Status: Complete, Word Count: 520,800, Pairing: Harry Potter/Fleur Delacour, Genre: Adventure/Romance
Read the Fic Here: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11446957/1/A-Cadmean-Victory
Author’s Summary: In the aftermath of a peaceful summer comes the Goblet of Fire and the chance of a quiet year to improve himself, but Harry Potter and the Quiet Revision Year was never going to last. A more mature, darker Harry, bearing the effects of 11 years of virtual solitude. GoF AU. There will be romance… eventually.
Characterization: Overall, I think the characterization in A Cadmean Victory is very well done. In particular, this version of Salazar Slytherin is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a fic. His jokes are funny, he’s a total asshat, but it’s in a very endearing way, and his relationship with Harry is very interesting to watch develop. Similarly, I think Katie Bell is insanely well written in this fic. Her character’s journey is absolutely fascinating to watch. It goes through some shocking twists and turns, and has one of the most impactful endings to a character arc that I’ve ever seen. Now, as for Harry and Fleur, I think that they’re both mostly great, but they have a few issues that mainly connect to the way DarknessEnthroned wrote the fic. Watching Harry and Fleur slowly corrupt each other, and complement each other’s worst traits is one of the most fascinating and heartbreaking things I’ve ever read in a fanfiction. The process is so slow that you hardly even notice it until one of them does something awful to someone, and then it all comes crashing back to you that you’re rooting for two objectively horrible people, and that society’d be better off if they were both locked up in Azkaban for eternity. Now, my main issue with this is that about 15% of Harry and Fleur’s actions don’t really make sense, because DE was still a new author when he wrote this, and some of his scenes are very hard, or even impossible, to follow. I also have to mention how much I love that Ron, Hermione, and Dumbledore as antagonists written as antagonists without being bashed. Even though his character motivations were a bit rough he still gave all three of them nuance and clearly separated who they actually are from Harry’s perception of them, and I love it. Overall, I think the characterization is quite good, despite the occasional misstep.
Romance/Action: The romance in this fic leaves a lot to be desired. It’s very oddly paced. It always feels like it’s moving either too fast or too slow, and Harry’s interactions with Fleur are kind of awkward. Now, I will be fair and say that Harry’s relationship with Fleur is great up until the Yule Ball aftermath, because Fleur’s actions make no fucking sense. I understand what Matt was trying to go for, but it just falls flat on its face, and I spent the entire time between the Yule Ball and the Third Task thinking to myself “come on man, there’s got to be a better way to do this”, and I now know I was right because it’s done way better in the remaster. However, this isn’t a review of the remaster, so I instead have to say that nobody’s actions make any sense in this section, and it feels like DarknessEnthroned was just trying to manufacture some shallow, unnecessary drama in order to pad the fic’s runtime. Some of this also shows up in Harry’s failed relationship with Katie, but it’s not nearly as egregious as it is with Fleur. Then, once Harry and Fleur actually get together, I just don’t buy their romance. It may work for some people, but a lot of their scenes feel weird and tonally off, and…I’m just not a fan. Luckily, the action is great! There isn’t too much of it, but when it happens it’s insanely tense and exciting, and incredibly satisfying to read. The two main scenes that come to mind are the graveyard scene and Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort, which both carry a shit ton of emotional weight along with all the exciting and cool action moments, although there are many other shorter moments that also work great. Harry’s confrontation with Pettigrew and his final, brief duel with Hermione both come to mind. So….overall, I think the romance is decent, but it doesn’t do what I know Matt was trying to do with it, and thus far this has been fixed in the remaster. The action is great, though.
Dialogue: The dialogue in this fic is really good. I mean, some of it is also very easy to take out of context and make fun of, but even corny, edgy lines like Harry going “I will not forgive, I will not forget” are pretty fun and fit the story well. The dialogue does a lot to make the interactions better, and it’s honestly great even in scenes I don’t really like. Matt’s always been great with dialogue, so it’s extremely unsurprising that that it’s very good here, even if ACVR is a massive improvement.
Plot: This is where A Cadmean Victory really shines. I honestly think this fic has one of the best overall stories that I’ve ever seen. There’s so much going on in it. So many subplots and character arcs that converge in the finale, and the ending is just an enormous fucking gut punch. I’m an uneducated moron, and I did not know what a “Cadmean Victory” was when I read it so it hit me especially hard, but even when you know it’s coming it still fucking hits. This fic also features some absolutely brilliant trope subversions. I shit you not, it subverted indie!Harry and Flowerpot tropes so damn hard that it practically turned the subversions into the new tropes. There’s just so much good shit going on here. The corruption arc, the Slytherin arc, the Dumbledore arc, the Ron and Hermione arc, his fight with Voldemort, etc. It’s all amazing, and if it wasn’t for a bit of sloppy execution here and there this fic would probably be in a higher tier.
Writing Mechanics: Mechanically, this fic is fine. There are definitely some grammatical errors here and there, and the execution of certain scenes is sloppy in a few places, but overall it’s fairly impressive, especially considering this is DarknessEnthroned’s first fanfic. Also, the character death trigger warning at the end of the chapter with the death in it made me laugh a lot. Excellent fuck you to the people who spoil their chapters in Author’s Notes. In fact, the author’s notes provide some of the best comedy I’ve ever seen in a fanfic.
Overall: A Cadmean Victory is fucking amazing! This story redefined fanfiction and it will always be a gleaming example of what an amazing writer can do within the fanfiction medium. Watching the slow progression of Harry journeying further and further into darkness is an incredibly satisfying experience, and the only thing more satisfying is watching his relationship with Fleur blossom. I really, really like this story. In fact, the only reason it’s down here and not in the Crusade tier is because DarknessEnthroned decided to remaster it and is doing an even better job than before, which is just insane! If you haven’t read this fic before, I implore you to give it a shot. The link is right up there. Just go click on the title, the one that’s right at the beginning of this paragraph, and start reading. I promise you won’t regret it.
Also, while I have your attention, DarknessEnthroned wrote a short Cadmean Victory spin-off/Epilogue one-shot called A Taste of Ismenian Water that’s fairly decent, and serves as an Epilogue for A Cadmean Victory. While I personally prefer ACV’s ending to this, it’s still very well written, and offers some neat closure. I recommend checking it out, but you should only read it after you’ve finished A Cadmean Victory.
Read A Taste of Ismenian Water Here: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12070367/1/A-Taste-of-Ismenian-Water
Final Thoughts: This is a fandom defining fic right here, and even though it pales in comparison to the remaster, it defined the fandom for the next six years for a very good reason. This is one of the best Flowerpot fics ever written, and if you’re a fan of that pairing then this is a must read. It’s also a very good tragedy, so if you’re a fan of some sad shit that knows how to balance it with levity, then this fic is for you. It’s not perfect, but A Cadmean Victory holds up really fucking well, and I think it earns its tier placement.
Tier: Great Tier