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WIP The odds were never in my favour by Antony444 - M

Discussion in 'Review Board' started by Sesc, Jul 13, 2020.

  1. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    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.
     
  2. Lamora

    Lamora Definitely Not Batman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Hands down the most subtle Shitpost Sunday I've ever seen.

    Bravo, Sesc.

    Just in case someone lacks a bullshit detector: This is, obviously, a regular thread, and the story to be reviewed accordingly. -Sesc
     
  3. A Lightning

    A Lightning Seventh Year

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    The prose is really awful. English clearly isn't the author's first language, and its really sad to see so little improvement after near 600 thousand words. (It actually seemed to get worse as the story went on, but that may have just been my mounting annoyance) The stilted, awkward sentences are bad enough, but it seems like every other sentence has incorrect word choice or punctuation, and they're jarring enough to ruin the story.

    I agree that a lot of the plot is quite interesting and well done, but... It's not really that gripping. I think this is certainly due to the prose. The second year climax should have been an awesome series of events, but it felt lacking. Between the technical errors and lack of showing, I may have been able to get the same level of enjoyment by reading a simple plot outline.

    I think Alexandra and her friends are good characters. Alexandra is the reason I finished the story. But I'd say this is a rare case where the one-dimensional caricatures are numerous enough and just annoying enough that a decent protagonist actually can't make up for it.

    I could write about the adherence to canon's main events and the cliches, but I think Sesc represented them reasonably well. I will say that the author is really beating a dead horse with the Britain Is Backwards thing. It's one thing to have that be part of the story's premise, but it's quite another to dedicate an absurd amount of words to hammer in that each and every aspect of magical Britain is shit compared to the rest of the world.

    Thanks for the rec; it passed the time.

    2/5
     
  4. Johnnyseattle

    Johnnyseattle Minister of Magic DLP Supporter

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    Most times, when someone recs a story and then provides warnings, they seem to do it because they know how sensitive to that kind of thing a lot of our readers are, and it turns out to be not so bad after all.

    This is not one of those times for me.

    As garbage goes, this is HOT. If I had a dollar for every extraneous "most ancient/noble/blah house of blah" I could buy out Total Wine's gin section, and drink until I forgot this one. It's like someone just went down the old, tired tropes listing and made sure they had everything.

    World building is OK, but that's about it for me. Glad you found something you enjoyed though, Sesc.

    2/5, generously.
     
  5. Villanelle

    Villanelle Groundskeeper

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    It's not On the Way to Greatness, but there's potential there. I wish I had the balls to just write, like Antony444, instead of agonising over everything. I'm making a few assumptions here, but as far as French people go, this guy has a pretty good command of English. Like Sesc said, it's a lot of Google Translate, but I'm not going to shit on this fic for that. It gets in the way of immersion, but it's hardly noticeable if you can find it in you to not hang over every word and skim where convenient.

    I'm only eight chapters in, so I might get supremely pissed later, but I like what I've read so far. The writing has some measure of cheek to it, if you can spot it that is. If you're mad at the Google Translate, that probably won't happen.

    I don't need every fic to be What You Leave Behind levels of good. Some mornings, I just feel like staying in my boxers, hotboxing my room and burying my head in a bucket of fried chicken. Proper nasty shit, and that's what this story is. It's not blazers, clean shaves and fine dining.

    If I were to judge this story primarily on mechanics, then I'd say it's a pass. But I mainly consume stuff because of what it makes me feel, the capacity stuff has to generate affect, and this right here is my kind of poison.

    The GT writing and old tropes don't bother me too much here. I also enjoyed Prince of Slytherin and Den of Snakes, though I haven't been able to stomach PoS since the third year prologues. I've tried a bunch of times and there's another half million words or so published since I last read it, but I just couldn't get into it again. I need me some trashy shit, and fuck I'm glad I got some.

    tl;dr: If you're looking for quality, look elsewhere. If you can play make believe and trick yourself into thinking it's 2007, you'll have some fun. Thanks, Sesc.

    Yep.

    Tentative 3/5.
     
  6. Download

    Download Seventh Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I read this when if first came out. It started out firmly guilty pleasure territory then I got bored of it.

    I'd have preferred it if Fem!Harry's genre savviness was completely unfounded, like a cool subversion of the whole idea.

    How completely it goes off the rails is good though. Not many stories have the ball for that.

    I agree with the clichés thing. They don't feel like they were done because it's "cool". I'm not sure how to describe it. Part of me wants to say it's like the author has read no HP fanfic before and came up with the ideas themselves but that seems unlikely.

    It was a 3/5 when I left.
     
  7. Socialist

    Socialist Professor

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    I'm about 40% done with this and I've got to say I enjoyed it quite a bit. There are parts that I skimmed but that is happening less and less the more I read.

    My favorite thing about this story is, that it doesn't take itself too seriously. There is very little useless drama & angst, which makes for an easy read. The prose, although kind of bad, gets massive points for not trying to be grandiose and especially for no grandstanding.

    Wacky bullshit keeps happening, but it's entertaining wacky bullshit.

    Realistically this is a 2/5 story, but because it tickles my personal tastes, I'll give it 4/5.