Reading Reviews for Solstice
7 Reviews Found

Review #1, by academica I

21st January 2013:
Hi Lia! I'm here for our TGS Review Exchange :)

Ugh, they're usually painful, but I love Severus-centric stories. I think tackling his home life is tough, right up there with Lily's rejection, so kudos to you! I really liked the characterization here, in terms of not only Severus but also his parents. He definitely learns lessons quickly, as evidenced by his resolution never to touch the broomstick again. (He didn't go on to be a great flier, as I recall...) I also liked Eileen a lot; she seems to have this never-ending capacity for compassion when it comes to her son, despite what she had to endure from Tobias. You wrote her like she is in my head. I also loved the extra touch of Severus returning that kindness back to her; it was very sweet, and very sad, even sadder than the destruction and returning of the broomstick. And Tobias, well--he's very cruel. I liked how he was also abusive in terms of what he said and not just his actions, as I so often see in these stories.

A few little areas of potential improvement I noted:

You've got a couple of places where the tenses don't feel quite right. For example, here--

So he pretended for her sake to walk along the sidewalk in the direction of the park where he knows she'd watch for him before moving away from the window.

^It seems like it should be "knew she'd watch for him," but then again, it's sort of present-tense-ish. It just reads a bit awkwardly to me at the moment.

There also seem to be a lot of breaks in here, and you might want to go back and make them all uniform (so, use all asterisks or dashes or lines). I think it would just give the story a cleaner look.

Finally, I see a few things concerning dialogue tags that don't look quite right. There's a tutorial on the forums that can help--I know because I've used it time and again, because I also struggle with them.

I really love the overall bleak feel of this piece. I thought you characterized it beautifully by describing it as if it had been built during the Industrial Revolution and just left to decay there. I could easily picture soot and ash covering everything, and the whole place just falling apart. I liked how Severus's life full of misery was given context in that his neighbors had experienced similar tragedies in their own lives; the whole thing felt very soul-crushing for Severus, like his youth didn't even have a chance here. I've always sort of assumed that his home life was unusual even for his poor part of town, and it's interesting to picture it being commonplace, almost like it's accepted. In a sad way, I hope it made him feel less out of place.

Very lovely work! I'm so glad we got to exchange!


Author's Response: Hey Amanda!

I'm so sorry that this is now getting to you. There is no good excuse I can give you save the usual 'school has been killing me'. I need to be in the right frame of mind to answer these, especially the long ones.

Snape is a very interesting person to write a character study for. There's so much more to him than people like to believe. Maybe my one-shot was only the tip of the iceberg. Like many reviewers before you, there's a lot of mention of whether or not Lily was wholly included. I find some people tend to write Snape stories with Lily in them. I wanted to focus on his life without her in it.

I re-read this review several times since you posted it, and I looked up the things you mentioned (many of which I did not remember). It's good that you linked those two events though.

Oh, I liked Eileen too. The most she can do while living in that house is to give her son the love that he deserves, and in return, he will love her back. That element between them was necessary for their survival. She needed to show him that the world isn't all that bad. I imagine that's what his attachment to Lily was based on - she was one of the few who was nice to him.

I tried to be very careful with the amount of visual I wrote for domestic abuse - for sure, the physical aspect of it is there, but it's not so blatant. Tobias is cruel in so many different ways and I wonder sometimes what really happened to them.

Ooh yes. I went and fixed them when I saw this review the first time. The only thing I hadn't gotten around to was reading the tutorial on dialogue tags.

I saw Spinner's End as an old industrial town, but I love how you said it's left to decay there.
I tend to relate the appearance of peoples houses to how they actually are as individuals - whether people could tell or not. If the town is desolate, or in disrepair, that's how I view its people. Indeed, that's how they were written - very resigned to their fates. Maybe the people there didn't know how to live any differently than what they were used to. I could only imagine the shock when Eileen found herself there.

Thanks for the review and for the discussion!


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Review #2, by TheHouseElf I

30th December 2012:
Hi Lia! Aisha here for your review! I'd like to start by saying that I am very glad that I was paired up with you in this month's review exchange swap, because if I wasn't, I might not have discovered what is such a gloriously written one-shot.

The structure of this is brilliant. I loved how you offered small snippets into Snape's childhood, small moments that shows the reader his character, his situation and his parent's characters all at the same time. It suits the story perfectly.

Your description is beautiful as well. You have captured the fragility of the Snape household brilliantly, every action shows how close the family is to breaking point and you don't waffle on pointlessly which is good :D The fractured picture of the Snapes that you paint is subtly done, which is a testament to your talent, because never once did you say that Tobias killed his wife, but the reader is able to come to that conclusion. You tell enough, but not too much, leaving some to the reader's imagination, which I enjoyed very much.

The only thing that I could think could be improved is the word 'sidewalk'. Britpicking here, it should be pavement ;) However, the fact that I can pick fault with one word just goes to show what an amazing piece of writing this is, and I loved reading it. Definitely one for the favourites!

Author's Response: Hi Aisha! I'm thrilled to have gotten you as well, I love 'House of Cards'!

I've taken to writing like that recently. Instead of something continuous, I write snapshots within a big snapshot. I cover more ground that way, I guess, and I tell my readers more too.

A lot of Snape's life was a bit delicate. From his school life and his relationship with Lily to what went on at home. None of them were very nice, but life at home was the most unbearable. It's awful to feel like if you're walking on eggshells all the time, and that's what I tried to depict. Tobias Snape, in my eyes, is a bit of a loose cannon only Severus didn't realise that soon enough. In the end you realise that his household wasn't the only broken one. This might have been going on for years, and probably Tobias was a product of this behaviour as well.

I tried to make Eileen's death as subtle as possible, but another reviewer mentioned that it was too vague. I thought about fixing that, but at least you got the point. As a reader, I appreciate subtleties instead of the author spelling it out, so I try not to do that when i write my own stuff.

Oh, haha. I should know better. We tend to interchange them where I'm from, but I'll get to that.

I'm really glad you liked this so much. Thank you for such a lovely review.


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Review #3, by Violet Gryfindor I

25th December 2012:
This story is extraordinary. I don't know if I can necessarily be of any help and say more than the other reviewers before me because I'm made speechless by this story. It's a very thoughtful story, and I keep pausing while writing to think over the things that happened, the subtle style and repetitions throughout that paint a very sad, yet very real picture, not only of Snape's life, but the lives of many. Like he sees at the end, his whole city is trapped in that bleak, terrible cycle of life, its people browbeaten and downtrodden. Everything was always against them, probably from birth, and Snape too is caught up in that cycle.

What's most powerful about this story is the style. You keep everything subtle and brief, which leaves so much more to go between the lines - you say much without saying it, and that's a true mark of skill for a writer. The little clues that Snape catches are set in stark contrast to the shrieks that fill the house, but they lead to the same sad conclusion - you don't need to say what's really going on. Snape dances away from it, refuses to put a name to it, just like he refuses to visit his mother's grave and face the actuality of what happened.

There's also a fantastic attention to details in this story, the little details of banal things that give life to the story and its characters, more life than they'd often receive in a novel-length work. I love the off-hand reference to Lily most of all because too many Snape stories focus on her role in his life, but you remind me here that his mother was another, more important guiding force. Lily's abandonment is like another straw on the camel's back - it doesn't break him, but it does increase his negative view of a world that seems hopeless.

This story is a fantastic examination of Snape, both in youth and as an adult looking back. It's interesting how JKR made Snape return to his childhood home, just as she did for Sirius - both wizards return to places where they were traumatized, but instead of Sirius's stubborn hatred for Grimmauld Place, you show how Snape accepts Spinners End and the city around it. His experience has taught him to understand that it wasn't just he and his mother who suffered - it was a larger problem that involved everyone. This is what makes the story so thoughtful, how you expand it beyond Snape's personal angst.

I'm very glad that I had the chance to read this story. It's definitely going on my favourites list. This is one of those rare gems that the archive yields, and it deserves a lot more attention.

Author's Response: Hello! I've finally gotten here and I'm so sorry for the very late response!

One of the things I appreciate about JKR's characters is that they are painfully realistic. There is no added fluff because the series is a children's fantasy novel. The underlying themes are very real. The tale of domestic abuse, though rather subtle, is evident in more than one character. It doesn't have to be physical either. Snape's story was no exception. One of the things that made me respect him was the fact that he'd come from very harsh means. People are very good at hiding things from others and at the same time, people are so caught up with their own problems that they fail to see what's in front of them. When the story opens, Snape, as a young boy wonders - as he watches the town - if he is alone in this. He wonders, if for a moment, that what he's going through can be easily relatable to his neighbours. In the end, as you've mentioned, he realises he was never really alone. I've mentioned to a reviewer that even if Tobias Snape's actions are inexcusable, it's probably the only thing he knows having lived in such a place all his life.

Since this is such a sensitive topic, I wanted to be as subtle as possible, but still allowing the audience to see what was really happening in Snape's world. While that was my intention, you extend it to Snape being in denial about it, which I happen to like a lot. I should go back and add a note that the scene with Snape in the room trying to block out the shrieks is based on his worst memory in OoTP. That was the inspiration for this entire one-shot. It is what made me stand up and properly notice him as a character, and like Harry, I was stunned. For me, there's more to why he never visits his mother's grave. A bit of it can be guilt as well. After his father's explosions, young Snape always went down to tend to her afterwards. Even if he did not feel protected, he felt that as one of the few important people in his life, he could have done something for her. Maybe this could explain his valiant effort for Lily's sake too.

Most reviewers have said the same thing when it came to Lily's brief mention here. I wasn't planning to mention her at all, but at that point in his life, his view of the world changed, even with his mother's admission that he shouldn't have to be in such an environment.

I like the comparison that you draw here with Snape and Sirius, and it's something that I never thought about before. I think Snape becomes a very accepting cynic at the end of his life. Yes, this is what the world is, and nothing about that is going to change. Perhaps it took him years to see it. After his mother's death and his failure to protect Lily, he comes now to look at his hometown through different eyes.

I'm so happy you liked the story. I'm grateful for the discussion you've brought to my page and it makes me reflect on what I've written.

Thank you so much.

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Review #4, by Jchrissy I

27th November 2012:
Hi darling!

So, I used to think that I didn't like Severus, but the I realized it was Severus and Lily together I didn't like. I'm still not a die hard Severus fan, but I respect his character and love reading the stories of others who want to explore him.

See. Now you're in trouble. I don't like feeling bad for Severus. I like dwelling on what a bully he was, so then I don't feel bad for him. But you, you've given me this broken little boy that DOES deserve so much better, and now I feel extremely bad for him and that's what you're in trouble for!

The part about the broom, that did it for me. It was just so cruel of his father to do that. Not that I think he was anything other than a cruel man, because obviously that's just what he was.. but his little son only wanted to show him a new toy and bah :(.

I think you've found a perfect balance here with his mother. She loves him, that's obvious, but she's still weak. I'm going to try and get into this without actually getting into this...

Spousal abuse is terrible, and there are a million reasons why those poor women don't leave. It's not their fault, and it's important to understand that their mind isn't in an okay place. But at the same time, I just wish so much she was strong enough to leave her husband for the sake of her child's well being. She knows he doesn't deserve this, and even if she's always trying to protect him from the worst of it (until he gets older, that is) it doesn't change the fact that he's in an abusive household just as much as she is. Even worse because he doesn't understand why someone isn't protecting him. So even though I can't imagine the difficulty Snape's mother endured, and even though I know it isn't her fault that she wasn't able to leave, so much of me just wants to grab her shoulders and shake her... telling her that she's not being fair to her child. And bah. Poor Severus :(.

I LOVE the style you've written this in. The little pieces, the glimpses into what made him the man he became (both his coldness and his ability to be strong enough to play double agent for so long). And even more so, you've kind of explained a bit of his obsession with Lily without ever touching that. She was one of the first, if only, kind people that ever cared for him. So even if it was unrequited (sorry, trying to keep my Jily feelings from this, I really am!) it makes perfect sense on why he would love her with the intensity that he did.

This was so gorgeous and I was thrilled that I got a chance to read it. You are an amazing writer and have just attacked me with more feels this morning than I know what to do with!

Author's Response: Hi Jami!

I'm so sorry I took so long to respond to this. I've had a rough time lately, and things were busy for me too. And since this review is so wonderfully long, I felt I had to put in a lot of time on my response.

I completely agree with you there. I gained respect for Severus Snape later on in the series, and I was surprised that I was so adamant in defending him to others who believed he turned against Dumbledore. I know others are big fans of him, but like you, I don't consider myself a die-hard fan either. The Snily pairing never really moved me either, but I don't hate on it. I actually appreciate and pity love of the unrequited varieties.

Heee :) I tend to do that to people a lot. I always feel sorry for some of the antagonists in any story. I always feel there's a reason why someone turned out the way they turned out, and I like to explore it. I remember that scene in OoTP where Snape taught Harry his Occlumency and Harry encroached on one of his painful memories. His reaction afterwards revealed so much for me and somehow became the inspiration for this story. I'm glad you see him as a broken little boy, because that's what I wanted to show - and by extension, it's what I got from JKR's scene of Snape sitting in his room hearing those crashes.

I sat a long time thinking about what Tobias could possibly do to make his son hate him so much. The toy broomstick, I thought, was as simple as I could get. However, as another reviewer pointed out to me, it foreshadowed Snape's teenage years and his bad luck with flying. Sons always want to impress their fathers, and what a 5 year old Snape did was no exception.

Even with magic, some characters are often paralysed in stressful situations. While I wrote this, I wanted to empower her a little, but obviously that didn't work. When Snape ponders over his 11th birthday, I wanted him to tell her to use her wand. I wanted to make mention to the fact that she was still a witch, she still has some semblance of power. I don't know why, but I couldn'™t form it into words. I agree, it isn't their fault and some people fail to realise that. It's so easy for someone to say that they'd never stand for it, but they've never been in that place, at all. It's hard for a child to grow up in that setting, but as he gets older, he realises he wasn't the only one. Perhaps his father was the product of a broken home as well. Everywhere in the Spinners' End I wrote about could not escape it. Maybe it was difficult for her to adjust as well. She grew up a Prince. She was a pureblood and now found what she thought was love, in the form of a man with a cruel past. It's not something I can imagine. In these situations, all you want to do is grip them by the shoulders and make them look at themselves.

Writing the story in this way gives the audience more than an extension of one of the scenes, even if they do seem a bit far away. I really didn't want to touch Lily in this at all. But the rift in their friendship then only did more to add another nail to the coffin, and impacted (maybe without him realising) his view on the world. Like his mother, Lily was also taken away from him. In some way, he may blame himself for the former as much as the latter. Even if no one protected him, he felt that he should have taken more care of her, hence his avoidance of her grave for all those years.

Thank you so much for reading and leaving me such a detailed review. I love reviews with feels :D


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Review #5, by Renfair I

18th November 2012:
Hi Lia! It's Renny with our review exchange. Well, right off the bat I was excited since this is a Severus story and I'm just an eensy-teensy bit in love with him :P

This is my favorite kind of one shot; a missing moment, slice of life piece that really explores a single character more deeply than what we're given in the original books. I thought you did a great job with this. I know from "When the Storm Breaks" (which I have shamefully, SHAMEFULLY not gotten back to recently!!) that you're really good at getting inside a character's head, especially one where you don't get much of their interior motives from canon like Lucius or Severus (at least until the very end of DH).

So one thing I love about Severus-centric fics is that I don't think I've ever read a bad one. People like us who write about him tend to deeply care about the character and therefore are really careful about trying to write him accurately and respectfully, as much as you can respect a fictional character that is. Like I already said, you did a great job capturing Severus as a child. I can see easily how his bitter, sarcastic personality as an adult could stem directly from how you've written him as a child and adolescent: first his innocence about magic being slowly chipped away and smothered by his father, which leads to an almost temporary rejection of it before he starts school to simply keep things at home having some semblance of normalcy. The realization you give him right at the end is great. Again, it sets the tone for how Severus is as an adult. You'd think that since he had such a rough childhood, it would make him more understanding of what Harry went through growing up, especially since he cared about his mother so much. But life in Spinner's End hardened Severus and made him into a survivor, not an empathizer. Sort of the type of man who must have looked at scrawny, first year Harry, seen both himself and the hateful James in him and thought, "So what? Life sucks. Get over it and get used to it, kid." and moved on to continue to hate him despite his promise to protect him.

I like how you broke up the story into short snippets. It helps to show time passing or even just his thought process changing without needing a big explanation. The picky part of me would prefer if there wasn't so much spacing around the line breaks, but I know the site can make it crazily hard to format the story correctly and often doubles the spacing you originally intended. As far as other nit-picky things, I didn't notice any errors like spelling or punctuation, but I was reading for enjoyment and not critically. I doubt if I had my beta hat on, I would have found anything anyway. :)

Personally, I really appreciated how you didn't even touch how Lily influenced his character. Maybe it's because I was already so invested in Severus's character before DH came out that I sort of excepted his love for Lily without it making me all, "Aw!! That's SO SWEET!!!" and going off to write dozens of stories about it. I don't mind Severus/Lily stories at all, but I also like ones that are just about him, you know? I still like the idea that he could have changed sides and joined the Order simply because it was the right thing to do, not because he was obsessed with a woman.

For me, the brief snippets we saw of his childhood in OotP was what made me start to really care about Severus early on in the series. It helped explain why he was the way he was and raised more empathy within me than for his counter-point in that book, Sirius, who only made his life worse than it already was. I think this one-shot is a great fleshing out of some of those snapshot memories we saw during Harry's Occlumency sessions. You should definitely be proud of this little piece! Great job!

Author's Response: Renny. I am so sorry I took so long to get back to this. I have no excuses at all.

I'm a bit daunted of writing Severus Snape. He's an incredible character and a very complex individual. He's one of those characters I like to call 'untouchables' - only JKR can write them how they are supposed to be written. When I do attempt them, I try to be careful, like you've rightly said.

I LOVE missing moments and they can only be written in one-shot or drabble form. They are just enough to keep a reader satisfied especially with characters like these.

I was curious about Severus as a child. Most of what I've seen is based on his teenage years and later. The scene that plays a lot in my head when I think of his childhood is the one where we see a child crying in the corner as drama unfolds somewhere else in the house - from OoTP, Snape's Worst Memory. Before that, most readers considered Snape an awful, jealous man with a grudge. But as children we never really think that these traits are made and not born. I think he was stuck in an unfortunate household with someone who was much like Petunia was to Lily about magic. The major difference here is that while Petunia chose to distance herself from her sister, Tobias Snape lashed out against something he could not possibly understand.

I love that you said Snape's experiences made him into a survivor. You would expect him to understand what Harry has been through, but things were a bit more difficult for Severus. He didn't have many friends at Hogwarts though, while everyone wanted to be Harry's when he arrived. In the end things never really got better for Severus while Harry's life improved over time. I'm not an advocate of the 'tough love' concept, but I completely understand your point there.

Snapshots within a big snapshot. There is (hopefully) enough information there, but not an entire essay, you know? I hate formatting, seriously. Before it wasn't this difficult! I got frustrated, so I decided to leave it as it was, otherwise I would have spent more time than I intended.

Aww, why thank you. Honestly, I didn't think it was completely necessary to include her. His life continued without her for years afterwards. He still had his demons to deal with and I'm sure this is one part of his life that he'd like to keep to himself. I don't mind the pairing either, but I like seeing Snape stand alone too. I wonder how much I would like him if he were to switch sides. Like you said, it would be different if it did happen because of Lily. To be fair, he did turn his life upside down for her.

Ooh, exactly! Like I said before, I like to believe that certain things happen to people because of their experiences, not because they were born that way. My heart softened towards Snape in OoTP as well, especially how he was bullied unfairly. Like it or not, James and Sirius were bullies, plain and simple.

Thanks so much for such a long and thoughtful review, Renny.


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Review #6, by Calypso  I

9th November 2012:
Hello! This is CalypsoJenna from the forums, here with your requested review.

Wow what a great, in-depth piece! I loved the way you portrayed Snape- quite different from in the books, but very in character nonetheless. It was interesting to look at a different time in his life to parts JKR writes- we know he has a difficult childhood, but it was lovely to see that explored more deeply.

Your first line was brilliant. It really grabbed me, and the sentiment seemed to reflect a lot of Snape's personality. Your description of Spinner's End was really atmospheric- I could just imagine what it must have been like, with Snape hiding in the run-down house.

I also thought that you portrayed Snape's journey of understanding with his father very well- from the initial naivety when he wanted to tell his father about his new broomstick to the eventual realisation of his mother's fears.

The flow was generally good, especially at the beginning and the end. I do feel that perhaps this story could benefit from being a little more gradual though, with a little more imagery and deeper description, maybe?

That said, I loved the ending. It was very understated, but effective nonetheless. You made a very damaged, vulnerable man out of a much maligned character and beautifully portrayed an fascinating part of his life!


Author's Response: Hi!

I'm so sorry I took so long to respond. I've been rather busy with school lately.

Snape is a very complex character with an unfortunate life. In spite of this, he was very proud of his magical roots - use of his mother's name when signing school books, for example in HBP. I wanted to delve a bit deeper into his childhood. Most people tend to forget that he had a rough time and his parents were poor. I also wanted to make his youth one that was without Lily Evans. I've seen writers want to include her in Snape's childhood. Yes, she was an important part of it, but there's more to him that just her. I daresay his experiences as a child shaped him into the person he was when JKR introduced him.

His relationship with his father might have been the most important part of this story when it came to shaping him as an individual. From that little snippet in OoTP, Tobias Snape was not as loving as one might expect. As a child, especially a boy, he tried his best to gain his papa's approval - just like Draco and Lucius. But like you said, Severus grew to understand the man very well.

I tried to make this sort of subtle, but I suppose it may come off as vague. I do see what you mean about more description though, I wondered about it myself.

I wanted to include the word 'solstice' somehow, and that's what came of it. It actually was the first line that came to my head when I drafted the story, so I decided to leave it for the end. It is small, but still packs a whole lot to it.

Thank you for your feedback! I really appreciate it.


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Review #7, by caoty I

5th November 2012:
Hey, it's me here with your requested review. And can I just say how surprised I am that this is the first review of this one-shot?

Anyway, moving on. Severus Snape is not generally a character I have sympathy for, but you've made him a sad, quiet man who bears the burden of his hard life in the working-class Midlands. I'm very impressed by your awareness of the context of Spinner's End, by the way; it's something most fanfic authors forget to include, and you've managed to establish it in a few short phrases.

This flows well despite your non-linear narrative time (I use phrases like that because the last lesson I had today was English), and it makes sense, which is something that, again, many authors in my experience struggle with. So well done there, too.

I quite like the note you've ended this on, too - it's very poignant and thoughtful, which I'm always going to be a fan of.

I'm now going to be nitpicky with you and offer some critique, most of which is technical:
- Americanisms ('sidewalk' being the most common one i. this) and typos - there are a few in this, and it can get quite distracting, so maybe if you choose to revise this at some point, you might want to take another look at them.
- Some of the details get lost in this, and it can be a little confusing. For example:
His mother met him every year
but then
He should have known something was wrong when she never appeared at Kings Cross.
and you haven't really given us enough to link the two scenarios together, you know what I mean?

Apart from that, though, this was good, and I hope more people read and review this in the future. :)

Author's Response: Hi caoty!

This is a first for me. Most of the people I know are some die-hard Snape fans. I'm not as big as a fan as they are, but I respect his character. When more of his story was revealed in the later books, I began to look at him differently. JKR alluded to his family problems in book 5 as well as in book 7. He has had a hard life, you're right; it seems it was full of bad decisions on his part that he could never really make up for in the end. I'm glad my narrative could sway you just a little bit. I tend to have that effect for the most unsavoury of characters.

Oh, well I'm glad for that. I wanted to experiment with different forms of flashback which I think the non-linear narrative stems from (well, that's only my opinion anyway).

I went back to see which quote you were talking about. I had some trouble finishing this story, and tying it back with the story's title. At the time, that was the best I could come up with.

Oh wow, sidewalk's an Americanism? I've said that all my life and I'm not even American :P. I don’t doubt you about the typos, I will revise this when I get the time, but thanks for pointing it out.

Okay, I might have to PM you about that, so I can get a better idea of what you mean.

But thank you so much for the review and the feedback! It was very helpful :)


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