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Fanfic Book Club Week 3: Harry Potter and the Forests of Valbonë by enembee

Discussion in 'DLP & Chill' started by BTT, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. BTT

    BTT Headmaster

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    For the third edition of the book club, we'll be reading Harry Potter and the Forests of Valbonë by our very own @enembee . The usual quick data: 49 chapters on FFN (more in WBA), consisting of 115k words. It started in August 2011 and was completed in November of 2013. Its DLP rating is 4.29.

    The usual discussion questions:
    • This story's divergence starts in CoS, where Harry departs quite unexpectedly from Hogwarts and lands in the titular forests of Valbonë. How do you feel about this divergence? If you were the one who wrote the story, would you change anything about this particular point?
    • This story features several unlikely companions for Harry: the Sorting Hat and the Weasley's car, among others. None of these are exactly human. How do you feel about these companions, their personalities, their influence on the story?
    • As stated by the title, in this story the forests of Valbonë play a huge role. How do you feel about these forests? Do they feel sufficiently remote and "forest-like"? Do the forests square with canon?
    • The story also features significant new information expanding on what we know of canon magic, mostly about enchanting. How do you feel about this new info? Does it make sense within the story, and does it make sense with regards to canon?
     
  2. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Cool :) Thanks all. As Newcomb before me; I'm happy to answer questions on this. The sequel is currently in progress (30k in 2 weeks) over in WbA.

    As I promised Zombie I would, I'm going to go ahead and post the final chapter of this to FFNet.

    Extra bit of trivia: This is by a considerable margin my most reviewed work on FFN and my lowest rated longfic submitted to DLP.
     
  3. Newcomb

    Newcomb Headmaster

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    Good timing, as this was next on my list of things to catch up on.

    I'm just barely starting out - think I'm on chapter 4 or 5 - but one question I had for enembee right away: was the short chapter length a conscious decision? How did you manage to prevent chapter bloat? Did it take excessive planning to find that many beats to end a chapter on, or did you start thinking of "what is a chapter" in a new way? Basically, just curious about your approach to the short chapter length.
     
  4. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer Prestige DLP Supporter

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    It was purely a decision based upon what I could feasibly write every day on a consistent basis. It did take a little bit of planning, and you can definitely see where I fucked up from time to time. From a metric standpoint: all but 3 chapters are between 1800 and 2500 words and generally consist of one scene, or a number of thematically/topically consistent scenes. There's also definitely a 'super-structure' of chapters (generally between 2 & 4 with a mini-arc to them) because I'd always intended to go back and combine them into denser chapters when I was done.

    In reflection though, I actually like the short chapters. They remind me of storybook chapters (ala The Hobbit), where you might read one a night before bed when you were a kid, which is definitely an aesthetic that I ultimately think suits the story.
     
  5. Typhon

    Typhon Unspeakable

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    Welp, that's my excuse shot. Looks like you're finally getting that full Valbonë series review from me.

    Besides BTTs standard fanfic bookclub questions, is there anything particular that you'd like opinions on NMB?
     
  6. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Gotcha eventually.

    Good point, I actually have two questions for anyone who cares to answer:
    1. The prologue is a notable departure from the style/tone of the rest of the story. Is this off-putting/out of place enough to warrant a rewrite?
    2. There is a significant and deliberate change in focus/direction/tone at about the midpoint of the story. Does this detract significantly from the work as a whole?
     
  7. Newcomb

    Newcomb Headmaster

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    Might want to revise my answer once I get further along, but I'd say, tentatively: off-putting, no, out of place, maybe.

    I had no real expectations going in, other than the summary and title, and the first chapter made me feel like I was in for some kind of Unfound Door-style "wild magic more magical than canon" piece. As in, a story that takes HP magic and posits a deep magic / fey magic / Other magic on top of it, usually categorically "better" but always somewhat uncanny. And from the first few chapters with the car and the hat and Harry leaning about bindings and such, it's actually feeling a lot more like a fic that takes HP magic and adds on to it, bolsters it, reinforces it.

    Neither one is better or worse than the other, but it definitely leaves a bit of a "huh?" feeling around chapter 3-4 when the intro chapter's tone of "uncanny/wild magic" is pretty soundly dropped in favor of "canon+".
     
  8. Quiddity

    Quiddity Unspeakable

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    Just to clarify: we have more than a week, right?
     
  9. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign Prestige

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    I'm about to finish my WYLB reread @enembee, don't report yet plz
     
  10. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I've been playing it safe and just reported every post you've made for the last week.
     
  11. Quiddity

    Quiddity Unspeakable

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    Finished this, speeding through the last half.

    This story is very surprising to me. I thought it was basically a HP version of Hatchet, because I stopped at about 11 chapters in a year or two ago, and some of the ANs presenting it as a break from other works. I was mildly enjoying the dynamic, but not expecting much more than a long slow story of surviving in the wilderness and growing both in magic and as a person.

    Which is clearly not what this is.

    The story comparison I'm struck by, oddly enough, is Renegade Cause. Now, that is a sprawling, messy epic, and this - despite it's narrative motion - is very much not that, with the focus remaining tightly upon Harry. I think the comparison arises mostly from those last two chapters, and the feeling they leave you with. Harry's horcrux is an obvious reveal, but the Gryffindor addition is an interesting and surprising twist that operates to recast much of what felt like asspulls earlier (acceptable levels of suspension-of-disbelief, but conscious ones). As with RC, we're led to and along the premise - Sternley, Harry's magical/physical/personal progression - effectively, and it is later justified in retrospect.

    However. I'm not so sure that I do in fact accept that. Whilst the escalation in fighting skills, and magic is carefully plotted out, it's still too much, enough that I was consciously noting and ignoring my disbelief at many moments. The mutating magic was the primary magical aspect, but the fight scenes and physical feats achieved alongside significant injuries - even accounting for Wizarding durability - got a bit ludicrous. And that's even if we include the final reveals.

    I don't think there's a remedy for this whilst still telling the story you want to tell. He's a 12 year old boy, at the end of the day. And you're aware of that, and were clearly trying to do your utmost to create allowances - elements of surprise, Gryffindor, Sternley, etc. - but it's just not enough for me. I can enjoy it despite this, but it's still there.


    Sternley is a fun character with a very clear voice that's established quickly and maintained. Mad props.

    I'm not a fan of the Voldemort sequence. It happens too fast, with very little warning, and the fight scene is the most ridiculous (despite being very impressive and gripping). Whilst the moral component is handled well, I really feel that's the exception, rather than the rule. Harry kills and kills and kills in this fic, and I really don't think it has the weight it needs,, or is dwelt on properly. You make noises towards this early on - especially with the Oiks - but it's kinda dropped, imo. The Vorcerr aspect particularly seemed...callous? Barbaric? (Again, especially whenever you step back and think of Harry in the light of his age.) And not in a way that was earned - yes, he's been through a lot of trauma and shit, but we haven't watched at affect him to the level where that action would be followed.

    (Again, Gryffindor can be used to hand-wave. But even in retrospect it doesn't feel enough.)

    The political aspect near the end seems too rushed. In general, the end seems to come out of nowhere. It makes no sense, but you're in a space where you expect him to go lead the charge. But certainly, the final sequences aren't structured in a way that feels conclusory. I suppose I should read the sequel to find out.

    The chapter structure was nice, but it did feel like it limited it in some ways. It gave it a very specific feel, which I liked, but I'm not sure how to articulate. I definitely wouldn't recommend joining them together.


    I'm being too critical. I really liked it, and am glad this made me read it. The fights are really good (but unbelievable). The escalation was generally well handled, which is impressive for its transformation.

    4/5


    I need to reread the prologue and get back to you on it.

    Interesting. Is this what I described earlier re: Hatchet-esque to something very different? I say interesting because in retrospect I see this trajectory changing with the first Oik fight, which seems to come out of nowhere, and is earlier than that.

    I would say that it's a mixed bag. The highs are high, the lows are lower. The earlier version I thought this was going to be has a mild pleasantness to it, a sort of idyllic, lazy enjoyment. It ain't trying to be much, but it's doing what it's doing well. As it goes on, it bites off a heck of a lot more, with some great scenes/elements, and some clunky and problematic scenes/elements.
     
  12. Newcomb

    Newcomb Headmaster

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    I’m getting into the “magical epiphany” stuff just before the wolf battle and a bit after it - like the description of the spell to dig the graves - (and yes I know I’m reading this incredibly slowly, I’m just super RL busy right now) and it hooked me and also made me really happy I’m only reading this now because otherwise I’d feel like I ripped you off for WYLB.

    Super fascinating how we came to a pretty specific similar mental map of how magic works.
     
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