|Review:||teh tarik says:|
Hello Val ♡ ! Here with your requested review and ahem, apologies for taking so long yet again. I'm glad you re-requested, because this is such a unique story, very different from anything else on the archives, and I do enjoy reading this a lot.
Anyway, gah. This is a fabulous chapter. There's so much going on, and the plot is becoming more and more exciting. The scenes are short and terse, reflecting the action as well as creating a sense of narrative tension, and reading this, I was really held in thrall throughout the whole chapter. I love all the movement of the story and how the characters and the narrative never seem to remain static; the prose is light, subtle and descriptive in the right parts, and you instead of having your characters angst around, you convey their internal struggles and emotional states through their actions and reactions to each other e.g. this lovely moment between Xavier and Camille:
Xavier repeats the wand movement wordlessly, then, with another flourish, conjures a new pair that he hands Camille. Their fingers touch briefly, imperceptibly.
She smiles. "Thank you."
This was done gorgeously, Val. It's so subtle, the way their relationship or feelings for each other are implied, and yet there's so much clarity to that moment. The writing was very delicate and the words were phrased perfectly, and I'm glad you stopped there rather than carry on and run the risk of overdoing that scene.
Anyway, you mentioned in your areas of concern about emotions. There's a lot of disturbing material in this chapter: the murder of the mayor, the rape and abortion references, the characters' moralities being tested...etc. First, the mayor. That was amazingly written; it could have been just a generic action scene, Astrid handing him the poisoned handkerchief and running off, and him dying a gruesome death. But somehow you made it so disturbing by humanising the mayor, by writing those small details here and there, how he smiles kindly at Astrid and speaks well of his nephew (Jean, right?). And yet despite the fact that he appears to be essentially a good person, Astrid still sticks to her assignment and kills him. :( Gah. It's a really interesting moral dilemma she's facing, and I really like this theme that you've brought up: how the reality of war turns the clear-cut boundaries of morality, of good and evil into a murky grey area, which the characters are forced to navigate, to examine their own individual beliefs or to keep doing as they are told, "for the greater good". It's a very fitting war theme, and of course, this comes up in HP canon, so great work on this. Also, I loved that Ministry scene! All that luxury and splendour is such a great contrast to, say, Simon's prison camp. Paul Goldberg is a very intriguing character - a little shady, not entirely good. It's great that you introduced a character like him, and that all the protagonists are now embroiled in something much bigger - the reality of politics. I really enjoy fics where the political comes into contact with the personal aspect of life.
As for how you handled the sensitive topics, I thought they were very well-done. The knitting needles were a very striking and terrifying image, and I really felt for Johanna there, going through such traumatic experiences.
As for description, some of the other reviewers have mentioned this, but you certainly do have an eye for singling out memorable details of a scene or a setting, which really makes the writing so visual without going into a very detailed account of how everything looks, sounds, smells like etc. Descriptions like the chandeliers resembling pennies underwater, or the mountain elf being a creature all "knots and knobbles" (I personally loved this descriptive bit heaps :D ) are such small but striking details.
As for CC, one thing that stood out to me about your sentences was the use of adverbs. You seem to be using them quite a lot at times, especially with dialogue tags, e.g. 'Astrid questions disbelievingly', and 'Camille starts hesitantly' or Goldberg nods enthusiastically. Sometimes the adverbs aren't always necessary, because the verbs already convey the sense of disbelief ("questions") or enthusiasm or hesitance ("starts"). Too many adverbs can start to trip up the prose a bit and make your sentences a little clunky (I'm guilty of this a lot, too ahaha).
I loved your characterisations of Camille and Xavier and Jean here; they're all so real and distinctive -Jean is secretive and scheming, Camille and Xavier are both hot-headed and they interact with each other so nicely. But I am having a little trouble distinguishing Astrid from Johanna; their characterisations aren't so strong in this chapter; their viewpoints are so similar and I'm trying to think if you mentioned that they were sisters or something in previous chapters. And as this chapter contained Astrid's first mission and that horrible flashback of Johanna's, I do think that perhaps you could work on these two characters' portrayals a little more, at least in future chapters.
Also, this is not CC, but I would have loved to see that explosion Jean made in the beginning :P It would have been grand.
Anyway, this is quite a long, rambly review and I hope I've said things that haven't been too useless (it's 2am - it always is when I review). This was a wonderful chapter, Val, and I really enjoyed reading! Great work :)
PS: I notice you keep typing ' &hearts '. Is your semicolon key not working? Not sure if you already know this and I'm just being annoying, but to make a heart in reviews you have to type &hearts ; (with a semicolon at the end but without the space in between) :P