Harry in the 2nd Fleur chapter and in the confrontation with Harry and Hermione. Coupled with Dumbledore apparently suspecting Harry of deceit... not really buying the fic, despite some cool ideas. (I think the ash-basilisk was cool, as well as the whole butterfly conjuration)
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Old 08-21-2015, 04:55 AM   #13
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It grates so, so much when authors have kids speaking without contractions.

'I shall not', 'I will not', 'I do not think' etc. Becoming my biggest pet peeve lately. Is that supposed to denote maturity? Not speaking like a human?
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Old 08-21-2015, 05:57 AM   #14
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Oh, yeah, I forgot about that.

I almost Nope'd out when Harry goes "I do not forgive. I do not forget."

One, because of the contraction thing.

Two, because it's an incredibly cringe-y line in general.

Three, because I couldn't not picture this.
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Old 08-21-2015, 07:42 AM   #15
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I was really going to give it a go, but once I noticed the words "magical cores" in this thread, I decided against it.
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Old 08-21-2015, 09:00 AM   #16
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I feel like I'm reading Descent Into Darkness without all the angst and Homo-eroticism. In a way, that's good, the fic manages to keep matters cool and solid, on the other hand, the writing is too dry and the narrative generally uninteresting, because it rehashes plots from lots of other fics without offering anything new. Harry barely seems to even think about having just killed someone. I don't expect or want him to go all whiny about this, but it's one of those things that really suck the weight out of the narrative; and, indeed, Crouch Jr.'s death doesn't seem to affect the plot at all.

In the words of Immortan Joe... Mediocre.
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Old 08-21-2015, 09:45 AM   #17
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Quote:
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I almost Nope'd out when Harry goes "I do not forgive. I do not forget."
I did, for now. Does it get better? Because currently my bottom-line is that I like Fleur, except for her weird obsession with Harry, and I cringe so often during the rest of the story that I wonder whether I don't have better things to do. Also, I do not see at all how Harry/Fleur will work here. Both are polar opposites. I don't even want them together at this stage.

Edit: Oh, and btw: A wand shattering when banished against a wall? NopeNopeNope. Try destroying a simple wooden stick that way (say, a drum stick). After a medium-sized explosion that would destroy half the common room, the stick would be the most likely thing still to be intact. That was the second reason I quit. Too ridiculous.
(Incidentally, the same applies to all "wand snapping". Feel free to buy a drum stick, and try to "snap" them. I'll use a saw meanwhile.)


I wanted to talk about one point in particular, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Definitely Not Taure View Post
Also, if you dislike Hermione you'll be able to forgive a lot of the worst parts of the fic.
I read the first couple of paragraphs, and feel like adding another facet to my definition of bashing: the author blatantly telling the reader how the character sucks. I forgot that, because I didn't think anyone would actually do that. The effect, though, is astounding.

Compare:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Example
'You can't take fourth year runes or arithmancy without knowing the third year course,' Hermione said.
This is perfectly in line with Canon!Hermione's character. It's basically a staple reaction (Apparating at Hogwarts, Transfiguring Food, ...). You almost hear her voice in your head: Slightly impatient and exasperated for having to explain something so very obvious, a little fondness for her friends who just don't are as perfectly brilliant as she is, some concern they might have acted based on those circumstances and would now be in trouble. (In case someone is wondering: No, that is not a nice behaviour.)

And the author did what?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chapter1
'You can't take fourth year runes or arithmancy without knowing the third year course,' Hermione explained with an all too familiar mix of concern and condescension.
This, which grates on my nerves so much I want to punch him.

What Hermione says is in both cases exactly the same, but holy fuck get rid of the commenting there. Everyone who isn't half brain dead will get the idea.

Ultimately, this also ties with the fact that bashing isn't bad because it's bashing, but because it's, more generally, bad writing. And that right there is terrible writing, see also Newcomb's comments on constant non-use of "say" (and no further qualifiers).


All in all, I'm struggling to give this a 3/5. It's readable, yes, but that covers only the most technical sense. Even before I stopped, I found myself constantly putting the story away and doing something else.
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Old 08-21-2015, 01:29 PM   #18
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Decent writing (in comparison to other fanfiction), that somehow manages to stuff every major cliche of the indie!Harry genre into one fic.


1. Harry in the chamber of secrets.
2. Harry finding Salazer's portrait.
3. Harry learns new talents and skills over a (barely mentioned) summer spent studying.
4. Gryffindor turns on Harry.
5. Harry becomes a magical prodigy almost overnight. Quickly picking up spells in class on his first try, every single time.
6. Harry never fails at fucking anything. ANYTHING! He somehow manages to learn a years worth of two (supposedly very difficult) classes over the summer, by himself, and then goes into class to find them easy.
7. Harry gets himself a custom wand made in hours.
8. Said wand contains rare materials most wands just aren't made of.
9. Wand increases Harry's ability with magic far beyond his peers, approaching (or surpassing) fully grown and trained wizards.
10. Fleur takes an interest in Harry purely because he can ignore her "allure".
11. Harry gets his hands on a time turner, using it to further study magic and increase his awesomeness.
12. Fleur is bullied and harassed by her peers for being beautiful and veela.
13. Harry goes full anti social emo (somewhere around chapter 13).
14. Harry skips at least three years into his education and is silently casting spells after a summer of study, to the amazement of his peers.
15. Hermione is jealous of Harry's accomplishments all the time.

And I just fucking know that somehow the author is going to work in magically expanding trunks somehow.

I'm actually a bit amazed you could get all these tropes into 50k words unintentionally.

I'm a sucker for fourth year do-over fics, and especially Harry/Fleur. Even with my bias, I could barely get through this.
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Old 08-24-2015, 06:24 AM   #19
NuScorpii
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Decent time waster, but the more recent chapters are worse than the earlier ones.

While the fic is full of cliches, the one thing going for it is that the author doesn't spend too much time on them. There is no half a chapter thesis on the magical core, or an exposition on the power of the dual core wand or wand crafting that is often found in recent fics. They're mentioned. You read them, get annoyed for a second and move on.

The sudden OOCness is a bit jarring, but I didn't find it distracting after the first chapter. Once you accept that Harry is different, the rest mostly follows.

My biggest gripe about the fic is Harry's attitude towards Hermione. There's absolutely nothing to justify it. Harry went back home after the summer, never had any noticeable interaction with Hermione, and then suddenly his attitude towards her is changed from canon. Unlike Harry's own OOC-ness which could possibly be attributed to whatever unmentioned events that happened in the summer, there are no such events that seem to have happened to change his views on Hermione.

The focus on cliches in the recent chapters seem to have increased, or at least that what it feels like. I'm unsure if there are actually more cliches in later chapters or if the aggregate of the cliches interspersed throughout the fic is making it seem worse. Either ways, I think I enjoyed the later chapters less than the earlier ones.

Overall, it's a pretty decent fic and a good time waster.

3/5
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Old 08-24-2015, 01:16 PM   #20
roro330
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnThePyro View Post
12. Fleur is bullied and harassed by her peers for being ... veela.

It's sad, because this could potentially be a very good plot point in a story, but everyone messes it up. Other-ism in general is something that humans do a ton of, and wizards/witches are shown to be doing an hilarious amount more than we do in the present day, but with Fleur/Veela is always put across as "She will steal our boyfriends!" or "She is just too pretty!" or something stupid like that. Like, if the authors made it clear that those were dog whistles and the real issues were more systemic racism paired with the other-ism that exists in other parts of wizarding society(muggleborns, squibs, assorted creatures, ect), and had a real plot with real conflict combating that, it could be really good.

The big issues that the author would have to deal with, though, is the inherent politics of a subject like this, and deciding how they were going to portray the other-ism in the story. A story staring Hermione, Fleur, and Harry fighting this kind of entrenched other-ism would have a ton of potential to be a good story with a lot of plot(though maybe not action), but I have yet to see any story deal with this kind of racism beyond "getting my SI named Harry a totally hawt babe." :-(

/rant.

Last edited by roro330; 08-24-2015 at 01:40 PM.
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adventure, author: darknessenthroned, complete, goblet of fire, harry/fleur, harry/katie, hogwarts year 4, romance


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