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Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos by ACI100 - M

Discussion in 'Review Board' started by Taure, Apr 28, 2022.

  1. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Title: Harry Potter and the Ashes of Chaos
    Author: ACI100
    Rating: M
    Genre: Adventure/Mystery
    DLP Category: The Alternates
    Pairing: TBC (as of the end of first year)
    Status: Work in Progress (about 766k words)

    Summary: AU: When Voldemort attacked the Potters on Halloween night, she not only created a living legend in Charlus Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, but she touched the life of another just as deeply. What will happen when a more jaded, more focused, and more gifted Harry Potter shows up at Hogwarts in 1991 after being abandoned and forgotten? Fem!Voldemort, WBWL

    Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13507192/1/Harry-Potter-and-the-Ashes-of-Chaos

    So I've just finished reading the first year of this WBWL fic, which is currently mid way through third year. Having finished first year, I feel like I have now read enough to recommend it as a decent but flawed time killer.

    Pros:

    - High level talented Harry, a prodigy like Dumbledore/Voldemort

    - For people who enjoy the fanon "Ancient and Noble Houses" stuff, it is executed quite well here.

    - Although it takes a long time to appear, the first year plot is actually executed quite well (by which I mean the intra-Slytherin climax, not the Philosopher's Stone climax). There's some genuine peril/threat and the antagonists execute a plan which does make you worry.

    - Although James Potter, Charlus Potter (Harry's twin), and Albus Dumbledore are antagonists to one degree or another, in line with standard WBWL tropes, this fic avoids the worst of it. Dumbledore, although villainous, is not a mustache twirling cartoon villain and has a certain callous basis for his actions which goes beyond parroting the phrase "for the greater good". James Potter makes a moronic choice in placing Harry with the Dursleys but regrets it and has good intentions. Charlus is semi-sympathetic.

    - It's probably going to be Harry/Daphne.

    - It's genuinely ambiguous who the Boy Who Lived is and the reader is kept guessing.

    Cons:

    - For all that it executes the WBWL tropes better than most WBWL fics, those tropes are still there, and still require a certain high level of suspension of disbelief.

    - The "Ancient and Noble Houses" stuff is pretty over the top. Painfully so in some cases.

    - The "children who talk like adults, care deeply about politics, can talk credibly about it, and build their entire lives around their parents' political stances" trope here is on full form. There is not a single child character who reads like an actual human being rather than some variety of sociopath.

    - The pacing is glacial.

    - For all its superficial deviations, as of the end of first year, the story is fairly firmly on canon rails.

    - There are a ton of OCs which the author has clearly fallen in love with. Almost without fail, the OCs are rule-of-cool based and are all super special, either by virtue of historical political power or special magical abilities, or both. Charlotte is a particularly egregious Mary Sue. It's not clear why any of these OCs were needed when there are plenty of mostly-blank slate canon characters who could have been used.

    - For all that the story is about Harry's growth as a magical talent, the actual magic is pretty lackluster. It's a fairly generic fanon "magic is a muscle, intent is everything" approach which pales in comparison to the depiction of magic in canon. Unlike canon, the magic here feels rather bland and flavourless, with nothing which really strikes your imagination as particularly arcane, inspired by folklore, or unique.

    - The lackluster magic actually harms the primary character arc of the story. Harry's growth as a magical prodigy is the biggest part of the fic as a proportion of content. But the fic fails to deliver a sense that magical prodigies are prodigious for deserving, laudable reasons - or even any reason at all. It's not like canon where prodigies are using intelligence, talent and hard work to master advanced magic, requiring a deep knowledge of complex theory. Rather, the fic leans hard into the idea that magic is just wishing for stuff really hard, and all Harry is ever depicted doing to master magic is casting spells repeatedly until he gets them right/increases their power. So it's quite baffling as to what separates him out from other wizards. His prodigy feels undeserved and baseless, because magic itself feels like it has no content that requires mastering. Rather than making Harry look clever, this worldbuilding just makes all other wizards look like idiots.

    - The fem!Voldemort AU just feels random. The cost of the fem!Voldemort gender change is that every time the reader reads the name "Voldemort", they picture the Voldemort they know, and have to correct themselves. That's a fairly steep cost from a writing standpoint, so requires some benefit to justify the cost. But Fem!Voldemort doesn't ever do anything particularly feminine. The gender change doesn't seem to play any functional role in the story. I just wish the author had changed the name "Voldemort" to something else to get rid of the inevitable cognitive dissonance it causes in the reader's mind, the same as when fem!Harry authors are so lazy that they call her "Harry".

    - It's not really a property of the story itself, but if you read the author's notes, you will find that the author is hilariously sensitive to criticism. But he only ever has one response to critique: "that was not an error, it was deliberate". It doesn't seem to have occurred to the author that something can be deliberate and still be an error. It's like he's never read a book or movie review...
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2022
  2. Drachna

    Drachna Seventh Year

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    That is quite a lot of words for just over two years of writing. Would you say that the fic is generally well written?

    I'll give the first year a go anyway, and then we'll see.

    (Also @Taure you linked chapter 23.)
     
  3. Drachna

    Drachna Seventh Year

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    Ok, so, after reading the first couple of chapters I can't say that I'm impressed. For one, the dialogue is terrible. The children don't sound like normal 11 year olds, or even 11 year old sociopathic politicians. Their lines range from stilted to incoherent, and while you can tell that the author is going for a 'formal' vibe, it just sounds like they're choking on a thesaurus.

    We also have seventeen year-olds jostling for 'position' with each other, and by that I mean almost committing murder over the best chair in the Slytherin common room and enforcing a rigid age based seating plan through public shaming for the purpose of allowing the 'upper years to observe and evaluate them' and to 'serve as a fair test of politics for the first years'. I don't know about anyone else, but the last thing I was doing in secondary school was thinking about the students in the years below me, never mind where they chose to sit at lunch time.

    The Professor Quirrell stand in, Hurst, was what made me drop the story. She has a huge spiel about how great defence against the dark arts is that completely butchers the English language and barely makes any sense. I read it out loud to myself and couldn't stop laughing. It's overwritten, and clearly the author thinks that it sounds profound, having Harry be 'enraptured', with the whole class being drawn in by her voice. But I can't take:

    'It is like fighting a battalion of warriors who are all prodigies in their fields, but without knowing which fields they all specialize in'

    and

    'The Dark Arts are a monstrous branch of magic themselves. They are ever-changing, ever-evolving, and endless in their applications and possibilities.'

    seriously.

    As far as I can tell the author tried to reword the whole 'many headed beast' speech that Snape makes in HBP but butchered it.

    The best line in the scene with Hurst by far though is 'Continue your attempts and I will circulate the room and inevitably return to you'.

    The whole premise of the fic, being that James leaves Harry with the Dursleys doesn't actually make any sense. James is like 'I can't raise two children alone when one of them is famous', and then Pettigrew is like 'Ok, give one of them to the Dursleys then, idk lol' and then James instantly does it. It's implied that Dumbledore did some compulsion bullshit but I can't be arsed. Keep in mind that Lily's body isn't even cold at this point.

    Aside from all of that, it's been a fun read. It just also happens to be terrible.

    (The OCs are also deeply unnecessary.).

    2.5/5 rounding down.


     
  4. haphnepls

    haphnepls Seventh Year

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    Since I've tried to read it a couple of times, I'll leave a review for the sake of it.

    The author tries too hard.

    Take any basic writing advice you've seen when you started to write, and apply it in the every possible way and constantly think about it and you kinda get the writing of this guy. What that does to story is that it makes it bland in the special kind of a way. Because of the overshowing, the characters are depicted through the way they talk and what they talk about, and I've never seen neither in life nor in fiction anyone speak nearly close to author's characters. It's another lever of 11yo politicians.

    Because of it, what should've taken around two sections, it somehow goes over 10k words. You can see as you read it that it's overplanned to a degree that I've a feeling he starts his fics at completely wrong point, makes wrong choices for OCs and 2nd characters' PoVs. Quite jarring, really.

    Cons also include overused tropes, dry magic system, world that shouldn't be able to work, and all the other stuff that usually make you press that lovely x button.

    The saving grace IMO is time at hogwarts, as that is where Harry shines, he studies, he talks to the characters, he schemes, and does all the fun stuff little Slytherins do I actually want to read about. It's not precisely the Harry I'd want but today it's hard to complain. And yet, every time I try to read further, I only get as far as Hogwarts time. The moment he leaves it, all the problems come back at once, overshadowing anything that was done well. More bad OCs, more bad worldbuilding, more unnecessary PoVs.... and then I drop the fic again.

    I don't know if the author believes the way they write to be a style, but boy...

    I'd almost like it more if the grammar and spelling was all over the place than this way, to be honest. It could be me but no other author's writing pissed me as much. It's just wrong and it doesn't change even though I know he wrote like half a milion words in last years or so. The improvement simply isn't there.

    2/5. I tried to press 3, but when I hovered over the stars and saw average I just couldn't. It is a poor fic in my opinion.
     
  5. Mr. Mixed Bag

    Mr. Mixed Bag DA Member

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    The author's characters all speak like the middle schooler in the class play that goes to drama camp and now wants to show off how good of an actor they are. Melodramatic and overwrought, constantly.

    I won't rate it given that I couldn't make it through the first chapter but what people have said about the writing seems spot on. The word "simply" just has to be crammed before every simple action, and Voldemort just decides to divulge her thoughts on the whole situation in great detail to the baby she's about to off.

    Also, female Voldemort. Who still goes by... Voldemort. How does that work? Is her name still Tom? Is it Mot? Tmo?
     
  6. Drachna

    Drachna Seventh Year

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    It's Lucy Riddle iirc
     
  7. Mr. Mixed Bag

    Mr. Mixed Bag DA Member

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    Makes the anagram aspect quite the neat trick.
     
  8. Drachna

    Drachna Seventh Year

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    The author probably had quite a time trying to get a workable anagram for 'I am Lady Voldemort'. I mean, surely her middle name isn't still Marvolo.
     
  9. haphnepls

    haphnepls Seventh Year

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    I am Lord Vuldeclory!
     
  10. Plothole

    Plothole Fifth Year

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    This may come off as more of a review of the author's work in general than this fic specifically since I've just finished reading the author's other two longer works.

    If you enjoyed Harry Potter and the Prince of Slytherin, and I do mean really enjoyed, then you will probably find this to be a worthwhile guilty pleasure. It has clearly taken a lot of inspiration from that story and the author, to their credit, explicitly addresses that in some A/Ns.

    Though it's been a few months since I read this fic I feel safe saying that I found all of the author's longer works to be pretty similar despite wildly different premises. They all involve a supremely talented Harry, though the specific nature of his talent tends to differ slightly based on the fic, they all take 100k words to move the plot forward in any reasonable way, and they all have such an overly reductive magical system that it makes me want to drop the fic every time the author goes on a 'theoretical' tangent.

    The author is stuck in a no man's land between a hard and soft magical system in their fics. They seem to want to have a coherent and internally consistent framework for each of the different branches of magic, but then in the same chapter they'll lean heavily on tropes to explain why Harry is making such incredible progress and his peers aren't.

    Consider this discussion between Dumbledore and Harry from another of the author's fics:

    "I am speaking particularly of the visualization aspects of my class, Master Pavonis. You see, there are many ways to transfigure objects. Some ways work best for some than others. In my many travels, I have not found a single method that works best for everyone. What I saw today was obvious talent, but you failed to make any real changes to the more detailed components of the transfiguration. In my humble yet professional opinion, this indicates a flawed approach in regards to visualization." Dumbledore paused to think for a moment. "What is it that you are imagining when going about your transfigurations?"

    Harry blinked. He was imagining exactly what Professor McGonagall had always told him to imagine.

    "The finished transfiguration, sir."

    Dumbledore frowned. "That is the most common approach, yes. Many instructors all over the world are even beginning to make it a standard practice. I fear that, in time, it may become more and more standardized. This has its benefits, of course. It is likely to produce a much higher percentage of competent users of the art, but few true masters, I am afraid. Least of all when some will struggle with such a uniform approach.

    "But I digress. My advice to you is to not imagine the finished product at all."

    "What should I imagine then, sir?"

    "You are asking the right questions, though to answer it is more difficult. I could give you examples, but I think it best if you find out for yourself. Try a number of things while practicing simple transfigurations and reading up on the one I have assigned. Experimentation will be your best option. I could give you examples, but self-discovery is something I think valuable. It is my honest belief that by discovering one's optimal method themself, they best attune themself to that method and will therefore get the most out of it in the end." His eyes were twinkling like mad now. "Take this as a chance to prove my hypothesis. If you are struggling with this and it is taking too much time out of your studies, do come to me and I will guide you through it more directly."


    This is pretty much what you'll be sitting through if you read any of the author's three fics. In fact, a quick glance through the fic under review shows that Harry's first transfiguration class has him coming to a realization similar to what Dumbledore is saying above:

    "Thanks, but there's no need." He slid his wand from his holster, drawing the tight, circular motion perfectly with his wand before ending with a jab towards the matchstick, picturing every square of the matchstick changing as if he were watching a movie. Though the textbook said to picture the finished product, Harry had found that this method worked far better. He supposed the book recommended the former due to the fact that it was probably easier for your average wizard to imagine. After all, most of them didn't have muggle films as a point of reference.

    The fact that magical instruction gets so much attention in every fic and still comes across as this shallow is just frustrating. Films are a requirement for a vivid imagination? It's a shame that scenes which establish Harry's prodigiousness gets the laziest writing in this story, and all of the other stories too.

    The issue in short is that the author wants skill with magic to be a combination of intelligence, diligence, and innate ability, but the facets of magic that would require intelligence to master are so ridiculous and overly simplistic that it undermines the entire project.

    Otherwise, the story is pretty good. I don't personally mind the over the top Slytherin politicking, the writing is solid (though it veers toward overwritten when the author is clearly trying too hard), and I seem to remember this story having fewer gaping plot holes than the author's other fics.

    I haven't seen it mentioned yet and it may be beside the point but the author is soliciting Patreon donations for their fanfiction. Pay and you get to read ahead. Not a fan of that trend.

    3/5 guilty pleasure with major caveats.
     
  11. Grenn

    Grenn First Year

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    I've only read a few pages and I'm pulling out the bullshit card.
    James is trigger-happy to dump his late wife's progeny somewhere, anywhere, so he don't have to deal with them? Really? Can't he make an elf raise them like a normal person? And this manlet is supposed to be a Gryffindor! I wonder if he's even their real father: there is no sign that his balls are still in place.
    This is not an OOC, this is not even bashing, this is a failure at writing.
    I don't want to know what the author has to say next.
     
  12. Silirt

    Silirt Chief Warlock DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    I read it for a short time. It is basically a shorter Prince of Slytherin. That is literally all there is to it, as far as I read.
     
  13. MuggsieToll

    MuggsieToll Fourth Year

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    It's pretty damn close to a word for word rip off, isn't it?

    I read it within a few weeks of getting caught up in POs and recall that the similarities were blatant to the point of plagiarism.
     
  14. PWIZDUO

    PWIZDUO Fourth Year

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    do these people actually exist?
     
  15. Aisosa

    Aisosa First Year

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    Yes. It makes for a nice change of pace from "Wizards are backward and willfully ignorant" cliche, and what better way to fight a cliche than with another, slightly more tolerable one?
     
  16. MuggsieToll

    MuggsieToll Fourth Year

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    Hoo boy. There was a time when every Indy!Harry fic had him being the Lord of a dozen Houses with a ga-jillion galleons spread across a thousand vaults, but never actually involved the ramifications of being part of the Nobility.

    Hell, I wrote 25,000 words of a shameful, trope and cliché ridden train wreck that nailed this one when I was 16. I made him a Duke whose money came from a magical creature farm for fuck's sake. Ah memories.

    Anyway, stories that actually used the Ancient and Noble House/Nobility system and revolved a portion of the story around political intrigue, and not just as a way to give Harry more money than God, was a welcome departure from the status quo.
     
  17. Drachna

    Drachna Seventh Year

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    I've always quite liked that trope in fics, but I've rarely seen it executed well. Anything to do with emancipated child lords and the resurrection of old houses is an instant turn off for me, but I think that it works well when you either have politics playing out in the background, or an adult protagonist who isn't a complete idiot.
     
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