Wow! Firstly, I'd like to say that this story is really, REALLY good at putting you in a time and a place right from the get go. I think my favorite thing about this story so far is your description of the setting. It's like reading a historical fiction novel - it puts you there, and I honestly thought for a while that you weren't actually going to be introducing any characters. In fact, I would have been fine if you hadn't done that at all - just left us in a place and time and then introduce everything in the chapters to come. It was that engaging that you could have described the world in this chapter and left me sitting on the edge waiting to read more.
That being said though; the characters you did introduce! It's just enough to make you intrigued in them, without giving too much away. I love them - they don't seem to be perfect characters, or Mary Sues - they feel like they would be characters who would fit into a Harry Potter novel - if Harry Potter was written in the time of the founders. I don't read a lot of founder's fiction for the reason that they tend to turn into Lord of the Ring-feeling epic stories - but this feels just, like a pastoral story. It fits in the style of JK's original writing and has left me sitting here wishing there were already more chapters to read.
I think some of my favorite parts of this story, though, come when you describe characters we we sort of know from Canon - namely, the founders. Helga Hufflepuff is more than just the fluffy cuddly den mother, and Godric and Salazar are not written as bronze gods or paragorns of men - I love the way you've described them all. But I think what caught me most of all was a teensy description of little Helena Ravenclaw and her interactions with her mother - it just strikes me as written in such a way that you can see exactly how their bond might fall apart in the future, and it makes me feel sorry for her. In, like - two setences!
Thus far, you've done a good job of setting up the 'fairy tale' elements too. I'm a huge sucker for poetry, so I appreciated your folk poem in the beginning. I'm not QUITE sure yet who is the Piper in all of this - although I have a few guesses. But I have no doubt that it'll come about in a very interesting way! Look forward to reading the next chapters soon!
Author's Response: Hi there! :) I'm so sorry for taking so long to reply to this, but thank you for this amazing review, for the awesome challenge and for choosing this story as the winner!
I loved writing this story, and I had this image of how the town would be in my head that I really wanted to get across. I'm very glad you liked the setting and that it reminded you of a historical fiction novel, that's just what I was hoping to convey. It's very good to know you didn't find the descriptions boring at all and that they really enhanced the story.
Ah, I'm so pleased you like the characters so far! :) I'm very glad they don't seem too idealized, or Mary-Sues, since that's always a concern of mine. The term "pastoral story" seems just right for this, and maybe that's what I was self-consciously trying to get across: how the time of the Founders wasn't this fantastic, epic era, but a time in which both magical people and Muggles struggled and had both external and internal enemies to quietly confront.
I'm so happy you liked my take on the Founders! :) I quite enjoyed writing them and tried to add little quirks and details to stray from the stereotypes of them we tend to see. I think there would be a lot more to Hufflepuff than being this warm, constantly kind person all the time, and Gryffindor and Slytherin are far from perfect. The most interesting character for me was Ravenclaw: I loved writing Stephane's fascination with her but also his observations of how cold she is, and the interactions with her poor daughter. I'm so glad you found that little moment indicative of their future relationship, as I felt it was quite an important thing to mention as well and really showed what kind of woman and mother Ravenclaw could be.
With this story, I loved the prompt of taking a fairy tale and situating it in the wizarding world, and the Pied Piper is such a good one for this since it's kind of based on historical records and local lore as well as elements of the fantastic. The folk song was quite enjoyable to write - I hope to include a little exert in each chapter and maybe a surprise about the author in the last chapter if it fits! :)
The next chapter has just been added to the queue: it took way longer than I thought, but I just kept thinking of more and more characters and scenes to include! I hope you enjoy it, and thank you again for this wonderful review! :)