Hello there, Rhaenyra!
This is Kapa, here to review your entry for The Some Chicks Marry Chicks Challenge. Thank you so much for entering my challenge! The results will be up ASAP. : )
As I mentioned in the Challenge thread, I'll be judging the entries based on writing, plot, how well the wedding theme works, characterisation and originality, so I decided to write the review based on the same elements. Here we go!
Writing: You write very well! My only real complaint is that your language here gets the tiniest bit stilted from time to time, which I suspect is the result of trying to hit a suitably "old time-y" note without overdoing it. On the other hand, there are a few word choices that comes off as a little too modern, compared to the rest of the story. The "person" in "She knew how to corner a person like a cat trapping a mouse", for example, and the word "chums". I realise you're not going for actual medieval English, but still, these word choices kind of threw me out of the story flow.
(Another contributing factor to the slight stiltedness might be that you go a slight bit overboard with the exposition at a few points too, like when you explain the history of Hogwarts, or why the Baron chose Helena. It's not that anything stands out as bad in these sections, they just don't flow quite as well as the rest of the story.)
It's in the dialogue that you really shine, in what's said - but also in what's unsaid! "His drive to become your son-in-law?" is such a great line, and "As long as I'm not there when you tell Rowena Ravenclaw that there will be no heirs and that she missed the wedding." is also very funny and sounds like a joke a real person might actually make. I also adore how you describe Rowena NOT asking Helena the Question.
And this has nothing to do with dialogue, but omg the ending! I groan-laughed when I read "that bloody Baron," and I still can't quite tell if I love it or hate it, hahaha!
Some minor complaints:
You repeat "the Baron" a lot. I do see the point of not giving him a name, but maybe there could be some other way around repeating his title so much? Maybe switch it out for "my suitor" or something like that once or twice?
"going the struggles" should, I expect, be "going through the struggles".
Plot: This is a very well constructed story, especially with that punch of dramatic irony at the end. It's a short piece, but it says everything it needs to say, and it does it well! Tackling the Founders' Era is a challenge, and I think you tackle it well. Most of the plot is taken up by that You set up a very believable scene between Helena and her mother, and we get just enough glimpses of the life going on around them to get a feel for the time. And wow, the conversation between mother and daughter is nerve-wracking! You slowly give more and more hints about what's really going on, and the trope of the disapproving parents that want a whole different life for their child than the child wants to lead works amazingly here.
And then, of course, part of the plot is the unstated ending, the plan that Helena comes up with and how utterly it goes off the rails... This is one of the ways that fanfiction can do things artistically that would be difficult to do with original storytelling; you don't even have to mention, ay, Rowena's diadem, the reader still know exactly what will happen and it adds a whole new dimension to the story. There's an air of Greek tragedy over it all, I love it!
Wedding Theme: Well, as you pointed out in the challenge thread, there's no "traditional" wedding in this story, but I think the way you tackled the subject here was very sweet. : )
The whole story is, of course, on the subject of marriage, but the little flashback to Helena and Blythe's just-the-two-of-us ceremony is lovely (and amazingly written!). I adore the flower crown, and how they cobbled together vows from what they remembered of other weddings, and how the wedding might not be legally binding but the commitment was real - a sentiment suitable for a LGBT-themed wedding challenge! And my heart aches for the fact that the two of them never will get to stand up in front of their families and have a "real" wedding... : (
Characterisation: First, let's look at the Canon characters and compare your versions to what we see in Canon, not that there's a lot of Canon characterisation of either of them. (Hm, it's actually difficult to say who gets the most characterisation in Canon, Rowena or Helena...) Let's start with Rowena.
You write a very fascinating Rowena, not all that likeable, but then again important historical players often aren't. I think the way you write her meshes really well with Canon, even though it isn't at all how I've ever imagined her to be. That's one of the cool things about fanfiction - you can take the same minor character and flesh them out in a thousand different ways! The way you write her doesn't make me proud to be a Ravenclaw, though, hehe... : P
The mother/daughter relationship you portray between her and Helena also rhymes really well with Canon and I absolutely love the power play between Rowena and Helena in this story, it kept me at the edge of my seat all the way through. I really bought their relationship as presented, and the same goes for what we see of the Baron - it works well and meshes perfectly with Canon.
Then, on to our main character, Helena! You've given her a very strong voice here, and I love how her inner strength and determination shines through, even in the face of her formidable mother. She's determined to live her life on her own terms, even if that means sneaking under Rowena's radar, and she's so brave that I almost wonder if she wouldn't have been a Gryffindor if the Hat had sorted her! I absolutely love your Helena... but I have a bit of a hard time reconciling her with the character we know from Canon. In Canon Helena's such a tragic figure, who comes off as pretty weak and vain, an easy victim for Voldemort's charms. I can't really see your Helena taking the coward's way out of becoming a ghost, you know? (Unless it was to come back and tell Blythe she was sorry, in which case *sob*...) This is a very minor squabble, though, and I love the way that your ending ties together with Canon (as I spoke about above), and I think your Helena is more interesting than what we see in Canon, so I'll happily let this slide, haha!
And then, Blythe... Now, it feels a little unfair to complain that not every character is as fleshed out as the ones you focus on the most, but Blythe just doesn't stand out on her own to me, compared to the other two women. I would have loved it if you'd given her just the tiniest more characterisation. Maybe something about what makes her a Ravenclaw as opposed to her Hufflepuff siblings (who almost get more characterisation than Blythe herself, there...)? What we see of her is lovely, but I think it would have elevated the story further if you'd showed something about what first attracted her and Helena to each other, for example.
Originality: This is a pretty original story, I think. Maybe I just don't read enough Founders' Era, but I doubt there are many other stories tackling the fraught relationship between the demanding Rowena Ravenclaw and her lesbian daughter! And even just the mother-daughter focus sets this story apart from most fanfiction! Add to that the language and the lovely wedding ceremony and you have a very unique story that will stay in my heart and mind for a long time.
All in all this was a very sweet, well constructed, heartbreaking and thoroughly enjoyable read! Thanks again for entering into my challenge!
Hello! Ooh, I'm really becoming a fan of your writing, and when I saw that this was a Founders era piece written for the Chicks Marry Chicks challenge, I really couldn't resist it.
I've seen a lesbian Helena Ravenclaw once before in fanfiction (I don't know if you've read that story but it's brilliant) so I'm very, very happy with the idea of Helena being gay and that being a large part of the reason that she doesn't want to marry the Baron. And your portrayal and characterisation of her here was brilliant, and I really enjoyed reading about your version of Helena.
One thing I love about Founders era stories is when people choose their words so carefully, as it's clear you've done here. The reminders in the opening scene, when Helena talks about her mother's attempts to provide other heirs for her father and the cost that it had for her, fit very well with the time period and the stark way that she said it reminded us that these events were very much an accepted part of life - particularly for women - at this point in time.
(Actually, I've studied a little about marriage and bearing children in this era, and this story reminded me of several aspects of that, so I think you definitely captured it well.)
It was so interesting to see that Rowena was building the diadem herself! I don't think I've ever seen that done in fanfiction.
I also really liked the fact that, although Rowena is clearly a very intelligent lady, she is governed by her own experiences in what she wants and expects for Helena, and that influences the way that she treats her in this piece.
The ending was so beautiful! I loved your description and imagery there, and the way that Blythe and Helena had already said their vows to each other out in nature, under the stars - I think having their wedding take place in the natural setting helps to contrast against the forced reiterations of the Baron's affection for Helena and it shows really clearly which of the loves is real and which is not.
I really enjoyed this piece!
So this was the first founders fic I've ever read but I really enjoyed it and I loved the concept of the story. It was brilliant.
The first thing I have to compliment you on is the language you used. Without going so overboard that I was unsure what you meant in places you really made it feel like era when the founders would be around. Things like four and ten were really nice touches so huge kudos to you.
I really liked what you did with both Rowena and Helena's characters. I can really imagine Rowena being a hard woman to please and Helena not feeling good enough, especially when we hear her story told to Harry years later. I also liked the fact you alluded to the fact she more than likely knows what's happening - someone as clever as Rowena Ravenclaw will have had it worked out I'm sure. Helena on the other hand knows exactly what she wants but the way she has to play this game with her mother to do it. She really is feisty - especially at the end when she promises to tell her mother the truth if necessary.
But the story with Blythe is just so heart warming, in just a one shot you completely have me routing for them as a couple. I love the back story you gave each of them and the fact that for Helena, Blythe really is happiness and freedom from being married off and producing an heir. Honestly, you got so much across in just a few paragraphs, I really was in awe.
I also have to compliment the background you gave on the Baron. I thought it was very fitting of what we know of his character. To be honest, I could easily accept this whole thing as complete canon. I thought it was such a good story.
Well done on a great story and good luck with the challenge!
So this is a really interesting take on the challenge and I love the characters that you've chosen to do it with! it's a very clever and unique little concept that you've come up with! I love that Helena has just a strong voice that runs through out the piece but she comes across as quite a feisty character especially as she is talking to her mother.
I love how this piece deals with Helena being a bit of feminist about marriage too at least she doesn't like the idea of being to be 'married' off and then have children. This fits in nicely with some of the sassy characterisation she has. I thought the way you introduced Blythe was really good and the way you portrayed their relationship was lovely. I adore the title and I love that Blythe is quite different from Helena. Helena really does see Blythe as freedom which contrasts to the oppression she feels. It's nice how the title ties in.
I found the imagery is your last paragraph to be wonderful. I love the image of them being there together. everything about this is super perfect like the flower crowns. *squee*. There is so much romance in this that I'm not sure what is my favourite line, I think it's 'What mattered was that we had tied our lives together,' because that just says everything. it's kinda beautiful! good luck with the challenge because I really enjoyed this piece! I'm shipping Helena/Blythe now!
- Abbi xo