Another comments on the Accidental Animagus & al.

Tue 07 April 2020

(my comments on the thread “What are your thoughts on the direction taken by 'Animagus at War' by White Squirrel?” by u/SnobbishWizard)

I have already (many chapters ago) wrote a review, which included my comments on this story, and so far I stand behind it.

On top of that I have two comments:

  1. Bloody length of the story. JKR complained that HPOotP was rushed to the publisher and it needed more editing, which made it according to her too long. That’s 38 chapters. 38 times 7 is 266 chapters for the whole series as the longest case scenario (the shortest scenario, seven times HPPS is 119 chapters, and we are already over). Animagus saga now stands at 147 chapters, and it feels more like the basic setup of the story than coming to its conclusion, so we may get to that worst-case scenario eventually. In terms of the war, it feels like we are at the Battle of Smolensk (that’s June 1941) or at the Coral Sea (May 1942). The Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Midway are far ahead of us in the dim future, and nobody can even dream about Berlin or Hiroshima (not that we should dream about that). To close the story down, there will be either some horrible case of the Harry Potter ex machina, throwing the Ring to the Mount Doom and swiping away in one move all the armies of the Dark Lord including the mighty Tower of the Barad-dûr. Or we should expect another hundred chapters of this boring Goblin rebellion, and $DEITY have mercy on our souls! The author threatens us with another thirty chapters, but I don’t feel like he can make it is in so few without the story being incredibly rushed.
  2. Complete loss of the human element in the story. It is a very similar problem to Divided and Entwined by Starfox5. Not that there would be not enough action: battle after battle runs over the pages, in this case, all of them lost, in other all of them won, but there are no humans in the story, and it is as fun to read as the history textbook about the Thirty-Years War (or the mentioned Goblin rebellion) or minutes of business meetings (which some parts effectively are). Lost are the stories about Harry Potter catching a mouse, the last one which had at least some personal element was The Boxing Day with the confused Muggle friends finding themselves at Hogwarts, but that was sixteen chapters ago (whole Philosopher’s Stone, the book which made JKR famous, was seventeen chapters). When was the last time somebody said something personal or whimsical? What is Luna doing? Hermione? Did she kiss Neville or not yet (I honestly forgot)? We don’t know, and I am losing hope we will ever learn because we have to read another long and boring chapter where some impersonal armies fight with other impersonal armies somewhere who knows where (even if it is in my Prague, where I live; thank you, after Mr and Mrs Percy Weasley by SingularOddities and Hiding in Plain Sight by GinevrasChampion only the third case, where the author noticed that there are other cities in Europe than Paris). And I don't even care which one is which and which one loses.

Extended later, much later_ (2020-09-11):

It is certainly possible to write a good war novel, there are certainly many war novels in the Muggle world, which are very good, but I am sorry to say (I really liked “The Accidental Animagus” a lot), that neither “Animagus at War“ nor “Divided and Entwined” are one of those. What I can discern from the great war novels (e.g., “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “All Quiet on the Western Front” or my beloved “A Bell for Adano”) the key to writing a war novel is that you don’t write about all those battles from the bird’s eye view, but you just pick one (or few) characters and follow them through those battles never letting your eyes fly too high. Actually, if I understand it correctly (I have never read the whole book) “All Quiet on the Western Front” is written as the obvious critique of the top view (how down in the trenches the reality was very different).

Why then both of these fics let the personal stories (that’s what I meant that I missing more talks about Neville × Hermione relationship, Harry catching a mouse, or the love triangle in “Divided and Entwined”) slide somewhere to the back burner and they are now mostly ignored? Those are the stories which are most interesting, newspaper-like descriptions of the battles should be left to newspapers (characters read them in the morning after the battle) and kept just to few paragraphs.

See also this post about the structure of plot: the only thing which is interesting is how Harry, Hermione and others navigate through those battles, battles themselves can just stand as the background. And that is true even for the large Hollywood blockbuster war films. During the “Return of the King”, in The Battle of the Pelennor Fields all those giant elephants were just background for the real stories we are following: those of Théoden, Aragorn, Éowyn, or hobbits. Those little stories are the ones which carry whole emotional load of the story there (which is for example the reason why Legolas and Gandalf were so bland in that battle, despite all their jumping on the elephant or riding of the horse through the streets of Minas Tirith; they were just part of the background, there was too little of their own real story).

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