|Review:||Violet Gryfindor says:|
Wow! It's hard to come up with what to say after reading this story. Your writing is excellent and this story has all of these layers to sort through, evoking conflicting emotions that have made me need to stop and think and re-read portions of the story to see how the pieces fit together. It's fantastic to see a story like this, especially one about a minor character in a historical context - there are never enough of these kind of stories. :D
It's not what I was expecting - it actually took my expectations and turned them on their head. There was something horribly comical about this story, which shouldn't have surprised me because Sir Nick's "nearly headless" state is a constant joke in canon, but the repetition of hacking at this body was like something out of Blackadder. This is somewhat emphasized by the executioner's desperate desire to succeed at his job - it's comical and pathetic at the same time. He's not at all the "conventional" executioner (like Macnair from PoA) - one never really thinks about executioners just starting the job - but it fits perfectly because no experienced executioner would have used a dull blade, not unless he intended to inflict the maximum amount of pain. And the fact that the kid keeps hacking at the body even when the prisoner is dead and the audience has left... wow. It goes beyond spectacle and "doing the job" - there's something more that I can't quite put my finger on. It could be as simple as the executioner believing that he can only succeed at his first execution by completely severing the head, that he thinks the King will punish him for failure. It's perhaps the most striking aspect of this story, that raw desperation and the executioner's intense suffering.
You do stray away from the gory details, and that's another element of the story that stands out, especially because you really draw out the execution. It works because you break up the descriptions with the count of axe blows, but the impact of that violence... I won't say "wow" again, I promise. :P You write it in a way that's realistic and plausible, including interesting glimpses into Sir Nick's experience with death, how he's divided between his fear of death and his desire to escape the pain of his botched execution. There's the implication here that, if the execution had been "regular", he wouldn't have become a ghost - it's because he has the time to think about it that he chooses that middle ground between life and death. I love that idea because it adds depth to Sir Nick - it's not just about fearing death, but having time to balk, to have one's courage fail. And he also only fears it because it's not noble, because this kind of death signifies his own failure.
I could keep going, but it's probably best to stop and tell you again how amazing this one-shot is. It gets the reader thinking, and that's something that every good story should do. I'll be on the look out for more of your work in the future! :D
Author's Response: I've read through this review a few times, trying to think of a coherent response, and I can't stop blushing!
Minor characters are always the most interesting to write about, because there's so much to explore with them and a lot of freedom to write what you want. I haven't seen any stories about Nick before so I had to write this when I got the idea!
You know, before I started writing this story the executioner was going to be a conventional, faceless figure - like Macnair. But once I started typing the character just wrote himself, and I found myself feeling really sorry for him. He evolved into one of the most important characters in the story and I was so happy with him. I don't think that an experienced executioner would ever have made such a mistake that after 45 chops, Nick's head still wouldn't be completely severed. You couldn't possibly be responsible for something like that and not suffer because of it.
Nick was a character I was eager to explore. He's always so proud of being brave in the books - he's the Gryffindor ghost, after all - but he admits to being a coward at the time of his death. I wanted to offer a plausible explanation as to what it was that caused Nick to remain on earth as a ghost - I don't think he would have feared a noble death, but this was far from that.
Thanks for such a thoughtful and wonderful review! It really made my day and it means a lot to me!