…and another thing I decided to review on the first read-through. This one a bit of a guilty pleasure.
Harry Potter and the Daft Morons by Sinyk
As unsophisticated as it may sound, every now and then, I do enjoy reading a well-written fic which says “screw it” to canon. …where Harry Potter one-ups the kind of manipulative Dumbledore who may or may not be evil and may or may not be conspiring with some of the Weasleys.
This fic does that well. It’s not perfect, being a bit exposition-y at first, but it’s fun nonetheless.
Dumbledore isn’t portrayed as over-the-top evil… he’s just manipulative and arrogant to the point of self-destructiveness. The Weasleys as a whole aren’t bad… but Molly and Ron need an attitude adjustment. (And Percy even gets a chance to shine in a very natural and in-character way during a family meeting.)
…though, when, after several novels worth of events, they finally get Dumbledore dosed with Veritaserum, it is very novel to see a formal interrogation result in Dumbledore getting officially and legally declared a Dark Lord by Amelia Bones.
It’s also a “The Potters are wizarding nobility” fic, but I also enjoy those on occasion and this, again, does a pretty good job of not making it merely an excuse to fix-fic things, going into a fair bit of detail on the social norms and hierarchy.
On that note, it’s a story of a specific type I’m not sure I’ve seen before. I’ve seen stories where Harry outwits the wizarding world, often by staying one step ahead of the Order while on the run. I’ve also seen fix-fics and politics fics. This has a little bit of all of them, but focuses on a blend of “foolish wizards” and hard politics that I haven’t seen before. (Usually, “foolish wizards” is for the light fics and hard politics is for the serious ones.)
Harry reveals that he’s a lot smarter than people think he is, but then makes a habit of pointing out things readers probably noticed, to the chargrin of those around him… such as his three amusingly paced, should-be-obvious suggestions for how to get in contact with Sirius Black so he can finally get a trial. (Owl him, try a messenger Patronus, or ask a house elf to try delivering a letter)
It’s also nice to see a Dumbledore who’s always outwitted, yet still doesn’t get beaten and dismissed too handily. He manages to parlay his way out of getting sent to Azkaban and keeps his job at Hogwarts because he’s got tenure, but his own arrogance and obsession leads to him being demoted to a mere professor because he was away from Hogwarts, scheming, when notice was sent for the hearing with the board of governors. He still tries to get Harry back, but gets the maximum allowable wait in a Ministry holding cell after getting picked up for trespassing because Harry had the anti-apparation and anti-portkey wards set a metre back from the actual property line. etc. etc. etc.
The key to this clever alternative interpretation, which made me appreciate it so much more, was when one of the unspeakables clued me in… He’s running circles around everyone because, in this story, “marked as the Dark Lord’s equal” is referring to mental and political prowess. (And, as Dumbledore realizes, possibly not about Voldemort at all)
At the same time, it mixes in some nice “summer at Hermione’s” bits when Hogwarts gets shut down pending the hiring of replacements for the newly vacated positions. The interactions between Harry, Hermione, and her parents are an enjoyable read. (And the author clearly understands how to use one-off characters to good effect, which is something I almost never see. In this case, a brief interaction with a little old lady Hermione clearly knows.)
Also, very notably, it manages to detail what Harry makes when he decides to cook for Hermione’s family for fun without it feeling like a drain on the story. In fact, I find myself curious to see what Harry will make next… which is another nod to the author’s skill.
That said, I do wish it hadn’t taken 16 chapters to reveal the narrative justification for making “Harry” short for “Harrison” early in the first chapter (a classic “Author didn’t do the research or gratuitously breaks from canon” warning sign) and I don’t like how, at least in the earliest chapters, it seems to muddle together elements of the book and movie continuities. (Which is a crying shame because later chapters clearly show that “the research” was done on multiple occasions. I especially loved having Harry and Hermione see The Santa Clause in the theatre and then having Harry draw a parallel with his own “stuck in a contract he didn’t agree to” situation.)
All in all, in the context of what it’s aiming to be, I’d give it a 4.3 out of 5. At times, it’s a 4.0 and, at times, it’s 4.5. Either way, it’s 745,285 words long, still actively going as of this review, and hard to put down.