The Man Who Sold the World – by Meggory
Note: Hosting my copy because Ashwinder is currently down. I will remove this as soon as the story is properly hosted again. Thank you to the reader who sent me their copy, although unfortunately the only one she had was missing chapter 28. The ending is still there and it’s still absolutely worth reading.
Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus
The Basics: Phoenix Era, Intrigue/Action/Angst, 100k
Warnings: Sexual Content, Attempted Non-Con (not SSHG), Torture, Post-Apocalyptic Dystopia
Severus Snape and Hermione Granger, on the run from the law, take a post-apocalyptic road trip through Death Eater occupied Europe. Is that the greatest tagline you’ve ever read in your life? Yes. Yes it is. It’s not strictly true; that only covers the first third or so of the story, but it’s so great that I’m using it anyway.
You don’t find many ‘Voldemort Won’ dystopian fics, at least not in the Phoenix era. I would guess that a reason for that is that it’s difficult to create that kind fictional world, and even more difficult to write an ending that includes toppling a government. The author of this fic does a great job at creating a world full of bleak, believable aftermath and war-scarred protagonists. She does not do a very good job at writing the ending.
The characters are damaged by their experiences in the war, especially Snape. I won’t give away the spoilers, but the slow reveal of Snape’s past is excruciatingly well done. I actually had bile rise in my throat and I had to stop reading in shock and horror after one of the flashback scenes. I watch a ton of horror movies and don’t usually blink at violence, horror, etc, on the screen or in writing. This scene wasn’t gruesome physically, it was gruesome psychologically. I would recommend this fic on the basis of that scene alone. It was inventive, well-written, heartbreaking, and horrifying.
The story is written in a tight, action-style point of view. There are no time shifts, except for sleeping, from the opening scene to the penultimate chapter. I started to worry about halfway through that it was moving TOO slow; I knew it was only 100k and I couldn’t imagine that they could resolve the hefty plot and the romance in the last half, at the current pace. It turned out that my fears were well-founded. About two-thirds of the way through, things started making less sense. It seemed like the action was starting to go in circles, and I started to lose track of ‘whose side’ secondary characters were on, because it changed so often and didn’t seem to matter. Clearly, the author wasn’t sure what to do next. Moving from ‘road trip’ to ‘toppling the government’ is not easy, but it’s what the set-up of this fic requires. Unfortunately, instead of working through this difficult task, the author gives up. There is a half-hearted attempt at a wrap-up, and then the action just stops.
The author is very gifted at writing close focus adventures with a small, clear goal. I felt that she was overwhelmed by the larger plot of this fic. A sprawling dystopian fic requires writing about politics, large groups, battle plans, etc. Instead of delving into those things in order to resolve the plot, she simply ended the fic and left the plot where it was. I wish there had been a ‘Five Years Later’ epilogue – that would have provided much more satisfaction.
I did find the romantic arc satisfying. If a traditional romance arc is Friendship, Intimacy, Rising Sexual Tension, Consummation, Commitment, this fic ends in the ‘Intimacy’ stage, before sexual tension even appears. However, it is so page-turning and well done that I didn’t mind the absence of sensuality. Again, though, a ‘Five Years Later’ epilogue was desperately needed. Even three paragraphs would have made all of the difference in the world.
I spent a long time in this review talking about the major problem, the clipped ending, but I want to reiterate how much good there was in this fic, as well. I enjoyed the slow build-up of trust and friendship between Severus and Hermione so much. I enjoyed that their post-war lives were a mystery to each other and the reader, and I enjoyed the series of flashbacks that revealed them. Most importantly, it felt like the characters really could be Snape and Hermione, and I was excited about their adventure together. Sometimes I read so many bad fics in a row that I forget what a good one feels like. This was a good one! I felt the giddiness and page-turning excitement that I only feel when reading a really good fic.
Lastly, this fic reminded me quite a bit of of Dark Gods in the Blood. Shattered Snape, contains a ‘road trip’ adventure, focuses more on friendship than romance. This is not nearly as well done as ‘Dark Gods’, but if you enjoyed that and are craving more, this might scratch that itch.
The bottom line: This fic could have been 600k and magnificent. Instead, it’s 100k, and very good. Be wary that it’s more action/intrigue/angst than romance, and be wary that the plot falls apart completely. Enjoy the good parts, the journey and the blossoming friendship, because they are well-worth the read.