The Lioness Prophecies – by AMR

Link: https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/amr-the-lioness-prophecies.pdf
Only linking my copy because it is not currently hosted anywhere else, and because it’s a shame for a beautiful fic like this to be lost. I will link to another site if it’s ever properly hosted again.

Rating: Outstanding

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Action/Romance, 260k

Warnings: Sexual Content, Violence, Pregnancy

Professor Trelawney gives another True Prophecy that Professor Dumbledore believes will ensure victory against Voldemort. He is sure that one of the targets of the prophecy is Professor Severus Snape, but who is the other? A long, epic tale that takes us from the Trio’s Sixth Year summer into the Seventh Year fall, winding through elaborate balls at Pureblood Manors, to long days of readying for the Final Battle with spell-crafting and Potion-making, to the secrets behind the doors of the Department of Mysteries, and much more.

Wow. This fic was incredible. I basically gave up all efforts to work on anything else for the past two days because I could not stop reading this. I really enjoyed AMR’s other SSHG fic, Snape’s Boon, though I felt like it had a few problems. This fic is longer, better, and corrects most of the problems. Let’s get down to it.

The biggest strength of this fic is the quality of the writing and of the ideas. There is so much amazingly creative world-building in this fic! The prophecy is subtle and clever, with a myriad of meanings that the reader slowly begins to understand as the fic progresses. Hermione and Snape work together to create a huge number of spells and potions, invented by the author, in their quest to defeat Voldemort. A potion to help resist Legilmancy, that has the unintended side effect of boosting dueling, because duelists unconsciously use Legilmancy to read their opponent’s moves. Those who take the Duelist’s Draught prevent their opponents from making these readings (an idea AMR also uses in Snape’s Boon.) A net spell, adapted from an old Victorian millinery spell for creating hat lace, enlarges the net and adds defensive wards and is used to trap Death Eaters. The attempt to use computer programming and Arithmancy together to correlate data and extrapolate likelihoods and stratagems. The idea to use Muggle Post-Its as portkeys to safely remove survivors from the battlefield, the color and location depending on their allegiance and the severity of their wounds. A beautifully heartbreaking and completely thorough explanation of Pureblood family magic and how it is passed on to the children. The traditions of Pureblood manners and etiquette (suspiciously similar to Regency customs – the Pureblood section of this fic very much reads like a Regency fic.) Hermione’s parents finding a place in the magical world – I have never read a fic that attempted to assimilate them in to magical culture and it is done so well, here. I could go on and on – these are just the ones that came to mind first.

The plotting and pacing is also top-notch. I really appreciate the skill with which the author avoids many of the traditional pitfalls of fanfiction. There were so many times when I thought, ‘Oh no, here comes the tragic misunderstanding,’ or ‘Hmm, this particular aspect of the story is getting tedious,’ and without fail, the author zigs or zags to avoids the mistake. Dumbledore’s refusal to see reason beginning to bog the story down? The very next chapter, he gives in. Hermione kidnapped by Death Eaters and me dreading several chapters of her pointless torture and misery? She escapes almost immediately, impressing and fascinating Voldemort with an amazing twist. Pregnancy fic, which I tend to dislike because I find it out of character and boring? Only becomes pregnant for essential Order reasons and maintains her intellectual spirit and curiosity throughout the pregnancy and beyond. The author’s foresight and cleverness kept the story page-turning and spellbinding, to the very end.

I do have to take a bit of an issue with the characterizations. Snape is an alternate universe fabulously wealthy and impeccably bred Pureblood in this fic – which I do not mind at all, but I know that this portrayal bothers some people given that this was written in the Half-Blood Prince era. In addition to that, I found Snape to be a bit too open and a bit too kind. The fic attempts to explain this by showing the Trio and Snape spending time together offscreen at Grimmauld Place for months, and by suggesting that much of his cruelty is a show for the Death Eater students. I don’t like it when authors take what I believe are essential Snape qualities and write them off as ‘an act’, but it’s a minor quibble in the overall context of the fic. Secondly, Snape is a little too willing to pursue Hermione, but again the author offers multiple explanations as to why he is behaving this way (he is in his childhood home, his great-grandfather is scheming to get them together because he wants an heir, they have been spending every day together working on a potion, their ages are not so different when in the company of the very aged members of his household, etc) so I was not too bothered by it, even though it was probably out of character. I will say, though, that the Albus Dumbledore in this fic is egregiously out of character for most of the fic. He is outrageously cruel to Hermione and incredibly dense for seemingly no reason (the author does have an explanation that she gives at the end of the story, but the explanation is not at all sufficient.) Lastly, one of the original characters, Septimius Snape (who is absolutely fabulous by the way,) has one scene where he is disgustingly vulgar and cruel seemingly out of nowhere that really bothered me, but it was just that one little instance. I mention this only because I was so shocked by it that I nearly put the fic down and I felt as though I should warn future readers.

Despite the bumpy-at-times characterizations, I was very, very pleased with the romance in this fic. It progresses in phases, which keeps the relationship evolving and interesting thoroughout the fic. The Pureblood setting of Snape’s ancestral estate, Houndsnape Hall, is Regency-esque, with balls, dance cards, formal dinners, curtsies; it’s the perfect place for two reticent people to dance slow courting circles around one another (with a little help from Snape’s clever meddling great-grandfather who desperately wants a Snape heir, of course.) This idyllic setting does not last as they are forced to make a difficult choice for the Order that involves their relationship. Next, they must go back to Hogwarts for Hermione’s Seventh Year and pretend nothing has happened between them for the benefit of the public. During the Seventh Year, they plan and plot, mixing potions and creating spells for the upcoming confrontation with Voldemort. I LOVE that they were more focused on the war than on each other – so many fics get this wrong. This is exactly what Snape and Hermione would have done. Then we have the actual confrontation and war which shakes everything and everyone to their very foundations. Though the relationship is technically resolved early for Order reasons, I felt that the author maintained enough tension, choices, and changing circumstances so that the romance arc felt as though it completed at the same time as the war arc. After all of that, we are even treated to a long glance into Severus and Hermione’s future, which somehow continues to be filled with new fascinations and insights to Wizarding culture – just amazing. I found the romance incredibly satisfying.

Much of this fic feels like Classic Era, which might be part of why I love it so much. Pureblood!Snape, out-of-character devious and meddling Dumbledore, and innocent wide-eyed Hermione (at the beginning.) This might sound a bit strange, but bear with me; I think thematically, this fic progresses much in the same way that the Harry Potter books do. The idyllic twinkling and magic of the Houndsnape Hall is reminescent of the magic of Hogwarts and the childhood innocence of the early HP books. The Pureblood balls and early courtship feels very much like the shy dances of Goblet of Fire. The frustration with authority created by Dumbledore’s terrible decisions causing Hermione to break the rules and make her own independent choices for the first time feels very much like Order of the Phoenix (with Dumbledore avoiding Harry Fifth Year, causing Harry to become less obedient and more independent.) The safe haven of the early chapters is cloaked in an inky cloud as the heaviness of war, duty, and sacrifice descend upon the characters just as they do in the later HP books. So, some might say that Hermione is too gentle or innocent in this fic, but that’s only at the START of the fic – I believe the author intentionally uses Philosopher’s Stone Hermione (even though she’s 18) in order to re-create the whole bildungsroman journey of the Harry Potter books the reader’s mind. If you’re a bit skeptical of my theory, look at Hermione’s Transfiguration N.E.W.T project in this story for confirmation that the themes of childhood journey to adulthood are indeed the author’s intention. I absolutely adored going on same Harry Potter journey that I so love – but through the lens of SSHG and completely new plots, prophecies, and magical theories. I could be crazy, but this is what I felt. ❤

The bottom line: This fic definitely has a 'Classic Era' feeling (AU goofiness, Innocent!Hermione, Pureblood!Snape and a ridiculously out-of-character Dumbledore) which might be a problem for some of you, but if you can overlook it, you are in for a magnificent treat. Brilliant magical concepts, well-crafted setting changes that keep the pages fresh, great romantic pacing, precise plotting, interesting minor characters, prophecies, spell-crafting, cauldron-stirring…perfection. For me the ‘Classic Era’ issues were far outweighed by the beautiful writing and endless creativity on display. This is one of my favorite SSHG fics ever. I hope that you will love it, too!

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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.