Time Travel, Secret Pasts, and Unexpected Love – by barqhorse

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1778839/1/Time-Travel-Secret-Pasts-and-Unexpected-Love

Rating: Acceptable Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance, 120k,

Warnings: Attempted Non-Consensual (not Severus), Time-Travel, Pregnancy

This story is all contained in one book, but it has 3 distinct parts.  Part 1, Severus Snape and Hermione in her first six years at Hogwarts, as we discover their personalities and histories.  Part 2, a time-turner accident and an extended narrative stay in the Mauraders era.  Part 3, back to the ‘present’ time as Severus and Hermione deal with the aftermath of the time-turner accident, and the fight against Voldemort.

The author has the interesting idea to write a story that contains all of the SSHG ‘cliches’ that she could possibly think of.  It’s kind of a fun idea, but it would have worked better in a comedy fic.  What is the point of being edgy and exploiting cliches in a traditional drama/romance fic?  Doesn’t that just make it another bad, predictable fic?  From my perspective, yes.  If I hadn’t read the author’s notes, I never would have known that she was attempting to be ironic.  There’s no evidence of that in the story itself.

I had a lot of problems with this fic, but the largest are the logical inconsistencies.  The Ravenclaw in me was raging for most of the fic.  Time travel fics are difficult to write.  Careful rules and explanations are needed for tons of different things; if this isn’t done, the plot just falls apart.  Hermione knows she shouldn’t interfere with the past, but she interferes with the were!Lupin/Snape/Shrieking Shack deal.  She interferes there, but she never whispers, ‘Peter Pettigrew will betray you’ to Lily?  Her roommate and best friend in the past?  Come on.   Unrelated to time travel, but still annoying – The Mauraders never notice ‘Hermione Granger’ on the Mauraders Map?

The Mary Sue is really, really, really rampant in this fic.  Every single male character is in love with her, in one way or another.  She is paired with Sirius, Lupin, Snape, Harry, Draco…and I’m probably forgetting others.  When she finally settles on Snape, Dumbledore pays entirely for Snape/Hermione’s wedding and throws a grand affair, but a few chapters lately, Ginny/Harry are pinching pennies to afford theirs.  Where is Dumbledore then?  Hermione has glorious hair, radiant smile, hovering face of an angel…just ugh.  This is not Hermione.

The writing and perspective are exasperatingly child-like. The author continuously uses catastrophic physical events to bring people together.  I think we spend about half of the fic in the hospital wing.  This is lazy writing.  Isn’t the best part of romance watching a pair come together slowly?  That doesn’t happen in this fic.  Everyone is ‘in love’ after days or weeks.  Another example of naive writing – Snape and Hermione are surprised that Lucius Malfoy is attending a Slytherin ball.  ‘Oh no!  He will spot us!’  Really?  You didn’t think about the fact that he would be there?

The Snape is pretty badly out of character.  I could write some of it off as Young!Snape, due to the sojourn in the Mauraders era, but it was really just too out of character to believe.  There was no darkness, no reluctance, no hesitance; it was just a Bland Romance Hero.  If I wanted to read that, I’d read a more traditional ship.  We read SSHG for that academic, withdrawn, painful, carefully crafted Snape.  He’s not in this fic.

There is some good here.  I did keep reading it, although I considered skipping to the end many, many times.  I liked that the author was being ironic with the use of cliches, even if it was only evident through the author’s notes.  I liked the idea of a time-travel fic that picked up in the present day; I hadn’t read one like that before (though I’m sure they exist.)  And the writing improves significantly from the first chapters to the last chapters.

The bottom line: The time travel aspect of this fic is fun and interesting, but that’s really the only redeeming quality.  The characters are incredibly Mary Sue and blandly romantic.  The writing is mediocre.  There’s not much here, but if you really love time-travel fics it might be worth a read.

Advertisements

Breeding Lilacs Out of Dead Land – by Areola

Links:
https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/areola-breeding-lilacs-out-of-dead-land.pdf
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=2670
[Note: added a link to my personal copy only because Ashwinder is down; I will try to come back and edit this out when it comes back up.]

Rating: Exceeds Expectations

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Darkness/Angst, 130k,

Warnings: NC-17, Violence, Non-Consensual, Self-Harm, Child Abuse, Language, Character Death, Torture

In her seventh year, Hermione Granger flees the British wizarding world.  9 years later, she and her daughter return to Hogwarts to battle Lord Voldemort – and to finally face Severus Snape.

I am really torn on this fic.  There is so much about it that is meaningful, unique, and interesting.  It definitely deserves ‘Exceeds Expectations’, and possibly higher.  Let’s start with the ‘good.’

Hermione’s daughter, Audrey – introduced immediately, so not a spoiler – is really a unique, fascinating character.  I really enjoyed almost everything that she did and every description of her.  I have never wanted children, but this child was a very pleasant read for me.  Logical and soft-spoken, she makes impossible situations possible with her thoughtful, innocent kindness, and softens even the grumpiest of hearts (including mine.)  Very often children are just annoying accessories in SSHG fanfiction, with no place in the story – but Audrey is very much at the heart of the story, propelling the action and making everything possible. This fic is almost worth reading just for the character of Audrey.

The romance is paced well and believable.  Severus Snape does not have easily breachable defenses, and would be extremely reluctant to befriend Hermione, let alone romance her.  This fic understands that and doesn’t try to over-romanticize or over-soften Snape.  He is miserable and keeps the world-at-a-distance, and the romance blossoms tantalizingly slowly as a result.

The characterizations were not quite on point for me.  Hermione is fairly close to herself, though perhaps somewhat bland.  The Snape is more troubling.  I found him to be too dark, too violent.  Those are tolerable things that I can usually accept.  What I could not accept his is overly emotional indulgence in self-hate.  My head-canon Snape is disciplined and logical at all times, including his private time.  He has a swell of emotion underneath all of that, for sure, because he represses everything – but in this fic, personal drama and emotion seem to overwhelm everything.  He spends an enormous amount of time thinking about his miserable childhood and his miserable present, indulging in sad poetry and alcohol.  Childish. Undignified.  I think the ‘real’ Snape would be embarrassed by this kind of behavior .

Continuing on this path,  I felt that the author was over-projecting her own life into the fic.  At least one character was named after someone from her personal life – revealed in the author’s notes – and it was a name that didn’t seem appropriate for the Harry Potter world.  There was another name I strongly suspect was from her personal life.  ‘Justin Snape?’  There were may of these ‘crude labels’ posted on to characters they didn’t quite fit, in a reflection of the author’s own life.  I understand that writing fan-fiction is personal and that everyone has their own perspective, but it was far too prominent in this fic.  Just as one example, Judaism is a major theme in the story, and Dumbledore/Snape share a Jewish prayer at one point.  I have no problem with Jewish themes, but I certainly don’t look for them in SSHG fan-fiction.  I found it too unusual, too out of place.  It took me out of the moment.

Similarly, and worst, there was a black-covered-poetry-book full of indulgent emotion.  Quoting Sylvia Plath and Baudelaire at every turn, self-harm, self-hatred, it was just so…ugh.  Eyerolling.  I like dark themes, I have experienced a lot of sad things; I have no problem exploring those feelings.  However, in this fic, I found those self-indulgent moments to be laughable, not serious.  It was too heavy-handed.  Quoting ‘Oh Captain my Captain’ when one of the characters died?  My eyes were in physical pain from rolling.  I feel that I’m being overly rude – this is the rudest I’ve ever been in a review – but I just can’t find another way to describe this, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my gut reaction to the fic.  I suppose it’s preferable to be rude in an positive review – like this one – than to be rude in an negative review.

Let’s close with some more positives.  The writing is absolutely excellent.  The plotting is good.  The academic references are second to none – many, many, many poets are quoted, as well as philosophers and other great minds.  I enjoyed some of the references. It’s certainly an intelligent fic.  The warplot is something of an afterthought, but there is already so much going on between the characters that I think it worked in the context of the fic.

The bottom line: There is a lot to like here, for sure.   The writing is absolutely excellent and the academic references are second to none.  Hermione’s daughter Aubrey is one of the best original characters I’ve read in SSHG.  If you can handle emotionally-indulgent, extremely dark themes, stained by the author’s personal life, then this might be a great fic for you.

Cloak of Courage – by WendyNat

Links:
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=1574
https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1678592/1/Cloak-of-Courage

Rating: Outstanding

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Darkness/Angst, 190k,

Warnings: Attempted Non-Consensual (not Severus), NC-17, Violence, Marriage Law, Dark, Character Death

After much death and destruction in her life, Hermione Granger turns to the Dark Arts for revenge.  Only one person can hold her back from the dark precipice – Severus Snape.

Wow.  This fic was extremely impressive. Turbulant, emotional, but restrained, extremely dark, but still clinging to Light…incredible.

The beginning is a little rough, especially the first chapter – honestly I might have rolled my eyes and moved on if I were reading this just for pleasure and not for review.  But hang in there, because it is ABSOLUTELY worth slogging through the first bit.

The driving force of the fic is the system of Dark Magic that the author creates, “The Call of the Blood.”  And it is SO well done; better than some mechanics that you find in published fiction.   It is unique, fascinating, and revealed slowly throughout the course of the story.  The Dark Arts is at once looming shadow and a siren’s song.  It brings Snape and Hermione together, it threatens to drive them apart.  It could be the answer to defeat Voldemort, or it could signal the downfall of the Order.  Primitive.  Brutal.  Beautiful.  Unknowable.  All this, and yet and still somehow feels like it could organically and truly fit in with the Harry Potter world.  “The Call of the Blood” would explain so much about Snape, and about Lucius, and about Voldemort.  Honestly I think am going to adopt it is ‘head-canon’ for the real Harry Potter – it’s that good.  This is all vague, but I don’t want to go into the details, because everything is revealed slowly and it would be spoiler-y to explain it.

Another strength is the plotting.  It is beautifully plotted.  All of the side characters, side plots, and off-screen events work together.  Everything matters, though you may not realize it at first (as it should be – too often in fanfiction something stands out and you know it will come back later.  Not so here; it is woven in subtly.)  There was one particular “A-ha” moment for me that literally made me grin with wild glee because it made perfect sense, but I didn’t see it coming.  A surprising, on-point, subtle, ironic, deftly written twist – to check all of those boxes at once is a very difficult thing to do.

The romance and characterizations are also great.  It is a Marriage Law fic, so they are forced together, but there is still a long, satisfying period of coming together physically and emotionally.  I found it quite believable.  Hermione is too darkly out of character, probably -, but if the horrible things that happened to this Hermione had happened to canon Hermione, she may have ended up this dark.  The Snape is excellent – extremely dark, extremely disciplined, extremely sexy.  I would say that he is slightly overconfident.  My Snape is inwardly insecure, but outwardly confident; this Snape is inwardly confident as well.  I found it kind of sexy, though, so I can’t say I disliked it – just a tiny bit off point, for me.  Last note on the romance – this is my favorite wedding ceremony of any fic, ever.  I got married last year and honestly if I had read this last year, I might have incorporated some of the wedding ceremony into my own.

I don’t usually comment on the smut, but it was so good in this fic that I didn’t skip ANY of it.  It wasn’t overused, and it was always useful – there was a plot point or an emotional revelation or something every single time.  It wasn’t just filler; it was part of the story.  THAT is the way smut should be done.

The bottom line: This is an extraordinary fic, but it might be too dark for some.  I didn’t think I was a fan of Dark!SSHG but this converted me.  It was seductive and brutal and tear-stained and I loved it.  Read this if you would like more of an inside look into the Death Eaters and Dark Magic.  It might become your head-canon.  And definitely read this if you are a fan of SSHG, period.  The first few chapters are just good, not great, but wait for it.

The Ties that Lead to Trust – by Gfeather

Link: http://hp.adult-fanfiction.org/story.php?no=15043

Rating: Acceptable Plus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Friendship/Angst, 170k,

Warnings: Non-Consensual (not Severus), NC-17, Violence, Marriage Law

In Hermione’s seventh year, Snape and Hermione are forced to wed as a result of a new Marriage Law.

This fic is classic Marriage Law, as classic as it gets, written as a response to the WIKTT Marriage Law Challenge when this kind of thing was still fresh.  Hermione and Snape marry, slowly come together, and the Malfoys aren’t happy about it.  It’s exactly what you’d expect, but somehow I still stayed up all night reading it, so that’s something.

One thing I really appreciated about the fic was the strong, independent, logical Hermione.  This is not a woman who will pick fights for no reason or fall in love just because she’s married.  She’s stubborn and willful and full of ideas; just wonderful.  She’s even MORE independent and traditional-bucking than the real Hermione Granger, I would say, but those are traits that I appreciate so I really loved this Hermione.

The Snape, however, is not quite as on point.  Especially in the early chapters, he gave off almost a Pathetic!Creeper!Snape vibe.  And it was written intentionally that way; that his eyes would plead and Hermione would feel uncomfortable, or that he would ask her to stay the night and she wouldn’t want to, or that he would ‘spoon’ her in their sleep in the very early stages.  Severus Snape ‘spooning’ a Seventh Year he just married days ago is definitely not in character.  ‘Curling protectively’ maybe . I know I’m mincing words, but I felt like the language kind of pathetic-ized him and I didn’t like that.  He settles into a more traditional Snape as the fic continues, however.

The warplot was disappointing for me.  It’s not a Voldemort plot, it’s another agitator.  It seemed promising in the beginning, but it kind of petered out to nothing.  There was one action packed scene, and then 10 more chapters of recovering/resolving/nothing.  It was a bit of a slog to the end.  I understood why the recovery chapters were needed for the characters, but as a reader,  the action was over, the romance was over, and I was impatient for the end.  Major plotting/pacing issues.  The author even confessed in her author’s notes that the fic was being steered by the winds of her random plot bunnies – not plotted out in advance.

The romance is decent; that slow-burn is always a little clumsy in Marriage Law fics, by necessity, but it is done well here in the few chapters in which they are becoming comfortable with each other.  The majority of the fic, unfortunately, has a resolved romance and the focus is on logistics and the weak action plot.  There is an issue that arises about 2/3 of the way through that ‘resets’ the romance plot to give it a little more interest, but not enough.

The bottom line: It’s decent, especially if you like Marriage Law fics.  Read it for the academic-based romance and the beautifully strong, independent Hermione.  Skip it if you like exciting action/warplots, and insist upon tightly scripted plotting.

Some Scars Never Fade – by wendynat

Links:
Time Does Not Heal All Wounds (Required Prequel): http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=250
Some Scars Never Fade: http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=646

Time Does Not Heal All Wounds (Required Prequel): https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1547855/1/Time-Does-Not-Heal-All-Wounds
Some Scars Never Fade: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1603023/1/Some-Scars-Never-Fade

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Adventure, 150k,

Warnings: NC-17, Violence

Years after the defeat of Voldemort, Hermione Krum must team up with Severus Snape (an old flame) to defeat a new threat to the wizarding community.

This is the second fic in a row that I’ve read with an already-established relationship or romance between Hermione and Severus at the START of the fic.  Very disappointing!  That is by far the biggest drawback of this fic, for me – there is no slowly developing romance, only a rekindling of something already established.  I would prefer to read the (non-existent) prequel of how they first were drawn together.

Despite that major drawback, this is a pretty good fic.  Hermione is very in character – just excellent.  I find the Snape to be a little too likeable, a little too easy-going, but mostly on point.  The villain and the villain plot are really unique and interesting.  Lots of twists and turns and Polyjuice and well-dropped hints; I figured out the mystery before it was revealed, but barely just, and I wasn’t certain.  Very nice!   To often in fan-fiction are the villains obvious and under-developed – this author really took some time coming up with a nice, complicated backdrop for the story.

There is a LOT of smut in this fic.  I don’t mind smut, though I confess that I’ve read so much of it that I often skim over it.  One thing that was a little disconcerting for me in this fic, though, was that you get to read EVERYBODY’S smut – not just Hermione and Snape.  I didn’t really want to be in everybody else’s bedroom – you know?  For me, it made the fic seem a bit smut-heavy, and somewhat lessened the overall impact for me.  It’s a GREAT story, it’s certainly not porn-without-plot or something, but there was just a little too much smut for my personal taste.

The prequel, Time Does Not Heal All Wounds, has some really excellent scenes where Hermione and Severus are trying not to get together, as Hermione as married; very sensual and fabulous and scintillating, in all of the right ways.  The second book, Some Scars Never Fade, is when it starts to feel like too much smut, but luckily the warplot is very strong in the second book, which kept me turning the pages interestedly.

I would say the biggest strength in this fic is the plotting – which is usually my biggest complaint in fan-fiction!  This author REALLY took her time in crafting the warplot.  There are little hints and foreshadowing all over the early chapters.  It’s extremely gratifying to have an early premonition or idea pop up again just when you had forgotten about it and turn out to be true.  It gave a bit of ‘mystery’ feel to this fic which I really enjoyed.  It’s very rare for me to find a fic that is as well-thought out and storyboarded as this one clearly was.

You MUST read the prequel; they are really just one story, separated into two parts.

The bottom line: This fic is solid, though not spectacular.  Definitely read it if you like smut, because there is LOTS of it.  Read it for a nice unique warplot.  Read it if you like lots of sub-characters and many things going on at once.  Skip it if you are looking for slow-simmering romance and developing feelings.

Triumph Out of the Bitter Taste of Ashes – by Kiristeen

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1594497/1/Triumph-Out-of-the-Bitter-Taste-of-Ashes

Rating: Acceptable Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Friendship/Angst, 150k,

Warnings: Non-Consensual (not Severus), NC-17, Pregnancy, Slash

WARNING: PARTIAL REVIEW
As with many of my low-rated fic reviews, I did not finish this story before skimming to the end.
If anything in my review is inaccurate or misconceived as a result, please feel free to let me know and I will amend my review.

This fic barely qualifies as SSHG.  It’s really a Draco/Ron fic, which is something I haven’t seen before and that didn’t really work for me.  Once I realized this, I started skimming the chapters and then skipping ahead – I didn’t really find much of note and the ending was kind blah, so I’m glad I skipped it.

The writing is okay, except that Snape is grossly out of character.  He seems brash and even cocky and doesn’t seem to understand the subtle nuances of any situation that he’s in.  He constantly does the wrong thing, usually loudly.  I felt embarrassed for him most of the time.  This is not the Severus that I know and love, not one bit!

Hermione is better, except that she is pregnant and experiencing PTSD for most of the fic.  I have read fantastic PTSD fics before, fics that broke my heart, but this one is kind of heavy-handed and eyeroll-y instead of heartbreaking.  I could see the plot of a war-traumatized Hermione clinging to the first friendly face she found, Severus, being a beautiful and dramatic fic, but this one just wasn’t written compellingly enough or delicately enough to pull it off.  I got the impression that the subject matter was too much for the author.  PTSD needs a tender, analytic, slow-burning quality to the writing to work.  That was absent here, leading to a lot of cringe-y moments.

The bottom line: It’s all over the place; I think the subject matter was too ambitious for the author.  Severus is terribly out of character. Skip it unless you love DM/RW.

Sekhmet’s Book – by Bellatrix

Links:
Book 1, Sekhmet’s Book – https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1617723/1/Sekhmet-s-Book-COMPLETE
Book 2, Sekhmet’s Rule – https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1672155/1/Sekhmets_Rule

Rating: Troll (Because it’s an UNFINISHED FIC that somehow ended up on a completed list)

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance, 150k,

Warnings: NC-17, Pregnancy, Original Characters

THIS FIC IS UNFINISHED!  I am so enraged that I spent this long reading the fic only to find a cliffhanger at the end of Book 1, and an unfinished Book 2.  This should not have even been included here, but I read it because it was on Harmony_Bite’s ‘Completed OOTP Epics.’  She considered it completed because Book 1 was completed, I guess, but because it completes in a cliffhanger…yeah.  Not really complete. The author goes out of her way to write ‘COMPLETE!’ in both the summary and the link itself (seriously, look above!) but it’s not complete AT ALL, because the ending is just like any other chapter! Why would she do this? What a waste of my (and hopefully not your) time.) I suppose I will review it anyway, now that we’re here.

Many years after the fall of Voldemort, Professor Granger and Professor Snape must work together to combat a dark artifact threatening the Hogwarts students and staff.

Right off the bat, there was a huge strike against this fic for me – Hermione and Snape are already in a happy steady relationship when the fic STARTS.  What?  For me, my favorite part of SSHG is watching them fall in love reluctantly, watching them oh-so-slowly come together.  To start off in a relationship eliminates most of the reason I would even be reading this fic.  But because the writing seemed decent, I decided to continue on.

This is a very slow fic.  The ‘warplot’ is just about non-existant in the first third of Book 1.  For the second third, there is a ‘tragic misunderstanding’ that is super annoying and hard to read.  Which lasts for AGES.  The final third picks up a bit, only to end in a huge cliffhanger.  Book 2 is unfinished.  The overall story is really dragged down by pointless (though interesting) original characters and little subplots that are introduced for seemingly no reason except to extend the action, which is really annoying.  This all sounds terribly negative; but there are still some redeeming qualities to this fic.

What this fic misses in the ‘big picture’ it makes up for in details.  The writing is very readable.  It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s pretty good for fic-quality writing.  Hermione and Snape are both relatively in character.  The dark artifact and the ideas of the warplot are interesting and fairly original.  I loved the idea of ancient Egyptian Dark Magic – I had not heard or thought of that before.  The original characters are well-conceived and believable, if a little useless to the overall plot.

The big problem with this fic is simply the lack of planning; the scatter-brained ness of each character and each plotline.  If the erroneous plotlines and characters were cut out, this would be a very short fic.  There might not be anything left.  Major and minor plots almost ALL felt pointless – because they were unrelated to the main plot.  Everytime a new character or subplot was introduced, I felt annoyed.  It felt like an artificial extension; padding.  A good fic’s plot should feel organic and page-turning; this was the opposite.  It took me almost a week to read.  It’s like stream of consciousness story plotting – whatever popped into the writer’s head was inserted into the story.  It’s unusual to have such high quality writing paired with such scattered ideas.

The bottom line:  The writing is good, the story plotting isn’t.  Read this if you love epic-length fics and are willing to put up with lots of padding and plot-stretching.  Read it for the smut, read it for a few original ideas.  Skip it if you must have a satisfying romantic arc and a well-structured story.  SKIP IT IF YOU LIKE TO READ COMPLETED FICS.