A Walking Shadow – by Ariadne
Rating: Exceeds Expectations Minus
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Angst/Drama, 130k
Warnings: Extreme angst, light sexual content, weird scenes that might be non-con but I can’t really tell?
Hermione Granger, Severus Snape, myth, the past, the future, the heart, and a dark phoenix work together in a Dark Arthimancy equation that foretells the fate of the Wizarding War.
This is the most difficult to review fic I have encountered yet. It took me 5 months to read, partially because I picked it up at the tail end of one of my reading ‘cycles’, and partially because I wasn’t enjoying it at all. So, why didn’t I just skip to the end and review it, like I normally do for fics I don’t enjoy? I couldn’t bear to do that because the writing is spectacular. It wasn’t skippable, but it also wasn’t readable. Hence, an almost 5 month break in my fan-fiction review. But tonight, I finally finished it! Phew!
I want to lay some groundwork before I explain my major gripe with this fic. My favorite author is Virginia Woolf. I find her style of dark, lyrical prose-poems extremely beautiful. I enjoy fractured narratives and the beauty in searching through her words to find meaning, fractured meanings, many meanings. My college thesis was on ‘The Waves.’ Now, saying all of that…
This fic is way too dark, way too lyrical, and the narrative is way too metaphorical. I was so frustrated reading this; especially the first quarter or so (the fic progressively becomes more linear.) I would read entire chapters and have /no idea/ what had transpired. Even the authors notes mention reader questions with, ‘You aren’t supposed to know’ or ‘enjoy the journey’ answers. The writing is very beautiful at times, but it just isn’t beautiful enough to support this kind of narrative structure. The author is clearly very gifted, but not Virginia-Woolf-level gifted. To use this style of writing for a Snape/Hermione fanfiction is extremely ambitious and I commend her for it, but for me, it just did not work. A dark lyrical prose-poem that does not contain enough beauty or truth to create a sense of wonder is a VERY difficult read.
I will attempt to break down this fic with my usual criteria, but it doesn’t really fit in to those boxes. The characterizations are decent; I saw glimpses of ‘my’ Snape and ‘my’ Hermione and I can’t specifically point to anything that was out of character. All of the side characters were very much in character, too, which is not easy to accomplish. However, because of the writing style, I didn’t feel as though I was visiting my old friends; it seemed as though I was looking at them through thick dirty glass, watching them act out long scenes about Egyptian mythology and phoenixes. I longed to go inside and visit with them, but I couldn’t.
There are a lot of great ideas in this fic. The Dark Arithmancy equation that predicts the Wizarding War is excellent. The final defeat-Voldemort gimmick was interesting (albeit confusing and lacking explanation, like everything else in this fic.) Phineus Nigellus’s portrait and Mrs. Black’s portrait being partners in crime was fun and clever. Of course, they would be friends! Somehow, though, all of these good ideas failed to come together to form a page-turning plot.
The romance is very disappointing; I actually left the “Romance” tag off of this fic because there is no rising romance. There is a big scene in the very beginning where weird things happen (Seriously, I don’t know what the things were or I would tell you. Possibly non-con? I really couldn’t tell. Prose-poem.) and then they’re suddenly in love, boom. It’s too bad, because I think one of the things this style of writing IS suited for is the slow burn of rising romance. Too bad we went straight for, ‘Something Weird Just Happened Under This Table and Now We’re Egyptian Tattoo Soulmates, or Something.’
I feel as though I’ve been too hard on this fic in this review. I really struggled with writing this as much as I struggled to finish reading the story. I hope that you can glean something from this mess.
The bottom line: If you are in the mood for a nebulous lyrical prose-poem about Egyptian mythology with a side of Snape and Hermione, give it a try. Seriously, though, the first handful of (short) chapters will tell you whether or not this is for you. For me, it was a bit too different from the style of ‘Harry Potter’ to satisfy my fan-fiction itch.