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Harry Potter and the Den of Snakes by sunmoonandstars - T

Discussion in 'The Alternates' started by Sesc, Jun 23, 2019.

  1. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Title:
    Harry Potter and Den of Snakes
    Harry Potter and the Monster of Slytherin
    Harry Potter and the Truth of the Traitor
    Harry Potter and the Center of the Maze
    Harry Potter and the Secrets of Vipers
    Author: sunmoonandstars
    Rating: T
    Genre: General
    Status: Year 1-4 finished, Year 5 WIP
    Words: 635k
    Library Category: Alternates/Dark Arts
    Pairings: Various, but not the point
    What's this-TL;DR: A brilliant Slytherin!Harry that's ca. 3/5 -- 5/5, depending on how much you can stomach the Twin-BWL trope, and how much you like the genre. If you want mimimum exposure to the twin stuff in year 1, start with chapter 4 when Harry goes to Hogwarts; you're mostly only missing out on character-building and Dursley shittery. Yes, he had the usual (non-Canon) abusive childhood. And James is alive.
    Link: https://archiveofourown.org/series/863648


    1500-word version: So I binged on the entire series over the last couple days and couldn't stop reading. For me the kind where you get annoyed that you need to sleep and eat and have to take a break.

    The general idea is the usual Twin-BWL setup, and we follow Harry as he moves through Slytherin on the opposite side of Julian "Jules" Potter, the BWL. To address the obvious: This story, too, can't make it work. It's inherently shit. It's impossible to make it work, I'd argue.

    So, as usual, Harry gets send to the Dursleys because. James is a dick (that doesn't at all fit with Canon) because. Dumbledore twinkles in his office for the Greater Good because. Ron and most of Gryffindor are cartoonish levels of retarded because. (I.e., there are reasons, but they're shit.)

    And yet. The entire rest of the charactersations is stellar. Outstanding. They are complex, with different motivations, their own backstories, nuanced, occasionally contradictory in traits and behaviour -- in short, life-like, and with clear growth throughout the series. It doesn't get any better. It's a weird disconnect that I still can't square, but it helps that the focus is on the great characters, so you can better ignore the fail.

    For instance:
    ... but lost the ability to hold onto love by that very process; the best and only one who understands Harry -- and therefore the one who can help him the least. What a perfect, tragic irony; and what a fantastic character arc, if you like character-driven stories.

    The story isn't big on romance, but there are snippets, mostly as Harry and Daphne come together, then fall apart in both their dysfunctional coldness. I still think they're uniquely suited for one another, but there's a lot of growth -- of trust, of acceptance of what they really are and what they can't be -- left before that can happen. Even so, there were sparks of genuine warmness and liking, because just because you're a nasty piece of work (and essentially, both are), doesn't mean you lack all capacity for affection.

    I can't even recall when I last found an author mature and competent enough to make this point. (Me included, by the way, but then again, I also never tried.)


    And every character (with the above exceptions) is great like that. Daphne isn't even my favourite here. The story has a standout rendition of Ginny. Reminds me all over again why I like her -- so satisfying to see an author handle her competently, with flaws and upsides, seeing her grow from shy, hesitant, unsure, to fierce, witty and ambitious (she's sorted into Slytherin) -- and then you turn around and get the other perspective, no less valid, because opinions are opinions and there is no right or wrong.
    A bittersweet tale, as the more she comes into her own, the more she leaves her family and former friends behind. Her POV is rare -- like 90% of it is Harry, the rest is split -- but whenever I encounter one, it's a highlight of the chapter. I read extra slowly to make it last longer. I like it that much.

    Maybe the greatest praise I can offer is that I can stand this version of Hermione. If you take Canon!Hermione, and dump everything I hate about her onto her head at once and leave her shell-shocked (literally what Harry does), then this is what you get for reassembling the pieces afterwards. She's still very much Hermione, but with the exact edges sanded off that I can't stand -- the bossiness, the narrow-mindedness, the highhandedness, the black-white morals that leave no room for shades of grey.

    Her story tracks the journey from becoming a Muggle with magic to a witch.

    Other notable character arcs include Draco, growing up from the spoiled brat "wait till Father hears about this" routine to accepting Hermione (possible in this AU, the pureblood notions are changed), Neville, coming into his own as a Gryffindor, and less relevant but still wonderful side characters such as a Muggleborn OC learning to survive in Slytherin.

    The writing moves between very competent and outstanding. In any given chapter, there's a nugget of gold -- a beautifully constructed scene, a wonderful sentence, a nice insight. It's a pleasure to read. In terms of plot, it's almost too sprawling. In the end, all we're doing is following people as the school moves through Canon, accounting for the AU changes, but the focus is on all the characters and their individual stories, told in their POVs (mostly Harry, but also Neville, Hermione and Ginny), their growth, their interactions with the world as they see it, so it doesn't really feel like rehash to me; and the most fun parts often are Canon situations solved in different ways -- what-would-Slytherin-Harry-do, only in long.

    Perhaps it'll be too slow and introspective, for some. I had some storylines I was more interested in than others, but then again, any individual one would be enough for an above-average story on its own.

    Aside from that, it offers a nice semi-AU worldbuilding about wizarding culture, which is the focus and origin of the Voldemort war here. It also presents a believable version of Slytherin politics. I hold this comes in three categories:

    1. There's a dumb person's idea about what clever scheming and politicking would look like. Which is, predictably, crap.
    2. There's a clever persons's idea about what clever scheming and politicking would look like. Which is when you (not me) complain about mini-adults.
    3. And then, there's a clever person's idea about what a clever child's idea about clever scheming and politicking would look like, and that is what you have here.

    In the beginning, everyone runs around self-importantly trying to emulate the behaviour they see around them, effectively ending up trading potions essays for charms tutoring, or the name of some upperclasswizard's secret girlfriend for help in picking out Christmas gifts.

    It's a bit endearing, but at the same time, it feels like it's deadly serious, because all the punctiliousness is only there to act as a buffer against children too powerful and too willing to use that power creating irreversible outcomes. Harry learns to navigate his way through this, growing from "the other Potter" to de-facto leader of Slytherin.

    I've seen it compared to Prince of Slytherin, but of that I only skimmed the last few chapters so I couldn't say -- except that what I did see was crap. Hugely below this, in terms of writing, plot, characters.


    Leaves open the question of what to rate this. By the time I'd reached Year 4, I flatly didn't care anymore that the premise failed. It's amazing what you can make out of the old Canon plot -- I hadn't been this gripped in ages. The climax is the same, except everything's different, because Harry is different. By the time
    Harry lets Crouch Jr. escape
    it was the best damn thing I'd read in ages. I can't wait to see the further fallout, all the careful balancing, the moral dilemmas, the conflicting feelings and allegiances in Slytherin will be handled by an author as good as this. It's a brilliant study of characters, of hopes and dreams and realities that interfere, of what you are, what you want to be, and what you can be. Good thing I already started my story -- I might never have, had I read this, because it's essentially everything I ever wanted.

    So I'm personally inclined to give it a 5/5. But regardless of what you rate it, if you only ever read one TBWL story in your life and/or one Slytherin!Harry and/or one character-driven story, try this one. If this doesn't work for you, nothing will.
     
  2. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I read the first story and more or less agree with Sesc, though for me it's a rather solid 4/5 so far (again, I've only finished 1st year so it might improve further).

    It does remind me of Prince of Slytherin but it's certainly not a carbon copy. Dumbledore is a bit too ... well the tropes are too strong with him in a way they aren't with James. And the kids don't always feel like kids but those times are interspersed with periods in which they do really feel like kids, so it sort of works out.

    High quality writing and overall pretty enjoyable. Definitely worth a read. I'll continue reading a bit later and update this post if I remember to do so, but, yeah. Good stuff - go try it.

    Edit - is it just me or is all the good, new shit on AO3 these days?

    Edit2 - Story stays high quality into the parts of 2nd year I've read. But I'm a little confused why Neville and Hermione keeping being allowed to know/hear things to pass on to the Slytherin Potter. Seems like they're aware of everything the Gryffindor trio does even though it's well known they're closer to the Slytherin crew.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
  3. Zilly Sawdust

    Zilly Sawdust Professor

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    I'm near the end of the second book and I'm enjoying it so far, but I have to concur that the tropes might grow annoying quickly.
    "Voldie" is only the single one that actually made me cringe, but there are many tired cliches in here. Still, executed with some nice restraint and polish

    EDIT: There are also quite many inconsistencies like the author had forgotten what they've actually written in earlier scenes
    As the most obvious example, Harry talks in a letter about meeting Scrimgeour in the birthday gala in book 1, but in book 3 there's a line about having no idea who Scrimgeour is. I'm sure I noticed more errors like this throughout

    EDIT2: It actually reads a little bit like CarnivorousMuffin's description about reality as his main character sees it: it seems there's a framework of events the author has in mind, but stretched over that is the flimsiest logic and reasoning by the characters to bring them in line with the plot.

    And for another example of the author seeming to suffer with short-term memory loss:
    “Lumos,” Harry said. Several other voices joined him; wandlight filled the compartment. They stared at each other.

    “Maybe we’re picking someone up?” Neville said uncertainly.

    Hermione looked out the window. “It’s the middle of the woods—wait—never mind, I see someone moving out there—”

    Neville and Blaise clustered with her to look.

    “In a hood,” Blaise added.

    Harry and Theo drew their wands in almost the same movement.

    3/5 For being technically good and still entertaining despite the flaws.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
  4. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Just finished the first book in this series.

    I do consider myself a fan of the Slytherin!Harry genre - hell, I'm writing one myself, after a fashion - but I think I am perhaps more endeared to the idea of what Slytherin!Harry could be, rather than the genre as an established set of fanon tropes. Much like the recent discussions we have had on "independent Harry", at the core of Slytherin!Harry I see interesting ideas buried under a certain amount of unfortunate fanon baggage.

    My view of Den of Snakes is that it approaches the heights of what can be achieved within the limits of sticking to that baggage. Which is to say, it is a well-executed attempt at bringing to life some fundamentally bad ideas. As such, it also neatly demonstrates the limits of the concept "there's no such thing as a bad idea, just bad execution". I am not really a believer in that philosophy, and accordingly my enjoyment of this story has an inherent ceiling to it.

    And to be clear, when I refer to "baggage" here I am not just referring to the most obvious stuff like James abandoning Harry to the Dursleys, or the inevitable over-reaction of the WBWL to Harry being sorted into Slytherin. By baggage I mean stuff like kids referring to each other's families as "allies"; the over-emphasis placed on people exhibiting the values of their Hogwarts house; and the absurd level of analysis which is put into children's social interactions, which borders on conspiracy theory levels of seeing everything as an intentional scheme (and, worse, the narrative itself endorsing that view, with successful Xanatos-type schemes left, right and centre).

    Putting the baggage aside, what you have is a well-written but somewhat bland story.

    Characterisation

    Probably the best element is the characterisation. The cast is quite large, but the characters are all fairly distinct. You feel like you know how a given character will react to each situation. However, the author is helped along in this task by the fact that they never really stray far from the fanon stereotypes of these characters. Further, I feel like an awful lot of the characterisation is done via telling rather than showing - the reader is spoon-fed the characters' various beliefs, attitudes, habits etc. rather than deducing them from seeing them in action.

    Consider, for example, Pansy. This is how we're introduced to her:

    This is characterisation on easy mode. We're told Pansy has a "cunning smile", which is just a way for the author to hide a character trait within a physical description (physically, there's no such thing as a cunning smile). Similarly, when Daphne and Pansy make eye contact the "temperature drops", even though we've given no real cue for what is causing this - Harry is receiving divine insight into these characters' attitudes to each other, without the reader really seeing through word or action how Harry is reaching those conclusions. And then the crowning jewel: a paragraph in which Pansy's core characteristic is told to the reader, all of it hanging off a single, innocuous piece of dialogue: "What relatives?"

    Here's a trick: let's view that conversation again, sticking only to the words and actions, without the narrative commentary:

    Now, from her words and actions, does Pansy come off as a) cunning b) a social queen bee or c) a gossip? I don't think so. And yet those are the things that the reader is told to deduce from that conversation. The amount of insight Harry gains into Pansy's character in this interaction has no basis in what is actually occurring in front of Harry's eyes; it's purely told to the reader as stuff the author wants the reader to know. And because of that, it feels like it lacks depth.

    While we do see Pansy consistently interested in gossip over the course of the first year, I don't think there's ever any moment in which she exhibits particular cunning or social dominance. So viewing the character from the whole-year perspective, only one of the three core characteristics which we are told she has at her first appearance is ever really made out.

    This approach to characterisation is pretty consistent across the story. So while the characterisation has some merits with regards to how the author has thought up distinctive roles, backstories etc. for each of them, the way the narrative establishes those characteristics is, I think, not particularly stellar. We're being info-dumped the author's character profile document, rather than seeing the characters' personalities through their words and actions.

    Setting

    Where the blandness really comes into play is in relation to the setting i.e. the wizarding world.

    Setting - Portrayal of magic and magical talent

    The magic is somewhat uninspired, both in theory and in practice. It's not really a focus of the story, which is itself a disappointment, especially after the promise of the early chapters in which Harry is built up to be particularly talented. That whole character arc rather fizzles out by the time he gets to Hogwarts, and the story's focus on magic fizzles out with it.

    I think the author has written this area of the story without a plan in place. Harry is given pre-Hogwarts control of magic, something we associate only with the very top tier of wizards, but none of that talent ever shows itself in his wand work. It's like his wandless use of magic is a completely isolated ability, mysteriously cut off from the rest of his magic use. This is a strange, counter-intuitive approach. The fact that Harry is instinctively achieving things which wizards normally have to be educated in should be a sign that he has a generally strong insight into magic. Instead it's treated almost like a mutation from X-Men.

    The worst example of this is that Harry's weakest subject at Hogwarts is Charms. Of all the subjects the author could have chosen, this makes the least sense, because Charms is precisely the subject area which Harry so excels at in wandless magic (heating, freezing, floating). Imagine if the author made Harry instinctively learn to become an animagus in his pre-Hogwarts years, then showed him as useless at transfiguration once at Hogwarts. That's what we're dealing with here.

    This whole area of Harry's characterisation feels like the author threw an arbitrary weakness Harry's way just to avoid accusations of him being a Gary Stu, but it just comes off as poorly executed. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that the way this arc has developed means that the story fundamentally fails to deliver on a promise it makes in the early chapters. Harry is initially presented as a Tom Riddle-esque talent. The story then progressively downgrades him to the point that he's barely above his canon self: he excels in a couple of specific areas, but is otherwise merely above-average. The type of wizard who might become an Auror but not more than that.

    As a result of Harry's magical development being abandoned as a major plot element, the story largely ignores the existence and use of magic and the setting suffers for it.

    Setting - Location

    The other way in which the setting is bland is that of location. Hogwarts here just doesn't feel very alive. It's just the routine use of canon locations without any element of recalling the magic of first reading about those places or the general charm of the wizarding world. Hogwarts is just there, but there's very little sense in which this is a real school filled with real people. The magic and charm of the school has been completely lost.

    I think this is down to a lack of description, as well as an absence of any original additions to the setting.

    Overall, I think this falls into the upper end of Almost Recommended for me. Written by someone who knows what they are doing with words, but let down by the inherent limitations of its premise and a certain lack of vision. 3/5
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
  5. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    You will recall this was the precise objection I made: There comes a point, when you take away all the "baggage", where the genre just isn't the genre anymore, because through this it is defined.

    I would not, for instance, prefer to read a Slytherin!Harry where stuff like allies and the detailed analysis of interactions is missing -- or perhaps rather, I would (and do), but then the reason is that it's a good story where Harry happens to be in Slytherin, not because I had gone looking for the usual "Slytherin!Harry" genre.

    Insofar as genres are a shorthand to summarise certain elements people like, what's in it must be somewhat fix or the concept makes no sense.

    And naturally, that's exactly the point where YMMV. I like the standard Slytherin!Harry just fine, you don't need to redefine it for my sake :p

    Hmm ... this is an interesting point that needs discussion. Because where is the limit of what can be conveyed with words? Don't forget, you are mapping five senses in one. Somewhere, there must be a loss of information. So how will you convey to the reader hunches, feelings, guesses, things you pick up when a person is in front of you, but which you can't pin to any conscious detail in particular and hence can't possibly describe in a way that will recreate the impression in a reader?

    That's a relevant question, because my impression was not that we were told stuff in the narrative, but rather, shown Harry's conclusions based on his (subconscious, impossible to relay) impressions of the interaction.

    So obviously, if you remove the framing, it'll make no sense, but I challenge you to write that conversation in a way that leaves "cunning", "gossip" and "social queen bee" in the mind of at least most readers.

    I contend this is impossible. In the same way as there is no "cunning smile" there is no combination of spoken words written down that is "cunning", because that judgement IRL was never due to the uttered words to begin with.

    I'll be gladly corrected, though. I never thought about this before now. Perhaps there are writing techniques I don't know.

    In absence of this, I consider simply showing the conclusions of subconscious clues Harry picks up in the context of a very close 3rd person POV fair.
     
  6. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    "Gossip" and "Queen Bee" are, I think, definitely doable from words and actions alone. That said, I'm not demanding that an author never describe Harry's impressions of people to the reader. Rather I am saying that those impressions need to hang on something, rather than come out of a vacuum. Harry's impressions should expand upon a characteristic which is already germinating in the reader's mind from the dialogue, body language, etc. That way, his impressions will ring true to the reader as they will confirm (and then proceed to detail more completely) that which the reader already suspects.

    Cunning is a different matter. Cunning is not a conclusion that you can reach about a person from a brief interaction with them. It is a characteristic which can only be perceived following a course of behaviour. Indeed, the very nature of cunning is to be disguised - cunning which is obvious as a first impression is not, in fact, cunning. The only authentic way to really show cunning is to have that character perform a course of action which is only perceived in hindsight to have been cunning, without anyone realising at the time.

    So to that extent, I agree, you can't get a reader to think "this character is cunning" from a conversation alone. But I disagree that this justifies having the point of view character divine that characteristic instead. Just as the reader has no basis for concluding that a character is cunning, neither does the point of view character. If a reader is coming away from a first interaction with a character with a belief that the character is cunning, something has gone wrong.
     
  7. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Well, but what, in practice is this "something"? Let's try to decompose "a gossip". I observe people as hobby, partly exactly because I want to realistically describe them. But even so, when I interact, I don't go consciously in my head "she bends forward, so she's eager, she's breathing a little faster, so she's excited, also she smiles at me, so she tries to encourage me to speak, therefore --> gossip".

    No one does this. And for that matter, gossip does not even follow, there. The impression is the sum of many unconscious cues. Perhaps it's also due the facial muscle to the right of nose, but mentioning this would obviously be nonsense; it's not going to produce a reaction in the reader.

    There is no surefire "gossip" tell. That was what I meant. I honestly don't know how I would try to convey a "gossipy" impression in that scene (not talking about showing her gossiping, that's a different scene then) that I'm sure most readers recognise as such -- other than showing the POV's thoughts where he "gets this impression". Then it's certain.


    And naturally this is a sliding scale. But is the above quote too far on the wrong side? From your stripped quote, the impression of Pansy that's left is "interested" -- because she asks. That's the only thing that can be concluded.

    Why she asks ("she's a gossip") is open to your best guess, and in that context I find "Harry knew her type" a perfectly acceptable explanation given to the reader. Especially as in theory he could be wrong -- she could look to him like girls he knew, and turns out she's interested for other reasons.
     
  8. Drachna

    Drachna Second Year

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    I read this series a while back, up to The Center of the Maze I believe. I really liked it and I think that it's one of the better Harry Potter fanfics that can be found on AO3.

    From what I remember I think that it deserves a 4/5. Well worth a read.
     
  9. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Showing someone as a gossip through words and actions alone is very easy. You show them freely sharing information given to them in confidence. You show them wheedling a person to give up personal information. You show them engaging in information exchange with peers. You show them as chatty, open, and friendly, frequently moving between different social groups. Observing people doing that is how you conclude that a person is a gossip. No one in real life meets someone, hears them say two sentences, and immediately thinks "this person is a gossip".

    You are right that there is no "gossip tell" in the sense of being able to just look at someone and know they are a gossip, without actually observing them engaging in the activity. Which is my point. If there's no tell in real life, then you shouldn't have characters reaching that conclusion in fiction.

    There's no basis for Harry to look at Pansy and conclude that she is a gossip, because all she's done is ask him a question in a perfectly polite, "small talk" manner. Harry's conclusion is completely unjustified by anything he has seen, and therefore feels unnatural to the reader. It is not really a conclusion that the character has come to, but rather information the author has told the reader by artificially implanting in Harry's head.

    Either the author should show Pansy actually engaging in gossip, or remove Harry's impression that she's a gossip. Likely the latter, because showing her engaging in gossip would derail the scene. In any event, that short conversation is far too soon for Harry to be forming such a complete view of her character.

    Which brings us back to my point. Throughout the story, characterisation is done by fiat rather than earned through natural human interaction. Characters consistently have impressions of each other that go way beyond the kinds of impression that they would realistically have. Those impressions are frequently used to present characters to the reader fully-formed rather than having their characteristics reveal themselves over time.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
  10. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Hmm ... no, I still think I disagree. Because I have gotten the "impression" someone is a gossip in my first meeting, just from talking, before, I just couldn't have told you exactly why or how. (I dunno whether that was correct, because it was the only meeting, but that's besides the point anyway.) Have you never? Or that you suddenly and fiercely disliked someone, just from speaking a few completely benign words?

    However, let's stop this here, I think I'm inclined to agree it could have been done better, anyway, it's just that I don't agree this is bad --; I'll copy the discussion into a writing resources thread, as soon as I got real internet, because it's super interesting.

    Edit: Here. Everyone feel free to join in. I think it can be a very helpful thread for writers.
     
  11. sildet

    sildet Third Year

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    I'm not sure, but I feel like many people are rating this story pre-maturely. I read it a while ago and firmly feel that this story (as a whole) is in the 4 star range as far as entertainment value/character building goes. It's one of the few actively updating stories that I read immediately when I get the update e-mail. First year does go into some seriously cliche territory, but it's far and above the normal trash we get these days. I'm actually starting a re-read and will update this post with more content later. I remember absolutely loving the aftermath of the Tri-Wizard tournament and how this Harry dealt with the situation.
     
  12. CaffeineAddict

    CaffeineAddict Seventh Year DLP Supporter

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    I read up through to about halfway into what's written of 5th year and enjoyed pretty much every story until then.

    The banter in this between the main cast is fantastic. Gold star. Loved every bit of it. The stories are well plotted, and the cast of child characters seem like children. Also superbly done, as @Sesc pointed out.

    The author does a great job of adding nuance to the cliché pureblood nonsense and explores the idea that a lot of the purebloods dislike muggleborns because they refuse to integrate into what is essentially a foreign culture they are immigrating into. This is well done.

    The 'Light' side suffer from a complete lack of nuance. To the point where, as Sesc pointed out in the initial post, they're obnoxious. For reasons.

    Even if I accept that James is a complete fuckwit and Dumbledore is a manipulative bastard, the reactions of literally every member of the Order are so mind-bogglingly stupid that it kinda wrecks what was otherwise thoroughly enjoyable.

    The author has attempted to create a nuanced, complex pack of antagonists in the case of the Death Eaters and Voldemort, and has done a stellar job of this. The unfortunate thing is that they did so at the expense of making the Order (the other antagonists) a pack of blithering idiots without an ounce of nuance in their bodies, with their whole ideology boiling down to "hurr durr, Dark equals Evil". Which, fine. That would work if the rest of the series didn't repeatedly argue that this is a dumb idea and that anyone who believes this is stupid. There's no (and I'm going to use this word again) nunace to the Order et al. And it's depressing.

    Also, the entire attitude of several adults assuming an abused child at age 11 was at fault for being sorted into Slytherin, and also to blame for being resentful that their actions resulted in said abuse, was irritating in the extreme, and it only got worse as the story went.

    TL;DR there's a lot to love here, and I enjoyed it right up through Year 5, at which point the primary antagonists (Dumbledore and company) became entirely unrelatable simply for their non-Canon portrayals combined with rampant idiocy. The first I can handle so long as it's not paired with the second.

    For years 1 through 4, I'll give this 4/5 rounded up. Unfortunately, year 5 doubles down on the problems of the previous stories, which I'll give a 3/5 and say that I didn't finish it due to burnout.
     
  13. A Lightning

    A Lightning Seventh Year

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    I read and enjoyed the whole thing, but I have a lot of problems with the story.

    Probably the most serious issue for me is how closely the story sticks to canon. Jules Potter is very different from canon's Harry Potter, but he somehow plays exactly the same role Harry does in the plot relevant events through the first two books.

    From book three on, Harry plays a much bigger role in plot relevant events, but there's still no major departures from canon for quite some time. Mind you, this Harry is also very different from canon Harry, so when events play out the same way it feels quite contrived.

    There are times where something appears to be a divergence from canon, but the story immediately throws in something to "correct" the course of events so that the author can continue writing canon. For example, at the end of book three, there's the confrontation in the Shrieking Shack with Pettigrew and Sirius, and Pettigrew is actually captured by the Ministry. Cool, except for the fact that Pettigrew somehow escapes Ministry custody off-screen to go fulfill his role in the goblet of fire plot.

    Under the umbrella of sticking to the canon storyline, events are sort of split between happening to Harry or Jules. When I was reading I had the rather annoying feeling that "good" events happened to Jules, while "bad" events happened to Harry. For example:

    Jules becomes seeker in first year. Harry has to be rescued from the Dursleys' via flying car. Harry speaks to a snake in dueling club and is thought to be the heir of Slytherin. Jules kills the basilisk and frees Dobby. Harry faints on the train from dementors. Jules gets Patronus tutoring. I could go on.

    Book four is where things actually start to be interesting, still rehashing the Goblet of Fire plot, but also including a great deal of totally original content.

    I agree with others who have said characterization is the strong point of the story, but it's far from perfect. People on "Harry's side" are logical and reasonable to the point of incredulity. Everyone else is biased and unreasonable, with the exception of (eventually) Jules. Dumbledore is an OC cartoon villain with Dumbledore's name and role. The couple scenes we see from Dumbledore's point of view do nothing to explain why he does the ridiculous things he does.

    A lot of the original content in this series has to do with "dark" magic, magical culture, and family magics. And the series' portrayal of dark magic frankly isn't very nuanced. As far as we know, almost all "dark" magic, including the unforgivables(?) , doesn't have any serious repercussions for the caster. I think (hope) the author is setting things up so that dark magic does have serious downsides that the cast doesn't know about but I'm far from confident things will go this way.

    My list of complaints is probably growing too long. The series is well written, and the day to day interactions between Harry's friends are a pleasure to read.

    Overall thoughts

    This series lacks originality and comes across as part OP!Harry, part canon fix-it, and part bashing while still being a canon rehash hundreds of thousands of words into the story. At the same time, the quality of writing and characterization of the main characters is very good and kept me going through the whole series. There were enough annoyances while reading that I can't give this higher than a 3/5. A guilty pleasure for me.
     
  14. Majube

    Majube Auror

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    Yeah, I'm only a bit into fourth year but I felt light side characters were contrived just so it fit Harry's narrative. I felt that James and Dumbledore were overblown but believable but when all of a sudden the Weasley parents found it alright that Harry was abused if it saved Jules I felt it crossed into just light bashing.
    I'll read until the end for more of a review though, I just think that from what I've read so far it's overrated.
     
  15. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Pretty much. The fourth year is probably the best of what's there so far, and by the time I reached the end, I'd forgiven every problem there was. I don't think I have a favourite Slytherin!Harry, simply because there is more than one way to play it, and the results are too different to compare, but this definitely is in my top three of all time. It's the kind of story I keep as ebooks to pull out again and again to re-read.


    I actually started a re-read, slowly this time, to really enjoy moving through the story, and I think a big part of the problem is a severe case of POV bias. Harry is not reliable. Compare, for example, the reactions right at the start -- the Twins are forgiven for dumping him in the lake, but James and Jules discussing him and calling him weird and quiet (which he is, by any average standard) is met with cold fury. It's certainly understandable -- a father that dumped him somewhere and a brother that had everything he didn't -- but then the story should acknowledge this bias and not let it go unchallenged. If your POV thinks some characters are retarded fuckwits and shows them as such, it's your job as the author to counter this somehow. That's the entire point of writing. So no excuse, but it gives me a bit of hope, because this would be fixable.

    See for instance Ethan Thorne. He was the first character on Dumbledore's side I actually got. Suddenly, there was his POV in one of the last chapters, and I didn't agree, didn't condone, didn't hate him any less, but I understood. The guy is a zealot, of the functionally-crazy kind (think Crouch Jr. in Canon) who stops at nothing to achieve victory in the cause he's dedicated his life to. This author has a knack for coming up with backstories and presenting them in a way that leaves an impression in the reader, but that makes it only more baffling that he'd miss the failure he's created in most of the Light half of the cast.

    And actually, I think the motivation problem of the Light characters and actions is the only real issue this story has, it's just unfortunate it's so central to the story. The problem is captured neatly in the second book, when Ginny remarks she can't fathom how or why her family would shun perfectly acceptable wizarding traditions. I -- the reader -- wonders the exact same thing. An explanation we aren't given.

    And hence there is no credible counter argument. We are shown, and made to feel for, all the purebloods that value magic, tradition, history, legacy, the things that make them who they are, getting marginalised by Dumbledore and the Ministry. And nevermind that I will always agree with the traditional side, so I'm happy enough to see Dumbledore & co shitcanned, but there still has to be some sort of counter there as for how the other side sees this, their reason for wanting change, because if there is no reason, we are right back where we started -- traditions and culture are randomly hated on and scorned and outlawed because ... well, just because. And as this is the fundamental reason for Voldemort to act here, you can't just skip and handwave that.

    The hilarious thing is that by now, Harry agrees with virtually every point this Voldemort's ever made, so you can't expect the argument to come from him. But it should come from someone. The closest I can recall was a elder Weasley(?) POV saying they wanted to leave all the outdated stuff behind, and that's not enough.

    I can forgive this, though. There is just far too much great stuff in here -- and to return briefly to characters, I read a different story in between, and was confused as hell when some characters didn't behave as I expected. I had such a clear picture of random side characters such as the Carrow twins that seeing them doing stuff in a different story threw me off, because I knew that was OOC. Which is ridiculous as they are OCs -- but that's what this story's managed to do.


    I already disagree with the definitions of "good" and "bad", which makes the point rather moot on my end. The point of Slytherin!Harry is to invert what is good and what is bad; but insofar as things happen to Harry and he as to deal with it, that's what makes the story interesting. Any story, actually. The biggest mistake authors can make is having Harry avoid all the issues in a rewrite, that's just boring as fuck. So, for instance, I loved how the Dobby stuff was handled -- Harry goes all Slytherin and convinces Dobby he won't go to Hogwarts,
    Dobby nodds, says Harry Potter is too clever and does the pudding thing anyway, Harry actually manages to catch the pudding, and then the dinner ends in a fiasco because Mrs. Mason gets the Ministry owl in her hair. That was rather brilliant.
    So really, as far as Canon forcing its way back in goes, I think that's occasionally a plus -- it shows you can't randomly tweak the timeline, and events that happen have a tendency to keep happening, regardless of how and what you try to fix.
     
  16. CaffeineAddict

    CaffeineAddict Seventh Year DLP Supporter

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    This sums up my biggest gripes. Especially the "outdated traditions" that the Wesley's want to get rid of. Like, okay, sure, you don't follow those, that's cool and totally your right. Now why, if they aren't harmful to society or any particular group, are you trying to marginalise those who DO want to follow those traditions? Tradition can be bullshit and just a mask for the lazy or powerful to keep control. It can also just be a (mostly) harmless expression of culture and heritage. Which scenario is 'true' in this AU is completely unremarked upon by anyone without Harry and Co's biases.

    Ironically, I can totally understand the Ministry position: 'dark' magic is powerful, potentially dangerous if misused, and in a society where literally everyone 11 years old and up is armed to the teeth, powerful magic threatens the government's monopoly on force (please, don't start a gun debate). Thus: restricting or banning it. If you follow a (totally fanon) interpretation of Ministry power creep and overreach of authority over time following its creation after the Statute of Secrecy was implemented (which seems to be alluded to in this series), then that whole conflict makes complete sense.

    I'll echo your thoughts on Ethan Thorne. Now That is a well written antagonist. Which, as you pointed out, just highlights the moustache twirling characterisation of Dumbledore and James. And Andromeda makes no fucking sense.

    I will, probably, go back to this at series at some point. But I binged it over a week or so, and just burned out about 65k words into Year 5.
     
  17. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I know I talk about this fanfic that I've been "writing" for years but haven't actually written on in ages, but the above discussion is one that I struggled with and the answer I came up with (again, haven't actually written the damn thing) seems like it would work here if the author went the same direction.

    I guess look at some current religious movements as analogous to the purebloods and their 'old rites.' Do they have a right to practice them? Yes. Should they be discriminated against for practicing them? Of course not. But right now these purebloods who want everyone to integrate properly into their culture are in control of the government and they want to keep it that way. They want to make it so that if you don't integrate (convert/practice their religion) you're a second class citizen that is discriminated against.

    Then there's Dumbledore's faction who could be represented as analogous to people who support separation of church and state. They have no problem with purebloods practicing the old rites but they want to remove it as a requirement to participate in the government and make it so that those who choose NOT to integrate are not discriminated against. Make it so that muggleborns who choose not to integrate can still rise to be a leader in the community based on their abilities, regardless of beliefs.

    That's sort of the route I was going to take. I think there's room for nuance and I admit that at first I was hopeful this author would try that route, but they went and made caricatures of the "light" side instead.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2019
  18. CaffeineAddict

    CaffeineAddict Seventh Year DLP Supporter

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    See, that sets up an interesting ideological conflict etc.

    But yeah, instead we get the "light" side (apropos of nothing, does that term ever get used in canon?) and their infantile motivations. And even the one interesting one (Thorne) has a simplistic view that everyone who likes the traditional/dark stuff must obviously be in favour of muggle baiting and hate muggleborns.

    I can't remember if there's even any serious engagement with the fact that two of Harry's friends are muggleborn, and they are also friends with several people described by Dumbledore's crew as "pureblood supremacists" despite this.

    This series had a lot of potential. Although I think it would have been much more interesting if the author had scrapped the whole 'James dumps Harry with the Dursleys because Dumbledore' bit, but then basically everything else (even the interesting bits) unravel from there.

    Or maybe have the Dursleys as decent human beings and the reason they didn't call James in when Harry's magic showed up was because he's the kind of dickbag that would abandon one of his sons, and Petunia didn't want her sister's son to have anything to do with him. That would set up an even more interesting series of conflicts, whereby Harry prefers living with his muggle relatives and wants nothing to do with his father or his father's friends. Hey presto: still have the distrust of Dumbledore and a desire to not be in Gryfindor, etc without the ridiculousness of the Dursleys being worse than canon (which is a trope I hate, they were bad enough).

    I'm not sure if this is really the place for this though, so I'll stop.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2019
  19. A Lightning

    A Lightning Seventh Year

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    I did put "good" and "bad" in quotes for a reason -- I recognize that it's entirely subjective. I agree in the general sense that Slytherin!Harry stories can often invert what is good and what is bad, but I don't think that makes sense for the specific plot points I listed.

    Falling off your broom and having it fly directly into the whomping willow is pretty clearly a negative (is negative a better word to use?) experience no matter what house you're in. It isn't significantly less likely for this to happen to this Harry than canon Harry, but this Harry is on the other team, playing a different role, and when I read that it still happened I rolled my eyes.

    I suppose the main issue here is the author sticking too closely to canon. This broom needed to be broken so that Sirius could mail him a Firebolt. This especially bothers me because I don't think it takes that much creativity to find another expensive but suspicious gift that Sirius could mail him instead.

    I still think the way that Harry is left with a lot of canon's negative experiences while Jules is left with many of the positive ones feels extra contrived. Fixing the canon rehash issue would solve this though, and the canon rehash is a much bigger issue for me.

    I agree having Harry avoid all the issues is a way to create a story entirely lacking in tension, but having issues that are solved the exact same way as canon isn't much better. My preference is for introducing new problems for Harry that aren't stripped right out of canon. Incidentally, Harry in Slytherin makes it quite easy to introduce new problems, and this story actually does a fair amount of that.

    I also was impressed by Dobby scene.

    Unrelatedly, I do think there are some fix-it elements to the story, but it's definitely less than it could have been.
     
  20. Thaumologist

    Thaumologist Supreme Mugwump

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    This hits every trope and cliche for WBWL!Harry, Indy!Harry, Political!Grey!Harry, and the rest of the remnants of 2015.

    But this actually does (most of) them about as well as they can be done. There's some rough patches, and some of the cliches are just crap, no matter how well written, but this is one of the best pieces of HP fanfic I've read recently. The writing itself is generally pretty good, there's only a few typos I've noticed, although a BritPicker/knowledge of history wouldn't go amiss - referring to more recent books, Americanisms, and the like. It's not a major problem (you come to expect it, tbh), but is noticeable.

    Whilst there's some looking past cliches you have to do, where this really falls down is just how unbearably stupid the 'Light' side is. The story wouldn't work if James didn't give Harry away, so I guess I can ignore that (although this could have been done better). But so many light side characters are either completely fanatical zealots; or actually grey factionists who didn't realise it yet, because they weren't murdering babies, and thought that was a traditional Wizarding Tuesday activity.

    4/5, but only if you can ignore the bits that are stupid.
     
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