Hi, Noelle! For our swap, I wanted to pick something that was close to the same length as a chapter of After Destiny, so I settled on this story. And I'm really glad that I did. I think this is a hidden gem. It's an unusual format, an unusual setting and completely original characters. The themes you hit on are not common in fan fiction written in the Harry Potter universe. There's so much originality and creativity in this story. I'm really, really impressed by the amount of world-building you're able to do using only the letters exchanged between friends to convey that information.
I'll say that I'm not normally a fan of author's notes that introduce the principals of a story, but in this case it was really helpful. I'd go so far as to say that I'm not sure how you would have gotten the information across otherwise. There are some limits to this format that you simply can't overcome. You don't have the benefit of being able to use the characters' thoughts and feelings.
I thought you did a fantastic job of showing the progression of the characters as they age. In the letters from 1977, they're all so young and that really comes through in the way that they write and the things that they focus on. The places they grew up, where their families still reside, are home to them. They haven't made that leap to thinking of Ilvermorny as being that "second home" yet. For Miranda and David, at least, the magical world is still new and novel. Playing Fulminating Frisbee is a huge thing that they miss, although Miranda is really high on the notion of introducing the magicals to baseball. It's plain that their parents aren't 100% comfortable with the whole thing yet. And the idea of visiting a friend who lives in a faraway place during summer vacation is exactly that, an idea. None of them really give it much credence because they're just too young for such things to be plausible.
Let's see, what else before we move on? The literature you've picked out is really clever and thoughtful throughout the story. Again, we see a progression from children's books through to things that challenge the focus and patience of adults.
You've gone to great lengths to weave religion into the story, which is another uncommon thing for Harry Potter-based fiction. While it's not really my bag, I am impressed by the thoughtful and introspective way you've included it. There's no real sermonizing or "deep" message. Religion is a part of the lives of all three kids and they're grappling with their religious beliefs and ideas just like they're grappling with every other aspect of growing up. Miranda is, at least early on, a bit preachy. David, even though his father is in the clergy, is more agnostic and uncertain about what he believes. Aaron is very integrated to his church, which is a very unusual trope for a pureblood wizard in the Harry Potter universe.
I'd say that Miranda definitely has the most interesting home life out of the three. Her father is, if I'm following the threads correctly, a bounty hunter? At the very least, a bail bondsman. The family has a fairly picturesque midwestern life with the farm and the horses and the kids playing in the barn. All except for the part where dudes show up and start shooting. It's very gripping and it adds some real gravity to the plot. But I also like how you showed us the events through Miranda's young and unassuming eyes. She's proud of herself for bring tree branches down onto the attackers, mostly unaware of the danger she exposed herself to.
Another part of the magic of living on a farm in the country: she can fly a broomstick at home without fear of blowing up the Statute of Secrecy. I really like all of the tactical details that you work into the story, like what the kids have to do in order to send one another letters and the limited ways they're able to make use of magic when they're away from school. Fortunate for all of them that MACUSA doesn't have such a rigid prohibition on underage magic outside of school!
The foal is an adorable bit to add. They're truly some of the world's sweetest creatures.
I’m not going to lie, this first book by Mr. Tolkien is a little bit slow. -- Amen, sister. That's putting it so mildly...
We get to 1981 and the kids are needing to stay at school to study for their exams. They're starting to sound so grown up by this point, planning their studies but also taking time out for breaks. You can kind of feel that same stress level that I remember from Order of the Phoenix. And the level of conversation with Miranda's siblings is also elevated, with her older brothers having new jobs and relationships and hobbies. Sigh. They grow up so fast! Lastly, do I sense a bit of romance blossoming between Miranda and David?
Gah! When I realized that Miranda's brother had passed away, it was like a punch in the stomach. It's horribly sad, but it's also a testament to how much you've gotten me to connect with these characters through nothing more than reading their letters to one another. I feel so terribly for her. It is great that David is willing to set his own life aside for a bit to support her.
You know what I really want now, don't you? I want you to take these characters and this world you've built and expand upon it! I want to read more about them. I want to see how things turn out for them. Noelle, you can't leave me hanging like this!
Amazing story! Thanks for the swap.
Hi Dan! Thanks for coming by this story :D
I've spent a lot of time imagining this world and these characters--but even I was a little nervous when I started writing the letters back and forth between them. I am so glad to know that they were lively and interesting--and that they sounded like they were coming from different people :D
It was so fun to name drop literature in this story--and it was fun and challenging to try to make the characters sound like they were growing up. I'm glad that both efforts were enjoyable :D
Religion is something that I guess is not addressed often in fanfction--but it's addressed a lot in my fanfiction because I guess I think about it alot?? I am glad that it seemed organic to the characters though--I don't like relgion to be windowdressing. You're right about Miranda being kinda pushy and preachy--she's so young yet...
Yes, Miranda's dad is a bounty hunter, as are her oldest brothers. It's a...family business. :P
There is some romance budding between Miranda and David for sure, they do grow up fast.
I was really sad when Columba died too--even though I knew it was going to happen. I did not want to write it :(
Well, since you ask, there are several more stories about Miranda and company; and you can find them listed in my series, Unstoppable Force/Immovable Object. Miranda is the OC star of my novel Moonlight. I do expect to write more about them too, as time allows.
I'm so glad that you enjoyed this story and that you connected with my characters!! Thank you for this lovely review :D
HEY. I’m here to judge for my challenge! <3
Your entry touched me in a lot of subtle ways, and I think it’s a really ambitious challenge entry that you’ve written here. For one, you’ve managed to write a one-shot completely without any canon HP characters, so as I was reading this story, I almost forgot that it was based on Harry Potter in some way. And I think to have fleshed out characters like this, without having any of their backstories provided by the novels in some way, is truly an impressive thing to have accomplished. In a lot of ways, this almost felt more like a historical fiction epistolary novel, rather than one about a girl who went to Ilvermorny, which I really, really liked. I actually found it really interesting how separate this story felt from Moonlight—I’m not sure if it’s because of the format, or the time period, or the different characters, but Miranda in this story felt properly young, and her life in America felt foreign to me. And so I loved getting to explore this former part of her life through her letters.
Something that I thought was interesting was the contrast between Miranda’s letters to David and Aaron (and their responses back to her). It becomes clear that she’s more comfortable confiding to David about personal things, and that she simply has more to say when she’s writing to David. I mean, they talk about books! In my experience, there is a high correlation between enthusiastic book discussions and recommendations and then falling in love and all that. I have witnessed this many times. :P I don’t mean to diminish her friendship with Aaron, but I think that those two are firmly in the friendship stage, whereas Miranda and David have more intimacy in their relationship…which reminds me of Moonlight, how it was revealed that Miranda had been engaged to someone. Was it David? (I can’t remember his name right now, I’m so sorry!) If it was David, then that makes Miranda’s life all the more heartbreaking to read about.
I mean, she invited him over to her house! And then her whole family loved him. <3
One of the things that made me smile was the size of Miranda’s family. I’m dating a Catholic right now, and though I know most Catholic families don’t really follow the contraception rule, he has a giant family, and I think it’s sweet to have this kind of subtle Catholic representation in writing. And speaking of religion, I really appreciated the discussions between Miranda and David about his faith. I’m not religious, so I didn’t quite understand all of it, but I thought it was still really interesting! Especially when Miranda kept telling David to just get baptized without thinking about it too much, because she’s grown up being taught her religion, and she clearly is devout, so she doesn’t see exactly why David is so hesitant about the matter. It was kind of cute, how baffled she was, haha—"If this is an April Fool’s joke, it’s not a very funny one” made me chuckle. And I really loved that David took his time thinking about what he really wanted, and that her family told her to be patient with David and not to rush him, and I’m sure she grew up to be more understanding in that respect. I don’t know, I thought just all the discussion of religion throughout was really, really lovely.
It broke my heart when Columba died, especially right after he and Miranda had that wholesome, sweet letter exchange where she begged him to pray extra hard for her, and he promised to, as always. He seemed like such a good older brother, so patient and understanding and good, and after seeing that memorial graphic, I felt my heart drop to the bottom of my stomach. He also seemed so connected to David, and I’m sure he was helping David with his spiritual path, and to have so much goodness gone is just really, really sad. I think you wrote this part really well, and the inclusion of the graphic was a really good idea. And at the end, we could see more of how close Miranda is with David—I’m glad that she has someone to lean on in this time.
Thank you so much for participating in my challenge! <3
Hi Eva! Thank you so much for running this challenge--I had no idea how much fun it was to write an epistolary story :D
I am sooooo excited that you connected with this story for just the reason you mentioned--it's in the HP universe but there are no canon characters or locations. And I really appreciate that the characters seemed fleshed out. It felt sort of weird at first, sitting there writing letters to myself as different people, but once I dug into it; it got really fun.
Book discussions definitely lead to romance in my thoughts too. And Miranda has a much deeper relationship with David than Aaron--I mean she and Aaron are tight, don't get me wrong, but David is the one who she bares her soul to. And yes, David is the fiancee who died. It's awful :(
Yes, Miranda is being a little bit pushy with David over the baptism thing--but I think he gets that she's coming from a good place. I love seeing large families and Catholics in literature too (makes me feel less alone I guess!) and I'm so glad that you enjoyed it here.
Columba was an amazing older brother and it broke my heart to write his death, even though I knew it was one of the events that really shaped Miranda's life. And it was a loss for David too---I think those two connected during David's visit to the farm. I'm glad that Miranda had David then, she really needed him.
Thank you for this lovely review and for running this challenge!
Hi, Noelle! Here for our swap! :)
I was once again uncertain about what to pick, but I chose this story because I love your Miranda-verse and because I love the epistolary genre, so... :P
And I think this was so good! You could really get a sense of your characters' personalities through their letters, and see them grow up as well, which I think is awesome! I also found the choice of having the letters been exchanged during Easter break to be very original and interesting. I never think about Easter break much, maybe because it's such a short time anyway, but I guess it makes sense for the spirituality that you always put in your stories. Which I also love, btw.
I really, really loved the idea that Miranda and David had this sort of book club going on! I need a friend to do that with, too... I'm such a lazy reader... David seems such a sweet boy, I can see why Miranda would fall in love with him! Speaking of which, I found really interesting how at the beginning the letter exchange with David and Aaron was mostly equal, and then later on the letters to David were much more frequent and intimate while the ones exchanged with Aaron were more sparse and short and mostly on the teasing side. It's clear that they are two very different kinds of relationships and I love it! :)
It's so, so sad the way you included Columba's death. And it's especially impactful when you think that he'd just sent her such a sweet letter that same day. Death is always painful, but when it comes so unexpectedly... :( Poor Miranda, it must've been so hard for her... and for the rest of her family too... the fact that it happened to the quieter of them all, when the rest of the family risk their lives on a daily basis, is kind of ironic, I guess? But life is unpredictable... it's just so sad, though.
I don't know if there's anything else I should comment on (there probably is) but either way, great job! Thank you so much for swapping, darling! <3
Lots of love and snowball hug,
Hi Chiara! Thanks for coming by this story :D
I'm so excited that you like my Miranda-verse! It is very special to me.
I'm also glad to know that the characters did come through in the letters. I was concerned about that while I was writing it, because it was hard to write letters from three different people to each other...
Having the letters be exchanged over Easter break made it easier to keep the story from getting tooo long, especially since it covered multiple years.
Columba's death was so sad that I didn't want to write it; even though I knew it happened. I'm glad that Miranda had David to lean on.
Thank you so much for this lovely review!