Hellooo! LavenderBlue here with your requested review. Since I've gone over the 6000 word mark, I'm leaving Part I of the review here and will sign out so I can leave Part II immediately after.
It's been a treat to read your first five chapters, and I think you've got a fantastic thing going here. You mentioned that you've lost your mojo and would prefer me to hit hard, so that's just what I'll attempt to do! But before I get to the con crit, I think it only fitting that I gush about all the good stuff.
First off, you've got an excellent command of language. Not only is your prose free of grammatical and syntax-related hang ups, it's cleverly worded and scintillating with active verbs and colorful descriptions. That makes for a crazy enjoyable read. There were countless passages that left me smiling, or that I re-read just for the fun of it. You also do a good job of keeping the tone consistent throughout. Ellie has a recognizable and empathetic voice, which is vital for any first person POV.
You've also introduced some engaging characters. I mean, c'mon, Dead Regulus Black? I squealed when you introduced him. Character development is where some concern and con crit kicks in, though. Let's start with Ellie. Like I mentioned before, you have a solid command of her tone and POV. She's clever and snarky, but not so snarky that she ceases to be a likeable character. However, I did notice a tendency to "over talk" in her narrative. Ellie often explains the behavior/traits of herself and others more than necessary. For example, she TELLS us multiple times that she doesn't make friends easily and that she worries that she's too antisocial. But the best way to communicate that effectively is to SHOW how Ellie acts around others. And honestly, from these first five chapters, Ellie seems to have a healthy and varied amount of friendships with Rose, Amy, Ben, Scorpius, and Chris. My suggestions would be to either make Ellie ACT in a way that's more stand-offish or antisocial or to cut the characteristic altogether. From what I can see, she acts like a perfect normal teenage girl (aside from the fact that she sees ghosts :]) who isn't any more awkward around others than the typical teenage girl. I'd either make Ellie all-out socially awkward, or cut that part of her personality. But in any event, SHOW that awkwardness through her behavior and her dialogue, don't have Ellie tell us about it.
The only other detail of Ellie's characterization that I had trouble with was that she claims to have gotten 12 Os on her OWLs--something not even Hermione achieved. Dude. That is brilliance of insane proportions. It's clear that Ellie is intelligent, but this detail rubbed me the wrong way. You don't want to make your heroine so effortlessly fantastic at something that it's unbelievable or annoying. And again, it's clear through her word choices and behavior that Ellie is smart. You don't need her to tell the reader that, or it comes across as arrogance--and I don't think you were aiming for that. Just a thought!
I'm a little concerned that Regulus and Albus are reading too similarly to each other. Both are snarky, both are smart, both are handsome, and both enjoy giving Ellie a hard time. There isn't a clear distinction that sets the two apart other than the fact that Regulus is, you know, dead. I also had a few moments of disbelief about Regulus' character. I realize that he's had more than 40 years to evolve and become better acquainted with the modern world, but right now he strikes me as just a little too--fresh? He was born and raised in a bigoted, pureblooded, Dark Arts palooza of a family, and it strikes me as a little odd that that's not reflected at all in his behavior--even in just a small, residual way. He was a well-bred aristocrat, and unlike Sirius, he was the golden boy in his family who did everything like he was supposed to up until the last minute. So it strikes me as a bit odd that he would converse with Ellie--a halfblood--in such an easy, taunting, colloquial way. In other words, he reads much more like I imagine the ghost of Sirius than the ghost of Regulus. Of course, some of this just boils down my perception of Regulus, but a change or two in this realm might help differentiate him from Albus.
It's still early in the game for me to really pinpoint personality and development for Ben, Chris, Scorpius, or Amy. However, I do really like your characterization of Rose so far. Her concern over the timetables--and Scorpius' concern for her--was adorable. And it reminded me very much of her mother. :] Then again, you give Rose some decidedly un-Hermione traits, like her tendency to be a sap about love and her belief in the Sight and Divination. I'm looking forward to seeing Rose develop even more as a secondary!
Author's Response: I'm so sorry it's taken me a few days to reply to your wonderful reviews! They were too awesome for me to handle for a while, but now I have a little time to spend on a reply that is even remotely adequate.
I'm blushing so hard right now. Thank you so much for that! I really do adore language and linguistics and I try to translate the things I've learnt from that to improve my writing and craft a better tale. I'm a bit of a grammar nazi, so spelling and grammar mistakes are the bane of my existence. I owe a lot to my beta as well, who has seriously curbed my undying love for commas!
I'm so happy you find Ellie and company engaging! I find that if I can't relate to the main character, I can't really enjoy or read the story. I tried really hard to make Ellie relateable and likeable, despite how kooky she can be from time to time. Thank you for criticisms on her "over-observance". I want to craft well-rounded characters, and since the story is in first person, Ellie comes off as someone who is super aware of everyone and everything - which she obviously isn't otherwise her brain would overload!
I've really struggled with Ellie's intelligence and her academics. I want to show her as this quiet over-achiever, and that's why she takes a bajillion classes and really pushes herself. I'm not sure yet if I want to change those aspects of the story yet, or write a little further and see if I can validate the reasons her academic load is a little over the top. I kind of based her achieving something even Hermione couldn't because I remembered somewhere that Percy passed with 12 OWLs. I should double-check that...
Regulus and Albus being too similar? THAT IS ONE OF MY BIGGEST FEARS. I think it's one of the reasons why Albus is so difficult to write. I'm hoping that as the story progresses, they begin to differentiate. I have very different kinds of relationships with Ellie in mind for these two, and hopefully it works out that we don't have two Regulus clones walking around (not that I would mind, really. It's not like I have a crush on a character of my own devising *whistles*). Now that you have also noticed this thing (I AM NOT ALONE) I shall keep a conscious eye on it. And Regulus... is supposed to be a bit of a conundrum. I do hope to explain his idiosyncracies as his character arc and relationship with Ellie progresses.
I love writing Rose so different from Hermione! She's high-strung in a different way and that's a lot of fun to write. And her and Scorpius... I, the author, squee over them sometimes. It's actually pathetic.