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WIP unsphere the stars by cocoartist - M

Discussion in 'Almost Recommended' started by mst, Sep 29, 2017.

  1. mst

    mst Squib

    Aug 18, 2011
    Title: unsphere the stars
    Author: cocoartist
    Rating: M
    Genre: Drama/Romance
    Status: WIP
    Library Category: Time Travel
    Pairings: Hermione G./Tom R.
    Summary: When you can't change time, but you can't go forward, what is left? Hermione learns how to be the protagonist of her own story.

    Post DH Hermione is sent back to Hogwarts as a 7th year and becomes a peer to Tom Riddle.
    The time travel premisse seems sketchy and forced at first, but plays well into Rowlings time travel canon of "time is a closed loop". This isn't a redo fic and things still play out as in canon.

    Hermione's and Riddle's character development though, is very good. This isn't a fluffy romance. Tom is still a fucked up kid but we get to see his charming side (the one that made so many people fall in love with him) and how Hermione feels attracted by that, in spite of knowing the monster he will become.
    We also get to see Hermione's hunger for knowledge explored. And what her potential would have been if she wasn't such an outsider or allienating know-it-all.

    Prose is good. There are a few typos here or there that a beta reader would've corrected, but nothing that detracts from the story. Mary-sue and Gary-stu lines are toed, but the author has so far managed to stay in line. There is still a lot to happen and some pitfalls for the author to avoid, but so far I'd give 4/5.

    Tom was a creature of dreams, but unlike most dreamers he could make them real. His dreams weren't contained in the sleeping night to be wiped away by the sun's rise: he dreamed with his eyes open and his wand in his hand and there was no part of him hindered by the doubt of ordinary men. If he wanted to do something, he did it.
    Hermione suspected a great part of his power came from that unquestioning certainty. It was how he'd been able to frame Hagrid for the Chamber, his uncle for his father and grandparents. There was no line Tom wouldn't cross - but the flip side of it was that he performed magic she didn't think even existed before he did it. He believed, and so it was. He created as much as he destroyed.
    It was intoxicating and she couldn't walk away.

    Wordlessly, he walked over to it. Watching Tom cast was something special, under any circumstances. He was a lyrical spell-master, never one to shy away from flair and yet he tempered it with a ruthless sort of efficiency. There was a cold poetry to it.
  2. Socialist

    Socialist Professor

    Feb 13, 2006
    The root of mt. Olympus
    I don't understand the draw to such a story, to be honest. Maybe it would work with an one-shot or a short novella, but 170k words? When you already know that, ultimately, nothing is going to be different? If Tom Riddle still ends up becoming Voldemort, then wtf is the point of the author sending Hermione back? Just the satisfaction of Hermione/Tom interaction masturbation?

    I'm genuinely curious btw, this is not just a criticism.
  3. mst

    mst Squib

    Aug 18, 2011
    I already said it's not a fluffy romance. The world building and character development is really good. The details of Tom Riddle's ascension to power (and insanity) only would be enough of a reason, since he is a very complex character and the author captures that very well.

    There's also Hermione experimenting the more pureblooded and aristocratic side of things, growing in power and building a reputation. Everything that most people here would love reading about, if it were Harry instead of her.
    And things will be different, once she lives back to her present day and can affect changes without creating a paradox.

    She vows she will let Tom burn down the world (as she has to in order not to create a paradox) and then she'll come in and rebuild it to her image.
    She has a mentor/mentee relationship with Dumbledore, who feels responsible for sending her back in time and sees her as a way to pass on his knowledge. And she goes traveling with Tom after school. Exploring magic as much as he does.
    "My ancestors were burned to death on this ground," Innegborg Lauritzdotter, who was as tall and proud as she was terrifying, said coldly. "Feel the power of their ashes, the blood spilled out on this earth." Her white hair whipped back in the sharp knives of the wind whipping in from the ocean behind them. Hermione looked across to where the mountain stood gazing out to the arctic sea.
    The devil himself was said to have danced with witches on its peak before leading them down through its entrance into hell itself for a tour. She'd never heard the stories before coming to the strange and barren place. They'd been out here on the cliff every day for week and nothing she'd tried had even shaken the earth. Her protestations that it was too far, too large, had been dismissed with a steely glare. It was the latest in a series of transfigurations Hermione would never have dreamed possible.
    Not that she'd ever wanted to turn an entire mountain into a lake before. Nor had it occurred to her to learn the obscure branch of Untransfiguration she'd spent the first few weeks learning. And the process of preventing something from change had baffled her initially but it was starting - slowly - to make sense. This, though, was the first test of her power rather than her ability to understand theory that the elder witch had given Hermione in two-and-a-half-months, and frankly it had been embarrassing so far.
    And so, she tried, opening the senses Innegborg had forced her to get in touch with over the last few, rather miserable, weeks. Hours of meditation staring out to sea from the cliffs had not been how she'd imagined she'd learn magic from Albus's most esteemed contacts. But this place, a village at the end of the earth, seethed with the angry magic of sacrifice. Two sets of witches had been executed here, a hundred in total, killed by god-fearing Muggles decades apart. They'd returned their power to the earth, driving away Muggles from the barren lands. Four hundred years later, it was a thriving magical community with only a small Muggle village nearby in a relatively peaceful co-existence.
    But those living here did not forget the dead.
    "You are not separate from the mountain. Magic is a force of nature and so are you. Don't exert your will weakly onto it with these little pushes... bend it to your will, child. You are mountain and lake and wind. You are the blood spilled and the axe that spilled it. Magic is in everything. Call to it. Invite the wild in."
    As Hermione stared at the iron-hard earth, shadowy figures rose up, commanded silently by her mentor. They showed their story; the invention of Animagi had happened here, centuries earlier, a secret they had shared with the world. Then had come the fear and two terrible mass hunts and executions. She felt their power and their fear and as she did she realised she could taste the bitter rust-tang of blood on her tongue, that it was rising, dried to red brown dust, from the earth. It settled on her fingers and as she spoke the spell again the earth let out a sound beyond thunder, the mountain collapsing impossibly in on itself, a symphony of pure destruction, flocks of birds sent shrieking into the sky in fear, until in its place a churning lake spread out. The waters stilled and then froze and Hermione found herself on her knees, tears pouring from her eyes, exhausted
    "Good. Now, get up and turn it back," the white-haired witch queen told her, eyes like iron in her wrinkled face.
    Shaking, Hermione tried. She tried until she threw up onto the barren earth, and still Innegborg made her push on.
    "You will stay here until you succeed, however long it takes."
    She drew a line of frost.
    "You cannot cross this line until a mountain stands there again. You will not eat or drink. You will not warm yourself or protect yourself from the elements. Make a mountain, girl."
    She left.
    Hermione grew weaker, starving and freezing, tears turning to frost on her face. Two days became three. She thought of Tom and summer and belief. The shadows of past witches rose up from the ground and whispered to her. She thought of a wand that would do whatever she commanded. She thought of sacrifice and power and blood magic and -
    She thought of the centuries old ash of burned witches still dusting her hands and she reached out, too desperate to doubt, for their strength.
    The ice of the lake shattered, cracking through the wind. The earth shook, uprooting trees, water streaming down.
    The mountain rose back up to meet the sky.

    Just read it and draw your own conclusions.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
  4. Ixeris

    Ixeris Squib

    Oct 7, 2017
    I read a good third of the story, and it was intolerable. This premise is tired and overdone. The characters are dull and one dimensional. If the story does have any merits, I can't really think of any. 1/5.
  5. Johnnyseattle

    Johnnyseattle Unspeakable DLP Supporter

    Oct 25, 2011
    I admit to having scoffed at this at first - "It's all going to turn out the same? Why bother?" But the OP's quip about great character development exploits my love of just that, so I am giving it a go. As of chapter 23, I'm giving this a 4 out of 5 so far. The surrounding characters are fleshed out pretty well, the author's take on Albus is great in the limited screen time he's had so far, and while there hasn't been as much exploration of Tom Riddle as a schoolboy as I'd have thought/wanted, it's been pretty decent as well. 23 chapters in and they've had barely even any physical contact, and no romance whatsoever - although you can tell there's guarded interest from both sides.

    All in all, well worth the read, in my opinion.
  6. Tomster10010

    Tomster10010 Third Year

    Dec 1, 2011
    I feel like this story is in two parts :

    The first dozen chapters is a story about Hermione traveling back in time, finding her place in the lie she lives at Hogwarts and being an almost normal student. The writing is subpar at best and the pacing and plot is nearly nonexistent. Character interactions are confusing and illogical and I barely made it through this part. 1.5/5 rounded down.

    Somewhere in the however long it took to write those chapters, the author learned how to write and at the beginning of winter break, the story becomes much better. It's finally a story about Tom and Hermione and their hopes and failures, as well as bits and pieces of the seventy year young Hermione in 1998. The overdone, cumbersome prose melts into some genuinely beautiful writing, and the characters become more and more natural (and then unnatural) and real. There are still issues, and some of the 1998 plot seems rough around the edges, but this part is 4.5/5 rounded up in my opinion. My only gripe is the way in which Tom finally fell, which is a little abrupt (IMHO).

    Overall I'd give it a 4/5, with the caveat that it is a Tom/Hermione story with a big theme being redemption (and failure thereof). Harry has a role in the 1998 parts, but it's not about him. The hardest part is the fact that the first 40k words just aren't good. In my opinion, the last 160k words make up for it. Also, it updated two days ago.
  7. Bernd

    Bernd First Year

    Feb 2, 2017
    Lauer Höhle
    High Score:
    Agreed with the consensus that the first 10 chapters (50k-ish words) were rough compared to the polished writing of later chapters, and the story setup follows the same tropes as many other time-travel fics. Seems like the author took some time to grow into their story, as the referential nods to other authors fade out by then, although the song lyric and quotes used as chapter headers stay around to the newer chapters. I suppose that's what happens when the fic is a slow updating long haul fic that hasn't completed after 5 years.

    Despite my ambivalence to the first third of the story, it does get much better, especially if you consider it a good, introspective, prose-centric fic instead of a "Save the Villain with the Power of Love" fixfic redemption that happens a lot with these kinds of premises. I appreciate that the dialogue strays true to the era, and maintains the posh rhythm of British boarding school lingo. Baby Voldemort and his school chums do not swan around saying "Cool" or "OK". This fic manages not to break my suspension of disbelief when it comes to dialogue and historical detail. It successfully worldbuilds the war-torn Muggle and Magical scene of the 1940's without throwing me out of it. The author throws reminders of the outside world into the story, without taking over the plot, because this is and remains a character-centric tale.

    And by golly, the character writing is gorgeous. There are many times, many fanfics where Tom Riddle as a character seems a bit oddly written, disjointed to the narrative, out-of-character outside of massive AU premises. And most of the time, it's due to the author not having a strong grasp of him as a character. This fic is one of the fics where I nodded my head as I read and thought, "Yes, this is good, because THIS is Tom." The beginning is weak, but the buildup is better, and the story becomes great when the author hits their stride. That's when the prose hits it out of the park.

    Tom Riddle had been born hungry and he'd stayed hungry all his life. He had never suckled from his mother's breast; he had never been held in loving arms. He had learned to sleep with a growling stomach, not to fight back when knowledge was barred from him. He had learned to sneak and to lie and to steal to try and sate his hunger. Hunger for food, hunger for knowledge. Hunger for power.

    Tom Riddle had always been more magical than anyone else it made him believe he had no limit at all, and he wrecked himself on his own power...

    ...Three was the most perfect number for, although seven was more magical, it was less stable. He should have stuck with three, but he did not doubt himself or his power. At seventeen years old he had already done something no one had before.

    (This the thing about greatness: you can never become great enough.)

    No, this is not a fixfic. The canon timeline holds, and there's no sign of a Redemption by Love twist. It's frustrating to the reader who wants to see a final ending with closure, but it's satisfying to the reader who likes the classic old gothic tragedy that teaches the dangers of love and hubris. And that kind of nostalgic storytelling is something I've rarely ever seen in fanfiction.

    4/5, if only for the weak beginning and slow build that doesn't match the grandeur of the latest chapters.
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