Shades – by Orm Irian
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.