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!

Advertisements

Prophecy’s Pawns – by Leandra

Links:
https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/leandra-prophecys-pawns.pdf
Only hosting my copy because Ashwinder is down. Thank you to the reader who sent it to me. I will remove this link once the story is properly hosted again.

http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=8081

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Action/Angst, 120k,

Warnings: Sexual Content, Underage, Pregnancy

A prophecy draws seventh year Hermione and Snape intimately together in the quest to defeat Voldemort.

There were a lot of great things about this fic, but unfortunately there were a few problems as well that stop me from giving it a hearty recommendation. The overall quality was high enough that I couldn’t stand to grade it any lower than ‘Exceeds Expectations.’

First, the good! The writing itself is great; I had lots of delighted laughs at the witty banter, even among the side characters. The warplot, though kept mostly out of sight, maintains a steady pulse. The climax is very good; one of my favorite Voldemort-vanquishing plot devices I’ve yet seen. The plotting is quite cliche and expected. I even found myself thinking at one point, ‘I bet they have a fight in this chapter,’ and then they did – but it’s all done so decently that it’s hard to complain about.

The bad. My largest problem with this fic is one of my story pet peeves – the Tragic Misunderstanding. THREE TIMES in this fic, there are serious fights that result because one person wouldn’t let someone explain a incriminating-looking situation. They run off sobbing and slam the door without listening to an explanation first. Who runs out the door when someone is protesting, “Wait, please let me explain!” No one. Or at least, not Snape and Hermione. Maybe Ron would do something like that. I’m sorry, but Hermione is someone who NEEDS information and data. She thrives on it. It’s how she thinks. She would never run out of a room in a fit of emotion without first gathering all data possible! And then to go 3 months before resolving the situation, still continuing on without the relevant data?  No.  Snape is just as bad; he does that Martyr!Snape thing where he does something completely annoying and irrational to sabotage himself because he thinks he doesn’t deserve happiness. Snape is angsty, but he’s not stupid. I rolled my eyes SO HARD every time there was a Tragic Misunderstanding – and it was uncomfortably often.

The romantic pacing was also not my preference in this fic. It’s basically a Marriage Law fic; although they’re drawn together because of a prophecy instead of a law, the result is the same. The romance develops inorganically because they are rushed together physically. My favorite part of fan-fiction, as I repeat over and over in this blog, is that slow-simmering heat of standing too close to each other and denying their feelings to each other and themselves. Marriage Law creates a desire to be together, an encouragement of those feelings, which for me ruins all of the sexual tension.

I turned the pages quickly in this fic, I was delighted by it many times, but as I’m trying to muster up praise for it, I’m having a hard time thinking of anything specifically that was good. It must have just been the overall quality of the writing that made this fic work for me.

The bottom line: It’s a fantastically written adventure with an in-character Snape and Hermione and lots of wit. Be ready to stomach dumb tragic misunderstanding fights and rushed Marriage Law intimacy.

Salazar’s Heir – by YsM

Links:
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=1481
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/1411687/1/Salazars_Heir

Rating: Acceptable

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Angst/Romance, 100k, PG-13

Warnings: Underage, Pregnancy, Original Characters, Abortion/Miscarriage Triggers, Marriage Law (not actually ML, but has that feeling.)

Hermione, beloved by all men, all unicorns, and Hogwarts itself, finds herself in trouble when Voldemort adds himself to her list of suitors.

Yes, my description is terribly tongue-and-cheek, but it’s only because this fic is perhaps the most heavy ‘Mary Sue’ fic that I have ever read!  Hilariously, laughably so, especially in the beginning chapters.  “Mary Sue” is the term for a main character, usually female, who is super idealized.  A beautiful genius, gifted in special in many ways, beloved by everyone, on whom the fate of the world hinges.  This Hermione definitely qualifies.

With that aside, let’s get to the real review.  The first few chapters of this fic are unbearably difficult to read.   It has the feeling of being written by someone extremely young and inexperienced.  It’s difficult to tell who is speaking and what is going on.  This does get better, however.  It becomes quite a pleasant read in the later chapters.  That’s one of the reasons I made this site – I would have skipped this on the first page – ‘Nope, bad writing’ – if I were reading it just for myself.

The romance is also quite terrible, unfortunately.  It’s filled with soap opera cliches, and the bland ideas about love espoused by someone extremely young who has never really been in love.  For me, SSHG needs to be about intellectual partnership, bitterness, loneliness, arrogance…something!  There are so many special things that bind Snape and Hermione together.  They are so much more than ‘you are attractive and I feel deeply for you!  Flourish!’  Unfortunately this fic delivers far more of the latter than the former.

Now, this sounds mostly negative, but I have to tell you that there are many enormously positive elements in this fic.  The storyline is based on the idea that Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin were in love, and that their true Heirs will always be searching for each other, trying to love each other again.  There are also a ton of interesting Heir-related prophecies that propel the warplot and intertwine with this Rowena-Salazar idea.  I found these ideas to be fresh, original, and extremely enjoyable.  There are a lot of twists and turns, and although most of them are clumsily done,  I really appreciated all of the effort put into this complex and interesting plot.

Despite these great ideas, the childish point-of-view really brought this fic down.  None of the adults ever talk to each other.  People constantly ‘forget’ to mention crucial things to each other.  Snape brewed a potion that could kill Voldemort that he just forgot to mention to Dumbledore and then sat on for weeks.  He brewed a potion to heal Hermione that he forgot to tell anyone about, including Hermione.  “Oh yeah, I healed you!  That was a couple of weeks ago.” There are never any meetings about Voldemort or the war.  Even Snape and Hermione don’t really work together; they just communicate about the things that happen to come up in conversation on the rare occasions that they aren’t mad at each other for stupid things.

The bottom line: A lot of great ideas – seriously, GREAT ideas.  This could be one of the top SSHG fics ever written.  Unfortunately, the execution is unforgivably and hilariously clumsy.  The characters all act like 12 year olds putting on a soap opera play.  The pacing is atrocious.  But you know what?  The great ideas and the youthful charm really make this readable and enjoyable, at the end of the day.  I would LOVE to see this reworked by the author, with an adult mindset.  Read it for SSHG laughs and fic-writing inspiration. Skip it if you are looking for something stimulating written by an adult.