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WIP The Banality of Love - sandwich_tales

Discussion in 'Romance' started by Sorrows, May 19, 2021.

  1. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2008
    Messages:
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    Gender:
    Female
    Location:
    Edinburgh
    Author: sandwich_tales
    Rating: T
    Genre: Thriller, Political
    Status: WIP
    Library Category: The Alternatives
    Pairings: Hermione/Draco
    Summary:
    The essence of totalitarian government, and perhaps the nature of every bureaucracy, is to make functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery out of men, and thus to dehumanize them.“

    After Voldemort wins over Wizarding Britain, Hermione emerges from hiding to undertake a dangerous mission for the now-decimated Order. Using a modified Polyjuice Potion, she adopts a new identity and begins working undercover at the Ministry of Magic, alongside Draco Malfoy.


    Link

    So found this a few days ago. Basic premise is that Hermione goes deep cover at Voldemort's MoM. Adopting the identity of a nondescript Hufflepuff from her year she's supposed to be a sleeper agent who keeps her head down and gathers intel where she can.

    The Pros
    I really like this idea of this. From the title you can guess the through line. Most of the people working under Voldemort are not nightmare psychopaths hungry for the blood of muggleborns. They are ordinary people, nominally prejudiced and willing to accept measures that harm people that are not them if fed the right propaganda. By necessity Hermione starts to form relationships with people who are by definition her enemies but are generally nice on a personal level.

    In some areas it can get quite subtle about 'good' and 'bad,' a standout being Lupins analysis of Snape.

    The author has a talent for characterisation. The OCs and the in-name-only characters like Astoria are developed into well rounded people.

    The ministry feels far more thought out than in most fics, with cutthroat corporate politicking the order of the day rather than random crucios in the corridor. Occasionally you get a glimpse of the horror underneath but mostly this is about the bureaucracy of oppression. The various factions vying for power and the implications of their competing goals is touched upon. As well as what would happen should Hermione disrupt one over the other. Voldemort is more of an unseen menace than anything.

    I also like Draco in this. In that he is not a secret good guy but he's not a psychopath either. He's just as prejudiced as he ever was. He has some unclear agenda but his main concern is to survive and he doesn't give a shit about the plight of muggleborns.

    I like the way their relationship is developing. It's clear where it's going, but it's happening organically. Draco is using Hermione for her covers skillset and because he thinks he can control her. She's using the opportunity to get close to him/his circle for spy reasons. It's breeding a certain familiarity but there are no butterflies here. Most of the times they help each other out its for either self-preservation or their own ends. There might be a tiny bit of sentiment creeping in but anything more is a long way off.

    There are far more ways to fuck this pairing up than make it work, but it seems to threading the needle so far. The strong characterisation of both of them does a lot of the heavy lifting, they feel like they could plausibly grown from the sixth year canon characters and doesn't seem to be interested in redeeming Draco though the power of love or some shit.

    The Cons

    While I like the theme of this, the subtleness varies. At times it's good, at others it's applied with a trowl.

    While Astoria is a fully developed character, I think it's a bit of a shame that her world view/agenda isn't a bit more complicated/tainted.


    It could do with a bit more atmosphere and tension. Yes the banality is the point but it does feel that it meanders a fair amount. Especially as Hermione doesn't seem to have a set goal/mission that would necessitate her taking risks that could vary the pace. Instead she gets drawn into whatever Malfoy's up to. In some ways Hermione feels less vivid than the other characters. It would be nice if she had a bit more agency.

    Perhaps I shouldn't be too harsh on this since it's clear this is supposed to be ultimately centered on the relationship, even if they have widened the scope a far beyond it to explore the reality of Voldemort's Britain. It's not the authors fault I'm more interested in that aspect. In fairness they focus on it quite a lot, but it's good and I want more.

    The writing is decent. It is certainly engaging and it feels like Harry Potter. Though, while enjoyable I think it suffers a little because the characters are so well done and the concept so interesting, it makes the bits where the writing stumbles more noticeable than it would otherwise be.

    Overall the execution is not quite as as good as the theme and ideas, but it's still an enjoyable read.


     
  2. Drachna

    Drachna Fifth Year

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2016
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    Location:
    Ireland
    High Score:
    0
    I'm about halfway through, and so far I think that it's pretty good. sandwich_tales has some interesting takes on how magic would be integrated into every day life, catching the charm of the Ministry of Magic and the magical world in general, and like Sorrows said, the author is also great at writing characters. The plot is a bit convoluted, (let's be honest, how else would an author get Hermione and Malfoy together) but it's at least internally consistent, and doesn't push my suspension of disbelief any further than the actual books did.

    Aside from the above, it's a well written story, and I didn't notice any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. I think that it's definitely library worthy.

    (As a person who has never really got Dramione, I have to say that I'm always surprised by how many decent fics there are under the pairing.)

    5/5

    (I was just looking at the average vote score for this, and it seems that two guys (KGB and Basileus77) gave the story a one out of five. Far be it from me to expect everyone to have the same opinions towards a fic as me, but given the disparity between our scores I can only imagine that they saw the Draco/Hermione tag and rated it poorly without reading the actual fic. As those scores can affect whether or not a story gets into the library, could they be suspended unless accompanied with an actual comment or review?) @Zombie
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2021
  3. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2005
    Messages:
    537
    Location:
    Englandshire
    High Score:
    5,725
    Just finished it. First fic to really catch my attention in a while - its really enjoyable. I honestly don't think I've ever read the concept before, and its being executed in a very consistent way.

    Very solid characterisation as well, no one is 2 dimensional, not even the random witch who lives across the hall.

    5/5
     
  4. Zombie

    Zombie Black Philip Moderator DLP Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2007
    Messages:
    6,028
    In general, don't thread rate unless you're going to say something about why you rated the thread that way. You do throw metrics off. I do watch this, if you do it enough it'll earn you a time out from forum specific privileges. It creates a lot of work for staff when we have to go through and vet shit that you come through and just blanket 1 star. Write a review, or don't thread rate. I'm fairly sure this has been said before. If not, let me say it again. Don't thread rate and post 1 star unless you intend to defend why you're 1 star posting.

    @Drachna We can see who thread rates. There are many things taken into consideration when we clean up. Which is why some stories sit in here for longer than others.
     
  5. Gaius

    Gaius Fourth Year

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2018
    Messages:
    137
    I read Banality of Love yesterday and today. It's a fun story with espionage and dystopian 1984 vibes. The Department of Information recalls for me all the counterintuitive slogans of Orwell, like War is Peace (cf. Ministry "Peace Keepers").

    The deviation from canon is a bit unclear so far, and the author pointed to this in an A/N in an early chapter. It seems as though all of the Horcruxes (except Nagini, maybe?) were still destroyed (e.g., Hermione remembers Crabbe dying of Fiendfyre). Maybe Harry didn't give himself up in the Forest? Snape probably did not give him the memory he needed as in DH because he lived on as a double agent in this AU and worked underground with the Order.

    I like the idea of the Order and any other resistance groups needing to organize themselves like a terrorist cell, spread out and without knowledge of every agent's activities, but it is hard to believe Harry, Ron, and Hermione would split up and that the boys + Order would protect Hermione and impede her from participating in any offensive actions. It gets her into the headspace that makes this long term mission possible I guess.

    Progress of the plot is a bit slow but I like the idea of looking at the innards of the Ministry machinery. To that point, the title is a great nod to Arendt's Banality of Evil, on the trial of Eichmann in Israel. I'm curious to see what the bone and Celtic runes will reveal.

    I agree with others that the Draco/Hermione pairing is usually not something I make a point to read, but their interactions so far are interesting. I like the other characters too, esp. Astoria, Orkney, and the amatory Divination expert/neighbor.

    4/5 for now. Looking forward to more!
     
  6. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    It was definitely an interesting choice by the author to do this, and it did have me thinking a bit to justify the Order's decision making on it.

    My thinking is that the Order thought the 3 of them together were:

    1. Too valuable a target to risk - the morale damage caused if they were all taken/killed at the same time would be devastating to their cause.
    2. Too wild/impulsive/unbalanced as a group - they balance out better in different teams.
    3. Too close to each other, more likely to make decisions on what is best for each other than for the cause.
    And as for the keeping her out of the serious fights...I see that as threefold - simple sexism; a belief that the smart person can't mix it up when they need to, that they need to be kept out of the way and safe; and the impact that her death would have had on Harry.
     
  7. Silly

    Silly Third Year

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    I just finished with the chapters that are available as of now and I can say that this is a pretty well done fic so far, and I am eager to read about what happens next.

    I really, really like the worldbuilding and the characterization of the story. The story paints a really realistic picture of what a world where Voldemort won would look like (in which he isn't just an insane "big bad evil guy" who wants to destroy everything because he is SO EVIL). And it does an excellent job exploring how people live and adapt under an oppressive government. Most of the characters with significant screentime aren't perfectly good or bad, they're just humans with their own goals and are doing the best they can to accomplish them. The very few characters that I could call "truly good or evil" are mostly top level Death Eaters (Yaxley, Lestrange) who in my opinion mostly serve as a way to drive the narrative along with their interdepartmental conflict.

    For now this is somewhere around a 4.5/5 or a 5/5 for me. Hopefully the author continues this level of quality as we progress further into the plot.
     
  8. Oculled1996

    Oculled1996 Squib

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    I was initially skeptical about all the positive reviews, as Dramione fics can often be of dubious quality. However, if you’re going to ignore the fic because it has Dramione, I implore you to reconsider. Firstly, the world has departed so much from the canon world that the schoolyard rivalry between the two of them has long since become of negligible importance. Secondly, the fic does not make any attempt to whitewash Draco’s sins or make him seem better than he actually is, and neither does Hermione. Finally, at least at first, Hermione is only cordial to Draco in order to gain access to information, meaning her motives for engaging with him are reasonable and make sense.

    The writing quality is incredible. You’re immediately drawn into this carefully crafted dystopia, and throughout the fic you get a fantastic insight into how this dystopia operates day-to-day. The characterisations are also incredible. There are no wholly good or wholly evil characters, each character is complex and interesting with their own goals, motivations and feelings.

    I love how the fic frequently pays homage to Hannah Arendt and many parallels are drawn between Voldemort’s reign and Nazi Germany; most strikingly the way ordinary people become monsters who are capable of doing terrible things in the name of Voldemort’s regime. I also like how the fic also draws on George Orwell’s 1984: Hermione initially works at the Truth Department, and the most terror is inflicted by the Peace Department.

    The world isn’t lacking in magic either, which is common for fics of this nature. Magic is used in lots of interesting and intriguing ways: as part of Hermione’s disguise; as part of government sanctioned torture; in combat; even in office administration. The author did not fall into the pitfall of making magic secondary when building this world, magic is what fuels the fic and what makes this dystopia unique.

    Other than the noticeable absence of Voldemort so far (perhaps intentional, Voldemort might be the “Big Brother” of this fic), I don’t really have any complaints. And that is a minor nitpick. This is definitely the best currently updating fic that I’ve read and possibly one of the best fanfics full stop.

    5/5
     
  9. kinetique

    kinetique Headmaster

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2013
    Messages:
    1,118
    An excellent read, my only crtique is that stories like this tend to tick off stereo types one at a time. Lucious Malfoy is adulterous, Yaxley is a predator. It's a shame that the stories I want to read have so very little in writing quality, while the stories I'm somewhat indifferent on are gorgeously crafted.

    4.5/5.
     
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