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Series Hermione Granger and the Serpent's Renaissance by epsi10n - T

Discussion in 'Almost Recommended' started by Nick Jarvis, Apr 26, 2021.

  1. Nick Jarvis

    Nick Jarvis Muggle

    Mar 10, 2021
    The Black Forest
    I'm shocked this doesn't have a thread yet -- but I've looked thoroughly and asked for the community's help, and apparently there really isn't one.

    This fic receives an overall 4/5 from me.

    Title: Hermione Granger and the Serpent's Renaissance
    Author: epsi10n
    Rating: T
    Genre: n/a. Friendship? Humor?
    Status: In-Progress; first four years complete
    Library Category: General or Humor, probably
    Pairings: Temporary HG/SS in the offing (but it's not the way you think!)
    Summary: Salazar Slytherin is reborn as Hermione Granger. With her new identity as a muggleborn girl and her old reputation in tatters, Hermione sets out to start a new life for herself, a resurrection for House Slytherin, and a renaissance for the whole of the magical society.
    (Note: The story was started as a crack-fic. The eye-rolling premise of Founder reincarnation belies the fic's quality.)
    Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10991501/1/

    Let me be honest: My enthusiasm for this fic is rooted primarily in the--exceedingly well-executed--comedic premise and its associated tropes. To wit: A generally very able character, perhaps with a few exceptional but narrow talents or a specific reputation, has to plot and think creatively to remake the world in their image; their most serious struggles coming from within themselves; the story patiently building to a dramatic and triumphal revelation of their previously covert greatness (buoyed, meantime, by the delicious ironies shared by reader and protagonist in their superior knowledge and by merry dances around the literal and emotional truth).

    Briefly: Upon receiving her Hogwarts letter, Hermione Granger recalls an entire past life as the benevolent Dark Lord Salazar Slytherin. As she rejoins the Wizarding World, she is dismayed to learn that her House is associated with blood purism, and that Dark magic is deeply mistrusted. She hides her true identity and quietly works to rebuild her House's and her personal reputation as Salazar. (Incidentally, she goes by 'Sally', allegedly because it's easier to pronounce than Hermione.) She has to build her power base, maneuver politically to legalize Dark magic and strengthen 'Wizarding tradition', while dissociating these things from Voldemort and blood purism.
    Things come to a head in her fourth year, when she throws her hat in the ring for leadership among the Slytherin-y section of society. She does all of this while maintaining appearances as a relatively normal Hogwarts student, with normal friends and teenage-girl problems.

    Even if that's not your cup of tea, this fic deserves to be read for its stellar characterization of the protagonist, Sally (and the main secondary viewpoint character, Blaise Zabini). The protagonist's (emotional) past works as the main mystery of the first three years, and is highly engaging. The truth of the matter is foreshadowed by subtle implication and artful touches of symbolism. Character growth and introspection abound: Sally, Blaise, and Theo are especially well-developed in this regard.

    The main character's outside-the-box thinking, deft maneuvering, and magical skill are also a good reason to take a look. It's beautiful plotting work, really, with many subtle references to and subversions of canon. The fic really comes into its own as a political fic in its fourth year, imagining the so-called 'Dark-Traditionalist' bloc (Voldemort's recruiting ground) as factionalist and composed of highly self-interested members. It also happens to contain my favorite dueling scene in fanfiction, which emphasizes the versatility of magic and makes the outcome feel well-earned.

    That said, it also has serious flaws that mean nothing short of a re-write of the first three years would make it Library material. (If we were looking at Year Four in isolation, I would not hesitate to put the fic forward for inclusion in DLP's recommendations.)

    Crucially, it's what I'd call Harry Potter-themed fanfiction more so than it is Harry Potter fanfiction. The protagonist and her friends are essentially original characters; and the canon characters, setting, and characters' knowledge are, at times, distorted to facilitate the plot and quasi-OCs' arcs.
    This also constitutes the nadir of the fic's believability. In particular, Snape and Harry sometimes feel like... shills? blank slates? for the author's agenda of pushing Sally's viewpoints (culminating in a couple 'and then everyone clapped'-type moments). Their inner monologues frequently seem like token opposition to her ideas, quickly internally allayed.
    Also, Snape's character gets a pretty darn favorable interpretation.

    What's more, I find many of the political and economic arcs of the first three years... naive.
    By this I mean that the main character's brilliant solutions are surely ones that would have been considered and discarded already (this would be fixable if the protagonist's role as a shaker-upper in a strongly factional bloc were emphasized more). The professional politicians have seemingly not used their unrivaled power to campaign much in the media, or their cunning to stage an expedient incident like Sally easily does (this could be remedied without too much disruption as well, if the gridlock borne of the group dynamic, and the lack of coherent motivation for established political forces to shift public perception in precisely the direction the protagonist wants to, were fleshed out more at this early stage in the fic).

    That's not to say, though, that some of the protagonist's ploys aren't rather droll and ingenious (such as
    giving Lockhart (whose personality and distinctive voice are right on the mark) a diary that writes back like the Horcrux does, in order to influence his teaching,
    cheaply selling early Hogwarts 'Understanding the Dark Arts' textbooks to Mr. Borgin with the expectation that he will sell copies and play up their value

    Even Sally's epistolary politicking and media gambits are plausible in spite of their simplicity if one imagines that Wizarding Britain is a small and stagnant community (unfortunately, the writer mainly tells us that this is the case).
    And perhaps the protagonist's business venture can be relied upon to be an instant hit because a community of ten thousand (?) people has fewer ideas in absolute terms than a larger society? In her second year (I think), Sally wangles a small fortune by opening a clothing boutique. 'Warding', Sally's specialty, is a core part of the business model, so it does have a unique selling point. But I still think it's unlikely that even a genius like our main character could casually outdo the presumably well-entrenched craft of magical textile-work. Unless being that rare universal genius means translating complex thoughts into reality is trivial? You can see I'm really not of one mind here.
    ...At least the main character has to work for her gold instead of just having a large mound of it left over from her first life, as she might if this were merely some insipid OP!protagonist wankfest.

    Apropos of the fic not being a wankfest: Serpent's Renaissance must also be praised for avoiding many fanon/fanfiction traps.
    • Readers allergic to canon rehashes, for instance, can probably leave their epi-pens at home. While many stations of canon and distinctive character moments make an appearance, they often have different outcomes or meanings. All make sense within the logic of character, and the fic's cleverness is on display here.
    • Though Sally and her schoolmates feel more like early teens than the preteens they are during the first couple years, fanon's infamous "Slytherin hierarchy" is written as a somewhat realistic clique-y structure here -- the children are not hyper-confident little Machiavellis.
    • While I regret to say that mention is made of 'magical cores', thankfully, they do not seem to inform how magic works in the HGSR universe (which is, to me, a believable extension of canon).
    • In this universe, Dark magic essentially comprises potent and/or insufficiently explored magics. Many fics with this premise go the route of making Wizarding society seem stupid for banning it. Here it is illegal because it is dangerous, and characters, in general, take this fact seriously.
    The only real complaint I can make about pacing and plot coherence is that much of the everyday toil done by Sally goes undescribed--nay, unmentioned. Small but necessary plot points are sometimes introduced only when they are needed, even though no mention was made of them when they were supposedly taking place. These do end up looking shoehorned; to name the most egregious example, Hermione publishes a fiction book out of the blue during third year.

    Hearteningly, though, the dialogue and flow of information feel very natural, by and large. They are shaped by genuine-feeling reactions, unique to the character who is speaking, all while getting the necessary exposition in; it is not at all akin to taking an infodump suppository. (Look no further than chapter 58 for a good demonstration of these virtues. It also highlights how much attention the author is paying to our viewpoint character not being Harry.)

    Dialogue tags are perfectly unobtrusive by fanfiction standards, and the good punctuation is truly a wonder.
    The fic, to me, looks blessedly free of Americanisms; probably because the author is not from North America--or at least I don't think so. Indeed, I believe that the author is not a native English speaker at all; the diction and prose are nonetheless well above-average for fanfiction. Be prepared, however, to be unendingly correcting gross errors surrounding tense and conditionals in your head! (This is worst in first and second year.) Names ending in -s and mass nouns also, bewilderingly, seem an insurmountable challenge for the author.

    I've taken half a point each for lazy distortion of the canon setting and characters, for unsightly grammar mistakes, and for misguided subplots. All the same, I would do this fic a grave injustice if I did not round up from 3.5/5 to 4/5 in anticipation that fourth year's brilliance will continue.
    And I should emphasize that I am invariably already impressed by any writer who can adroitly handle the complexity of an entire series. I admire epsi10n in particular for being able to see canon from a fresh perspective, taking into account all the changes the protagonist's imaginative ploys have wrought.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2021