The Language of Flowers – by Lady Strange

Links:
http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=1240
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=12098

Rating: Acceptable

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Regency, 140k (1/3 of it is Author’s Notes)

Warnings: Alternate Universe

Miss Hermione Granger and Lord Sterne (Severus Snape) hatch a plan to help their friends, Lady Ginevra Weasley and Lord Villiers (Draco Malfoy), court each other despite Duchess Mallefille (Narcissa Malfoy)’s disapproval.

When I read His Draught of Delicate Poison, I thought that it was a Regency fic. It wasn’t until I read this fic, The Language of Flowers, that I realized His Draught of Delicate Poison was only lightly referencing Regency romance. The author of The Language of Flowers exhaustively converts all of Harry Potter into actual Regency London; giving everyone proper titles and peerage related to actual places, converting all of the schools to real schools, converting all of the men’s clubs and stores to real Regency clubs and stores, and notating it all in the Author’s Notes with history lessons and citations. The level of detail here is insane.

When I told my husband I was reading a Regency SSHG fic based on the language of flowers, he joked, ‘is there a preface dedicated to you?’ because Victorian flower language, gardening, old England, and SSHG fiction are pretty much my favorite things in life. I was 100% sure that I would adore this fic and I was so, so disappointed to find out that I did not.

First of all, many of the characters are referred to by their invented Regency titles rather than their names, because that is the way it would have been in Regency England. Snape is ‘Lord Sterne,’ Draco is ‘Lord Villiers,’etc. I understand why the the author made this choice, but it’s jarring. Next, there are hugely extensive Author’s Notes that I had to give up on reading because they were extremely pedantic and boring. I thought I would love the little lessons on flowers and on Regency England, but they were overly verbose and never seemed to enhance the story. And again, I feel as though I should stress the idea that if ANYONE was going to enjoy these Author’s Notes and this story, it should have been me! These are my exact interests and I was bored to tear by both the story and the notes. What went wrong?

One major problem with the story are the characterizations, especially Snape in the latter half of the story. He is raging, irrational, and pathetic. He follows Hermione around everywhere and screams at her jealously for absolutely no reason. He’s acting jealous because he’s in love with her, of course, but…what a heavy-handed and silly way to express that. Aren’t Regency fics supposed to be about restraint, wit and subtlety? Why the temper tantrums? The Snape in the second half of the story does not even resemble Snape. If the character were supposed to be Ron, I would have written that the author did a disservice to Ron by making him such a jealous crybaby. Can you imagine Snape being more of a jealous crybaby than Ron? That’s what we’re dealing with in this story. Not sexy, not interesting, not intelligent, not Snape.

When readers complain about the characterizations, the author responds by explaining that it is a necessary part of the Regency conversion. Hermione would be cold and aloof because fill-in-the-blank Regency reason. Snape would be possessive and jealous because fill-in-the-blank Regency reason. In some fics, I will accept bad characterizations if I feel the author has ‘done the work’ to justify these character changes, but that is not the case here. As an example, Draco (I’m sorry, Lord Villiers) is shown to be a bit of a bad boy who is sincerely reformed because he wants to marry Ginevra. Things seem to be going well for him. Then, out of nowhere, he decides to go back to the gaming hall, get drunk, and duel-murder not one but TWO people. Why? Why would he do that? There is no explanation, not even in the 30 paragraph long Author’s Notes for that chapter. The author puts in plenty of work, but it’s all on Regency England and not on the characters or the story. I wish the author had focused more of her considerable intellectual prowess on portraying the characters accurately and writing a creative story.

Disappointment and a strange sort of dread filled my chest as I drew near the final chapters, realizing that the mild, boring scenes that were wrapping up were actually the climax of the story. That’s it? What about all of the flower stuff? What was this great mystery I was trying to piece together and decode? Was there nothing to solve, just floral references to the themes of each chapter? What was all of that build-up for? A little trip to France, a few tantrums, and all of the people we thought were going to be engaged in the beginning are now engaged?

I really want to muster up something positive to say here, because the fic is such a tremendous effort, but I am left with the overwhelming feeling that if I didn’t like this fic, which seemed to be made specifically for me, how could anyone else like it? I think the root of the problem is that the author is more of an academic than a creative. I had to come to the same conclusion about myself when my brief foray into creative writing ended with me crying into an empty notebook on a park bench in London (after a 6 month creative writing study abroad semester during which I wrote nothing.) I love literature, but I was not meant to write it. I do not have the electric spark of creativity. I feel that this author might have the same issue and I’m sure she could (and probably has) written fantastic non-fiction.

The bottom line: If I were grading this fic on its historical accuracy and academic merit, I might be giving it an A+. This site, however, is grading the quality of the SSHG content, which in this fic is mediocre at best. The author is extremely intelligent and well-studied; but when you take away all of the research, footnotes, history lessons, and Regency conversion efforts all that remains is a simple fic with serious out-of-character problems. Worth a read if you love Regency, maybe.

His Draught of Delicate Poison – by Subversa

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10393075/30/His-Draught-of-Delicate-Poison
Note: There is also a copy on Ashwinder; I usually prioritize linking Ashwinder above ff.net, but the Ashwinder copy is missing the Chapter 30 Christmas Epilogue. The epilogue is a bit silly and you might like the fic better without it, but it seems proper to link to the extra content when it’s available.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Regency/Romance/Comedy-of-Manners, 200k

Warnings: Sexual Content, Mild Violence, Alternate Universe, Original Characters, Attempted Non-Con (not SSHG)

After the fall of Voldemort, A new Ministry Marriage Law means all unmarried witches and wizards of child-bearing age must marry by December. To aid in this mandate, the Ministry hosts a long series of parties and balls, along with strict courting protocols. Severus Snape, recently engaged to Fleur Delacour in an attempt to avoid the damanable parties, is acting as guardian of Dumbledore’s grand estate while Dumbledore is away. The charges under his care at the estate include his three beautiful half-sisters and his ex-student Hermione Granger, whose parents are away for the summer. It seems he will be attending the Ministry balls, after all. It’s a Harry Potter Regency romance! Based on Georgette Heyer’s wildly popular Regency romance novel, The Grand Sophy.

Fun context: We all know about the WIKTT Marriage Law Challenge that spawned 1000 fanfics. This fic, His Draught of Delicate Poison, is also a response to the next WIKTT Challenge – Regency. We will likely see a few Regency fics in the next year of reviews as that is where we are in the ship’s chronology.

This is a great, great, fic – but I should state right away that I love Regency literature (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, etc) and the polite courtship of wit, manners, scheming, restraint, etc. If you don’t love those conventions, you may find this fic confusing and annoying because of the alternate universe content and out-of-character moments that are gently paying tribute to Regency-era tropes. There is one scene in particular that the author admits in her notes is copied almost exactly from The Grand Sophy; and that is the scene for me in which Hermione is MOST out of character. Sophy is quite colorful, extroverted, and overtly manipulative – not much like Hermione. There are a lot of occasions in this fic where ‘Wizarding World accuracy’ is ignored in favor of ‘Regency fun.’ I loved it because I love Regency fun, but it is certainly not for everyone.

That said, the author puts in a LOT of impressive effort and creativity in to her Regency conversion. The writing is excellent; this is not a lazy copy/paste of The Grand Sophy with the names changed. She writes a compelling Draco/Luna. She writes a non-caricature Lucius Malfoy, which many authors seem to struggle to do. She invents a ‘Princess Party Tent’ which is like the Weasley’s World Cup tent, except all pink and princess themed, with a castle inside, just for rich little girls (so fun!) She invents the legend of the faerie-silk dress, which I found very charming. She includes, about 3/4 of the way through, a beautiful backstory for Snape and Hermione that was so exciting to read and discover. Until that point, the reader assumed their interest in one another was recent. I just loved the choice to include the backstory non-chronologically. She draws many of the romances subtly; it wasn’t completely obvious who everyone was going to end up with in the end. I really loved some of her interesting pairs. She doesn’t write with the top-notch wit of Austen or Georgette Heyer, but who does? It’s an excellent effort.

The romance is very satisfying. It has been a really long time, more than a year, since I found a fic that actually made me excited about reading the SSHG genre again; I had begun to worry that I was permanently burnt out. Thank you, His Draught. I’m not sure how much of it is lifted from Grand Sophy (except for the one scene she admits is 90% Grand Sophy) but His Draught is well-plotted, full of wit, full of interesting believable characters, and teeming with absolutely smashing romance. Even the smut, which I usually am not interested in, is very, very good. Modern romance (and thus modern fanfiction) often moves far too quickly for me. My favorite part of a romance is a slow and sensual build up – watching these characters realize they are in love with each other, deny it to themselves, and nearly lose their composure over and over again. The thrill of accidental contact. The scent of the other. Avoiding each other, but ending up forced together and attempting to contain the maelstrom of passion and emotion that rises up in the presence of the other. THIS is romantic literature! I have missed it so much! The Regency genre highlights and sustains this section of courtship for a deliciously long time. I am so very tired of ‘we’re married, now we’re in love’ and ‘you’re kidnapped, now we’re in love.’ It all happens too fast; the thrill lasting for only chapters or paragraphs. In this fic, the thrill lasts the entire time. Sensational.

There are some negatives, of course. It’s a bit annoying that everyone is extremely rich and can buy anything their heart desires (the men shower the ladies with jewels and vacations and summer homes.) Snape, though decently in character for most of the story, is a bit Too Perfect by the end. Many authors struggle to write Snape-in-love as accurately as Snape-alone and this fic suffers quite a bit from that. Another character issue – and the largest negative for me – is the treatment of Fleur. In the beginning of the fic, she is Snape’s fiancee. She is shown to be a bit cold and materialistic, but still basically a good person. I felt that Snape and Hermione treated her horribly. They were ‘forced’ to do so within the rules of Regency propriety (a gentleman never breaks an engagement!) but I still felt very bad for Fleur. She did not deserve that treatment in my eyes and it made me think less of our hero and heroine.

I also want to emphasize that while this fic pays tribute to Regency romance novels, it is NOT strict, at all, in its conversion. Lovers of Regency romance know that a significant part of the genre is strictly adhering to the titles, locations, and etiquette of Regency England. This fic largely ignores all of that and casually wonders, ‘What if a Marriage Law with a deadline caused a Wizarding World ‘season’ of courtship similar to the Regency?’ Those of you who dislike Regency tropes, don’t be afraid to give this fic a try. Those of you who love Regency, try to relax your criticism of it’s imperfections. It’s inspired by the Regency romance genre, not a strict imitation.

The bottom line: A light-hearted vaguely Regency-inspired romp through a Marriage Law season of courtship with a smashing SSHG romance. For me, this is the top rating; but I am rating it lower because I know that my adoration for it is heavily colored by personal preference. If the tantalizingly slow-burning passion of courtship is your preference, and you can overlook the innate silliness of the Regency-esque scheming, you will love this. I would recommend it to almost any fan of the pairing.

Spellcaster – by SGCbearcub

Link: https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/sgcbearcub-spellcaster.pdf
Note: Linking my old personal copy because I cannot find any hosted copies. Many fanfiction sites have gone down recently and I think this fic must have been another victim. You can see here – http://sgcbearcub.livejournal.com/ – in a recent LJ update that the author is still actively working on the sequel, so I assume she has no problem with people reading this fic.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Action/Intrigue/Drama/Angst, 140k

Warnings: NC-17, Violence, PTSD, Dark!Hermione

—–

Hermione Granger, furious and bent on revenge after the death of her parents and the Ministry’s new Marriage Law, plans to bring down Voldemort and even the entire Ministry, if she has to. Step one? Marrying Severus Snape.

I am excited to review this one – it’s a real treat, very unique, and I think a lot of you will really enjoy it. I should say, though, that I’ve been reading this one for almost a year, so my review will focus on the last half, which I read more recently. (During a long break from fanfiction, I forgot which fic I was reading and read another one before I picked this one up again.)

All right, with the disclaimers out of the way, let’s get in to it. As you can tell by the summary, this is a pretty dark Hermione, similar to Cloak of Courage (actually, a lot of things about this fic reminded me of Cloak of Courage, but we’ll touch more on that later.) This is not the Hermione that we know, but the author exhaustively goes out of her way to explain why this Hermione is the way she is, both in terms of psychological trauma and in terms of added backstory (lost her link to instinctual magic as a result of a childhood accident, causing her to rely obsessively on brains and books.) This Hermione is very independent, full of secrets, ruthless, oftentimes mocking or cruel, and even a bit insane. It’s like Hermione mixed with Bellatrix Lestrange. There are definitely scenes that feel totally out of character, but it’s explained well enough for me to accept it. The author works hard to establish the changes that she has made and earns the alterations in my opinion – but this Hermione will not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Snape is also in character, although he’s a bit weak at times to me. This is becoming a trend Half-Blood Prince era fiction, it seems – there are many, many fics with an emphasis on an extremely strong Hermione and that tends to weaken the Snape. He’s manipulated by her more than once, and again, the author sort of ‘earns’ that by the way she’s written Hermione, but it’s still unsexy to me to see him outsmarted and out-magicked by this crazy Hermione.

The prose in this fic is absolutely excellent. It’s written in a bit of an unusual style; it’s exciting to me to read an author who has such a strong stylistic signature. She writes a paragraph describing something, and then has a statement standing alone, like, ‘That sad little letter was a symbol of all she had lost,’ before moving on to the next paragraph. It’s not every paragraph, of course, but often enough that I noticed it and really began to enjoy it. Her descriptions are unique and vivid. She makes bold, interesting choices like having the climactic Voldemort-defeat seen entirely through the eyes of Lucius (a character with no other screen time.) She invents a TON of fabulous Wizarding World ideas, from Rivening to the Spellnet to Binding/Copying to breaking down the science of spellcasting and linking it to Muggle science (while simultaneously exploring the ‘instinctual’ and ancient side of spellcasting which links to ancient bog-witches and druids!) The intense delve into the nature of magic also reminded me of Cloak of Courage, as I mentioned earlier, as that fic also has a vengeful Dark!Hermione exploring the nature of magic. She also invents a whole set of social rules for Pureblood culture (also done in Cloak of Courage!) There is a ton of wild, unbridled, spilling-out-in-all-directions creativity on display here that was very exciting to me.

As for the bad – the romance in this fic is a bit disappointing, I’m afraid. The author seems much more focused on plot and world-creation than the actual relationship. I suppose not all SSHG fics NEED to be romance – I’ve given good reviews to plenty of fics without it, like ‘Dark Gods in the Blood’ which is strictly a friendship buddy-cop fic. But Spellcaster seems to WANT to be a romance novel, so the lackluster romance is a problem for me. The romantic pacing is perfect; the climax of their relationship occurs simultaneously with the climax of the warplot. So few fics manage that! Amazing, right? Except…not, somehow. The romance had no pulse or body; it just seemed to happen between the pages, between the plot points and exciting ideas. There are sections devoted to it, but even those sections seem more focused on warplot than each other (which makes sense, between a Death Eater spy and a ruthless insane witch bent on revenge), but I still wish there were a bit more heat and interest in the romance. I think the author’s determination to have Hermione be so strong, secretive, and supremely clever made a romance impossible, because she doesn’t ‘need’ Snape. He feels like a means to an end, and like he has no agency, and that is no relationship. I think if Snape had actively decided to heal and bring peace to this raging Hermione, and he was able to calm her insanity and that’s what allowed her to defeat Voldemort, then the relationship would have felt real. But as it is, Hermione is in control of all secrets, power, and cleverness the entire time, and that’s not much to build a relationship on. Despite the author’s best efforts, the relationship never really feels ‘there.’

I have one other major problem with this fic – and that’s that the author’s too-strong focus on theorizing, conceptualizing, brainstorming, world-building, and politics-twisting. That’s all great, but the frenetic energy of an always changing plot wore on me after a while. I started to feel that the things that happened in one chapter were barely connected to the next. The author seemed far more in love with her ideas than with sensible plotting, romantic or otherwise. Hermione wants a bunch of Grimiores. Hermione wants a bunch of Dowries. Now she’s putting Grimoires in Dowries…you mean the last 15 chapters of social maneuvering and power plays have just been for a tiny side project of Grimoire-Dowries? How long is this fic going to go on? Next, Hermione bombastically and bloodily demonstrates her role as Secret-Keeper to the Slytherin pureblood leader at the school, Yardley, for…some reason? And it’s never mentioned again? Much of fic is social maneuvering for reasons that are never really explained. Every scene, Hermione and Snape are mind-racing through the political ramifications of their actions and playing chess pieces far in advance. This is really, really cool, except that the puzzle pieces don’t seem to form a picture. I love the idea of a political intrigue dystopian Evil Ministry fic, but this doesn’t quite get there. It felt like a lot of great ideas all thrown together in a pot and shaken up.

I will say, though, that the author managed to reign herself in about 4/5 of the way through and focus on writing an excellent wrap-up. The author says in her notes that she is running out of time to work on the fic and needs to wrap it up, and apologizes for the time-jumps and heavy-handed plotting. I actually appreciated it, because it brought the focus the fic was missing back and things really started to make sense and happen in a linear fashion. I usually hate ‘tacked-on endings’ but this was done extremely well and stopped the fic from expanding beyond the author’s ability to complete, like Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time.’ (RIP Robert Jordan, I love you.)

The bottom line: A really, really excellent Dark!Hermione fic with a lackluster romance. The beginning and the ending are especially great. The middle spins out of control for a while with seemingly unrelated scenes of new ideas and new characters, but the author manages to cut to the end, eventually. If you can stand the lack of romance, the Dark!Hermione, and the frenetic idea-stacking of the middle section, you will absolutely love this fic. The quality of the writing and the fabulous ideas more than outweigh the problems.

The Five Winters – by Anubis Ankh

Link: http://anubisankh.livejournal.com/16320.html
Note: The link is actually to the author’s LJ post, where she has listed her own upload links. I thought it better to link to ‘her’ rather than directly to the uploads. If this goes down or is inaccessible, please let me know.

Rating: Acceptable Plus

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era (AU), Romance, 700k

Warnings: NC-17, Violence

—–

I am back from a long hiatus; for personal reasons and because I was stuck on this fic. It’s 700,000 words – that’s INSANELY LONG, like 7 big novels. For me this fic was in that grey area of not-good-enough-to-keep-reading but not-bad-enough-to-skip, so I was in a holding pattern for months and months trying to go back to it. I’ve given up and am posting a review, because I need to make a post here, and because I miss reading SSHG.

After the events of the Wizarding War, Hermione Granger becomes Minerva McGonagall’s Transfiguration Apprentice, earning her place amongst the Hogwarts staff. She strikes up a friendship with Severus Snape that becomes something more.

I was extremely excited when I first started reading this fic. I knew going into it that it was 700,000 words, which was exciting, because if it was good, it would be an entire SSHG series. I was delighted as I started reading – the writing is excellent, check, Snape is in character, check, one of my favorite settings (Hogwarts, with Apprentice Hermione), CHECK! How had I missed this fic? Why was it not recommended EVERYWHERE? As I continued to read, I learned the answers to these questions.

My longtime readers will know how much I prefer slow-simmering romance – I mention it in every review. This romance is VERY slow – I was probably 100,000 words in before the first tendrils of romance began to creep in (that’s the length of the average fic I review here, for reference.) The author iterates in her authors notes that she finds most fics to be ‘unrealistic’ and that SSHG should be very slow and reluctant. “I totally agree! This is going to be an amazing fic,” I thought excitedly. But as I continued, on and on and on, I started to realize that the passion/sparks were not only slow, but absent. It’s one thing to enjoy the slow, tantalizing, drawn out period of standing too close to one another, wondering if the other feels the same, resisting the urge to act inappropriately. But this fic, that delicious tension is not described, hinted at, or present. When it’s time to move forward in the relationship, they sit down and clinically discuss their feelings. The same is true for every new physical step. I understand that this is the author’s idea of ‘realistic’ and I don’t totally disagree, but…there should be a LITTLE deliciousness in there, no? I am pretty tight-laced and prude-ish to be honest but there is definitely more passion in my old married relationship than there is in this freshly minted Severus and Hermione relationship.

Similarly, the plot moves very slowly. I am fine with not having a warplot, but there should be some feeling of excitement that makes you want to stay up late and continue reading. “For Someone Special” is a great example of this: in FSS, there’s almost no plot, just fast quips and charming pieces of their every day lives that make for excellent reading. (It’s obviously unfair to compare this author to LadyoftheMasque, who is working as a professional romance writer now, but I think for fics that are 700,000 words, that quality of writing is necessary.) This fic has great writing, but it’s not great enough to read for 50 hours, as the length demands.

Lastly, and I think this was really the dealbreaker for me in this fic – I really disliked the Hermione in this fic, though I can’t necessarily say she’s out of character. The author just focuses on aspects of Hermione that I don’t really like – bossy, VERY dominant, VERY Gryffindor. I’m a bit more of a Luna Lovegood and I prefer a more understanding Hermione. This Hermione forcibly shampoos Snape’s hair, forcibly manipulates him into attending parties he doesn’t want to go to, exposes his weaknesses to Lucius Malfoy of all people because she thinks it will help her get what she wants…I was very uncomfortable with all of that. It seemed to me that she was constantly humiliating him, both publicly and privately, which is not acceptable in a relationship.

Snape is insecure, so private, and sensitive to people exerting control over him (as his father, Voldemort, or Dumbledore have for his entire life.) There is no way he would tolerate a bossy, aggressive Hermione like this fic presents. He would recoil into his protective privacy and shun her after that first ridiculous demonstration. Hermione should be wise enough to temper those inclinations around him. She can still be Hermione and boss around Ron and Harry and other idiots as much as she wants, but she should see Snape as the sensitive, formidable time-bomb that he is and treat him with a little more caution, respect, and kindness. She should treat him as an intelligent equal, not as a child with dirt on his nose. The author kept saying in her notes that Hermione was “asserting her place on the staff,” and “earning Snape’s respect” with these actions, but to me that kind of behavior would be seen as childish. Adults do not treat each other that way. I don’t mind a little Mary Sue in my fanfic, but if you Mary Sue to the point that you’ve emasculated your male lead unintentionally, there is a problem.

After all of those complaints, let’s re-iterate the good. There is a TON of good here. The writing is excellent. The author is very intelligent and everything is very well thought-out. There are some really fabulously creative ideas, like a special Egyptian-themed bracelet Hermione wears that has some very clever spoilers, inter-House politics that you rarely see in fics, and some great original characters. There is also a focus on the world as a whole, which I loved – a lot of fics tend to cozy up with just Severus and Hermione, but this fic is interested in everyone, while keeping the focus clear.

The bottom line: Despite my long paragraphs of reservations, this story really is very special. It’s amazing to have a fic this long, and especially this well-written. It definitely has its faults, for me, enough to stop reading and finish by skimming, but if you don’t mind a (very) gentle/clinical romance and a (very) strongly-opinionated Hermione, there is a lot of good here (literally LOTS, 700k. Too much for me.)

SPECIAL POST – Thoughts on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

One of the reasons I made my ‘SPECIAL POST – Thoughts on Harry Potter on the Cursed Child’ blurb was because I felt there were some things in the play that were relevant to our ship. That is not the case with Fantastic Beasts (unless perhaps Credence ends up being Snape’s grandfather, one of many theories about him), but one of my commenters asked me to write up my thoughts on it, so I thought I would. This will be a bit messy, and is not really a review, just a ramble.

First of all, I really dislike Eddie Redmayne, so I was quite dubious about the film. A Hufflepuff lead played by Eddie Redmayne? In AMERICA? About animals? Just…no. It sounded awful to me.

Perhaps it was these low expectations that caused me to be pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the film. Was it as magical as ‘Harry Potter?’ No, of course not. But I thought there was some of that magic, and I LOVED Newt. Having an introverted, quiet, lead character felt so good. You very rarely see that – the hobbits in Lord of the Rings were the only example I could think of. Usually it’s brave, loud Gryffindors who push their way to the forefront and become protagonists. I loved how polite, how awkward, (and not affected I’m-so-charming awkwardness, which is what I dislike about E. Redmayne. It felt genuine.) and how sensitive Newt was. A guy who doesn’t really fit in with the world and does the bare minimum of human interaction…but comes alive when he enters his special world of his hobby (the suitcase?) YEAH I CAN IDENTIFY WITH THAT. Talk to me about anything and I will be awkward and quiet, but bring up Harry Potter, cosplay, or philosophy and I will talk your ear off. I almost thought he was a bit of a Huffleclaw, given his rich inner world – there are shades of Luna Lovegood in Newt, don’t you think? Fitting that she eventually marries his grandson. I thought most Harry Potter fans would totally identify with Newt and was surprised to find out that most of my HP friends did not like him.

As for the other main characters – I am neither here nor there on Queenie, Jacob, and Tina. I don’t really love them, but there are a ton of HP characters I don’t really love either, so this is not a problem for me. In HP, I love Luna, Snape, Hermione, Lupin, and Dumbledore. Out of 7 books. In this movie, I love Newt Scamander and am curious about Credence. That’s not bad. I know there will be many more characters for me to explore in subsequent movies and hopefully I will find one that I fall in love with.

I thought the best and most interesting addition to canon – and the part of the movie that felt the most magical – was the Obscurus and Obscurials. Those are a beautiful idea that absolutely felt like an organic part of the Wizarding World. If I had read about Obscurials and Obscurus in a fanfic, I would have been blown away by it. Dumbledore’s sister, Ariana, was probably an Obscurial. If you haven’t seen the articles about it, here is a direct quote form Deathly Hallows – “It destroyed her, what they did: She was never right again. She wouldn’t use magic, but she couldn’t get rid of it; it turned inward and drove her mad, it exploded out of her when she couldn’t control it, and at times she was strange and dangerous. But mostly she was sweet and scared and harmless.” Awesome! It sounds as though an Obscurus was something JKR had already come up with but couldn’t fit in to Harry Potter, so it came out in Fantastic Beasts. Haunting, beautiful, and painfully human at its core. Classic Wizarding World – excellent, excellent stuff.

My biggest disappointment in the film (well, the whole FB franchise) is that JKR chose to focus on Dumbledore and Grindelwald. I feel like that is a story I am not interested in – I hope the proceeding movies in the franchise prove me wrong, but Grindelwald, the Hallows, and Dumbledore’s backstory was my least favorite part of Deathly Hallows, so I am not excited to learn more about it. I wish so much that she had chosen to do the Founders, or tell another story entirely. (I love the idea of the Mauraders, but we already know that story and are too close to it. The Founders would have been more appropriate.) I think the whole DD/GW concept is a mistake. I also think Johnny Depp’s casting was a huge mistake. I don’t care about the issues he has in his personal life; I just think casting a huge name American actor for a beloved British franchise is a wrong. He should have been a German/Austrian unknown, or a moderately known British one. Johnny Depp just feels entirely wrong. And even worse than the casting was the STYLING. The stupid bleached hair and mustache? Are you kidding me? He looked idiotic and it really took me out of the world.

Another problem with the film was that it was set in the United States. Part of what I love so much about Harry Potter is the setting in the British school system, the Victorian-like nature of many wizards, and just how charmingly British the whole thing is. As an American myself, and an ill-informed child when I first read the books, I honestly thought that JKR had invented headmasters, prefects, Christmas crackers, school houses, etc. Obviously, they just turned out to actual British things. So, a setting change to America removes so much of the magic and charm for me. I am so glad that the next film is set in France. I hope we do not see a return to the US.

I am hopeful for the next movies, though. I LOVE the idea that the next one will be set in France. I LOVE the idea that the story concludes in 1945 an we started in 1926 – we have 20 years of story to tell in 5 movies. THAT is appropriate. I know some people are worried about the 5 movies because it smacks of ‘The Hobbit’ series (which I HATED, lest any of you think I will defend any sequel) and too little butter spread over too much bread, but if each movie has a new setting, new characters, and a 4 year time jump to work with? I think we really do have the potential for an vibrant, full, amazing franchise and I am very optimistic.

The bottom line: Newt Scamander is an incredible character. I believe he’s a Huffleclaw and as a sensitive, quiet Luna-esque Ravenclaw myself, I adore him. 5 movies is appropriate because of the 20 year long story and the setting changes. Johnny Depp’s casting was a mistake and the styling choices for his character were an even bigger mistake. I’m not a fan of the DD/GW story choice, but it could be worse.

I’ll echo what I said in my Cursed Child review – we are adults now and we are much more difficult to please and much more cynical. It’s difficult for us to find magic. Let yourself enjoy the magic in the movie and try not to focus on your criticisms. Let’s see how the franchise unfolds. Nox!

Seven Preposterous Things – Bloodcult of Freud

Link: http://archiveofourown.org/works/9389336/chapters/21255608
Thank you to the commenter who let me know that this fic was recently posted on Archive of our Own! It is so exciting to me that some early SSHG authors are reposting their classic fics.

Rating: Acceptable Plus

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

Warnings: Violence, Pregnancy, Kink, NC-17, Language, AU elements

Severus Snape and Dracy Malfoy have a plan to flee the British Wizarding World after the Final Battle, regardless of the outcome. Severus, hand on Portkey, makes a last moment decision to take a shocked Hermione Granger with him.

This is the second fic I’ve reviewed by Bloodcult of Freud – the first is Tyger, Tyger. It’s amazing how different they are. Tyger was a fairly serious, covering-a-lifetime, mostly classic story. Seven Preposterous is often comical, takes place over only a couple of months, and is so wildly different from most SSHG in setting and tone and character that it feels AU. Pretty much the opposite of Tyger, Tyger.

This fic spends a lot of time – at least a third, maybe more than that – on the perspectives of Millicent Bulstrode and Draco Malfoy. Millicent is very fleshed-out and interesting. I found her more compelling than the Severus and Hermione in this story. Her background is rich and detailed, delving into Pureblood culture by bringing in elements of fairy tales, which is something I had never considered or seen before. in fanfic. Those parts of the story were very fun. Draco is a bit more useless and dandy than I prefer, but I can’t really argue that it’s too far out of character.

So, Millicent and Draco are married, and they hatch a plan with Severus Snape to all escape together to the United States after the Wizarding War – Texas, specifically. The majority of the fic takes place there. They live in a Muggle home and take Muggle jobs, and rarely use magic to avoid the radar of United States Wizarding authorities. Severus is in love with Hermione and has been for years, but is reluctant to pursue her, so Hermione takes matters in to her own hands. I don’t usually give this detailed of a synopsis in my reviews, but this fic is so nutty that it seems necessary. It’s also important to note that the random insanity of these events is a major intentional theme; I am tempted to write ‘this fic is a mess,’ except that I know it was done intentionally and even the title ties in that theme. ‘Seven Preposterous Things.’ Life changes on a dime. Coincidences, foretelling, a kind word; the smallest things can shape the future. Life is wild and unpredictable.

With the lengthy preamble completed, let’s get down to the meat of it. My biggest problem with this fic is the characterization of Severus Snape. In this fic, he’s a pitiful mess – no confidence, bad hygiene, no game with women, victim complex, and a drunk. For me, Snape is many things, but he is not a groveling slob. He works with dangerous chemicals, has three jobs, and is a spy – he has to be disciplined and on his toes at all times. His entire life is about discipline and outward strength. I think that’s the key point for me here, where I differ with the author’s portrayal – I think Snape has many of these traits (self-loathing, self-pity, frustration with his life, bad habits) but in my opinion, he goes to GREAT LENGTHS to hide his faults from others. He always wants to seem in control, in the know, in authority. He is no longer Snivellus who gets bullied; he is Professor Snape, he is formidable, and no one will dare. He keeps his insecurities and faults LOCKED.UP. Bleeding out on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, he still performed his duty with dignity, without a trace of Snivellus. This disgusting, smelly, groveling man begging for scraps from Hermione is Snivellus, not Severus, and I couldn’t get over it.

Hermione is fairly in character and Millicent is fantastic, but Snape and Draco are both alternate reality pathetic groveling slobs in comparison to their canon personalities. There are a lot of feminist motifs in the story, which is awesome, but emasculating the two male characters is going a bit too far. Speaking of motifs – it seems worth pointing out that the foursome encounters 2 abandoned infants in the course of the story that they take in and make their own. It serves no purpose in the plot. I thought the first one was weird, and then they found a second? I suppose the story is called ‘Seven Preposterous Things’ and the strangeness of life’s course is a theme, but it felt messy and strange.

The writing is acceptable. I know the author is very well read and intelligent (there are a ton of literary, historical, and philosophic references in Tyger, Tyger,) but this fic has a much more casual tone and the writing reflects that. Most of it feels rather slap-dash, definitely written for fun rather than perfection. I liked the tongue-and-cheek nature of the fic – the author acknowledges that her fic is pretty insane at times by having her characters joke about it. However, I had the feeling that the author really enjoyed writing some sections and would put a lot of detail in to them, and then would boredly sketch out other sections with minimal effort. I found most of the Millie sections more compelling and than (generally shorter) Hermione and Severus sections; it seemed like the author was a lot more interested and invested in Millie than anyone else.

Additionally, I think the author changed some of her ideas as she was writing. There is a mention of a time travel machine, and what appeared to me to be a set-up for a time travel plot – lots of weird coincidences and random things working out for the group. I thought, ‘Oh, this will turn out to have been set up by one of them from the future, coming back and placing things for them to encounter.’ Nope…although the author went out of her way to exclaim how weird the coincidences are, and explicitly mentioned a time machine, they turned out to just be coincidences. The story wrapped up with a very weird deux ex machina, which I won’t spoil, but it was just another head-scratching thing this fic does. It plays to the theme, but it makes for a very weird reading experience.

Gold star for a fascinating Millicent Bulstrode and a positively magical take on Pureblood culture. Those were absolutely my favorite parts of the fic. Millie’s backstory is ‘delightful,’ to steal a word from one of my commenters, but…this is not a Millicent Bulstrode fic review site, and the rest of the story is not nearly as strong.

The bottom line: A very strange fic. One of its themes is the madness of chance and choice, and the author sets up many ridiculous, comical situations to explore that theme. There are a lot of good ideas and fun moments, but for me the Snape was gross and unfamiliar. Recommended if you want to try something zany and enjoy humor fics (and can tolerate a pathetic Snape) but I’d skip if you’re looking for great SSHG romance.

Of Debts and Debt Collection – by Anastasia

Links:
http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=5075
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=15825

Rating: Acceptable

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance, 180k

Warnings: Violence

Severus Snape barely survives the battle that results in Dumbledore’s death at his hand, and completing this final duty, he finds himself unable to return to the Death Eaters. He staggers back to Hogwarts and throws himself at their mercy, where one Hermione Granger nurses him back to health.

I feel like this is going to be one of the lamest reviews I’ve written, so apologies in advance for that. Every once in a while I run into a fic that I can tell is decently good, but that I really just don’t like. I can’t quite bring myself to skip to the end, but reading it is miserable, so I put it off for months. I’ve just come back to it again, for the third time, and I still can’t read it, so I’m finally skipping to the end. It’s pretty unfair to review a fic that I’ve read in spurts, separated by six months, and finally gave up on, but here we are. So, keep that disclaimer in mind.

This fic was well-received when it came out, and it won some fic awards, and is on most SSHG rec lists. It is decently written (somewhat messily in the beginning, but improves over time.) The plot is fairly basic, but not egregiously so. It’s unique in that it has Snape on the grounds at Hogwarts with the Trio and the Order searching for the Horcruxes. 90% of Half-Blood Prince fics have Snape with the Death Eaters (as he is at the end of HBP) and have to resolve that issue somehow, with a kidnapping or communication device. This one just turns him right around and sends him back to Hogwarts.

The main problem I have with it, other than the blandness, is that everything tilts towards classic romance novel tone, which does not suit this pairing. Snape is ridiculously idealized – great at sex, great at dueling, always has a witty one liner, always supremely confident, knows exactly how to interrogate a prisoner, can get whatever response he wants out of Hermione (or anyone), etc. It’s very predictable and makes it difficult to connect with him, or with the story, on an emotional level. The supreme confidence is the worst of it. Snape is outwardly confident, yes, but inwardly? Not at alL.

It’s not that he’s completely out of character – all of the classic Snape mannerisms and descriptions are there, it’s just this layer of Sexy Tough Romantic Hero Football Player added on top of it. Everything he does is ‘CSI Miami putting on the sunglasses and offering up a one-liner for the camera,’ you know? The worst example of this is Snape’s torturing of Lucius – that’s when I finally gave up on the fic. Snape carelessly, joyously, tortures his friend, with all sorts of great lines – but without a word on what he was actually feeling or thinking. It could have been a great scene of the author had delved in to the emotional level. The tone was completely wrong. This was a scene for character development, for sadness, for empathy, for nostalgia, but resolution to do what was needed. But no, just a bunch of cool one liners and zero emotional depth. A nice summary of the entire fic, as it happens.

As for the romantic pacing, it moves way too fast. The delicious coming-together is basically non-existent. It’s the ‘nursing him back to health, oops we’re in love’ trope that has been done hundreds of times, and not especially well here. They are kissing in the first few chapters. So, we can’t look to the excitement of romance to save this fic.

The bottom line: A fairly interesting set-up for a Half-Blood Prince fic, and well-written – but the supercool/confident Snape, rushed romance, and lack of emotional depth made the fic unenjoyable for me.