Status: Complete, Word Count: 51,300, Pairing: Gen, Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Read the Fic Here: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12867536/1/Harry-Potter-and-the-Homecoming
Summary: “Book 1 of the Downward Spiral Saga:After being raised in an orphanage, Harry Potter is visited by his new headmaster and brought into the world of magic. How will an abused Harry fare in this new world? Slytherin!Harry, Eventual Dark!Harry, Sequel is up! HP and Salazar’s Legacy”
My Thoughts: Harry Potter and the Homecoming is the first installment in the infamous Downward Spiral Saga, and the premise is basically this: what if the Dursleys dropped Harry off at an orphanage instead of raising him, and he suffered a fate far worse than ten years with the Dursleys? He basically grew up like a worse off Tom Riddle, hated and feared by the other children, horribly bullied, and eventually sexually abused by a closet pedophile working at the orphanage. He grows up isolated, alone, and emotionally broken, basically straight up hating the world, and by the time Dumbledore comes to collect him at the age of eleven, his accidental magic has caused him to take two lives. So he enters the Wizarding World, and is almost instantly swept under the wings of the Malfoy Family: the first people to ever be kind to him. Naturally, as a result, Harry goes straight into Slytherin and his corruption begins. Now I’m not going to lie to you, this is a pretty fucking kickass concept. I know the “Dark!Slytherin!Harry corruption arc” idea has been worn into the god damn ground, but this seems like a pretty solid way to do it in a believable manner without neutering any canon characters. Unfortunately, this fic has some enormous problems, which I will be breaking down in this review. To briefly summarize them, they are pacing, prose, and perspective. The triple P, if you will. What this fic generally does well is characterization and ideas, which I will also be getting into here. So without further ado, let’s jump in!
So right away, this fic is a few chapters too long. See, it basically serves as a prologue for the rest of the series, as far as I can tell, which is a perfectly valid way to use year one. However, in trying to properly retell year one, Bolshevik spends way too long on canon rehash, and the fic has some serious bloat as a result. I think the first three chapters should have been condensed into one, the prologue should have been cut altogether, and several of the more canon!plot-heavy scenes from the year that don’t directly advance Harry’s characterization should have been done away with. (The troll scene in particular). This fic should have been as lean and tightly written as Bolshe could have possibly made it, because by deciding to not give the year any action-based plot, he basically ensures that the only thing his readers will find interesting and worth reading about are the characters he’s working with. As such, I think the fic should have been about two thirds as long as it was, and should have been focused entirely on Harry’s interactions with the Malfoys, his Slytherin friends, Snape, Dumbledore, and Quirrell. Anything else is incidental and just detracts from the pacing of the fic.
Unfortunately, even with that, the first half of this fic would still be virtually irrideemable because holy shit the fucking prose. Now I understand that this was Bolshevik’s first published attempt at writing fanfiction, and I am sympathetic to that. However, that doesn’t make the first half of the fic any more bearable to read, because it is genuinely and truly a cluttered, clunky, and incomprehensible mess. However, to give Bolshe credit where it’s due, he got a handle on himself shockingly quick. While I would never describe the prose in this fic as good, they become barely tolerable around chapter nine or so, and that’s a pretty quick rate of improvement. There’s still too much telling, the dialogue is still very clunky and often robotic, and grammatical errors abound, but that’s still an improvement over the enormous clunky walls of text, the inhuman surrealism that was character interaction, and the weird shouty caps that permeated the early chapters. And even though there are still too many sentences in all caps in the second half of the fic, the difference is just night and day.
Unfortunately, a result of the clunky opening is that this fic lacks a compelling setup. Harry’s hatred for Muggles seems to just kind of spring forth from nowhere, and he seems a bit too gullible for his manipulation at the hands of the Malfoys to be believable. This definitely isn’t helped by the sudden lapses into omniscient narration either. The same is true for both Snape and Dumbledore. The ideas being played with are good, it’s just that the execution ruins any potential they have. As a result, although the second half of the fic works a lot better than the first, I can’t help but feel like the entire series is going to be dragged down by this lackluster beginning.
Lastly, this fic has a major perspective problem. Bolshe seems to mostly want to tell the story from Harry’s perspective, using 3rd person limited, which is a decision that I fully support. Besides the occasional interlude giving us a look into the mind of another character, this is Harry’s story and his perspective is what’s important. Which is why it’s so frustrating that this fic keeps wanting to lapse into omniscient narration to deliver extra information to us the reader. This is a constant issue from the prologue to the ending sentence of the story, and it’s insanely frustrating. This is more of a pet peeve than anything else, but still….here’s to hoping this gets better as the series continues.
In terms of positives, pretty much everyone’s characterization is damn good. The Malfoy family are superbly crafted, I can already see the tragedy of Dumbledore’s relationship with Harry playing out further down the road, and I think all the kids are actually very well-written. Despite how much I ragged on Harry’s characterization in the early chapters, once Bolshe finds his footing I think he successfully captures an undefinable essence that makes Harry who he is as his arc further progresses. The same goes for Draco, and all the other less important Slytherin characters. They all feel like kids, and that’s something that few fics ever really get right. The scenes of Harry, Draco, Daphne, Theo, and Blaise just hanging out and being kids are where this fic is at its strongest, and that’s not something I often get to say about an HP fic. Also, Quirrell was really well done and I liked how his relationship with Harry progressed. The stutter slowly going away as Voldemort becomes more and more sure he wants Harry as an ally was a particularly nice touch.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Homecoming is a fic that starts out absolutely abysmally, but slowly comes into its own as it progresses. Is it good? Not really. But it is consistently interesting, has really good ideas and generally good characterization, and managed to intrigue me enough to continue going through the series. Honestly, if you’re reading this, you probably know about the reputation the Downward Spiral Saga has already, so unless it’s already something you think you’d enjoy reading, I’d steer clear of this one. Maybe that take will change as I keep going through, but….there honestly isn’t enough here to justify reading it unless you already know it gets substantially better as it goes on, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a guarantee.
Tier: Not Good Tier
Written on 11/22/2021