Status: Complete, Word Count: 129,400, Pairing(s): Harry Potter/Hermione Granger, Harry Potter/Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter/Daphne Greengrass, NOT MULTI (you’ll see what I mean when I get into the review), Genre: Suspense/Horror
Read the Fic Here: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13165325/1/Echoes-in-the-Fog
Summary: “Our choices define us. When Harry and his closest friends are transported to an alternate dimension, thirty years after the war’s end, and forced to face the results of what would have been if only they had chosen differently, he will discover just how true this is. Features H/G, H/Hr, H/DG. Not multi.”
A Quick Note Before We Get Started: I don’t normally do this, but I think I should be up front with you all. This fic is not for the feint of heart. It features a few particularly graphic sequences of torture in the middle chapters, and if you’re at all familiar with the author (he wrote the Downward Spiral Saga), you should know what to expect. But I digress, if you’re particularly bothered by bugs, sharp things near human eyes, bugs in human eyes, general psychological torment and degradation, and just generally fucked up torture shit that goes beyond the Cruciatus Curse, you’re welcome to read this review, but I strongly, strongly urge that you stay away from the actual fic.
Notable abbreviations: FLoaB = For Lack of a Bezoar, DSS = The Downward Spiral Saga
My Thoughts: Echoes in the Fog is an incredibly ambitious project. It’s a crossover story between two of the author’s other fics and also canon, set primarily in the Downward Spiral Saga world. The premise is honestly great. It takes canon Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny (all in their 40s, as the whole thing is set in 2028), Dark!Harry, Dark!Hermione, and Redeemed!Snape from For Lack of a Bezoar, and it plops them all into the Downward Spiral Saga universe about 12 years after the epilogue of that story is set. The different iterations of these characters all have to face the horrible, evil versions of themselves that could have been them had things gone differently, and they’re forced to choose between trying to liberate this world from the empire, or just escaping back home themselves. As I said at the outset, I think this concept is absolutely fantastic. It’s a creative idea that’s incredibly interesting to read and think about.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this fic’s execution really lives up to its premise. Don’t get me wrong, it has some absolutely stunning highs, particularly when it comes to characterization, and it honestly does a fair number of things right. However, it is held back by a number of fairly important issues. The first and most substantial for me is that it tries to do too much. It wants to cram multiple full subplots, over ten different POVs, and interludes set back in both of the non-DSS worlds into this 130k word fic, and as a result, it doesn’t manage to properly flesh out a large number of them. The other major one is that I feel like its story doesn’t do enough to justify its own existence, especially in regard to the For Lack of a Bezoar characters. I’ll be discussing all that and more in this review, so let’s properly get into it!
Funnily enough, I consider characterization to be both this fic’s greatest strength, and its greatest weakness. All three versions of Harry, both versions of Hermione, Ron, Luna, and Severus are all absolutely fantastic. I was particularly impressed with how easy it was for me to tell apart the three different Harrys. I mean sure, their respective POVs were all carefully labeled, but I think that Bolshe had a really good grasp on what makes canon!Harry an interesting character, and managed to weave together a lot of interesting, nuanced distinctions between him and the darker Harry from For Lack of a Bezoar. The fic did an absolutely fantastic job making me understand just how similar these two versions of Harry are, while perfectly highlighting their differences in a way that made for a really interesting read. Beyond that, with this premise comes a fuck ton of potential interesting character drama, and Bolshe capitalizes on it all masterfully. From smaller things such as canon!Ron having to grapples with Harry and Hermione ending up together in the reality in which he died, to FLoaB!Hermione having to deal with seeing an alternate version of herself happily married to Ron, and how could I forget the characterization gold mine that is canon!Harry and FLoaB!Harry having to see the version of themselves from DSS and grappling with the evil, fucked up monster they became in this reality. It’s all handled incredibly well. Hell, even characters like Canon!Ron and DSS!Luna, who aren’t especially prominent in the fic are incredibly memorable, fleshed out characters. It feels like, with this fic, Bolshe mastered the art of doing a lot with very little.
Which is what makes it so frustrating when looking at the DSS cast of characters. The two interesting ones are DSS!Harry and the spy whose name I will not reveal. While Harry’s a bit one-note, I found being in his head during his perspectives to be really interesting and painful (in the good way), to the point that it actually kind of made me want to read DSS through to see how he became the way he is. The spy has a really compelling arc and their perspectives are all really well-done. Some of the best in the fic, as far as I’m concerned. However, this fic spends way too much time on DSS!Harry and his relationship with his daughter, Bellona. Seriously, it probably takes up a fourth of the fic, including multiple scenes from her perspective, and it’s so fucking boring! It’s a drag on the plot, its existence causes other characters’ characterizations to drag, and what I find most annoying about it is that if it was cut, more time could have been spent focusing on the actually important characters. Seriously, why not spend a few more chapters developing DSS!Harry’s relationship with Voldemort? The chapter that focused on that was absolutely fantastic, and was actually part of what made me curious about DSS, yet it quickly got dropped to focus more on Bellona fucking Potter. But hey, characterization is only one part of what makes a story, so let’s move on to the actual nuts and bolts of the plot.
Overall, I think this fic comes tantalizingly close to having a fantastic plot. In fact, I’d say the majority of it is pretty great. We open with this really interesting omniscient narrator monologue, and while I usually don’t like this kind of thing, I kind of dug this one. It’s all about the way different choices can change the course of history, and it gave some nice, short synopses of DSS and FLoaB for those unfamiliar with those stories. Then we are introduced to our cast of characters as they are flung into the DSS world, and we’re off to the races. To put it very simply, the story is these character trying to get home and eventually aligning themselves with the remaining rebels trying to escape the hell that is DSS. It’s a fairly great concept for a horror-action thriller, and it more or less delivers. It has horrific torture interrogation scenes, it has nail-biting action, and it’s absolutely fantastic at tension-building. This is all undeniable. However, at the same time, I don’t think the ending or certain major character deaths really allow the fic to justify its own existence. Specifically, when it comes to For Lack of a Bezoar, Echoes in the Fog makes that fic worse. It undercuts the very emotionally satisfying ending that story had by giving this continuation a very ambiguous, emotionally complicated ending. It’s not even that this ending is bad, because I generally like it (it has a very nice, tragic bitter-sweet feeling to it), but I can’t help but be sad that the ending of For Lack of a Bezoar will never be able to have that same weight for me every again.
One thing that surprised me was that this fic has a really strong theme that runs throughout. Theme is something that a lot of fanfic authors struggle to really work with, but Echoes in the Fog does a very good job exploring choices and their impacts on the world. It’s also technically very well-done, although there were a few annoying instances of Bolshe telling rather than showing.
Overall, I think that Echoes in the Fog is a good fic, and one that’s worth checking out. It’s a treat for fans of Bolshe’s other works, and despite its many flaws, I had a pretty damn good time reading it. Seriously, it’s been awhile since I’ve just been unable to put a fic down, and so far Bolshe’s two for two on that front. Honestly, if this fic has accomplished anything, it’s made me actually want to read the Downward Spiral Saga, which is something of an achievement in it of itself. Does it have flaws? Absolutely. Did I enjoy reading it? Honestly, yeah. I had a fantastic time with it. Do I recommend you go read it? Well…..if you enjoyed either DSS or FLoaB, you’ll love this. If you’re bothered by the trigger warnings I stuck at the beginning of this review, stay very far away from this, as there will be some scenes in the middle that’ll fuck you up. But otherwise, yeah I’d say give it a go.
Tier: Great Tier
Written on 11/22/2021
Related Reading Material:
My Thoughts on the Downward Spiral Saga (Coming Soon)