Hey, Laura! I'm here for your entrant review to the Prefect's Challenge (prize & prompt bonus reviews will be coming at you soon).
This is hauntingly stunning! Your descriptions and imagery are always so beautiful. I'm typically not a huge fan of a lot of imagery as I find it can become garrulous. However, what I've noticed with your writing in-particular is that you have a magical way of making your imagery has purpose. It's not only beautiful, but it's also interesting and plot-led. So, as usual, your writing is gorgeous -- it's extremely easy to get swept up into this story, drawn into what Tom is feeling and experiencing.
The aftermath of both Grindelwald's war and World War II must have been a horrific time throughout Europe, though slightly hopeful in that it was over. For Tom, though, it appears that his pleasure isn't taken from the hope of a brighter tomorrow with the world's end. He instead, and quite appropriately for his character, seems to be reveling in the death and destruction. The decay seems thrilling to him, so much so that it's almost like he's in a state of aftermath to ecstasy, so to speak, for the beginning of this, where he recalls brutal and bloody details in a darkly passionate way.
He's so wound up in himself, craving "victory and glory" -- it seems so perfect for him. He's so persistent as if nothing will ever stand in his path. He's not afraid to use and deceive -- it's like he's not afraid of anything (save, perhaps his own failure, which he has been and continues to be working very diligently to prevent; like he's studying the failure of Grindelwald and the Axis powers.) He knows he is on the cusp of being powerful, ruling, and he is positively glowing with the fact that he will, someday soon, be where he wants to be.
And when Tom raises the dead in Minsk, his elated energy is almost contagious. It seems as though whenever Tom feels something, it's when he's doing something that makes him feel powerful or something that brings on great destruction. His glee is terrifying, and I love it. Love, on the other hand, is something that Tom can't seem to wrap his head around, though sex was another thing entirely (but I can see that how Tom would think that even this was a "fool's need").
Of course, watching Tom create a Horcrux from the diadem was thrilling and gruesome. I really enjoyed the way you described that splitting his soul ached (and upturned some hidden weakness within him) more than being painful. His victory fills him with elation and is positively horrific.
You've created a BEAUTIFUL exploration of Tom Riddle! I loved every second of this. You did a phenomenal job -- congrats once again on taking second place!
Hey Aph - I'm fiiiiinally here with the review you requested ages ago, and so sorry for the delay!
I love the stream of consciousness style of this. Love it. It's so fitting for the way thoughts meander when you're on a long journey, as he is finding his way to Albania and just thinking about various things from the past, it felt perfectly natural. When I go on long hikes my mind does the same sort of wandering so this was perfectly easy to follow. I also really appreciated the way you occasionally used alliteration and assonance to great effect - "sighing screeching of the sirens as they sounded", "juddering shudder", etc. It wasn't poetry, but some lines sure felt a lot like it. Gah, I'm just in love with your writing. And, I know you didn't ask specifically about this in your areas of concern, but it just has to be said: your descriptions are #goals. I love the way you write. <3
The character study of Tom Riddle is really interesting here because I've never seen a portrayal of him quite like this. Mainly because I've never read him in this sort of situation before, mostly alone, out in nature. But it really fits - the thoughts of other people are fleeting and he doesn't really miss anyone, which is just what I'd expect of him. There are memories that stick with him, but nothing he longs for with the company of other people. He kills a dog because he's bored. Everything I read here is 100% Tom Riddle - perfectly characterised.
The themes: I liked the way you worked in the themes of his asexuality, and meeting the family. The part about his asexuality and his thoughts about love, lust, sex etc were particularly interesting because it makes a whole lot of sense and provides insight into Tom's character in canon. It's all manipulation - and as he's someone who so easily manipulates but is not easily manipulated, this interpretation of him is so insightful, and I love when a new interpretation of a character adds so much and kind of connects the dots of what's already there from canon. As for the rest - to me, it didn't read so much a holiday as it was a journey to somewhere. But it did very effectively reflect the idea of taking a journey - across a map as well as in his mind. Maybe just because Ton Riddle just doesn't know how to take a real holiday - I mean, this is Tom Riddle after all. His idea of a holiday is going and murdering dogs and humans and then turning a tiara into a Horcrux, so, yeah. Taking that with a grain of salt XD
It's also a very interesting tone you've set here. Certainly more light-hearted than most things about Tom Riddle would be, because he's wandering towards the Albanian forest, but I don't know if I could call it light hearted :P But, it does seem like his thoughts here wander as much as his feet, because his task is taking a while to accomplish and he has a lot of time to do it, so it has a kind of laid-back feel, if that makes sense. I do like that laid-back tone for this piece - it really works.
The only typo I found: absently pouring through pages - should be 'poring'. Same with here: pouring over old maps
I think that's everything I wanted to mention - you really did a phenomenal job with this and I'm always glad to read something of yours. Thanks for requesting! ♥
Hey lovely! Here for our swap!
I'm so happy to be reading Tom Riddle again, especially your Tom Riddle - feels like it's been ages!
One of the (many) things I enjoy about your writing is how smoothly and effectively you pull me into the scene. Your descriptions are always so rich, and not rushed, and I never have any trouble picturing anything at all in my head.
I love that little insight into his time at the orphanage, how he laughed during talks of God, and healed his own wounds. It adds something really creepy and haunting to the story, so naturally I adore it :P and raising the dead! Early Inferi? So disgusting and creepy, and the way he just doesn't care is what really makes him the monster he is/becomes. He pretty much did it just because he can, and the easy, practiced way he did almost made me shiver. You really capture the way that, yes, Tom is powerful, but only because he made himself that way, pouring over the oldest books in the library in the middle of the night.
Wow, to have this be the story of him finding the diadem and then making it into a Horcrux is fascinating. And then he's so relaxed and at peace afterward, like it provided a kind of relief. I guess it did!
This was so amazing, Laura! I can't remember if the Prefects' Challenge has been judged yet, but if it hasn't - good luck!
Hi Bianca! :) Thank you so much for swapping - it's always so fun swapping with you :)
I love writing Tom so it works out that you like reading him, though it's super flattering and I'm always so glad other people like him too :)
Ahhhh thank you so much! I was kinda worried when I started this that it wouldn't work, with all the description and kinda character-study-ish with Tom Riddle and the way it doesn't ever break, just continues on, so I'm so happy to think you think it's okay - it's amazing to hear coming from you.
I love writing baby!Tom. He's such a creepy child, and I love writing that side of him, yk: the side which isn't violent or even particularly dangerous, just strange and creepy and odd. I really wanted this to be a kind of journey for him - a holiday abroad, exploring and learning and kind of honing his craft, seeing what Grindelwald did and thinking how he could improve on it: it's inspiration for him, both Grindelwald's war and WWII and it's like a perfect sight-seeing tour for him, with all the horror and despair it has because it's immediately post-war. Exactly - Tom worked at being powerful, he put effort into it and invested into it and really, really drove towards power and horror and all his misplaced ideas of glory he thought it would give him. I'd never written that before, and it fitted in too well with the idea of Tom taking a grand tour of the wizarding world, and how he learns and explores, haha, so I kinda fell into it and it ended up being a much bigger part of the story than i'd expected.
I wasn't initially sure whether I wanted to include the Horcrux, but in the end it felt right and it fitted (I think?) so I left it in :P The ending... I really wanted to leave it on a kind of anti-climax, with a gentle, relaxed Tom, being completely normal in nature - only not quite, because it's Tom, so I'm so glad you liked that.
Ahhh thank you so so much for both the wishes and the review - it was such a wonderful thing to get (as they always are from you), and I'm just so glad you liked the story :)
Hi! Here for our review swap.
Bravo! I love a good Tom Riddle character piece and this was a great one. I don't think there's anything more enjoyable than getting inside of his head. Listening to his inner monologue and seeing the world through his eyes. You captured that marvelously sociopathic voice and combined it with amazing detail and atmospheric effect. I don't know how you do it sometimes, all of the ways you come up with to paint a scene in the reader's mind. You are endlessly creative and evocative.
You cover so much ground en route to showing the true objective of Tom's quest. It's amazing to experience all of the colors and textures and sounds and smells of post-war Europe through him. Dresden was a great choice of scene. I like how he finds the destruction inspiring. Wishes that he could study it in different ways (the shattered wooden beam vs a human bone). He immerses himself in it, feeling completely at ease to the point where he's napping in the ruins.
Another thing I love about this is the way that he interacts with the world around him. He is in the middle of it, but always separated from it. Traveling the ruined remains of Europe is like a visit to the Louvre to him. He observes and ponders and even samples on occasion, but he never connects.
Then he arrives in Minsk and raises Inferi to attack a village. I love the casual viciousness of it. These people haven't done anything to him. They have nothing he wants. It's an exercise to him. Proving the theoretical possible. Refining his craft. Preparing for what's to come.
Cygnus Black was a good choice for his ill-fated non-love-interest. I'm not quite sure why, but I always had the sense that the Blacks of his generation had a complicated relationship with the Dark Lord. I have to imagine they approve of his stated goals (blood supremacy, enslave the muggles, etc.) but they're not listed alongside Crabbe and Goyle and his other early supporters. That could stem from an abundance of caution, but if Cygnus had a good reason to be wary to Tom -- and Tom a good reason to be wary of Cygnus -- it could explain some things. This also adds an interesting twist to Voldemort's (Cursed Child) relationship with Bellatrix. Imagine him looking at her and emotionlessly saying, "You're even better than your father."
Finally, we come to him locating the diadem and creating the Horcrux. The only thing I would quibble with a bit is the way that the hapless muggle attempts to harm him. Somehow -- and I could be making this up in my head -- I thought that killing an innocent person was part of the process. If the muggle was a killer or a cut-purse, at a minimum it sort of reduces the inherent evil of the act. Aside from that detail, I loved the sense of peace that comes upon him when the deed is done. He talks about the tearing of the soul being an ache. I wonder whether the creation of each Horcrux allowed him momentary relief from that ache, until it was time to kill again?
As always, your writing was simply amazing. So beautiful and nuanced and creative. You have an amazing gift. Thank you for the swap and thank you for this awesome story!