Beyond 84 Charing Cross Road – by Darnedchild and Devsgama

Link: https://archiveofourown.org/works/5604049/chapters/13480363

Rating: Outstanding Minus

The Basics: Modern Era (2016), Epistolary/Romance, 113k

Warnings: None

Two years after the fall of Voldemort, Hermione Granger is the manager of a prestigious wizarding book store in London. She receives a request for several extremely rare Potions books from a mail order patron named Simon Sopophorous.

I am very tempted to write a whole little essay about all of the epistolary stories I read as a child (Boomer’s Journal, Go Ask Alice, Babysitter’s Club: Chain Letter, the Dear America series) and as an adult (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Yellow Wallpaper, S) and even expand into how my favorite films are narrative-driven documentaries and found footage horror which are the film equivalent of episotolaries; but look, I managed to squeeze all of those thoughts into just one overlong sentence and spare you the drudgery of reading a longer version. Suffice to say, this is my favorite narrative framing device and I was absolutely over the moon when I discovered that there were a few SSHG fics that used it. So, take my rave review with a bit of caution, given my zeal for its structure.

Almost everything about this fic worked beautifully for me. This was the best building-passion scintillating romance that I have read in ages and ages. I can’t even remember the last time that the passion of a fic was good enough for me to feel that giddy excitement and grab a glass of wine. A romance through letters is slow enough for me to really believe it and feel it. I talk so often about the importance of building passion through ‘standing too close to each other, trying to resist’ foreplay of restraint. The letter format causes this to go on for many, many chapters because they aren’t physically near each other. When they finally do see each other in person, the history of denied passion crackles between them, adding electricity and weight to the slightest of movements.

The plotting and pacing are nearly perfect. After they come together in real life, the romance is believably and slowly drawn out due to plot. These plot hurdles are no mere ‘tragic misunderstandings’; they are tied directly to the characters in a way that moves the story forward and further explores their relationship. I absolutely loved the nature of the curse that they discover together; I loved it to the point that I stopped reading and raved excitedly about the curse idea to my husband who agreed that it was an awesome idea nearly worth of head-canon. The full understanding, commitment, and closure to the relationship did not happen until all of the plot was resolved, just as it should be.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely excellent writing. The old-fashioned wit of letters is perfect for Snape’s personality. The subtle insults and wordplay were delightful to read. This is Severus Snape at his finest; snarky, insulting, sharp, closed, reclusive, lonely, guilty, bitter, hilarious. It’s sometimes difficult to believe that Snape would let someone in but the premise of letters subtly and believably penetrates his solitude. He might very well be more open in letters under a pseudynom and of course Hermione Granger would be smart enough to eventually put the pieces together. Everything here is so well-conceived and so excellently done.

I will say that the in-person scenes in the final quarter of the story were not as strong as the letters. Snape would rave to his letter falcon Yorick, which I found strange and a bit out of character. When Snape and Hermione are together, towards the end, the author used a quick back-and-forth point of view that I disliked. I think it was intended to mimic the feeling of letters, but the viewpoint changes made it difficult for me to keep track of what was happening (perhaps because I listen to audio rather than reading.) I felt as though some of the latter important scenes moved too quickly and did not allow enough breathing room to fully convey the weight of the events. This was especially true in the last chapter. It’s possible that the author rushed things a little bit in the end; but it’s a minor complaint in the overall scope of the fic, and the only complaint I can muster.

The bottom line: The crackling electricity between Snape and Hermione given their history of a long romance of letters with no physical contact made this one of the most scintillating romances I have read (keeping in mind that I am uptight/Victorianish; I doubt what is exciting to me is normal.) Beautifully paced and plotted. Sharp, intelligent, and witty throughout. Plot ideas worth raving a about. All wrapped up in epistolary form? Perfection, except for some of the rushed chapters towards the end. Recommended to everyone unless you feel that the letter format is not for you.

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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!

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.

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.

As the Pages Turn – by StormySkize

Links:
https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/stormy-skize-as-the-pages-turn.pdf
Only hosting my copy because Ashwinder is down. Thank you to the reader who sent it to me. I will take this down when the story is hosted properly again.

http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=13233

Rating: Acceptable

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Parody/Romance/Humor, 100k

Warnings: Time Travel, Silliness

Professor Granger and Professor Snape fall into a book – a book that seems to be parodying the events of their younger lives. “Harriet Stranger” and “Seximus Snape” must work together, re-living the events, to escape the book.

As you know if you have read any of my reviews, I prefer a reserved, scholarly, intellectual approach to this pairing…because that is the kind of people that Hermione and Snape are. For me, this pairing just does not lend itself to comedy. As a result, I tend not to like most of the WIKTT (When I Kissed the Teacher) Archive stories, as it’s sort of a humor inside-joke based community.

However, this is an interesting WIKTT prompt – Hermione and Severus must fall into a book together. It seems like the spirit of the prompt is meant to have them fall into a bodice-ripper, but thankfully this author chooses a vaguely more acceptable direction, a parody of the Harry Potter stories. Everyone in the story has different names – Elvis Slumbermore, Barry Plotter, etc. It’s a fun idea, although reading the fake names for 90,000 words was tedious.

I feel as though the author missed a lot of opportunities with this story. Having Hermione and Severus go back and relive the events of the Harry Potter books as adults provides an opportunity to get Severus’ perspective on the events of the books – which is the Holy Grail of this genre for me, something I have been looking for a long time but have never found. How was Snape feeling about having to kill Dumbledore? What possessed him to say, ‘I see no difference?’ The Shreiking Shack from his point of view. The exact nature and history of his friendship with Karkaroff? The author choose not to indulge in any of those potential beautiful drama and psychological depth. Instead, she gives us an almost verbatim play-by-play of the events of the books, with changed names.

Their journey through the last book, “Barry Plotter and the Search for the Sundered Soul”, is interesting, because Deathly Hallows had not come out yet and she was forced to improvise. This was by far the best part of the story. I have really enjoyed the few fics I have read that are essentially Deathly Hallows from Snape and Hermione’s perspective (perhaps because I am not a huge fan of Deathly Hallows) and that is what we get in the last section of this fic. Hermione and Severus (I’m sorry, ‘Harriet and Seximus’) work together to create a potion that will destroy Horcruxes. The Final Battle is interesting; our heroes have to relive it over and over again, via Groundhog Day, because the book is waiting for them to do something (spoiler: kiss.) I thought this Groundhog Day plot device was excellent – frankly I think the story would have been improved by framing the whole thing this way.

I must say that the characters were spot on. I think by this time in the fandom, HBP era, everyone pretty much has Hermione and Severus down. There’s a lot of seepage from other fics – you see things like, ‘Insufferable bastard!’ and ‘sandalwood’ that have started to define SSHG. It’s like on Project Runway; everyone is spending so much time together that ideas from one designer are bound to leak into another designer’s project. This happens in SSHG, especially in communities like WIKTT. They’re in character, but it’s missing that something special, the author’s take or special touch. It feels like ‘student work’, to use the Project Runway acronym again. Almost like a fan-fiction of better SSHG fics. It is a parody, so I suppose that might be literally what it is.

I should add that there are no ‘lemons’, no sexual content. This doesn’t bother me, as you can write a scintillating romance without that, but this fic is pretty passionless.

The bottom line: The author creates a parody setting appropriate for humor, and then wrote 100,000 words. Nothing is funny for that long. I found the first 3/4 very boring. I’d recommend starting with the “Barry Plotter and the Search for the Sundered Soul” section, as that is when the romance and the original content begin.  Everything before that is a summary of the HP books, with the names changed.

Tyger, Tyger – by Bloodcult of Freud

Link: https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/bloodcult-of-freud-tyger-tyger.pdf
I am only linking it here because the site that used to host it, potionsmaster.net, is currently not working. It’s sad for a fic to disappear from the Internet because of an old site going down! Hopefully that’s okay. I will take down my link when it is hosted properly again.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance, 150k

Warnings: Sexual Content, Non-Con (not SSHG), Torture, Violence, Pregnancy, Marriage Law, Original Characters

In the years after the fall of Voldemort, a new Marriage Law thrusts Hermione Granger into marriage with Severus Snape, setting off a chain of events that will shape the Wizarding World for generations to come.

This is one of those ‘legendary’ fics that I had heard about and seen mentioned over and over again before I finally read it (mostly because I couldn’t find a link to it anywhere.) I started the story with high expectations.

The timeline of this fic is sprawling; we follow Hermione and Snape from her last year at Hogwarts to the very twilight of their years. We see long narrative windows, and then the time jumps 10 years. Despite this unique construction, the words flow easily and the reading is page-turning and enjoyable. I also felt that the writing and characterizations grew stronger as the fic continued; I enjoyed the middle and end of the fic far more than the beginning, which hardly ever happens.

The characterizations are decent. It’s a Marriage Law fic, so they are romantic for the majority of the story. I often find that authors have a difficult time keeping Snape in character after the romance begins; they want to soften him and turn him into a considerate romantic hero. This story manages to keep him fairly in character up until the very end, which I very much appreciate. Hermione is fairly in character, although I found her to be a bit traditional and Molly Weasley-ish for my taste.

There are a ton of academic, literary, and historical references in this fic, which I usually appreciate, as I very much enjoy the cerebral nature of Snape and Hermione’s relationship. That said, somehow the overall tone of this fic is not intellectual or academic at all. I didn’t see a thirst for knowledge or research in either Snape or Hermione.  For me, the dissonance between the academic references and their hobbies/priorities was very disappointing.  Sure, Hermione reads constantly, and they speak poetry to each other sometimes, but the relentless academic thirst is missing in their actions and choices.  For example, Snape cures lycanthropy in a few bored, off-scene sentences.  What?  Shouldn’t they be excitedly fussing over the cauldron and theorizing together?  They don’t have measured, thoughtful, theoretical conversations.  Rather, the tenor of their conversations is merely emotional and romantic.   I think that’s where a lot of my lackluster feelings about this story are coming from; it didn’t feel like SSHG.  It felt like SS + Molly Weasley.

Maybe my expectations were too high, but for me, the only exceptional quality of this fic was a Severus Snape who stays in character, post-romance, for decades. I might also give a gold star to the smut – I tend to skim over that, generally, but it was well-written enough in this one that it held my interest. The rest of the fic – romance, action, Snape family history – are only passable.

The bottom line: It’s a solid ‘Exceeds Expectations.’ Everything is well done, just not extraordinary. Read for a unique, slow-paced, ‘whole-lifetime’ story of SSHG romance that improves with each chapter. Skip if you’re in the mood for a slow-simmering courtship or well-crafted action plots.

Luring the Enchantress – by southernwitch69

Link:
http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=212
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=13575

Rating: Acceptable Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Action, 300k

Warnings: Sexual Content (might be missing some, I didn’t read the whole story)

WARNING: PARTIAL REVIEW
As with many of my low-rated fic reviews, I only read about halfway into this story before skimming to the end.
If anything in my review is inaccurate or misconceived as a result, please feel free to let me know and I will amend my review.

The Dark Lord gives Severus Snape an assignment to seduce Hermione Granger. Snape readily agrees, but in the process of seduction, he begins to develop genuine feelings for the witch.

First, the good. This was a MUCH stronger fic than the Previous southernwitch69 fic that I read – The Succubus. You can tell that the author has matured a little bit in both her writing and her perspective on relationships. Much of the writing is still low to mid quality, but I was able to read through large swaths without something jarring taking me out of the moment.

That said, the fic suffered from a lot of the same problems as ‘The Succubus.’ The Snape seems to be extremely dominating and possessive, which when paired with a young, unexperienced Hermione is very squicky. There were Pedo!Snape and Creeper!Snape vibes in this fic that made it very difficult to enjoy. Additionally, the Snape is playing both sides, and the reader (and Hermione) is unsure of his true loyalties for the majority of the fic. I’m not completely opposed to having a LoyalDeathEater!Severus who has a beautiful redemption arc, as this fic attempts, but the execution is lacking. The Snape in this fic is unlikeable to the point that I didn’t care about him at all and felt that he was taking advantage of Hermione – and that lasted for the majority of the fic. That is not why I read fan-fiction.

This suffers from a ‘childish point of view’, as well. The characters are not mature. In a stellar fic, Snape and Hermione’s focus is defeatign Voldemort. They might care about each other deeply, but they know logically they can’t be together until Voldemort is defeated. In this fic, the warplot is mostly ignored except when other characters bring the plot to them – Dark Lord makes demands, Dumbledore makes demands, Lucius plots, etc. Snape and Hermione seem to have no agency of their own. They spend all of their time focused on each other. This is not the way adults behave or think. Maybe I’m just old and grumpy, but I have a hard time reading fics like this now.

I made it about halfway into this fic. I found myself groaning louder and louder at the end of every chapter, when I looked at the table of contents and realized that I still wasn’t even halfway, despite reading for what felt like days and days. It wasn’t quite bad enough to stop reading, objectively – I don’t usually drop Acceptable fics – but the Snape characterization was a huge hurdle for me, as was the molasses slow pacing and repetitive plotting. I made it 120k into the fic (already the average length of an epic-length fic) and just couldn’t bear to read another 130k. This one simply wore me down with exhaustion.

According to harmony_bites’ Guide to SSHG Epics, southernwitch69 wrote about 700k worth of fic in the span of ONE YEAR. This is, frankly, way too much. That’s 5 hefty full-length books. I wish she would have applied her considerable energies to concentrating on ONE much shorter fic. She does have some fun ideas (LOVE the idea of ‘The Succubus’) but the quality is consistently low, and now I know why. Even the best authors’ quality would suffer if they tried to write 700k in one year!

The bottom line: This fic is way too long for the quality. It’s not so bad that I recommend skipping it, but it’s bad enough that I would put it at the very end of your list and skim through the parts that bore you. Avoid if you don’t like an experienced, morally corrupt Snape with an inexperienced Hermione.