Review of “Escape” and “Mr and Mrs Percy Weasley”

Čt 14 prosince 2017

(Update later: this review was written in December 2017, when the latter story was somewhere around chapter 24; it would be probably too self-centric to think, that the author read my review, but the fact is that the later chapters of the story seem to address some of my objections.)

There is a biblical verse from Galatians 3:3: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” What I mean is that “Escape” and “Mr and Mrs Percy Weasley” started as one of the best fanfictions I found anywhere. Obviously, from person who writes fanfiction around the classical literature (namely “Pride and Prejudice”), I expect better literary quality than your average fifteen-year inserting herself as the fourth member of The Golden Trio on the run for horcruxes. Unfortunately, with the contiuation of both stories, it seems to me that the author lapsed more and more into some of the worst stereotypes in the genre.

First of all, before saying anything else, I really liked Mr and Mrs-to-be Percy Weasley themselves. It is really delight to read their story (and of course, it doesn’t hurt they slip for weekend in Prague, where I am from :)). I really liked they both knew they are dancing around some elephants in the room, but they so much wanted to work together, they were willing to trust each other even against the evidence, which would cause distrust. I really liked Percy discovering joys of the Muggle world (and I really hope he will eventually buy that set of the sixteenth century goblets for Audrey, now when he can explain her how come they are so well preserved).

I was less enchanted by Harry & Hermione. Even ignoring the problems with the Harmony ship [1] (about which later), they both seemed to me so perfect, so Mary/Marty Sue (of course, Mary Sue must be half-Muggle otherwise the author and reader couldn’t identify with her easily enough), that I lost most interest in them. Except, of course, Hermione being a cat is the only saving grace for her persona.

This being a Harmony story, it seems that every alternative universe shipping inevitably leads to bashing persons which are really likeable in the books, most usually Ron Weasley. It seemed in the beginning of “Escape”, that this author managed to avoid the trait, but it goes downhill pretty fast, and in the end Mrs Weasley, Arthur, and of course Ron are sworn enemies of the good guys and gals. And it is happily overlooked that many relational troubles which blow to their face in the end are caused by the unexplicable relational idiocy of Harry & Hermione. Why in the world, they haven’t contacted Ron, their supposedly best friend, immediately after they got means of communications (mirrors) from the Weasley twins? I like the Weasley twins in the story, but why couldn‘t be Ron included as well? Couldn’t the twins smuggle one mirror to the castle? And still they haven’t bothered to send him a mirror when they met Ginny, Neville, and Luna in Hogsmead? Of course, the only reason seems to be that the author may indulge more in the Ron-bashing (there is no way the Ron from books was not fed up with Lavender after few weeks of snogging; and actually, he broke up with her because he looked for more in books, not necessarily because of Hermione; that is more the movie Ron again).

Harry and Hermione spent five years (or at least summers) in the Weasley household. And suddenly the Weasley parents don’t deserve a joint visit from Harry & Hermione before the slandering interviews are published? If Molly Weasley as we know her from books would slam the door in their face, I would immediately ship her to St. Mungo, because some serious disease must be affecting her brain. That is not Molly we know from the books. And I just cannot make myself believe that Weasleys’ would be that prejudiced against Muggles. Ignorant, of course, but not unwilling to be explained.

When they are repeatedly accused they gave up on the wizarding world and went Muggle all the way, Harry & Hermione never face these accussations by explaining what’s going on, by explaining that they actually finished their magical education already, they don’t even boast how many N.E.W.T.s they got, they just blow up. They behave like rebellious stupid teenagers, who they actually are, demanding trust from everybody, explaining to nobody, and then they are supported in this stupidity by supposedly mature and wise Grangers. We’ll get to this more later.

Because next we have to deal with the persona of Albus Dumbledore as described in the stories. I am the last one to declare Professor Dumbledore to be perfect. There are obvious problems in his behavior. Some of them mentioned by JKR in the books themselves (excessive secrecty, insufficient information and training), some are not. For example, there is a situation where absolutely everything depends on Harry learning Occlumency properly, and his teacher is not adult enough to get over Harry’s father bullying him when they were teenagers. So, there are no results of such teaching. What does Dumbledore do to remedy the situation? Nothing, just waits until somebody gets killed and Harry can blame himself for it. What’s wrong with him? [2] I believe that both Professors Dumbledore and Snape are reponsible for the death of Sirius Black (perhaps they should be even criminally responsible for neglect) more than anybody else on The Light Side (the biggest share of guilt goes to Mrs Lestrange, of course).

Having said that, I just cringe when I see how Singularoddities deals poorly with description of flawed personalities. How it is difficult to describe somebody who honestly fights for The Right Thing™ his whole life, he is willing sacrifice absolutely everything for the fight, and yet sometimes he forgets he is not permitted to demand same sacrifices from others (“The only person who can die for my ideals is me.” Karl Popper), or perhaps even how sometimes he fights more to eradicate Evil than to promote Goodness and Love. The author is not able to keep the hero balanced, so although he/she starts well, more the story progresses more it is black-and-white, and more and more it is hard to distinguish Albus Dumbledore from Tom Riddle. And because it is not enough, we have to have very light Snape (see above, nobody questions his part in the death of Sirius), and very very dark Weasley family (older part). It somehow looks like all authority persons from the book are deemed bad, and somehow bad persons are now good? Like …

I know what it feels like! When I was trying to understand what is the worldview behind those two stories, I started to think about the Stage Three from M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled (nicely summarized in video by my former pastor Dave Schmelzer). The stories are all about rebellion against the authorities. It is all about an inversion, negation of traditional values without actual wisdom, which for me is in synthesis of the real personality, authenticity and true values. All those who were positive authorities in the HP canon (Dumbledore, Weasleys) are suddenly bad, and not only bad there is almost nothing positive mentioned about them. All those who were marginalised, in submission, or outright morally suspicious (Grangers, Professors McGonagall, Snape; it is interesting that Professor Flitwick is nowhere to be found) are suddenly main heroes. Also, the main purpose of adults (especially Grangers) is to validate youngsters’ (Harry & Hermione, Fred & George) in their ideas, not to bring much of their own, and certainly not to bring balance and wisdom. Whole story sounds very much like a college student ranting against his parents.

That also includes Percy, but here I have to take exception from the rule: his persona is written really well, I really suspect that he made some huge mistakes (even Kingsley suggests that he was originally meant exactly as Weasleys were afraid he was — a spy on Weasleys and Harry), but he is really an interesting person. Well done.

I like both of these stories (probably more “Mr and Mrs Percy Weasley”, but obviously the second take is better than the first attempt), they are probably the best AU stories of the Harry Potter universe I have read so far (if it has not been obvious already, I prefer canon-based stories), but all the good things on these stories, makes me even more frustrated with things which could be so much better. Oh well.

[1]supporting Harry/Harmione pairing

Also, a nitpick: what the hell is wrong with you to leave one year old boy overnight outside in the English November? Are you too coward to admit to Petunia her sister died under your command, so you are not able to press a buzzer? Or perhaps the grooming (I am not sure I believe that one) was just Plan B, in case the horcrux was not eliminated by Harry dying from exposure?

Just for fun: I have found monthly weather report for UK for October 1981 and November 1981

Category: faith Tagged: review HarryPotter blogComment