Chocolate Enchantment – by Vivian B

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/4706835/1/Chocolate-Enchantment

Rating: Acceptable Plus

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

Warnings: Non-Con Pregnancy (sex was consensual, pregnancy was not), Seventh Year, Violence

Triggerish warning for this review.

Fred and George place a special potion into the Hogwarts biscuits; one that makes people aware of their own soulmates, if they happen to touch each other. It was meant to be a harmless prank, but the ancient and very serious potion has lasting consequences for a flabbergasted and enraged Hermione Granger and Severus Snape.

There is one important thing you should know about this rating; it dropped about a full rating in the course of several chapters, where something that deeply offended me was presented as easily forgiveable and understandable. I’ll get into it later so you can judge for yourself whether or not it would bother you, but I thought it fair to mention that the fic certainly qualifies for a higher rating, if you subtract my disgust and rage over that one particular incident.

I very much enjoyed the beginning of this fic. The ‘potions accident’ trope is something that was often used in the Classic Era, and I haven’t seen it much, if at all, in Half-Blood Prince. It was refreshing to see the crew in their Sixth Year at Hogwarts (the book includes the events of the Half-Blood Prince, happening off-screen) and to have a soul mate potion as the inciting incident. The difficulty with these potions is, of course, the forced intimacy it creates. It’s rather difficult to write an exciting romance when the protagonists are being forced together emotionally and physically by an outside force like a potion (or a marriage law, or a kidnapping, blah blah…I can’t remember the last time I read a fic where they just fell in love of their own accord.) The romance progressed much too quickly for my tastes; marriage and consummation happen in the early chapters of fic. That leaves the reader 180k of warplot to muddle through.

That said, the warplot was well-written and enjoyable. The author really takes her time with each Horcrux, coming up with clever ideas and implementing them in realistic ways. The Trio, realizing that Horcruxes are a bit too much for them to tackle alone, recruits Order members on the quest when their expertise is needed – Bill Weasley for Curse-breaking and disabling of Cursed objects, McGonagall for Animagus training, Lupin and Tonks for Ward-building and training, etc. Each Order member only knows their specific piece of the puzzle, so no one is given full knowledge of their Horcrux quest. Additionally, the Trio takes a cerebral, let’s-plan-ahead approach to defeating Voldemort. They talk about the best plan for defeating him and develop a spell that will let them accomplish that. They study Occlumency and hexes. They take a Muggle police approach and put their current knowledge up on a board to consider visually, which gives them a breakthrough in the Horcrux hunt. The Trio in this story are smarter and more careful than the real Trio, and for me, that was very enjoyable.

Hermione and Snape’s characterizations are where we run in to trouble. I found Snape to be too possessive and domineering – not horribly, but just a bit. Hermione is a bit of a GentleAngel!Hermione, too pliant and open to his manipulation and demands, with too many people in love with her. As an example of what I mean – someone (Lupin, Ron, Bill at intervals) grip her upper arm and leave bruises, and then Snape gets enraged about it. He casts an ancient Greek spell on her that shocks anyone who touches her with romantic intent (no spell on himself that does the same.) The spell also allows him to ‘call her to his side’ at any moment (no spell for her to do the same.) Misogynistic nonsense. None of it seems to bother Hermione. This makes the romance between them quite wooden, with him constantly ‘crushing her lips’ and her ‘sinking into his arms’ and other generalized romance cliches that do not belong to this pairing. I rolled my eyes quite a bit at the romance scenes.

Despite my annoyances, I was still very much enjoying the fic – until Snape purposefully and intentionally gets Hermione pregnant without her knowledge or consent. In fact, she believes that he is giving her Contraceptive Potions and has expressed that she has no wish to get pregnant. Voldemort says that he wants Snape to get Hermione pregnant in order to enrage Harry. THE REAL Severus Snape would have discussed this with Hermione and probably the entire Order before taking action, but this Snape takes it upon himself to give her a Fertility Potion, and let her be pregnant for a long time, unbeknownst to her, without saying a word. She puts herself and the child in considerable danger by turning into her Animagus form, taking serious injury while destroying Horcruxes, Apparating, etc., because she does not know about the pregnancy. Snape apparently doesn’t consider this. That is bad enough, but willfully impregnating her against her wishes is unforgivable. It is just as bad or worse than physical rape. It is life-rape.

And let me be clear – there is no explanation. There is no reason for him not to tell her. Snape even thinks to himself, ‘I should tell her right now, but she’ll be so upset, and I just can’t deal with that right now.’ That’s his reasoning, apparently. Emotional inconvenience. I would not have forgiven him so easily – I very well might never have spoken to him again. I would still meet him once a fortnight for a tryst so I wouldn’t die of potion-induced madness, but I would shut him out of my life completely, or at least for a very long time. I usually am pretty calm and prefer characters to be calm, but this is one situation that required Unspeakable Rage (while still listening to explanations first of course, which Snape does not have in this case.) But no, Hermione basically shrugs it off and is happily engaging in sexual activity with him just hours afterwards. I was shocked and furious. I actually quit reading at that point and skimmed to the end.

I have spent a lot of this review complaining, but I want to emphasize again how well-written the fic was, and how much fun the fully-functioning, fully-intelligent Order and Trio were. There is a lot of good here, despite my previous two paragraphs.

The bottom line: Read it for an excellent Horcrux adventure and great writing. If you don’t mind a domineering Snape, and the non-consensual pregnancy doesn’t enrage you, definitely give it a try. For me, the romance was a bit too bodice-ripper cliche and I could not forgive the purposefully-inflicting-an-undesired-pregnancy-upon-an-unknowing-woman issue.

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Snape’s Boon – by AMR

Link: https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/amr-snapes-boon.pdf
This one doesn’t seem to be hosted online currently; I’m hosting my own copy until it’s up on a proper archive again.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance/Drama, 100k

Warnings: Non-Con, Pregnancy, Seventh Year

Hermione Granger wakes up from a long coma, suffering from memory loss. The last thing she remembers is taking the Hogwarts Express for her Seventh Year. Little by little, she pieces her life and her memory back together.

I first read this fic in 2006 when it was originally published. I did a full re-read for this review.

In my last few reviews, I complained about many Half-Blood Prince era fics being the same. Hermione is kidnapped by the Death Eaters, Snape ‘rescues’ her by claiming her, and they are forced to pretend they’re more intimate than they are for the benefit of the Death Eaters. However, I had to shut my mouth after reading this fic. It’s the EXACT same story elements, but it is leaps and bounds better than the fics I’ve previously read with this plot. Almost all of the complaints I had with those fics are thoughtfully addressed here.

In bad HPB fics, Hermione (and the author) seem to forget about or disregard the question of where Snape’s loyalties truly lie. In this fic, it’s one of the very first questions Hermione asks, and she’s constantly evaluating the evidence available, trying to piece together the truth. THIS is what an in-character Hermione is like! She is on top of the situation; hungrily eating up all of the information that she can obtain, making clever use of it when the time is right. Snape is also in character; he is polite and protective, but from a distance. He does not give away or offer any more than the bare minimum. I think he maybe is a tiny bit too open and kind, but I could believe it in the context of the fic; he must have been feeling guilty and wanting to comfort the traumatized Hermione.

There is a brilliant and enjoyable hook to this fic. Hermione wakes up with memory loss, and slowly recalls the events that she has missed as part of a storytelling therapy. I intensely curious (even though the premise is a bit guessable.) I just couldn’t wait to uncover the forgotten secrets in her mind. I found this storytelling premise refreshing; it was interesting to see the reactions of her friends and family to her confusion and mis-attribution. They can’t tell her what has happened, because that might interfere with her memory recovery. They have to be silent and let her piece things together herself. Very well done!

I want to re-iterate the intelligent ideas and self-aware characters in this fic. The author comes up with one of the most brilliant dueling ideas I have ever read about – using Legilmancy to see what spells your opponent will cast before he or she casts them. WHAT? AMAZING! Right? The Golden Trio develops their Occlumency skills in order to prevent duelists from reading the spells in their minds. There are many little things like this; the author is able to put together puzzle pieces from the Harry Potter stories in clever ways that make sense. It helps the fic to feel like a continuation of the real books. She’s not just playing in the HP sandbox, she’s adding entirely new toys to the playground.

The romance is just okay. ‘Kidnapped by Death Eaters’ creates the same artificial intimacy as ‘Marriage Law’ fics and the romance is not allowed to grow slowly and organically. It is believeable and it is not rushed, but these artificial intimacy fics can never be as scintillating or exciting as a romance blooming strictly from common interest and attraction. There is also a problem with the romantic pacing of the fic; everything is resolved and consummated about halfway through. There is no smut or sexual content, if that is a concern for you. Even the very-important-to the-plot non-con scene is politely skipped over.

In the first half of the fic, I really thought that I was going to give this my top rating. Unfortunately, the plot deteriorates quickly after the mid-way point. It’s one of those fics where the action is resolved, and the romance is resolved, and Voldemort is defeated…yet the fic just keeps chugging along. It’s as if there is a 40k epilogue. An entire chapter about a special ceremony. An entire chapter about the trial of a minor character that we don’t care about. An entire chapter about the history of Hermione’s family name. Just…why? If the author wanted to include these elements, it should have been done before the action or romance was resolved. To have it stapled to the end of the fic is tedious and quite frankly, boring. I was so disappointed that such a clever, interesting fic meandered into nothing.

The bottom line: It’s an exciting and page-turning fic with intelligent, in-character heroes. The premise is familiar, but it is rejuvenated by the exciting ‘storytelling memory recovery’ hook. I fully recommend the first half of the fic for any fan of the pairing (if you can stomach the warnings.) Consider putting it down when the action winds down, as the last half of the fic is essentially a 40k epilogue.

The Flight of the Prince – by southernwitch69

Link: http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=3835

Rating: Acceptable

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

Warnings: Seventh Year, Sexual Content, Violence, Dubious Consent (seemed more like Non-Con to me)

The Golden Trio hunts down the Horcruxes needed in order to defeat Voldemort, both helped and hindered by Severus Snape.

More southernwitch69! I have really enjoyed the growth arc that she seems to have had as an author. I rated her early fics badly, but I did insist that they were full of good ideas. I rated a couple others ‘Acceptable’ and was amazed how much she’d grown. Here we are with another ‘Acceptable’. I was tickled to see, when I looked at her Petulant Poetess profile, that she has continued writing all the way up to the present day! It seems as though I can look forward to many more southernwitch69 fics in my chronological journey.

This one was a pretty big miss for me, unfortunately. I think I preferred at least one of her older fics more than this. Like most of her stories, the writing is acceptable but lackluster; usually her fics are saved by her very imaginative and enjoyable ideas. This fic felt very expected for the period. Hermione kidnapped by Severus they fall in love. She learns that there is another side to Death Eaters. The trio hunts the Horcruxes in her absence. I just read a fic in the last week that had almost the exact same plot, down to the Rabastan Lestrange as the friendly Death Eater. (“Shades” by Orm Irian.) Without the author’s usual inventive ideas, it’s difficult to find something to praise in this story.

Her characterizations are off in the way that they almost always are – Snape is extremely commanding and possessive, a hyper masculine version of himself. The characterization has come a long way since her early fics, but it’s still off. He’s very nearly a tough-guy cop trope; always knows what to do, always barking orders, always in charge, always cool. That’s just not Snape. Similarly, Hermione is a bit too passive and timid. She doesn’t even try to escape her kidnapping until Draco comes up with a plan. She lets Ron and Harry bully her into ideas that she knows are bad. She spends too much time worrying about physical intimacy with Ron and Snape, and not enough time worrying about Voldemort, loyalties, and escape. As a positive, the Harry in this fic was quite good. He seemed to be the only one in the story focused on Voldemort and thinking with his head instead of his heart.

The romance was disappointing. They came together physically through lust, time, and proximity rather than coming together cerebrally through getting to know each other. They had to pretend to be intimate for the benefit of the Death Eaters, and they had to sleep in the same bed together. Of course they were going to fall in love! They had ever incentive to do so. For me, that is not interesting. I want to see them come together despite the circumstances because they are drawn to each other’s minds. They are very compatible; you don’t have to stick them in the same bed together for them to fall in love. I don’t enjoy that premise.

Lastly, I have sort of a weird recommendation: skip the first chapter. Snape does something extremely out of character that made me upset and almost made me put down the fic. The writing improves after the first chapter, and the uncomfortable event does not take place again.

The bottom line: It’s average writing quality and a too-familiar plot. The very definition of ‘Acceptable.’ There is a bit of bad (terrible first chapter, boring romance) and a bit of good (Malfoys hiding in the Weasley’s chicken coop, Harry.) It will satisfy that fan-fiction itch for you though, I think.

Accountable – by Dyce

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/3245929/1/Accountable

Rating: Outstanding Minus

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

Warnings: Seventh Year, Pregnancy, Dubious Consent

At the Victory Celebration at the end of the war, a drunken Hermione Granger acts on her long-held crush and seduces her even-more-inebriated Potions Master. A month later, she has to deal with the consequences of her actions.

This is going to be a very long review, because there is so much ‘context’ required for the review of this fic. I don’t normally include the backstory of the fics or the kind of impact they had on the fandom, but I could tell from the Author’s Notes that some serious stuff was going down in the fandom as a result of this fic. I ended up Googling a bit afterwards and reading about the controversy. While I was not directly involved with WIKTT where the drama took place, I was LJ friends with many authors and a member of all of the LJ fic communities, and I remember hearing about the controversy second-hand as it was happening. I feel as though I should include the controversy and the effect it had on the ship in my review, because it’s very interesting, and I think will make the fic more interesting to my readers. It was an important moment in the fandom, and I want to throw my two cents on the pile, all of these years later.

::begin history and context::

So, let’s start with a history lesson. When Harry Potter fan-fiction first started, most of it was on fanfiction.net. There was a small community already established on ff.net – the anime community, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, etc (I was a part of that. I wrote a Sailor Moon fanfiction in 1998, on ff.net, lol.) Harry Potter fics, of course, basically took over the site. However, ff.net had a lot of annoying restrictions, and as the fandom grew, fan archives started appearing, freeing us from the restrictions of ff.net.

One of the biggest community hubs for sharing for SSHG fiction was a Yahoo! mailing list called, “When I Kissed The Teacher” – WIKTT. The vibrant community there had an enormous impact on the ship. They would post challenges, such as the ‘Marriage Law’ challenge, that would spawn thousands of fanfics (many of them beloved epics that I have reviewed on my site.) While it was awesome to have such a strong community, there was a bit of groupthink that started to take place, as is the case with any organized creative group. The definition of the ship began to narrow; anything irregular would be pounced on and thoroughly discussed.

Some started to think of WIKTT as a bit cancerous, and become exhausted with the ship as a result of WIKTT’s dominance. Many felt that homogenized ‘Fanon’ versions of the characters were emerging as a result of everyone collaborating so closely. Some left the ship and drifted to other fandoms or pairings, but those who wanted to remain a part of the ship without WIKTT started community more heavily on LJ in their own filtered groups, rather than using the WIKTT system. Some even stared private or invite-only fiction archive websites. Many WIKTT users perceived this as snobbery and elitism. Tensions were high.

Around this time, ‘Accountable’ began posting. It was posted on ff.net, that old neutral site, so one would not expect it to become a breaking point in the fandom’s tensions that would cause people to abandon WIKTT and the ship as a whole in droves, but it did. Why?

As you can see in my ‘Warnings’ section, this fic touches on the topics of dubious consent and abortion. (No abortion takes place in the fic, and the dubious consent is complex and thoughtful, especially if you finish reading the story and receive the full, spoilery picture of the event.) All sides of both topics are considered and represented fairly, in my opinion. However, a few people in the WIKTT list commented about the fic in outrage. Given the high tensions in the community, it was just the wrong topic at the wrong time. Some who harbored growing resentment about WIKTT’s groupthink and pearl-clutching decided to take a stand and defend the fic. De-hard WIKTTers flamed right back, defending themselves.

More and more ‘famous’ community figures got involved in the argument, and it quickly escalated into an all out war, eventually spilling over to LiveJournal and everywhere else. Pages upon pages upon pages of vitriol was spewed on both sides. People flounced from the community. Rants about the state of the community were all over LJ. Authors left the ship in droves; if a well-written and intelligent fic like ‘Accountable’ could be undeservedly eviscerated, anything could. The ship was was now seen as over-dramatic and judgmental; no longer safe to participate in, let alone to share one’s intimate writings with. (Dyce, the author of ‘Accountable’ never wrote again for SSHG. No surprise.) Blood was all over the walls, and for what? For an intelligent, thoughtful fic that barely touched on a couple of controversial topics? This was not about Dyce’s fic – this was about the state of the ship.

By my estimation, ‘Accountable’ marked the apex of the ship’s community; it was no longer ascending, but descending.

Many beautiful high-quality SSHG stories were still being written and released (and still are) but community is a powerful thing and losing our big safe space was a blow. LiveJournal, by default, became the main community hub of the ship, but you had to be friends with the right people in order to keep up and it just wasn’t the same. Fic rec and fic award communities slowly wound down and disappeared. And of course, Deathly Hallows coming out and the end of Harry Potter happened only a few months later. The end of an era.

‘Accountable’ did not deserve this fate or this reputation. It may have brought up controversial topics, but they were approached with thoughtfulness and intelligence, and not overly dwelled upon. Plenty of other fics approached these same topics in crude or judgmental ways, but ‘Accountable’ was respectful and philosophical. It simply had the extremely bad luck to be the spark that ignited the house; a house that had been filling with gas for months.

::end history and context::

All right, let’s get to an actual review of the fic itself.

The greatest strength of this fic is how exceptionally well-written it is. I do not like pregnancy fics; in fact there are a few pregnancy fics I have skipped (and bookmarked to go back to) in my chronological review list because I have such an aversion to them. Not only that, but I found the inciting incident beyond believability – Hermione, throwing herself at Snape while they were both drunk? What? But in the context of the story; given the level of her contrition, her acknowledgement of her stupidity in forgetting a Contraceptive Charm, and the strength of her characterization, it did seem plausible (the end of the story explains the situation much more fully and removes all question marks of consent, but it would be a spoiler to explain.) Much can be forgiven with intelligent writing and thoughtful explanations. I was drawn in to the characters and to the scene, and the things that bothered me paled in comparison to the quality of the writing.

I very much enjoyed the setting of this fic. Many Half-Blood Prince fics are set away from Hogwarts and involve the search for the Horcruxes. I was refreshed by the idea of a post-victory Seventh Year at Hogwarts. The author included a fantastic examination of the after-effects of the war. Everyone is back at school, as though everything is normal, but how can things be normal? Slytherin would be torn apart by the losses and turncoats. Professors would have a hard time taking away House points for minor offenses, after fighting side-by-side with their students in a violent conflict. Many would experience PTSD. People would deal with the after-effects in different ways, due to their experiences and individual personalities. There was a beautiful scene with Snape and Colin Creevey, of all people, that nearly had me in tears. On the other hand, plenty of students were not involved in the war at all. How does Professor Lupin teach Defense to a class half-filled with war veterans, and half-filled with totally inexperienced children?

Hogwarts itself felt like a character in this fic. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are present and represented (shocking!) Many minor students are fleshed out and playfully examined, just as they are in the real ‘Harry Potter.’ Everyone feels unique, quirky, and ‘real.’ When is the last time you read an enjoyable Millicent Bulstrode? Never, for me, but she’s excellent in this fic. Did you wonder what became of Marrieta Edgecomb? And the biggest gold star of all – Severus Snape fully acting in his capacity as Slytherin Head of House. Of all of the fics I have read, never once have I read a thoughtful examination of the political inner-workings and ideals of Slytherin, but it is beautifully presented here. Snape is magnificent in his capacity as Head of his broken House.

Now that I’ve gone on and on about Hogwarts (the real main character of the fic) let’s proceed to the romance. It is well-paced and proceeds slowly, but for me it was a lackluster because of the major inciting incident of the pregnancy. The forced intimacy of bearing a child together makes the romance between them welcomed, preferred. That removes all of the sexiness from it, for me. If they are open to the idea of romance with each other, there is far less restraint, far less sexual tension. The best romance is a scintillating, unbidden thing. Here, we merely have a polite courtship. There is also no smut at all, if that is a concern for you.

Lastly, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. I am sure the ‘history’ part of this review leads you to believe that this is some highly shocking, politicized fic, but it isn’t, at all. When you read the fic, you will find it hard to believe that it created such controversy, just as I did. Abortion is barely mentioned, no abortion takes place, and all sides are thoughtfully and respectfully represented. The ‘dubious consent’ issue is a non-issue by the end of the fic, and also handled with the utmost consideration and acknowledgement of its seriousness. Don’t avoid this fic because of these difficult topics. They are NOT what this fic is about, they are barely present, and when they are present, they are handled with fairness and gentle thoughtfulness.

Edit 5/2017: A commenter noted that from my review, she was expecting a stern, serious, fic, and I wanted to edit to emphasize: this is not that! There are many parts that are absolutely hilarious, brilliant, and fun. It’s a multi-faceted fic with light-hearted hijinks, serious sad moments, and intriguing philosophical moments all in turn…just like Harry Potter itself. This is well-rounded reading.

Bonus: I strongly recommend ‘Survivors’ by Dyce as well. It will not be reviewed on this site because it is only 50k, but it is excellent.

The bottom line: I dislike the pregnancy aspect and the watering-down effect it had on the romantic tension, but the rest of this fic is incredibly strong and I recommend it to any fan of the pairing. I usually use text-to-speech programs and listen to fics while I work, but this one was so good that I had to take a day off and read it with my eyes, because I couldn’t put it down. I especially recommend it to those who love Hogwarts as a character, because there is a thoughtful and beautiful examination of its Houses and its healing process after the War.

This fic is a love letter to Hogwarts, and to ‘Harry Potter’ as a whole. It is so sad that it became a scapegoat in the SSHG shipping wars. Thank you for this gift, Dyce, and on behalf of the ship, I am sorry.

Saving Your Life – by lilmisblack

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/3210262/1/Saving-your-life

Rating: Poor

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Action/Romance, 250k

Warnings: Borderline Non-con, Sexual Content, Violence

Hermione is kidnapped by Death Eaters and Severus Snape feigns a relationship with her in order to save her life.

This is not a good story. Sometimes I am tempted just to write, ‘This story is terrible’ and leave the review at that, but I suppose I am obliged to write more than that. After all, this story has 1200 reviews on fanfiction.net; clearly, some readers enjoyed it.

This felt like a ‘Classic Era’ fic to me, and not in a good way. It seemed to be written by someone young and inexperienced in the world, who did not understand love, logical thinking, or adult responsibilities. The love between Hermione and Severus in this fic is lust-based and physical, without reason or explanation. They have many tragic misunderstandings that arise from not listening to each other. Hermione forgets about her friends, her schoolwork, and the war, lost in her newfound relationship.

There is entirely too much smut. There is also not enough reason given for the early smut; it seems that physical intimacy is Severus and Hermione’s ‘cover’ or something, but that explanation is threadbare and not really followed through on. There needs to be a MUCH better explanation for that level of intimacy between adult Death Eater Snape and school girl Hermione. Just confusing and bad.

The biggest crime of this fic, though, is the low quality of writing. For me it was almost unreadable – I started skimming right from the beginning. To the author’s credit, the writing does improve as the fic progresses. I would be interested to read something else that she wrote after this. But for this fic, the improvement was not enough. Even the final chapters are wooden, basic, and tough to read.

The bottom line: It’s a very young-author-feeling, low-quality fic that might have passed for decent in the Classic Era when fics were hard to come by and we were all kids, but it’s unreadable for adults. It improves a lot by the end, but not enough. Not recommended.

Spinster – by LadyoftheMasque

Link: http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=8126

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Humor/Snark/Romance, 100k

Warnings: NC-17, Sexual Content, Alternate Universe, PWP-esque

In the weeks following the final battle of the Wizarding War, Hermione Granger adopts a miserable-looking stray black cat that follows her home. Unbeknowst to her, little Puss-in-Boots is her former Potions professor, Severus Snape.

First of all, full disclosure, LadyoftheMasque is my favorite fan-fiction author that I’ve yet read, and her stories are among my favorites of all time. I was delighted to see another one of her works come up on my chronological ‘To Review’ list. I have read this story before and did a full re-read for this review.

There is very little plot, but that doesn’t stop the fic from being enjoyable and page-turning. You don’t need a plot to have an engaging story, not when you write the kind of charming and witty dialogue that this story does. It almost seemed as though the author was being intentionally tongue-in-cheek about the sillier aspects of the story. A hilariously obvious dues ex machina takes place when Hermione’s wealthy aunt dies, leaving her and Snape her entire fortune; so they are free to pursue their dreams without worrying about finances. “Great Aunt Eumenia.” Definitely tongue-in-cheek.

The characterizations are very good, but imperfect. I find Snape to be a bit too open. I also found both Hermione and Snape to be exceptionally arrogant and rude, often to people who do not deserve it. Sure, canon Snape is arrogant and can be acerbic, but in this fic, Hermione is just as bad, or worse. Being of higher intelligence does not mean that you can scoff at everyone else as inferiors, at least not publicly. Snape and Hermione treat everyone, deserved or undeserved, as third-rate dunderheads. It bothered me. Ron is extremely out of character. I don’t like Ron any more than the next SSHG fan – he’s a bit of a scapegoat for us – but he deserves better than this fic gives him.

There is also way too much smut, but that is the case with every LadyoftheMasque fic. The smut is very well-written and has a progressive arc to it, but there’s just way too much of it, for my tastes. I think the best romance for epic-length fics is slow-simmering and full of growing tension. This one fast forwards through all of that because of the forced intimacy of Snape being her cat. There is still a bit of romantic development after he’s turned into a man, but they’re already comfortable with each other and have their walls down, so the most interesting part of the romance is glossed over, in my estimation.

This story transforms a silly fluff premise with almost no plot into an excellent 100k epic-length tale, without stretching the words too thin. It seemed too quick and as though it ended too soon, if anything. I suppose it’s just extremely high quality writing. The pages fly by enjoyable, because they are filled with clever dialogue rather than descriptions of actions. There is so much charm and cleverness packed in to to every chapter, without the pretentiousness that often weighs down intelligent stories. Just wonderful.

The bottom line: Even the ‘worst’ of LadyoftheMasque’s stories is required reading, my friends. It’s good for almost any fan of the pairing, unless you are in the mood for something serious. Skim the overlong smut scenes and forgive Hermione for being a bit arrogant towards her friends, and you’ll very much enjoy it.

Shades – by Orm Irian

Link: http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=4221

Rating: Acceptable Plus

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Adventure/Drama, 130k

Warnings: Seventh Year, LoyalDeatheater!Snape, Sexual Content, Violence

Hermione Granger is captured by the Death Eaters and guarded as a prisoner by Severus Snape.

When I first started reading Half-Blood Prince era fan-fiction, I loved the idea of people re-writing Deathly Hallows from an SSHG point of view. Now, about halfway through the Half-Blood Prince epics, I’m so very tired of this premise. There was so much we knew about Deathly Hallows; most authors guess the Horcruxes correctly, and Voldemort-defeat gimmicks are all pretty much the same, too. I think my review of this fic might suffer a bit from my exhaustion with this particular era. However, at the end of the day, it’s the author’s job to come up with something new and interesting to set his or her fanfic apart. This author did not do that.

Both Snape and Hermione are a bit out of character. I found Hermione to be a bit too willing to befriend and assist the Death Eaters; there was just not enough Gryffindor defiance in her demeanor. Snape was even more out of character. In this fic, he is a loyal Death Eater. I would be okay with that, but it requires explanation. WHY does he support Voldemort? Self-preservation? Actual belief in purity of blood? Some sort of Unbreakable Vow? It was never examined or explained. He doesn’t seem to really care either way. Similarly, Hermione doesn’t seem to care about his allegiance, either! Maybe the author assumed that killing Dumbledore meant that he was LoyalDeatheater!Snape and that the point was moot, but clearly the author is deeply lacking in her understanding of Snape, if that is the case.

Grumpy tangent: When I read ‘Lightning-Struck Tower’ for the first time, I screamed and threw my book across the room. I was HORRIFIED and I knew, I just knew, that there was more to the story. I was determined to find it. An SSHG author who lazily accepts ‘Whelp, guess he’s Voldemort’s man…’ without further probing or consideration is a big problem for me.

This lack of logic and cerebral consideration was a problem throughout the fic. Hermione and Snape seemed to be mostly victims of circumstance; neither seemed to plot, plan, or take any action to determine the course of their lives. Harry and the Order take the actions that end the war, while Snape and Hermione go on walks and look at star charts. What? Passive, accidental protagonists do not a great story make.

Yes, Harry defeats Voldemort, and hunts down all of the Horcruxes, and does all of the research. We spend about half of the fic with Harry, Ron, and the Order, because obviously prisoner-Hermione cannot aid them. I understand why this was necessary, but doesn’t it seem like bad plotting? I could understand it a bit more if the author had tried to paint Snape in ‘shades of gray’ (doesn’t the title seem to infer that?) and had Hermione come around to understand the reasons behind his blended morality. The Harry scenes could then serve as a contrast; the ‘white’ and how it was not really any different from the ‘black.’ JK Rowling attempted to do something like this in Deathly Hallows by exploring the darker side of Dumbledore, and the lighter side of Snape. It’s a very interesting theme, but the lack of proper characterizations and the clumsy plotting prevented the theme from being explored in this fic. Harry seems good, Voldemort seems bad, and Snape seems passively disinterested (NOT his character, and not ‘gray.’)

We have yet to arrive at the biggest problem of this fic, namely: no romantic tension. The fic goes from ‘barely tolerable friendship’ to ‘sex’ in one very confusing chapter. The author’s notes for the chapter mentioned that she received negative feedback for the abrupt change, and that she had gone back and edited it in a bit more ‘hints’ about the future romance. I read the future version, obviously, and let me tell you, there is no romantic tension (nor should it be crammed into just one chapter, even if there were!) Additionally, there is no romantic resolution at the end of the fic. Considering that, this fic is basically, ‘Snape and Hermione have casual sex for a while, Harry defeats Voldemort, and everyone goes back to their lives.’

I must focus on the positives at least for a paragraph. It’s ‘Acceptable Plus’, after all, which is a pretty high rating from me. The fic was page-turning, which might sound like faint praise, but after reading hundreds of fics, I am excited when I find one that actually sparks my interest and keeps me reading past my bedtime. The plot moves along quickly; we don’t stay in one place for too long and there is always a bit of excitement in each chapter. The writing quality is also good; you can tell the author is well-read with a nice vocabulary and her words flow together nicely. (Bonus points for including a Lord of the Rings reference in almost every chapter.)

The bottom line: Well-written and engaging with some very nice moments, but the characterizations are off and the romance arc is a mess. I would recommend this to almost any fan of the pairing as a light Classic-era type read. Be ready for the unsatisfying ending, and be ready to spend half the fic with Harry and the Order. Skip it entirely if you are looking for something deep or complex.