hi jane! i’ve heard so many good things about this story, so i figured it was finally time that i come check it out myself. and it absolutely did not disappoint!
phineas as a narrator is just… absolutely incredible. he is SUCH a character, which comes through first in his interactions with regulus and then in his narration of the rest of the chapter. the fact that he tried to guess regulus’ name with a ‘there’s only so many names among us’ made me snicker. and then all of the descriptions at the start of the piccadilly section, they’re so incredibly vivid, but they also have his voice in there so strongly? there’s this wonderful level of pretentiousness in the way he describes everything and everyone, like he sees himself as superior to all of it. and then, of course, it’s made even more obvious when he refers to himself as the hero of this story, lol.
“for to say of this unfortunate gentlewizard that he is the most dim-witted denizen of heathendom is hardly an overstatement” i audibly cackled at this. CACKLED.
this entire party is just a hoot. from phineas fulfilling his mother’s wishes while also irritating her by setting chesterton on her, to everyone absolutely falling at malfoy’s feet as phineas judges all of them, to just the sheer level of dramatics in how augusta speaks - it’s all so wild and perfect and just overly dramatic enough to be absolutely hilarious.
and then, of course, this mysterious person, who phineas seems taken by almost immediately, chasing him down outside and then completely stumbling over his words. for someone who spent the whole rest of the chapter being debonair and acting as if he’s superior to everyone, seeing him just a little flustered is a fun change of pace. and then this man! i’m very intrigued to see more of van helloing in future chapters and learn more about him. i’m assuming van helsing is who’s going to pull phineas into this ‘vampire hunting’ thing? truthfully, i’ve not read dracula, so i’ve got no idea who the original van helsing that i could go off of, haha. anyways, very excited to see more of him.
this first chapter is seriously just so great - dramatic and funny and over-the-top in all the best ways. i’ll have to come back for chapter 2 soon!
Yes!! I’m so excited to read more of this story, I’d forgotten how much I LOVED that first chapter, haha.
I’m already laughing from the first sentence, about the “light meal” of 11 things. He is a champion eater, especially considering the hangover. (I’m pretty impressed, as I can only manage to eat dry bread when I’m hungover :P) And the loud bird that he attempted to do away with but was too tired with bad aim (nice foreshadowing for the darts and the eventual vampire, btw). Once again I love the humor in what is happening especially as compared with the verbose, fancy language used to tell the story.
The way everyone’s eyes gravitate to the wax seal (and the fact that it matches his name, lol) say so much about the nature of pureblood society and the importance placed on certain things. I love it. You have such a knack for including all these details between the lines, in a facial expression or a movement.
“he takes his meals like a monk in its cell” – maybe say “his cell”
Omg, I didn’t realize until this point that Cygnus was his father (I blame the fact that everyone in this family uses the same names haha). Sending a note with a wax seal from the upper attic room! He’s like the 1870s equivalent of sending a text to someone from upstairs in the same house.
I really enjoy the narrator telling me to notice that Phineas is losing at darts for the fifth time. Also, Barrabas Barnacle – what a name. It does sound very wizardy though, to the point where I almost wonder if he is indeed a canon character. I enjoyed reading about him though, and his humorous conversation with Phineas, and I hope we get to see more of him.
Is it the thought of marriage that’s giving Phineas indigestion, or was it that huge “light meal” he had for breakfast? XD
AND HERE ARE THE VAMPIRES! (well, one vampire) VAMPIRE FIGHT. The vampire licking him was disturbing but I couldn’t look away, so obviously written well, haha.
A tourniquet, yikes I didn’t realize Phineas had injured him that severely, like he severed an artery. Why is Van Helsing still standing there engaging in small talk instead of going to the hospital? If it’s so bad that he needs a tourniquet he should make some moves, fast. Or, is it possible you meant just a bandage instead of a tourniquet? (the sentence may read just fine to anyone who hasn’t taken first aid/emergency medicine courses, but tourniquets are for life-threatening bleeding; a wrapped bandage or compression bandage would be for less severe wounds) /jargon
I really liked the way you wrote out those action scenes though – both the vampire attacking Phineas and Phineas’ attempt to help Van Helsing. Phineas’ resourcefulness in turning his cigarette case into a knife was superb, though his ability to use the knife was not, haha! But I think once they work out their communication and strategy a little more and Phineas learns what he’s doing, (i.e. this: “‘We’? I injured it. You injured me.” ) they could be a great vampire hunting team.! Or maybe I just really want to see more scenes of these two interacting. Van Helsing is still so *mysterious* and Phineas is obviously intrigued by him, possibly more. I noticed how much Phineas was noticing Van Helsing touching his shoulder. Perhaps I see the real reason Phineas has no interest in getting married to his betrothed – but I suppose I’m jumping ahead.
Poor Phineas though – being queasy at the sight of blood, grossed out by vampire teeth, he’s an unusual one to be a vampire hunter – but it’s better than being the vampire-hunted. He has been chosen. Into every generation a Slayer is born. Now Van Helsing, get thee to a hospital.
Great chapter! Thanks for bringing this story back to my attention! I look forward to reading more :D
Happy Wishlist Season! I had a really difficult time trying to decide if I wanted to catch up on this or Inheritance so I'll probably be stopping by that sometime soon, too. :P
I can't tell you enough how much I love the narrative voice in this (I know I mentioned as much in the last chapter, but it's very enjoyable for me). It's dramatic, charming, and makes me smile, so right away, I'm invested in the story. Plus, you win all the internet points for making descriptive passages interesting.
Phineas' hangover souds painful, especially since his mother keeps nagging him -- hangovers and nagging generally don't mix very well. I love the fact that Cygnus had locked himself away, with grief and dissappointment -- it adds a certain depth to the Black family disfunction that I can't quite pinpoint (perhaps it's the familial history of insanity :P) but I certainly do enjoy. I can't help but feel bad for Phineas, what with his father's (and rest of the family's) persistance on he and Ursula rushing into marriage. I suppose that is how the Purebloods do, though -- because it's more about status and future family leaders than love. Plus, Phineas seems to be disappointing his father in more than one way -- like he's not like Cygnus was when he was Phineas' age, thus Phineas is clearly not doing it right.
Well, one sure-fire way of curing a hangover is to go drinking again ;). I absolutely love the banter between Phineas and Barnacle. Barnacle, by the way, is a character who is super interesting and I'm definitely hoping to see more of him. The two have a certain dynamic about them that brings just a touch of humor into the dialogue and I love, love, love that. Sooo, deciding to pop in on Prof. Dr. Van Helsing while completely drunk probably isn't the greatest of all ideas (though I'm very curious to see what Van Helsing is all about...most likely vampire slaying and the like). I love that he tried to drunkenly bribe the housekeeper only to get the door slammed in his face. Hahaha, serves him right.
And the action scene between Van Helsing, Phineas, and the vampire was AMAZING. Ahhhh, I love a good action scene. Plus, the hilarious theatrics weaved into it made it oh so much MORE. I'm so excited! Clearl we get to see more of the vampire because it's going to keep hunting Phineas now that it has tasted his blood, AND we're going to get to see more of Van Helsing (because I don't think he'd leave Phineas to slay the vampire on his own accord....that might turn disasterous :P). THIS WAS AWESOME I CAN'T WAIT FOR MORE!!!!
hey jane, i’m here with your slytherin word war winner review!
that opening paragraph was pure gold and i loved literally everything about it. from the way phineas is dealing with his hangover, then the fact that he stuffs his face full of food just so he can avoid a conversation with his mother, it’s pure perfection *_* you’ve really got a knack for nailing down his voice as this….debauched nihilist, i think you called him in your novel nest and the description fits him perfectly. i don’t think he’s like any character i’ve read, definitely not in fanfics, and really, it’s a delight to read this story :D
the conversation between phineas and cygnus had me in stitches, to be honest – the ‘has the date been set’ and ‘heavens, no! early days still, surely’ are such great lines that both kinda describe the two people saying them in a way that tells us a whole lot about their personalities. i mean, of course, we learn a lot about them with everything else that happens, but those two lines just stuck with me. cygnus is this sort of recluse that still has to know everything and be kept up to date and of course, someone who still wants to influence others and make things happen in a way that he sees fit. it’s no wonder phineas is the way he is, it’s not easy dealing with his family :P
your description of the flying dutchman had me feeling as if i was right there, getting drunk with phineas ^_^
BUT JANE!!! the ‘of course not. i hate everybody, you know that’ line is the thing that will bind me to phineas for life, we’re the same person, i love this. i love him.
and then the whole fight scene and van helsing saving him!!! they have great banter-y chemistry going for them, ‘tis perfection. i’ve already used some iterations of the word perfect in this review but i can’t really help myself so you have to bear with my gushing. the way phineas accidentally hurts van helsing (after playing darts previously, really, what can one expect?) then tries to pass it off as helping him was also hilarious *_*
i can’t wait for the next chapter!
I was greatly excited to return to this wonderful story! The writing style, with all its quirkiness and dry humor and delightful descriptive flair, makes my heart go all aflutter. I know I talked probably excessively about how incredible your writing is, but it was once again one of the first things that struck me when I reopened this story! Like there is just something so compelling about having a narrator with personality, which is something that I have really never been able to do well, and so seeing it in this story makes me really, really happy. I feel like I want to be friends with the narrator, you know? Which has never happened before to me. :P
For some reason, I particularly loved the section where Phineas was hungover. It was incredibly amusing! You wrote it very well!
Cygnus Black seems very, very frightening. I think that if I had him for a father, I would probably just disown myself or something like that. Except, of course, that’s not the Black way, as Phineas alluded to the previous chapter when he thought about his sister who’d left the family. (I wonder if we’ll ever meet her? She sounds like a very fascinating person, haha.) It does kind of sound like Phineas is counting the seconds till Cygnus Black is lying on his deathbed hahaha (though at the same time, it sounds like Cygnus Black has been lying on his deathbed for a very, very long time).
I love the alliteration of “disinherited, dissipated, and degenerate” omg, it is so fun to say.
Phineas’s marriage predicament seems quite pickly, and I wonder how he’s going to get out of it. Maybe, after the events of the rest of this chapter, he just occupies himself with all this vampire self-defense, and perhaps his family can’t chase him down for marriage. And then his father dies! And then everyone is happy! I mean, like, would even a patriarchal butthead like Cygnus Black be able to do anything against Phineas Nigellus: Vampire Hunter? I think not.
I am such a weakling for when the narrator is just not subtle whatsoever. I’m talking about when we’re told to pay attention to the fact that Phineas is not very good at darts when drunk, and is probably not very good when sober either, and has just badly lost five different games. That was so funny to me! And I was just wondering the whole time, “Eh? What is his darts skill going to do?” BUT THEN YOU TIED IT IN BEAUTIFULLY. I was laughing so hard when Phineas tried his very best to help out the poor doctor but then ended up spearing him in the arm with that transfigured knife. And later! This exchange was the best: [“We injured it didn’t we?” says Phineas testily. / “‘We’? I injured it. You injured me.” Van Helsing ties the tourniquet for emphasis.] Ugh loved it.
But yeah, I was really excited to see Doctor Abraham van Helsing again! I did not realize he was a vampire hunter (again, my knowledge of vampire lore is rather shifty, and I don’t know whether or not this was an actual part of his story or if it’s your own creation). But watching him stabby stab stab that vampire was greatly entertaining, and I thank you for writing such a wonderful action sequence! The way you describe the vampire licking Phineas’s blood was just the right amount of gross, and I am feeling just the right amount of disturbed still. :P
You really write so so well! I really think this story is just incredible. <3
Hi Jane! So good to meet you!! <3
You mentioned that this was a campy story, and I am all for campy stories, so you don’t understand how eager I was to dive into this fic haha. I’ve never read a story about Phineas Nigellus, either, which makes this all the more fun for me! Phineas Nigellus? Vampire hunting? Yes, please.
Hahaha omg I love the little dig at the inbreeding of the Pureblood families—“I am your great-great-grandfather on your father’s side…and your mother’s side.” Amazing. I actually cackled a little bit reading it; it was such a perfect delivery! Little Regulus is kinda cute! I feel bad for him, and I want to give him a bit of a hug, though I’m not sure he would be the kind of person who would appreciate a bear hug. Maybe he is! Who knows?
Anyway. Phineas is fabulous, I absolutely adore him already. The snideness of his remarks, and just the complete and utter uncaringness! It’s so so so funny, I love it! I would quote him, but literally everything he says is the snarkiest and rudest thing, and I love everything. Just imagine me quoting everything. (But, in particular, Regulus saying “Eleven” in what I imagined to be a rather petulant voice after Phineas’s wild guesses of “Fifteen? Sixteen?” was the absolute cutest thing.) The humor in his fic is just remarkable; I’m so glad you requested from me otherwise I never would’ve found such a gem!
But in addition to the humor, your writing itself is just on point. The “Piccadilly” section opening shows this; the strength of your descriptions in that bit like swept me directly into that world, which I love. The narration style is also phenomenal! And, as expected, young Phineas was just as unserious as deceased Phineas. He reminds me of Bertie Wooster from the Jeeves and Wooster series by P.G. Wodehouse, which is amazing! Except Phineas is definitely much cleverer, though their styles of humor are similar. It makes me really happy to see this style of writing in fanfiction; I just absolutely adore how you combine vivid imagery with Phineas’s snark.
I also wanted to add that I am incredibly thankful that you included an author’s note of sorts at the end, hahaha, because I had no idea who Abraham van Helsing was as a character. And now that I know that he’s a vampire (DRACULA?? or did I misinterpret that oops) I am all the more excited to continue reading!
This is such a brilliant first chapter, I’m so delighted to have read it! Thank you for requesting from me. <3
Hi Jane! I’m (finally) here to review chapter two. :D
I sort of wish I had done this during the daylight hours—but I’ll be brave and persevere (and keep all the lights on).
Your style for this novella continues to be delightful and an excellent balance of the humorous and the horrible. I was snorting through the entire first paragraph (an awesome breakfast by the way), particularly the way you phrased Phineas’s ignoring his mother. I feel a little like I’m reading Vanity Fair with your use of satire and the way you point out the flaws of your characters (even though I suspect that you sympathize with them as well).
The pall that the mere seal of Cygnus Black casts over the domestic scene is impressive and chilling. Phineas may be consoling himself with a grab at power by delaying seeing his father until the end of breakfast, but it doesn’t seem to give him much comfort as it ruins whatever pleasure he was able to take in his hung-over state. Cygnus is as terrible as the fear he inspires led me to believe, abusing his family and controlling them. I suppose he is attempting to control his own demons by doing so, but I don’t wonder now that Phineas is chaffing at doing his duty. Especially since Ursula does not seem to have captivated his attention.
It’s very fun to see the Flying Dutchman here in its (her?) younger days. Also fun to read the description of it here versus in Inheritance. Barabbas (ha!) Barnacle is an excellent companion for Phineas, free in all the ways that Phineas isn’t, a good listener, and willing to approve of even Phineas’s terrible aim at darts. The more I read the more sorry I feel for the hero—he needs to run away screaming, but I know that he won’t. I can’t see how either he or Ursula will be happy in their marriage and it seems unfair to both of them. But I suppose they both know what is expected of them.
When Phineas comments that his father despises him, I wonder how he feels about it. I also wonder how he actually feels about himself. He dawdles at breakfast, delaying his meeting with his father—but when his father chastises him he jumps as though afraid. Phineas seems sure of himself in some ways, but I wonder if there is more truth than joke in his statement that he doesn’t blame his father for being disappointed with him.
The dearly handled calling card and the way it is blown away into the gutter by the wind is a lovely image. Phineas can’t get Van Helsing out of his mind but he also can’t commit to a course of action. Should he call or shouldn’t he. I find it very interesting that he decides to take the omen of the card being blown away as a positive one—that he should call—rather than a negative—that he should let it go and walk away. The fact that Van Helsing isn’t home to receive Phineas and the suspicion of the housekeeper makes me wonder if this sign was ambivalent. Maybe he should have walked away—but it is too late now.
And on to the action! The movement of the monster—sometimes slow and sometimes inhumanly quick is jarring and effective. Always a master of description, you tease the reader with the slow reveal of the fiend—at first it is just horrible beyond imagining and then it is reptilian and then you give us a look at its mouth (eek!) and finally, you hyper-focus on the ghastly tongue and THAT image will be stuck in my head for days. Actually, it’s been stuck in my head for longer—since I first read the chapter. I’m reminded of Poe’s story “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” and the hyper-focusing on the horrible tongue of the dying man. Utterly chilling in both cases.
And the thing can talk too! It’s good that Van Helsing is here to save Phineas’s hide—and the sepulchral voice is so, so perfect. And the way that Van Helsing fills the dome of the sky to Phineas—wow he’s got it bad already. Unfortunately, Phineas’s attempts to help only make matters worse. Too bad he didn’t just back off and let Van Helsing do the job he is obviously so suited to.
The monster scuttling away is a great image too.
I adored the banter at the end of the scene and also Phineas’s wish to go home to Mother rather than fight the legions of the damned. Him vomiting at the end—what more is there to say? Your description of the vampire spittle turned MY stomach too.
Really fine work—as always!! Looking forward to the next update whenever life allows.
Hello Jane! I’ve been looking forward to this story and I’m glad to finally have the chance to read it properly.
The Wharton quote at the head of the chapter is chilling. Phineus Black is someone that is hard to like in the HP books, but presuming this opening statement refers to him, I already feel a bit sorry for the fellow.
I was surprised that this tale began in 1972, but I liked how you used this scene to draw the reader into the story. I also found it very interesting that you used past tense in the 1972 section, but present tense when you move backwards to 1875. The more natural tone of the opening scene nicely balanced the more formal (I believe you referred to it as almost campy) voice of the rest of the chapter. Although, I didn’t find the second voice either stilted or forced. It was amusing, but I think you avoided the temptation to be too “I know something you don’t know” with your narrator for the 1875 story. As it stands, both voices are engaging and entertaining. Also, using the present tense for the 1875 story makes it seem so much more immediate and important than the introduction. Although, I’d be happy to see more of Regulus’s interactions with Phineus and his reactions to the tale (a la Princess Bride) if that is something you have in mind.
The Phineus in the portrait in Regulus’s room is just like the Phineus we see in the books. I loved the bit about him being a terrible listener and laughing at all the wrong points in poor Regulus’s tale of woe. And then he turns all the attention to himself by starting what will probably be a long-winded (and delightful) tale of his own woe. I wonder if there is anywhere in the wizarding world where one can go have a good cry by oneself and not be interrupted by bothersome portraits.
In any case, beginning with the Phineus that was familiar to me made me all the more curious about him when you showed me his younger self. And I was a little surprised by this younger self. He’s arrogant, to be sure, but he seems interesting. The juxtaposition between what he’s thinking and what he actually says shows that—as he told Regulus in the introduction—that he knows how to behave when he wants to. I imagine he can be downright charming if he chooses to be.
I laughed a lot during his exchange with his mother (do Sirius/serious jokes never get old?) and how he dealt with the elder Malfoy and his foolish brother-in-law. I particularly loved that he managed to both follow his mother’s orders and irritate her at the same time. (I fear that my younger son has similar abilities that he will only hone as he grows.)
Your descriptions throughout this chapter—as always—are superb. From the dark and stormy night, to the arrival at the party (a powder keg requiring only a match!), the casual mention of the Doctor and the Fiend, the fairies in the chandeliers and the invisible orchestra, I enjoyed very much picturing all of this in my mind. I was particularly struck by the fact that we only see the ballroom and the dancing after Phineus as seen—and been disturbed by—Van Helsing. The ballroom and the dancers had an almost creepy, macabre feeling about them, and I wondered if Phineus would have viewed them the same way if he had not had his unexpected encounter.
I appreciate that you give us a glimpse of Phineus experiencing a softer emotion when he remembers his shunned sister Iola. Will we see any of her, I wonder?
You leave me with many questions at the end of this first chapter. What is Van Helsing doing at this wizard party? Presumably he’s hunting a vampire, but is the vampire there randomly, or to some purpose? Why does he give Phineus his card since he seems bothered that the other man was staring at him? Has Phineus been disturbed in this way by anyone else before, male or female? I’m very interested to know where this will go next!
Noelle! Thanks for this awesome review -- I was really excited by it and wanted to answer right away (or, you know, soon).
The Wharton epigraph at the beginning does indeed refer to Phineas! I have a bunch of Wharton epigraphs picked out for future chapters so stay tuned. I don't think Phineas's character is actually similar to Newland Archer's, but his predicament sort of is (modulo the legions of Hell)? I confess that I did not find Phineas Nigellus hard to like when I read the books -- but that probably says more about me than it does about him!
The Princess Bride was actually a point of reference for me when I was figuring out how to structure the narrative. I knew I wanted portrait Phineas Nigellus in the story, both to act as an intermediary between the reader and past Phineas Nigellus and to comment on his past self. Anyway, there will certainly be more Phineas/Regulus incursions into the story!
Also, I'm really glad you picked up on what I was going for with the switch in tense/voice! The 1875 narrative is more important and, in a sense, more real, so it gets the immediacy of the present tense. And the first person omniscient narrator is just something I associate with Dickens and Thackery and the like.
Yes, Phineas prefers for all attention to be on himself (which makes him a terrible listener). I'm also a bit alarmed by the ubiquity of sentient portraits and talking mirrors in the wizarding world (though I think Phineas would bristle at the suggestion that he is bothersome :P).
I'm glad that you think younger Phineas is interesting! Yes, he's pretty manipulative, and good at being whoever he thinks he's expected to be. I think his world is very false and hollow. Whether he can be downright charming in any conventional sense remains to be seen -- certainly he thinks he is always a delight.
I'm afraid I couldn't resist the Sirius/serious joke (callous though this one might be). Hyperion Malfoy will be back, as will Chesterton Fawley (to serve as a perpetual punching-bag, I'm afraid). I'm sorry to hear that your son has these abilities! In any case, Phineas should know better than him, being nearly thirty.
I'm glad you liked the descriptions and found the ballroom scene creepy! I generally find the idea of a pureblood ball very creepy, but Phineas is pretty decensitized to all that. His run-in with the stranger definitely shook him up, allowing him to see things more clearly.
This isn't the last we'll hear of Iola, is all I'll say :D
And more about Van Helsing's buisness and Phineas's romantic history anon. Thanks again for this awesome review! I'm glad you're curious about where this will go -- I'll turn my attention to chapter 2 as soon as I've uploaded Inheritance chapter 4.
Hey Jane, I’m here with the review you requested!
I feel so sorry for Regulus in that first scene! Usually, when I think about what horrible parents the Blacks were, the focus is on Sirius, just because that’s made so much clearer in the books, but of course growing up in that horrible house can’t have been pleasant for Reg either, and you bring it across very well that, even Regulus, who seems to try his hardest to fulfil his parents’ expectations, did not have a happy childhood.
“It was the first full day of the Christmas holidays, and already his parents were cross with him.” That sentence in particular demonstrates that very clearly: It’s his first time home for the holidays from school, but instead of being excited to see him, the first thing his parents do is get angry. Your use of ‘already’ also makes it clear that Reg was always expecting that reaction, that he never hoped for a happy time at home but only to stay out of trouble for a little longer, which is just so sad. And then the only ‘person’ to make time for him is the spiteful portrait of a long-deceased relative. You make it so easy to dislike Phineas here, with the way he takes pleasure at Reg’s suffering. I’m also really angry with him for assuming Regulus is sixteen; I mean it was always made clear that he was a horrible teacher, but the fact that he can’t tell an eleven-year-old from a sixteen-year-old riles me up so much! But at least that gives him an opportunity to tell his story, even if he doesn’t give Reg much of a choice in the matter. I also really enjoyed this prologue, and I’ve never really thought about Phineas as a character, so I’m excited to see what you’ve got in store for us!
I absolutely adore your narrative voice in the main part of the story! I immediately get that Victorian mystery feel, and I love how you set the scene. You don’t really come across an omniscient narrator very often, but you do it so well, and it’s the perfect choice for this story! The unusual narration combined with all the rich detail you provide almost feels Dickensian, and just really helps to paint the picture of 1870s London to me!
I also love the first glance of young Phineas we get, it’s very clear that he’s a scion of the House of Black, with the way he carries himself, and that he seems so utterly convinced of himself. Those are attributes I often see associated with Sirius, and less often Regulus, and it’s very amusing to see some things never change – same goes for the overbearing, imposing mother, I guess!
I really, really love all of your descriptions throughout, and your use of language in general! You paint such a full, vibrant picture that it’s very easy to lose yourself in, and I love how casually you integrate information about the different characters! All their backstories bleed so perfectly into the greater narrative, we as readers learn so much about the different characters without it ever interrupting the flow of the story. And I love your depictions of high-society customs and rituals, I particularly love the ballroom scene! It also seems like such a foreign concept for a doting mother to be considered eccentric, but Phineas’ plans on how he’ll raise any future children is very in character, and sadly seems to have been carried down the generations – it would certainly explain why he can’t even begin to guess Reg’s age in the prologue! Obviously, I have very little experience with how late-nineteenth-century rich people talk, but I am so impressed with the dialogue you’ve written, and it is such a good fit for the story.
The introduction of our mysterious gentleman was also so fantastically well done, every little snippet I read made me want to find out more, and I couldn't wait for Phineas to finally read the card so I could find out who he was!
I really, really enjoyed this story, you’ve written it so beautifully throughout, and I absolutely love your attention to detail!
Thanks for this amazing review <3
Glad you enjoyed the prologue! I also feel terrible for Regulus -- not least because at the tender age of eleven he's already being indoctrinated into his parents' terrible ideology. And yes, as we see in the books, Phineas was never great with kids -- Regulus is no exception!
Ah, I'm so happy you liked the first person omniscient! It was a bit of a risk -- I'm sure some people will find it off-putting -- but I associate that narrative voice so strongly with Victorian literature, especially with Dickens and Thackery, I just couldn't resist! I had a ton of fun with this campy, Victorian Gothic setting, and I'm looking forward to continuing to play with it.
Young Phineas certainly has things in common with Sirius -- though I'm sure both of them would be horrified to hear this -- though I think Phineas is less of an iconoclast, and Sirius is less of an asshole :P And yes, they do both have pretty imposing mothers (though Sirius clearly despises his mother, whereas Phineas's relationship with his borders, I think, on the Oedipal?).
Haha, I also have no idea how Victorian toffs talk, I just kind of made it up. . .but I'm delighted you found it believable and immersive! I had a ton of fun writing it.
And of course, the mysterious stranger will be back very soon :)
Thanks so, so much for this lovely review! I'm so happy you enjoyed the story <3
Hi Jane! Here for your requested review from the forums :)
I knew I was going to love this the instant I saw the title. And I did love it. Phineas' observations on how Regulus' parents must be very imaginative with names cracked me up. He's so perfectly characterized even just as a portrait, and his style of humour is spot on, so eccentric but still within the bounds of propriety for his society. And then the way he starts his story with the standard "it was a dark and story night" only for you to then transition into "It is a dark and stormy night"... XD I love your writing style, it's so much fun and your sense of humor is exactly my style. (Why have I never read anything by you before? Thank you for helping me correct this oversight. As an aside, I just creeped through your AP and I need to read your story about Weatherby's Valentines day omg I can already tell I'm going to love it.)
Wow, so I just love everything about this. The narration style is so much fun - you've made it sound distinctly Victorian and Gothic, so fittingly descriptive with the lashing rain storm and the grand ballroom and everyone's fancy attire and accessories and all that, and with the passing mention of fangs early on, I just keep expecting vampires to pop out at any second. And the narrator is delightfully snarky - I loved the "See how bored he looks" line. Omg and Phineas' thoughts about parenthood, bahahaha. I'm really impressed with how you've managed to blend this Gothic feel with the snark and have it come out as a cohesive thing. I love the tone of the story so much.
I also really enjoyed your take on the shallowness of pureblood society's conversations. This line really summed it all up: Malfoy smiles complacently at his companions, meaning thereby to signal that they need not, on his account, suppress that display of mirth which naturally succeeds so sparkling a witticism. Presently all are chuckling appreciatively, though some -- Phineas thinks -- are overdoing it slightly. Like I love how overdone it feels, the amount of verbosity in this sentence that really highlights how they're all talking so much without saying anything and all the laughter is fake. It's just so perfect. And your choice of words is perfect. "so sparkling a witticism", haha.
What a wonderful introduction of Van Helsing, as well. You wove in so much mystery in there with this meeting of strangers in the rain and what was he even doing there? I'm so interested in where this storyline is going.
In short, I absolutely love your characterization - specifically of Phineas Nigellus, but also of Regulus (poor Regulus - that bit in the beginning about his mother burning his Christmas present was so sad) and all these other very eccentric characters that have appeared for a few moments or witticisms, and then the ~mysterious stranger~ at the end. I also can't wait for vampires. This is such a fun story so far and your writing style is so perfect for the story you're teling here. Great work, and I'll be checking for updates!
Hey Stella (your name is indeed Stella, right?)! Thanks for this amazing review :')
I'm so glad you liked the story and the humour and the tone! Humour's a pretty variable thing, and I'm terrible at knowing whether my jokes will land with anyone other than me. And I'm delighted that the tone I was going for is coming across, and that you're enjoying it :) There are a lot of things I want this story to be -- a campy pastiche, a horror story, and a love story -- and I was nervous about finding a voice that would accommodate all these things.
Ah, I love this comment about the shallowness of pureblood society! Phineas's whole World is glittering and false, and I think this begets a kind of nihilism -- Van Helsing is, I think, the only authentic person at that party. And I'm glad you picked out that line -- it might the most absurd line?
The introduction of Van Helsing was probably the scene I had the most fun writing -- Phineas and Van Helsing are at such cross purposes, and they have such different conceptions of what's even going on. More about what Van Helsing was doing at the Flints' anon (and, of course, vampires).
In any case, thanks again for this review! I'm so, so pleased you're enjoying the story -- and Phineas! -- so far <3
Hi Jane! Here for our swap and EvS. I’m so hyped right now. I’ve been waiting for this as long as I’ve been on this site and it feels awesome to be here to finally get a chance to read it. As you know, Regulus is one of my favorite characters, in all his forms. The description of that spare bedroom is spectacular, by the way.
The portrait of Phineas is a legitimate delight. The banter between him and Regulus is an excellent place to start this story, as it will win over anyone who may have been on the fence that you absolutely have a handle on what you’re working on here.
It is difficult to pick out pieces of dialogue to highlight - he does not have a low point. ‘I find I like to feel well-rested before bed’ is particularly funny, that said.
I am so upset about Tristan and Gobstones club and, literally everything to do with this paragraph. Especially considering he’s only eleven! It’s awful to think that his mother would be so callous toward a child, but also, she absolutely would.
I did not expect for Phineas to offer advice or for the story to be framed (not a pun) around the device of him telling a story like this. I’m somehow more excited for what’s to come now. Also - ‘it was a dark and stormy night...’ - we have a similar taste for writing with our tongues in cheek, I see. And then you start the story with ‘It is a dark and stormy night’ - it’s like you write things just for me to have fun with them.
The introduction of Piccadilly as a setting is pitch perfect. Even just the mental image of rain ‘lashing’ somewhere is so good it is difficult to wrap my mind around.
You continue your streak of leaving me speechless by way of character introduction - the fiend, skulking in the shadows, its fangs wet with still-warm blood. And then you just move along as if that was immensely gripping.
‘A powder keg -- one need only strike a match’ just blew my mind! Along with the entire paragraph that preceded it. I don’t even know what to say, other than you pick the perfect words, every time? There is not one misplaced here.
The narrator of this section is SO good. ‘See how bored he looks’ I legitimately love that they’re speaking directly to the audience in such a way, as if we are there with them to see for ourselves.
“Anyone else you’d like me to marry’ Oh my, you are just one of my favorite writers on Earth.
I have no idea what’s going on with Hyperion Malfoy, but my, I love their discussion of him. You capture the period so exactly and precisely. I can tell I will be studying this closely for my own stories set in the past. The social mores of the day are so interesting the way you write them. There’s this hollow politeness all over this scene that just rest right below the surface of every interaction.
The stranger makes my heart beat faster! You could very well be a horror writer primarily if you so pleased. You certainly know how to craft an eerie mood.
The way you describe the ballroom is truly beyond me. You just manage to find the smallest details possible that would be interesting to know.
I am actually laughing out loud about Phineas’ idea of parenthood. This is hysterical and you should be getting paid to write comedy.
More of the stranger is always good! Phineas is exactly as drawn to him as I find myself. ‘I suppose I am indispensable…’ this line!! How do you manage?
I cannot believe you how perfect this all is. The ballroom scene, the scene where we first hear Van Helsing speak, and the bit at the beginning with Regulus - it is all so thoroughly enjoyable and your writing style gives the impression that I am there, experiencing it alongside the characters. I tend to forget that I am reading as I read your works, and I can think of no higher praise. Your mastery of language is so great that it ceases to be just that and becomes something else entirely - you draw me into this world of your creation and I lose myself for a short while. Thank you for this chapter - please alert me when you’ve uploaded the second, I am immeasurably keen.
(P.S. Thank you so much for that shoutout in the end notes!)
Author's Response:Joey! Thank you for this absolutely amazing review -- I can't even tell you how happy I am that you liked this chapter :')I love portrait Phineas and I'm glad you do too <3 He was one of the highlights of the books for me -- and possibly my second favourite character -- so I was really excited to write some fics about him. His dialogue is so fun to write -- he's just so in love with what an asshole he is.I feel terrible for Regulus too :( At least he has the solace of Phineas's company? Aside: I forgot to credit WriterBot for the name "Tristan Fogerson", but I'll fix that in the edit.I'm glad you liked the transition, not least because I was a touch worried that it was too self-indulgent :P
For some reason I strongly associate first person omnsicient narrators with the Victorian period? I do cheat a bit here -- I move back and forth between omniscient and limited, and this is likely to persist for the rest of the story (but so does Dickens, so I feel like this is OK).Thank you for picking up on that line -- I love that line (i.e. "Anyone else you'd like me to marry?").I love your description of vibe as one of "hollow politeness"! Everything about Phineas's life is polished and glittering, but also hollow and false -- which is part of what makes the stranger stand out: he's inostentatious but authentic.Ah, I'm so glad you liked that moment with the stranger! Again, I was a little worried that it was too cheesy -- like, their eyes literally lock across a crowded room -- and I'm glad the unsettlingness of the moment offsets the cheese.Again, thank you for picking out that paragraph (wherein Phineas's ambivalence towards parenthood is first introduced)! It's one of my favourite bits :)I'm just overwhelmed by this review. I'm so glad you thought the story was transporting -- this is what I strive for most as a writer, and what I crave most as a reader. I'm already so excited for you to read chapter 2 (which I will write soon).Finally, I know I said it in the A/N, but thanks for rooting for this story from literally the day I got the idea for it -- your encouragement definitely played a role in my resolve to see it through <3Jane
So of course I loved this! All of it.
The initial description of London and the party was incredible and very Victorian, with very embellished writing in a very delicious way. It feels so authentically you and I’m so so impressed and enthralled! Sometimes lengthy descriptions make me yawn, but I eat up every word of this.
Lol, all the pureblood names were equally ridiculous and realistic to the universe. I loved them, especially ‘Fabius Crabbe”. I find it intriguing that Phineas’ brother Sirius is deceased and Phineas is the new heir – it sort of puts him in Regs spot, while Sirius isn’t dead, but enstranged. I really liked this parallel, especially since Regulus is in the frame narrative.
I found these lines hilarious btw:
“No, sir, I’m afraid we missed each other – by about thirty-five years.”
“He intends to be one of those parents who spends no more than an hour a day with his children at Hogwarts, and no more than an hour a year subsequently.” – while this is sad, it is also a funny line, sorry ^^ no matter what, you can’t make me dislike Phineas, I just like him, full stop.
“Hmm, clearly you haven’t known us for long.” LOL
Speaking of Van Helsing – omg!!!! They have such amazing chemistry, I’m DYING to know more!!! I can’t wait for them to meet again, Helsing being the sobriety and meaningful relationship that Phineas so desperately needs. I can’t help but feel that Phineas is lonely, even though he’s surrounded by family and ‘friends’?
I need more! :o
PS. love the opening quote – is it from age of innocence? I’ve never read it, but see the parallels, maybe I should read it ^^
hey jane, i'm here for our review swap!
i love the way you’ve started this story with regulus and phineas! phineas always likes to poke around his portrait at grimmauld place so it’s a very cool way for him to tell his story (also like…his snark! is perfect!)
i’m not sure how many times and in what words i can express my extreme fangirling over your writing, over your descriptions – it’s all just magnificent, i’m…useless at doing anything else in this review besides squee internally all the while i’m reading the story :o
i feel strangely inadequate reviewing this????? phineas, his whole personality, his narrative! is perfect and occasionally (well, 95% of the time) hilarious and i love it. i love the prose. i love how you’ve managed to write in the victorian era and it really feels like victorian era, both in the way your characters talk and in the things they’re doing (the ball, the clothes…everything) – it’s very impressive to be able to do that and write a different era so well!
i’m very excited for phineas to get to know van helsing (i’m also curious as to why he seemed so interested in him, besides the obvious fact that he’s a stranger) and for the vampires!
Hey, Jane! I'm here for our swap and April's EvS battle!
Okay, so I feel terrible for Regulus (for having to live with his parents and for having his Christmas present destroyed because his friend who had gifted him it was a muggleborn), but I just cannot get over Phineas in this first scene. He's hilarious -- he's snarky, full of himself and flamboyant, and it's all so perfect! I'm anxiously excited to move into the next scene once Phineas begins his story (and doesn't let Regulus get a word in edgewise), whose transition is awesome, by the way -- well done. Furthermore, with the transitional shift, I love the tone/voice shift as well. It adds volumes to the story as Phineas is now channelled through the narrative (as he should with him being the one telling the story).
Speaking of Phineas' narrative -- the drama! I'm crying! His personality is really shining through, and after I pick myself up off the floor, I'll be ready to comment on something else (but really, how can I when Phineas is being Phineas). I'm left wondering when he's going to challenge another eccentric gentleman to fisticuffs in the courtyard.
Okay, plot things. The first mention of the vampires is intruiging, especially as Phineas dismisses them as soon as they are mentioned, leaving us with a bit of a foreboding "not yet" as far as their relevance goes. This, of course, could only mean that they will be of importance soon, and there is a resolute air of disquiet surrounding the implication. Also, I loved the depiction of the ball's grandeur and ebullience while, just under the surface, is a vein that is ready to burst. It makes a lot of sense that in such large social gatherings, aristocratic people would try to set aside their fueds, though I can see that turning perfectly catastrophic at any given moment. I think that the mention made for a nice touch and a nod to the specific Pureblood society. It also sets things up for when someone lights the match that's going to make this powderkeg explode.
And they way he narrates himself in the third-person is hilarious. Plus, his prose (which is lovely, by the way, kudos) is absolutely delightful during each over-exaggerated bit of imagery or stray thought. Also, he certainly feels some sort of way about having children, doesn't he? An hour a day and then an hour a year? Ah, what will we do with him? I suppose Ursula might be more affectionate like her sister, though I couldn't tell quite yet. I also appreciated the bit about Iola, and how she left with a Muggle -- it seems that breaking free from the Black family might be a bit of a tradition in a way.
And then the interaction with Van Helsing was so, so well done! It was terribly exciting, sort of knowing that this man must be a vampire, given his dress and the emphasis placed on vampires in the beginning of the story! You certainly had me lost in the narrative/dialogue, as by the time I reached this far, I could envision the stranger, hear the storm, and hear Phineas try to talk over the winds. It's all extremely well done and I'm excited to see where this is headed. Aside from Phineas being...well, you know -- dramatic with a flourish of selfishness (more-or-less), you've begun to dip into a plotline that I want more of, please!
I suppose while I wait for a new chapter of this, I'll have to catch up on Inheritance (as I've been extremely excited about chapter three). This was absolutely lovely! Fantastic job!