The Last Heir – Lady Snapey

Link: http://www.themasque.net/wiktt/efiction/viewstory.php?sid=1379

Rating: Dreadful

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Parenting/Humor, 200k

Warnings: Underage (VERY underage), Original characters

Here we are, my first Dreadful rated fic. I feel like the word ‘dreadful’ is so cruel; I have been hesitant to make that category because of it. I do want to use the Harry Potter school marks as my ranking system, though, and this fic was worse than the fics in the next rating up, so it seemed appropriate.

I knew from the first chapter that this story was terrible. It is one I would have immediately stopped reading if it weren’t for the purposes of review. As it was, I started skimming immediately (which I don’t think I’ve ever done before; I at least give it a few chapters.) I found nothing positive to report in any of the chapters.

This is one of those stories that was written by someone very young, very inexperienced, and one who is probably an S-type rather than an N-type in Myers-Briggs. That is to say, focused on tradition and details of every day life rather than the intuitive mysteries of soul, spirit, and complex interpersonal dynamics. As a result, the story is a very basic laundry list of tropes and boring scenes from every day life. It’s what Snape and Hermione would look like through the lens of an ESFJ pre-teen; focused on traditional family, parenting, and shopping. Shudder.

I left off the ‘romance’ tag for this story because there is literally no romance. The story starts with Hermione being pregnant in her Seventh Year, in a relationship with Snape, crying about being pregnant and having her life ruined. Leaving aside the absurdity of the Brightest Witch of Her Age and a Potions Master ‘accidentally’ getting pregnant, we still have a non Marriage Law, non-necessary, non-coerced relationship between Hermione and Professor Snape that has advanced as far as pregnancy in her Seventh Year (Pedophile!Snape, apparently.)  ALL THIS IN THE FIRST CHAPTER. The story is essentially over at that point from my perspective, as I read for rising romantic tension. Then, it somehow gets even worse – by the end of the chapter, we have them get in a stupid argument over nothing and decide to never speak to each other again. What?

The story picks up 11 years later when Hermione’s daughter ‘Janie’ starts attending Hogwarts. She feels it necessary to warn Snape as he doesn’t know that Janie his daughter. I thought, “Okay, maybe the romance is going to start here, as they fall back in love with each other, this could work.” But no, they’re magically in love and living together as a family in just a few more chapters. Mind you, this fic is 200k. We’re about 10k in and we’ve already established all of this. Why keep reading? What else could possibly be in these pages? The brief answer to that question – nothing.

The long answer to that question – Janie’s adventures with all of her original character friends at school, Hermione telling everyone about her and Snape, Rita Skeeter meddling, Dumbledore taking off 150 points from Slytherin as Snape’s punishment for getting Hermione pregnant in her Seventh Year (ARE YOU SERIOUS), some people get kidnapped and rescued, Hermione’s pregnant again, Hermione telling people that she’s pregnant again (seriously, there’s like a scene for every minor character in the books learning this. Fred Weasley gets a scene.) Snape fighting like a child with a bully who upsets Janie, they have a boring wedding and go on a boring honeymoon, Janie’s Patronus memory is the night she found out Snape was her dad; then they all tear up and go get ice cream. Just nothing upon nothing upon nothing. There is absolutely zero reason to turn a page in this story.

And here’s something else – the ending to the final chapter is NO DIFFERENT than the ending to all of the other chapters. It’s titled ‘Epilogue’, but since there was literally no story to wrap up, it just ends. Oops, author, you accidentally ended your story in the seventh chapter, although you didn’t seem to realize it.

Let me be clear – I really am fine with light-hearted fics, and with Classic Era fics, and even ones with a childish perspective. But in all of those, there needs to be something of value, something to hold on to. Something that feels like Snape and Hermione. There is nothing here.

The bottom line: My first ‘Dreadful’ rated fic. Not only is the writing terrible, but the characterizations are so incredibly wrong that I was very nearly offended by it.

Advertisements

In Annulo – by LadyoftheMasque

Link: http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=1480

Rating: Outstanding

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance/Action, 360k

Warnings: Seventh Year, Sexual Content, NC-17, Non-Consensual SSHG

At the start of her seventh year, Hermione Granger receives a letter and a magical correspondence ring from someone claiming to be a spy in the Death Eater camp. When Dumbledore was murdered by the Traitor, he lost his only contact to the Order. He’s hoping Hermione will be his new liaison, passing on his information to those who need it.

Full disclosure: I had read this many years ago when it was first published. Lady of the Masque is my favorite fanfiction author of all time; her For Someone Special is one my favorite fanfics. I was predisposed to love this fic. I did a full re-read for this review.

It is, obviously, outstanding. It’s Deathly Hallows and the hunt for the Horcruxes in an SSHG context. There are so many amazingly clever ideas – the betrothal correspondence ring and guardian, Chronomancy, Diario di Lucrezia Borgia as an incredibly Dark potions book that judges the worthiness of its reader, Artifacts and Artificy, having Dementors eat the soul out of Horcruxes (GENIUS!), delving into the function of origin of the Dark Mark, and more.   So much of this story hits the sweet spot of magical, whimsical, practical, and funny that the real Harry Potter does.

I love Snape and Hermione’s function in the warplot. They spend huge amounts of time researching, creating charms, creating Potions, gathering information. They take an intellectual approach to defeating the Dark Lord – which is the way it should be! So many fics send them on cloak and dagger action adventures, or have them ignore the warplot completely in favor of their romance. This is what they REALLY would have been doing – using their brains and books to find a chink in Voldemort’s armor. Snape and Hermione are in love, sure, but their focus is 100% on Voldemort. They even sometimes ‘use’ each other and hide things from each other, if necessary, to the further the fight against Voldemort. These aren’t the kind of people who get swept up in passion and forget their circumstances, and this fic remembers that.

Hermione is absolutely, fabulously, beautifully in character. One thing I especially loved about her is how close she is with Harry and Ron. Many fics shove the boys them out of the picture or villainize them in order to focus on Snape.  Hermione LOVES Harry and Ron and they are absolutely part of her life. This fic seamlessly and believably bridges the gap between her friendship with Ron and Harry and her romance with Snape. She remains close to them all and interacts with them all throughout the story.

Snape is a bit out of character in the beginning (it’s explained – because he is in disguise and because he has his own agenda, but it still bothered me.) My biggest problem with Snape (and Hermione, by extension) is that he introduces sexual talk and content in his first few interactions with Hermione. No way that Snape, alone in the heart of the Death Eaters, would jeopardize his only link to the Order with blatant sexual advances. Especially with Hermione Granger, his former student!  Ridiculous. My face just fell and I groaned in disgust when it happened. As a result, the romance happens way faster than it should.  (The fic is 360k!  Why rush?) There is also way too much smut.  Metric tons, enormous boatloads, full continents, of smut.  WAY too much. Maybe I’m just a prude, but I was annoyed by the amount of sex they had. Multiple times every time they see each other?  Come on.  They have much better things to do with their time.  I didn’t find it believable for either character.  There is also a non-consensual SSHG scene, which I almost always find out of character, but in the context of the moment of this story, I believed Snape might have done it, as difficult as it was for me to read.

Despite my gripes about the early romance and the overabundance of smut, the pacing of the romance and warplot are mostly tight and page-turning. The romance peaks early, yes, but there are little hurdles to be overcome that kept it from feeling resolved and boring. Their romance begins in writing and then must progress to real life. Hermione knows Snape by an alias, and must learn to accept his true identity, essentially resetting the romance (but in an organic, realistic way, not in a Tragic Misunderstanding sort of way.)  The warplot is almost perfectly paced, though I think it sagged a bit in the middle, and there is a little deux ex machina speed cheat in order to find the last few Horcruxes. Ideally, I would edit the entire fic down by 100k  by removing 90% of the smut and tightening up the pacing in the center of the story;  but honestly those are minor gripes in the greater picture.

The dialogue and descriptions are just wondrous.  In my review of ‘For Someone Special’ I called LadyoftheMasque the Reining Queen of Witty Banter and here, 50 epic-length fics later, I support my original assessment.  No one does hilarious, clever dialogue like she does.  Not even JK Rowling.  So many of the conversations, insults, snark, descriptions, and wry observations are pure gold.  For the entire cast of characters, not just Snape and Hermione.  I wish I could write like this.

Super duper gold star to the scene at the end of the story in the courtroom. It was so witty, tied so many lose ends together, and had so many fun reveals, jokes, and cameos.  It was just so…Harry Potter.  It took me back to Hogwarts, and back to that magic.  At the end of the day, isn’t that why we read fan-fiction?

The bottom line: I had read this fic before, and I still stayed up until DAWN finishing it on my re-read, because I couldn’t put it down. I have been reading and reviewing fics for a long time now, and this one thoroughly impressed me, almost without reservation. Skim through the excessive amounts of smut, forgive Snape being a bit too forward in the beginning, and you’ll love this beautifully painful, charmingly whimsical, amazingly clever, deeply romantic adventure.

Vanity – by Wartcap

Link:
https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/vanity-by-wartcap-2005.pdf
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=12541
Linking my own file only because Ashwinder is currently down.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance/Humor, 160k

Warnings: Seventh Year (involving time travel, though), Sexual Content

Hermione has a crush on her Potions Master. Frustrated that he doesn’t have any interest in her, she decides to use her time-turner to meet him on fair ground when he was a student at Hogwarts. The author says she intended to write this as a parody of the ship, but for me it didn’t really read as a parody? It seems to me that there should be a OBVIOUS difference between an earnest fic and a parody. I didn’t even know it was meant to be a parody until I read her notes afterwards.

I have only read one SSHG time-turner fic before. As I started reading, it surprised me that I haven’t seen it more often. After all, not many ships include a student and a professor; for that reason, shouldn’t time-turner fics be rampant in this ship? As I continued reading, I started to realize why we don’t see it often. First, there are the basic time-travel paradoxes; Hermione travels back because Snape is ignoring her, but of course Snape knew all of that time that he loved her because he’d met her in the past…? Secondly, seventh year Severus Snape is in the darkest period of his life. He’s desperate enough to take the Dark Mark. How does one write a light-hearted romance, given that? How do you write Snape’s friends – Rodolphus Lestrange, Macnair, Avery – when we only know them as cruel, evil Death Eaters? Why would Snape take the Dark Mark, after meeting Hermione and having this positive force in his life?

I adored this author’s answer to one of these questions – the young Death Eaters are the Knights of Walpurgis, a Shakespeare-quoting, cloak-swirling, hyper-intelligent group of men.  The pride of Slytherin. (How they turn into monsters who torture people into insanity is not answered, but I enjoyed them in the context of this fic.) The best part of the fic was Hermione’s time spent in the past with teenage Severus and the Knights of Walpurgis.

When Hermione comes back to the present day, the author tells the entirety of The Half-Blood Prince through Hermione’s eyes. I thought this was an clever idea, but the tone was off.  Half-Blood Prince is about the Unbreakable Vow; saving Draco Malfoy, and killing Dumbledore.  Strangely, this fic almost completely ignores all of that.  Hermione and Snape spend most of their time in the bedroom, fighting with McGonagall, attending to their company’s business, playing pranks, etc. I realize the tone is meant to be light-hearted, but come on, it’s Half-Blood Prince! Where are Snape’s meetings with Dumbledore? Order meetings? Death Eater meetings? Why isn’t Hermione trying to figure out what Horcruxes are, or what Draco is up to? None of this happens.  Snape and Hermione are more focused on each other than on Voldemort, Dumbledore, or Harry.  This gets a pass in Classic Era, but in Half-Blood Prince, when Voldemort is on Hogwart’s doorstep, these things cannot be ignored.

All right, I’ve spent a lot of time rambling. Let’s break down the basics. The romance is okay but not great. It peaks too early, earlier than halfway. There is also way too much smut. Hermione is decently in character, although she ignores her friends and interests once falling in love.  Hermione would never do that! As for Snape, he’s softer and less damaged, but given the time travel aspect, a little straying from his character felt natural.  The plotting/pacing is terrible – everything grinds to a halt when Hermione comes back to the present. Honestly, I think the fic should have ended there. Why bother going all of the way through Half-Blood Prince if you aren’t going to address any of the core issues of the story? Everything was trivial nonsense after the halfway point.

I will say that much of the ‘trivial nonsense’ was very, very funny. The author definitely has a gift for wit and clever ideas, though she frequently sacrifices sensible plot and characters for laughs.  McGonagall, Luna, Flitwick are all horribly out of character. There are also a few original characters (cameos only) that are meant to mimic famous SSHG fic authors. I understand that it’s a cute gimmick, an inside joke; but for modern readers it’s an unfunny waste of time.

This review is mostly negative, but there are absolutely some high points; after all, I rated this Exceeds Expectations!  The witty banter is great – wonderful creative and clever lines. The teenage romance and much of the adult romance, is believable and endearing. There are also some really beautiful, tender moments.  Hermione’s first few minutes after coming back to the present are wonderful; one of the best scenes I have read in ANY fic.  The Knights of Walpurgis are beyond amazing. I even enjoyed some of the crazy slapstick style comedy – a battle at Stonehenge comes to mind.  Don’t let me talk you out of this fic with my anti-comedy bias.

Fun fact: An actual JK Rowling quote from a 2003 BBC interview: “…in here is the history of the Death Eaters and I don’t know that I’ll ever actually need it – but at some point – which were once called something different – they were called the Knights of Walpurgis.”  I think it’s amazing that this author used this old sort-of canon name in her fic for the young Death Eaters!  Super extra gold star bonus points.

The bottom line: This is a charming and occasionally beautiful fic. Lots of people adore it. But for me, most of the laughs come at the expense of plot, character, and sense. The flippant tone, set in such a dark era, was frustrating. Overall, I would say that the first third is excellent and worth reading. Read it for the Knights of Walpurgis and a well-written teenage Snape romance. Put it down a few chapters after she comes back to the present, unless you really like a meandering comedic plot and tons of smut.

Irresistible by Kabochan

Link: http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=12151

Rating: Troll

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era , Romance/Angst, 200k

Warnings: Non-consensual SSHG, Evil!Snape, Violence, Sexual Content, Incest, Hermione/Draco

TRIGGER WARNING, don’t read this fic OR this review if you have problems with non-consensual references.

I HATED this fic.  Rant review ahead, because I am utterly repulsed and angry right now.

I don’t think the author MEANT to write Snape as a manipulative sociopathic rapist, but that’s what she did. The Snape in this fic – despite Hermione begging him to leave her alone, saying “NO”, and physically trying to escape – engages her in unwanted sexual contact over and over again until she finally “gives in” and “falls in love” with him. Not only is this grossly, offensively out of character – it goes so far that I would say Snape is the villain of this story.  (If you care about author’s intent, she thinks that Hermione created the tragedy of the story with her indecisiveness.  LOL NO.)

The story starts with Hermione/Draco. The Hermione/Draco in this fic is beautiful, soft, gentle, and convincing, especially in the early chapters. Almost everyone dies in the Battle of Hogwarts except for Draco and Hermione, who bond through their pain and survivor’s guilt.

Snape, another survivor, decides he wants Hermione (because she’s beautiful, not because of her intellect or personality) and stops at nothing to get her. His plan seems to be to shower her with aggressive, unwanted sexual contact, because he is such a SexGod!Snape that she will eventually be addicted to him and spurn Draco. Both Hermione and Draco beg him to leave them alone, over and over again, but he persists, his sexual aggression becoming more insistent and violent. Horrible bonus: Draco is HIS SON, and he knows it. Undeterred, he still continues wrest Hermione away from Draco by abusing her and convincing her that her body’s positive response means that she loves him (NO.) By the end of the story, Draco Malfoy is a shattered shell of himself, totally destroyed by Snape’s (his father’s!!!!111) machinations.

I don’t insist that Snape be a courteous Romantic Hero; in fact, I give those portrayals bad reviews.  Evil!Snape can be beautifully written, with backstory, shame, and insight.  But this Snape, this sexually aggressive cruel man, is presented as the romantic hero without apology.  This is the heart of the repulsive nature of this fic. The author writes these sexual assaults as though the are sexy and romantic. It was extremely disconcerting and upsetting for me to read. I kept thinking, ‘Maybe I’m over-thinking this,’ or ‘Surely that is the only time.’ I was wrong. I have a strong aversion to reading a self-proclaimed SSHG story that presents a Snape as vile as this.  It’s woefully out of character

In case you think I might be overreacting, here’s a link to some of the comments  You’ll see that most of the readers agree with me and were extremely upset by Snape’s behavior. The author responds politely to most of them, insisting it is not rape because Hermione was conflicted.  That when she said, “NO,” what she meant was, “I don’t know.”  Sorry, but someone who says NO means NO.  And regardless of the ‘was it rape’ question, a Snape who would push someone ‘conflicted’ into having sex is still utterly despicable and woefully out of character.  Read these comments and the author’s reply for yourself and make your own decision.  http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/reviews.php?sid=12626&a=1

The bottom line: Hermione is sexually assaulted by Snape for the first half of the fic, and then sexually assaulted by Draco for the second.  Hermione is a helpless, directionless, spineless marshmallow.  Snape is a violent sexual predator lech. It is absolutely not SSHG and does not belong on any SSHG lists.  I only include it here to warn people away from it.

Unlikely Partners – by Dafina

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2539247/1/Unlikely-Partners

Rating: Acceptable Plus

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance/Angst, 110k

Warnings: Seventh Year, Sexual Content, Violence, Remus/Tonks

I was very close to putting this as one rating higher; but the last few chapters were so weak that I decided to downgrade it. This is probably the best of my Acceptable Plus reviews, at least currently. It’s readable and enjoyable, with no moments that really irritated me; but it also lacked high points. No gripping action, deliriously romantic tension, or clever “A-ha’s!” It was simply ‘pretty okay’ all of the way through.

I think the largest problem is the Mary Sue syndrome in the fic. There is a magical deity who is fixated on Snape and Hermione as the saviors of the wizarding world. Voldemort is jealous of Severus’ power (LOL.) Hermione is a rare beautifully bright pure soul who is wounded by Voldemort’s presence. Their love is a transcendent soul bond. Just eyeroll after eyeroll of lavish praise and circumstance bestowed upon our heroes. These characters are best written as two who bond because of isolating intellectualism, in my opinion. To have them as superheroes in transcendent love is just silly.

Following that criticism, you might have guessed that both characters are slightly out of character. Neither is as witty or biting as they should be. Snape, especially, is way too concerned about Hermione’s welfare. He’s a double-agent Death Eater spy. His life is extremely stressful and FULL to the brim. He doesn’t have time to spend entire days teaching Hermione Occlumency so she can bear Voldemort’s presence. And certainly, if he brought himself to do that, he wouldn’t be concerned and courteous. He would be annoyed at the inconvenience and snipe at her the entire time!  Hermione, similarly, seems to lose her agency after falling in love. They consider committing an act that would remove Harry’s magic permanently (for the greater good) and Hermione doesn’t even consider, mention, or even seem to think about the repercussions of that for HER BEST FRIEND. Even if it’s logically right course of action, she should have had a lot of inner turmoil about causing such harm to her friend; it’s not even mentioned.

Another problem is the action pacing; we spend almost half of the fic in the first few days thoroughly exploring minor events, yet the last few chapters fast-forward through incredibly important events with short summaries. I would say the author was bored with the fic and wanted to sum up, except that she wrote a(n unfinished) sequel! It seemed like she enjoyed the build-up but didn’t know what to do once the romantic tension had burst. As a reader, I felt quite the same.

That said, the fic does do a lot right. The Voldemort Death Plot is extremely clever and interesting, and one that I had never read. It’s something that could have believably happened in the books and been amazing. (Certainly better than, ‘Draco disarmed Dumbledore and Harry disarmed Draco,’ but I digress.)  The writer has a knack for coming up with totally original ideas that still believably fit into the wizarding world.

The romance does progress at the proper pace – maybe a tiny bit too fast, but acceptable. he smut is written well. Unfortunately, after consummation, the romance becomes totally unbelievable and non-compelling.  In the latter sections of the story, they have transformed into Generic Leading Man and Lady; a common problem in fanfiction, but especially horrible in this fic. There’s a bit of telepathy and soul-bond action, which is one of my favorite plot devices, though the payoff of the telepathy is low because of the blandness of the characters.  No witty mind-sarcasm to be found. I do like the use of Occlumency/Legilmency to bring the characters together; but again, the good idea does not bear fruit of any kind.

The bottom line: This fic was written by a good writer; it’s well plotted and very creative. However, the writer did not have a deep understanding of Hermione and Snape and the story suffers greatly for it.  The story is littered with good ideas that lack payoff and satisfaction, either of the romantic kind or the action kind. It’s an acceptable read but I’d put it at the very bottom of your ‘decent’ list because of the bland characterizations.