Status: Complete, Word Count: 369,600, Pairing: Harry Potter/Fleur Delacour, Genre: Drama/Romance
Read the Fic Here: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13747655/1/A-Flower-for-the-Soul
Author’s Summary: Loneliness was something that Harry Potter was accustomed to. He had learnt that there was none that cared for him, none that would rescue him from his misery and none that heard his pleas for help. Much to his surprise, however, Harry Potter had been wrong. Someone had been listening, had been there with him through it all. But, just who was ‘Tom?
Disclaimer: This review will feature SPOILERS. I normally don’t do this, but I think this particular review requires it, because I have a lot of thoughts on it.
Characterization: Alright, as per usual, let’s start with the things I like. The best thing about this fic is the presence of Tom. He is introduced right at the beginning, and his presence in the story is a consistent highlight until he dies at the end of year four. I think his relationship with Harry is developed extremely well, even if this version of Tom is very out of character compared to canon, and it honestly hit me pretty hard when he died. I think he has a fairly consistent character arc, and I think him coming to see Harry as more than a means to his own survival is compelling. I know it doesn’t work for some people, but I for one really, really liked him. In fact, I think Tom is the only character in this fic who I don’t have any criticism for. He’s one of the most creative manifestations of Harry’s scar horcrux that I’ve ever seen, and I really feel like I need to emphasize that, because even though I will be complaining a lot going forward, I think Tom is genuinely excellent, and Lee should feel extremely proud of him. Another character who I like quite a bit is Terry Boot. For those who don’t know your canon back to front, Terry Boot is a character whose name is mentioned during the sorting ceremony in Philosopher’s Stone, and he goes to Ravenclaw, and he is the student in Harry’s year that Lee decided to develop. Now, I think that up until the end of the dueling sequence, Terry Boot is quite good. He doesn’t show up too often, but his interactions with Harry are always incredibly charming, and it’s nice to see Harry grow to care for someone over the course of the fic. This all culminates with Harry giving him dueling tips during the tournament, which is fun. It’s a nice, self contained arc that adds some depth to the story and pays off very well. However, I feel like the issue is that Terry’s arc just kinda ends at that point, and he’s slowly phased out of the story after that. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Terry only shows up once in the entirety of year five, and it’s at the very end of the story. If I were to suggest how this could have been fixed, I’d say that it’d probably have worked better if his development was a bit slower, and it instead culminated in the final duel with Voldemort. Maybe we can get a moment part way through year five where Harry finally admits to considering Terry a friend, that might have added some much needed life to that ye—I’m getting ahead of myself. So overall, I think that Terry is about two thirds of a good character, and while his potential is certainly wasted for a sizable chunk of the fic, I have to give Lee a lot of credit for all the stuff that culminated in the dueling contest. Next up is Fleur. Unfortunately, I find her character to be rather boring to read about. She never has any clear motivations besides wanting to date Harry, and once they get together at the end of year, that motivations resolves itself, at which point her character completely stagnates until the end when whe tortures Umbridge, which…yeah I’ll get to that in a minute. Next up, it’s time to quickly discuss a few minor characters. Although Luna only appears in one or two scenes, she’s very nice whenever she shows up. Hermione and Neville both pop up every once in a while, and while they’re both fairly bland, they don’t really bother me too much. I wasn’t really a fan of Harry yelling at them for resisting Umbridge and being considered in the right, but…that doesn’t have too much to do with their characterizations. Arcturus shows up in portrait form, and I’m still not much of a fan. I don’t find his jokes very funny, and I do not like the portrayal of politics that his character leads to in Lee’s fics, but I also have to give Lee massive credit for a genuinely hilarious joke in the Epilogue that Arcturus played a role in, so he gets some points for that. Unfortunately, I hate the way the Dursleys are portrayed. Lee leans into every cliche stereotype out there, most notably exaggerating Harry’s abuse to the point that Vernon beats the actual shit out of an eight year old Harry. This version of abuse is portrayed in a simultaneously cartoony and distasteful way, and I’m not a fan. Lee’s never had to portray the Dursleys for extended periods of time before, but the opening chapters of The Green in the Grey should have been an indicator of what TBR’s version of them would look like. I was, and am, disappointed, because the Dursleys always have the potential to be fantastic, and although I think it can work when the abuse is more obvious compared to canon, I much prefer the way it’s done in fics like The Definition of Normal compared to the Daft Morons portrayal that Lee went with here. Dumbledore’s alright, but I object to him just straight up trying to murder Harry, because that doesn’t really mesh with who he is for the rest of the story, and it’s just a very weird scene all around. Finally, I fucking hate this version of Lucius, because it goes against everything that I find interesting about him. Lucius was considered to be Voldemort’s left hand, and more people need to lean into that! Lucius has the potential to be such a badass, intimidating villain, who’s capable of manipulating the political system, but can also kick your ass on the battle field, but instead, everyone always latches onto the department of mysteries scene at the end of Order of the Phoenix. And as a result, he gets portrayed as a moronic, sniveling coward who only stayed out of prison through bribery, and I fucking despise it. It’s just so….boring, and it makes seeing Lucius defeated the opposite of a payoff, because of course he was going to be defeated, he was a fucking moron. Alright, let’s talk about the main villains for a bit. So….with Tom being this fic’s most compelling character, and one of the main protagonists, I always assumed that this fic’s primary antagonist was going to be Voldemort. I figured we’d get a Voldemort that basically boiled down to Tom but evil. He would have the charisma, and the cunning, but he’d be fully corrupted and ruthless, and having Harry fight him would be interesting, because he would be fighting a corrupted version of his first and only true friend. Instead of that, Voldemort is completely sidelined in year five, and we get some whacky politics with Fudge and Umbridge, both of whom are exaggerated caricatures of their worst qualities in canon. Fudge is corrupt to the absolute core, and he’s essentially an irredeemable politician, and Umbridge gets her erotic kicks from torturing children. This is fairly standard Fudge and Umbridge bullshit, and while it’s certainly disappointing, I can’t say it was too surprising, although I will admit that I was shocked when Lee implied Umbridge got off on the torture, because I honestly never expected him to write that kind of thing. In fact, it’s so bizzare that I might have misinterpreted the line, and if that is the case, he can, of course, DM me to tell me this, and I will change this part of the review accordingly. So, with that, I’m pretty sure I’ve covered pretty much everyone except for Harry, so….alright I’ll try to be brief. I take three main issues with Harry in this story, and they are as follows: his attitude towards loneliness, the fact that he isn’t a Ravenclaw despite the narrative saying he is, and his flippant attitude towards murder and torture and the way this attitude affects (or does not affect, in this case) his psyche. So first of all, we have his loneliness, and my main issue here is the idea that an isolated, abused orphan would want to continue being isolated. Him being a bit socially unadjusted would probably be fine, but….I really feel like he should want to make friends. I don’t care if Tom has been whispering in his ear for three years, he is still only eleven, I feel like it would make more sense for him to desire more companionship. This is his chance to step out of the Dursleys’ shadow, why wouldn’t he want the thing they have been depriving him of for all these years? This also plays into the loner!Ravenclaw trope, which is a trope that I really do not care for, and I think it’s a shame how often it’s used. Speaking of Ravenclaw, this version of Harry is not one. From the way he acts, I’d argue that he has the ruthlessness of a Slytherin combined with the recklessness of a Gryffindor, but there are several arguments that could be made for various house combos. The point is that Harry does not cherish knowledge for the sake of learning. He learns with the specific goal of defeating Voldemort and is, as a result, not a Ravenclaw. I honestly appreciate the attempt, because there aren’t nearly enough Ravenclaw!Harry stories out there, but this one does not work for me. Finally, we have Harry’s attitude towards murder and torture, and this one’ll take a bit to explain, so buckle up. Now, something that’s very important to me in storytelling in general, is the idea that important actions should have lasting ramifications that can then be explored going forward. Without this, the stories become a bit bland, because if nothing really matters, what’s the point of being invested? This is why I consider character death fake outs to be so awful, because reviving a dead character kills any and all stakes the story might have, and it also prevents the story from exploring the interesting ramifications that a character death can bring about. Similarly, when a character does something heinous, in order for me to buy that that, the consequences must be explored. Honestly, despite the original’s many flaws, A Cadmean Victory is a fantastic example of this. It spends a lot of time exploring how Harry’s psyche changes as he becomes darker and darker, and I absolutely love it. So imagine my disappointment when, in A Flower for the Soul, within the last five chapters, both Harry and Fleur horribly torture someone and just kind of shrug it off. Harry goes to murder Lucius, rescue Narcissa, and burn Malfoy Manor to the ground, and he ambushes Lucius, breaks various bones, and then fucking pushes down on his eyes until they explode, before killing him. That’s some fucking Game of Thrones shit right there, and it’s not done in the heat of battle or anything like that. It is explicitly done in cold blood, and…I don’t really mind that it happens. I have nothing against dark, violent shit in fanfics, and I quite like it when it’s written well. However, you must, must, must explore the effect this has on Harry’s psyche, and this fic just doesn’t do that. It boggles my mind that Harry’s able to do these things and then just shrug and go “yeah alright, that was whatever” and move on. This happens at the end of the fic, almost as though it’s the payoff to a long corruption arc and this is Harry taking his final step into darkness, but….yeah that’s not what it is, and I cannot get over how poorly done this entire scene is. Furthermore, I can say the exact same thing about the scene where Fleur tortures Umbridge with the blood quill. We never see Fleur do anything like this throughout the rest of the fic. In fact, this is one of the only times we see Fleur do….well, anything related to the plot that’s not the final battle, and she’s able to fucking torture Umbridge for what is implied to be hours, and then just shrug it off. But….yeah I’ve ranted for long enough, I suppose. When you add it all up, Tom’s excellent characterization is enough to counterbalance how awful Harry is, but Tom dies halfway through. Terry’s also fantastic but he also essentially leaves the fic at the end of year four, and….yeah the fic goes downhill very fast after that. So as a result, I have to conclude this section by saying that this fic gets much more wrong than it gets right in terms of its characters. It is, overall, very disappointing, because I wanted to like this fic so fucking badly.
Romance: There are two romantic relationships explored in this story, and I like one of them far more than the other, but….overall, I don’t think either of them are especially bad. So let’s start with Harry and Fleur’s romance, shall we? So overall, I really like their relationship’s setup. From the moment Fleur arrives at Hogwarts, up until the Yule Ball, I think their dynamic is absolutely fantastic. Their grudging mutual respect builds really nicely into a rather close friendship, and I think this all culminates really well during the yule ball sequence, which, in my opinion, is honestly quite romantic and is executed very well. However, I’m not in love (pun very much intended) with the ball’s aftermath. In many ways, Lee’s post-yule ball reminds me a lot of a slightly better version of what Matt did with Harry and Fleur in A Cadmean Victory. However, I don’t like that part of ACV very much, so even if it’s done a bit better and everyone’s motivations more or less make sense, it just comes off like forced drama, and it goes on for what is decidedly too long. I actually think the dueling finale scene on its own is actually really well executed, but I don’t like either the setup or the aftermath of what is, in my opinion, an honestly emotionally touching scene. There’s also the small matter of this fic’s year five, which continues to just drag the whole damn thing down, because once Harry and Fleur are both at Hogwarts, it feels as though their relationship stagnates and stops being interesting, and I unfortunately have to say that any scene that had the potential to be emotionally impactful is undercut by some stuff that I’ll get to in the plot section. However, overall, I think Harry’s relationship with Fleur on its own could probably earn a very strong 2.5, or a light 3. However, I honestly have to give Lee credit for the way he wrote Sebastien’s relationship to Apolline, because while it’s certainly not perfect and is definitely a bit over the top here and there, it also genuinely feels as though they both love each other and their banter is often very fun to read. In fact, it’s honestly one of the highlights of year five, and this is really impressive to me. It would be very easy to not even bother developing Fleur’s parents, but little details like this are what kept me coming back to this fic, chapter after chapter, despite having major issues with lots of the fic. Lee, if you’re reading this, good fucking job with this, because it genuinely made me very happy, and I’m happy say that there is decidedly more good here than bad. While not all of the romance works for me, I can understand loving this fic if you’re reading primarily for the romance.
Action: This section is interesting, because it’s normally the thing I praise Lee for the most. He’s been consistently good at doing action since Honour Thy Blood, and even though he has yet to top the duel Harry loses to Voldemort in Stepping Back, I assumed that the action would yet again be this fic’s strongest point. Surprisingly, this is not the case. I will grant that it has fantastic moments, such as the finale of Year Two, but there was just a surprisingly small amount of action in this fic, and the stuff that was there was very varied in quality. Now, I will say that I really, really enjoyed the dueling tournament. Everything in it, from Harry giving Terry some pointers before each of his matches, to the actual duels that Harry participates in, is handled really well, and those chapters are actually really fun to read. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for most of the action in year five. I just felt like most of it was….I don’t know, boring, and that is not something I ever thought I’d say about a TBR fic. This becomes especially apparent in the finale, which an actual slog to get through. I also just feel like, overall, Harry’s a bit too overpowered from beginning to end in this fic, which makes it very difficult to get invested in any sequences that take place, because I never get the impression that Harry’s in any danger. This is why I like the dueling scenes, if I’m being honest, because it’s much more competition driven, and there are some rules in place that make Harry less OP. It’s also because the stakes are far lower, and seeing Harry kick ass is, for once, somewhat believable and entertaining. So….overall, when the action slows down and is low stakes, I really like it, but it is held back by how insanely OP Harry is throughout the majority of the story.
Plot: This fic’s plot fluctuates between being something I really don’t like and being something I actually kind of dig, and although it ends on a real low note, I will begin this section by giving Lee credit for some of the stuff I really like. As I already mentioned, I think the dueling tournament is really well done. It’s not an original idea by any stretch of the word, but it is setup and executed really well. It ends with an emotional punch, all the sequences are quite entertaining, and it’s just a great time overall. Also, although I already mentioned how much I like Tom’s character, I should probably mention that I also really like the way he interacts with the story. His role as Harry’s advisor is honestly really interesting because, up until the end of year three, there’s a lot of uncertainty about whether Tom is actually on Harry’s side. I also think that, overall, everything up until the end of year four works decently well. Are there parts I don’t care for, such as years one and five? Yes. However, it also undeniably has redeeming qualities that kept me coming back. Unfortunately, it feels like Tom’s death is a distinct turning point in the story, and the plot’s quality takes a sharp downhill turn at the beginning of year five. So….the main thing about year five is that it introduces politics into the story, and….yeah I won’t sugarcoat it, I fucking hate the way this fic handles them. Every political scene in this fic, whether it’s a Wizengamot hearing, a Fudge and Umbridge scheming session, or even Harry and Lucius threatening each other feels like it’s ripped straight out of, like, a JustBored21 or Sinyk fic. It plays very, very heavily into the whole “magical Britain is corrupt to its very roots, and one fifteen year old manages to root out all of the corruption through his big brain powers of cussing loudly and calling Fudge a cunt repeatedly” trope, and I just don’t enjoy that kind of writing. It makes everything feel too easy, and my eyes just end up glazing over. The politics in this fic read as though they’re from a cartoon. Everything either feels like an awkward joke, or an attempt at being serious that falls flat. Not that there’s anything wrong with politics played for laughs, Prince of Slytherin certainly has a fair amount of that, but I didn’t often get the impression that Lee was going for that kind of thing here, and when he did, that didn’t work either. The only exception to this is Arcturus’ portrait cameo, and while I certainly was able to tell Lee was going for comedy with his scenes, he was funnier in Stepping Back and Honour Thy Blood. I felt like the majority of his little one-liners fell flat, even if I did enjoy him in the Epilogue. However, my biggest issue with the plot is something that bugs me in a lot of other fanfictions. Now, I know some people like to call characters “Mary Sues”, but I’m not going to do that for two reasons. First of all, because it’s a term people normally seem to use to whine about competent women appearing in Star Wars, or whatever, and I don’t want to contribute to that culture, and second of all, nobody seems to understand what the term actually means, which makes the term a bit useless when critiquing something. So….I am going to call it “special-est special boy protagonist syndrome”. This is when an author makes their protagonist untouchable in a story. They never lose, everything always goes their way, and everything they ever do is always right, because of course it is, they’re the protagonist. This trope shows up all throughout the fandom, and it shows up a lot in this fic. It’s mostly an issue whenever politics show up, but it also manifests in the form of Harry’s ridiculous power levels, and is also kind of used to justify him torturing people like it’s literally nothing. Also, not to mention, the whole thing where he manages to easily pass his OWLs and NEWTs many, many years early as though it’s nothing. Why was that even a plot point? It added nothing to the story besides making Harry super extra special. Finally, this fic has some weird structural issues near the end with its plot. This is especially noticeable in the fic’s Epilogue, when the fic cuts a genuinely touching proposal scene in half and sticks a flashback in the middle of it, completely destroying the scene’s emotional impact. Anyway, I’ve gone on for long enough. You get the picture at this point. The plot is something of a mess, and while it has some good points, it is, overall, exceedingly disappointing and mediocre.
Dialogue: This fic’s dialogue is whatever. There’s nothing awful, like, ever, but there’s also never anything particularly outstanding or memorable. The strongest scene is easily Tom’s death and his back and forth with Harry, the weakest scene is any time Harry interacts with the Malfoys, Fudge, or does anything political. The rest is just average dialogue that doesn’t bother me all that much, but also doesn’t do anything for me either.
Writing Mechanics: Years one through four are perfectly mechanically sound. If it was just them, this section would get a perfect score, because there’s nothing noteworthy. However, the last few chapters of year five had some embarrassing mistakes in them. There were grammar mistakes that made me have to read sentences multiple times, there were several rather obvious spelling errors, and it was overall a mess. However, three chapters isn’t enough to discount the rest of the fic which is mostly fine, so….overall, well done Lee. However, you have betas, you should probably be catching some of these errors. It’s a good thing mechanics have never mattered to me all that much in these reviews in the first place.
Overall: If I was to describe A Flower for the Soul in a single phrase, it would be a disappointing amount of wasted potential. Despite me having issues with it from the very beginning, the stuff I liked counterbalanced the stuff I didn’t like, up until about part way through year four. In fact, if the fic ended with Tom’s death and Harry reconciling with Fleur, this story would be a mid great tier entry. However, as the story went into year five, it took an absolute nosedive off a cliff, and it continued falling until it crashed into rock bottom near the Epilogue. Did it continue to have the occasional good moment? Absolutely. However, do I like the final product? No I do not. It’s a real shame, because I think Lee has a shit ton of potential as a writer, and he’s done some absolutely stellar things, but….yeah this is not one of them
Final Thoughts: As much as it pains me to say it, if you haven’t read this fic, first of all what the fuck are you doing here? I warned that there’d be spoilers, but more importantly, I don’t think you’re really missing out on much. Of course I still recommend giving this fic a read, just to see if you agree with my takes on it, but….yeah this fic is a fucking disappointment. Do remember, however, that my opinions are just mine, and you may adore this story just because it’s something that works well for you. However, for me, I have the unfortunate duty of saying that this fic is exceedingly average and mediocre and it’s unlikely I’ll ever revisit it again.
Tier: Average Tier
Written on 05/20/2021