Book I: The Summer of Salazar

By Ubiquitouslyverbose

Status: Complete, Word Count: 134,610, Pairing: Harry Potter/Daphne Greengrass

Read the Fic Here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/27476758

Author’s Summary:

Following the events of Third Year, Harry Potter explores the Chamber of Secrets and finds a portrait of Salazar Slytherin. Following Slytherin’s advice, Harry will attempt to break out of the games set upon him and finally be free. But how? And is freedom even possible for the Boy-Who-Lived? Encompasses the end of Third Year and the summer of Fourth Year as Harry begins his bid for independence in a hostile world.

My Thoughts:
Characterization: The characterization in this fic is still pretty good. From the very beginning, it becomes abundantly clear that the characters are this fic’s strength, and it’s very interesting to watch the rest of the fic catch up to the characters in terms of quality. In particular, this version of Hermione is very interesting. She is decidedly different from how she is in canon, but I quite like the change, and I think it serves the story well. Both her puzzling out her feelings for Harry throughout the first few chapters, and her attempts at romance near the end are very entertaining to read about, and I think her struggle between respecting authority figures and wanting to get closer to Harry is a rather interesting one. Salazar’s also a really interesting character. I’ve seen a shit ton of Salazar Slytherin portrait characters, and this version is right up there with the one from A Cadmean Victory and the one from Serpent’s Heiress. I think a Salazar that’s totally into Muggle literature and has kind of a thing for philosophy is absolutely delightful, and I adore that his whole thing is “look, man, you know some pretty fucking great magic already, what you really need is to understand when and how to use it”. It’s a pretty direct contrast to A Cadmean Victory, but considering that that whole fic is about Harry’s downfall, this is a very welcome difference. Now, the thing about both Salazar and Hermione is that the execution for both of them is a bit sloppy. I still like them both, but they’re held back from their full potential by the sloppy writing and the stiff dialogue. I’m also not over the moon about Harry. I like him whenever he’s chatting with Salazar or pondering philosophy, but other than that I’m pretty mixed about his characterization. When he’s bouncing off Hermione or Daphne, I’m pretty down with his character. He has that snark from canon that I absolutely adore, and Ubiq gives him just the right amount of wit, but when he’s teaching and especially when he’s doing dark magic, oh boy does his character fall flat. The writing is just so muddled and awkward during these sections that it just dulls his characterization a lot for me. I also was never really clear why he felt the need to buy a book from Borgin & Burkes to learn from it. If it was explained at all, it was done in a way that was very awkward and muddled. However, the one character who I can unequivocally praise is Daphne Greengrass. Holy shit is she good! From the moment she first appeared to the end of this book, she is the consistent bright spot in this entire story. Her characterization is consistent and sharp, she plays off Harry really well, her dynamic with Madeleine Tessier is adorable, and she’s all around fantastic. This all averages out to be right in the high end of what I consider to be “good” and the low end of what I consider to be “great”, which isn’t too shabby, all things considered.

Romance: The romance in this fic is also really great. Ubiq does a fantastic job setting up Hermione and Daphne is two potential partners for Harry, and I like that he makes it so both of them do different things right. Even though Harry seems to prefer Daphne to Hermione, it’s not because of bashing or some stupid shit like that, it’s just because Daphne lines up more with who Harry is becoming. Also, Daphne and Harry’s first kiss was really well written. That entire scene was just filled with tension, and I like the bits of levity that were mixed in here and there. I normally don’t really go out of my way to compliment specific scenes like that cause I think it’s a bit weird to do, but….come on, that scene was an outstanding moment in book one, so I just had to. Anyway, Harry’s “dates” with both Hermione and Daphne are really fun to read about, and the romance is just something that is generally very well done.

Dialogue: The dialogue in this fic is clunky as hell. It starts off very mediocre, and while it improves, it’s kind of a case of too little too late. The opening five chapters have, like, 1.5/5 level dialogue and it is rough to get through. Everyone kinda talks the same, there are some cringy as shit lines, and some that just make no sense. Then, Daphne shows up, and suddenly we have some 3.5-4/5 level dialogue going on, but then it drops back down whenever Daphne’s not around. It’s still very awkward and same-y, but the cringe factor has gone way down. Then, by the end, within the last two chapters, around the time Cygnus is first introduced, everything clicks into place and it’s suddenly fantastic. It becomes sharp, witty, and dramatic at times, and I just love it. So how do I reconcile these differences? Simple. This section averages out to being painfully average.

Plot: This book’s plot is really weird. It starts off with all these weird time skips around the end of year three’s school year, and then the first half of summer keeps with this pace, and I’m not a fan of that part. Besides the philosophy, it’s just very boring and falls pretty much completely flat. Then there’s the teaching the kids part in the middle which is definitely an improvement but still drags at times, and then near the end, once the politics with Cygnus and the romance become the focus, it suddenly becomes super interesting and engaging. It’s basically the exact same thing that happened with the dialogue just happening again. Keep in mind, though, that most of my issue with the plot is the pacing and execution, not the actual ideas themselves.

Writing Mechanics: In terms of mechanics, this fic mostly gets its shit together by the end, but god dammit, the beginning is hard to ignore. There are so many insane run-on sentences in those opening chapters that it is a legitimate chore to read. The commas are all over the place, there are misspelled words here and there, the sentence structure makes no sense, and it’s just an absolute mess. I understand why, Ubiq himself has said that he was still finding his feet here, and I don’t really hold it against him or the story going forward (especially considering the remaster this book is getting on ff.net), but I also can’t just ignore all these issues, even if it mostly fixes itself by the end.

Overall: The Summer of Salazar is a decidedly mixed bag. In my opinion, the first few chapters are borderline unreadable. Sure, they have interesting ideas here and there, but their execution squanders pretty much any potential those ideas have. The story time skips all over the place, it’s paced very poorly, and it’s just an absolute slog to get through. However, as the story goes on, it becomes tolerable. Daphne’s an absolute joy to read about, and by the end, it’s quite good. I’m very glad I read through it, even if a large chunk of it was unpleasant to read, because the good moments make it worth it. Does that mean you should read it? I’d say yes. The good does outweigh the bad, and even with all of its flaws, it’s honestly quite a satisfying read. I’m quite excited to see how this will look once it’s been remastered, because I get the feeling it’ll be excellent.

Final Thoughts: If you like philosophy, check out this fic. If you like well written politics, check out this fic. If you like a Dumbledore who’s an antagonist without being bashed, check out this fic. If you like Daphne and/or Hermione, check out this fic. Just temper your expectations and grit your teeth and power through those first few chapters.

Tier: Good Tier

Thoughts on Book II

Thoughts on the Series

Written on 05/20/2021

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