Title: The odds were never in my favour Author: Antony444 Rating: M Status: WIP, 590k currently Library Category: Alternates Pairings: Fem!Harry/Susan Summary: Ten years of life at the Dursleys have healed Alexandra Potter of any good feelings she might have towards her aunt, uncle and cousin, leaving her friendless and sarcastic about life. On her eleventh birthday, a letter sent by a school of magic may give her a providential escape. Except, of course, things may not be that simple for a girl fan of the Lord of the Rings... Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11517506/1/The-odds-were-never-in-my-favour That is one relevant aspect of this story. For me, it's exactly 1/3 of the appeal. It builds up continuously, the second year climax is just unfiltered awesomeness, and then we're off with zero fucks (and regrets) given. The other thirds are, respectively, having a proper character arc, and telling a great story. It's good enough I've even forgiven having the same ideas I wanted to use in my story. Plot: Alexandra Potter, daughter of the universally scorned traitor James Potter, gets sorted in Ravenclaw. Canon putters along, with Neville, the BWL, doing the Canon stations off-screen, because Alex has no interested in getting drawn into any of it, with the noticeable exception of the Troll, which I loved to bits (and I usually hate it). Instead, she's busy carving out a place for in Ravenclaw, Hogwarts, and magical Britain. Second year is original enough that I actually was surprised when Canon did show up, and by third year, the scope is expanded beyond Britain. Notably, Voldemort is downsized, and the actual threat (and what the story is about) is something else. The best aspects probably are the world-building, and the adherence to the rule that in best story-telling fashion, every story needs an equally-sized backstory. Therefore, there are plenty of storylines to explore, consequences to play with, and secrets to reveal. It's complex, but just about managed to not collapse in contradictions or under its own weight. Currently, the story is in the last phase of third year, and I expect nothing less than the definitive TriWiz Tournament in FF. Given what the author managed to produce so far, everything else would be a letdown. Characters: Alex is everything I like, and she would actually have done well in Slytherin, except the author wanted to make Ravenclaw the cool House. So, whatever. The tools used to keep me invested in her character are simple, and it's an indictment of FF of just how simple they are. One, start with the hero weak and without influence, and have them work for their success. Two, have them beaten down, so that there's a satisfying pay-off when everyone gets their due. Three, properly balance the power scales, so it's neither too easy (i.e. boring to read) nor too hard (i.e. frustrating to read) to achieve victories. It does all that, plus giving the character a brain and flexible morals, so I'm perfectly happy. Morag is a decent sidekick starting second year, Hermione is tolerable (i.e. not infuriating, not that Alex would accept Canon treatment), and Canon!Neville's character has for some reason been transplanted to Nigel. Apart from Morag, I don't care too much about them; I'm more interested in the international characters we're going to meet, in particular the Durmstrang pupils (Sverre and Romanova). The Alex/Susan thing is there, but not a point; about as much (or little) as romance was in Canon. The antagonists are numerous and ambiguous. The shifting POV is used to great effect, e.g. when you root for Malfoy to take down Dumbledore, only to be reminded one passage later that Malfoy is, in fact, a Death Eater bigot who wants all Mudbloods to die. All of this would equate for a 5/5, except here are the problems: Betaing is sporadic, and unbeta'd chapters just barely exceed google translate from a few years ago. It suffers from word bloat in third year, including pointless POVs and scenes, proving that such as thing as "tell, don't show" exists. There are clichés. Notably: Bits of Mugglewank, Magical Cores And Power Levels, Britain Is Backwards, Dumbledore Is A Manipulative Zealot, and Every Gryffindor Is An Idiot. That said, the way they are used reminded me of stories of old. Back when clichés weren't points to check off a list, decoupled from the plot and done for their own sake (or to write paint-by-number tropey stories), but simply consequences of plot choices the author made. You are reminded, for example, of how swords were cool before they were lame. Or how the Britain Is Backwards thing was just an aspect of attempts to expand the story beyond Britain, which this one does rather well. The worst is probably the Manipulative!Dumbledore, and the best that can be said for that is that 1) he is competent (at least to start with) and 2) it's coherent, i.e. the behaviour can at least broadly be aligned with the motivation provided in-story. He is clearly an antagonist, and if you accept that and don't think too hard, it kinda-sorta works. So, what to do with a story that often is technically terrible, filled with clichés ... and produces an entertaining plot, killer lines, and scenes that made me cackle in glee? In the end, I didn't regret a second I spent reading. The (great, by the way) title is apt and I always loved a one-against-the-world revenge plot, so by third year (with beta-reading), I'd give it a 4 on aggregate. Before that, it occasionally crashes to a 1, because you're literally struggling to read. It depends a bit on where you're at. If the quote at the start is your poison, you definitely Do Want. If none of what I wrote appeals to you, you can probably skip it.