Status: Complete, Word Count: 56,000, Pairing: Harry/Pansy, Genre: Horror/Fantasy
Summary: “Book 3 of the Downward Spiral Saga: Sequel to HP and Salazar’s Legacy. Given the choice to join Lord Voldemort, what will Harry do? Meanwhile, couples begin forming in the Slytherin dorm, and a deranged killer is on the loose. Dark!Harry, Slytherin!Harry. Sequel is up. HP and the Return of the Lost”
My Thoughts: So Harry Potter and the Year of Broken Chains is part three of the Downward Spiral Saga, and it’s…..a lot. It’s got some spectacular highs, and some rather low lows, and a lot of fucked up corruption shit sprinkled in between. Easily, the highs in this fic for me are the characterization, the pacing, and surprisingly enough, the fucked up corruption shit. While once again, the lows are the prose and the actual plotting itself. So let’s do this!
Trigger Warning: This review involves discussion of torture and visceral brutality. If you’re bothered by that, or particularly by bugs going on and inside faces, turn back now and do not read the fic. My review’ll probably be fine tho. Also, this fic features several semi-graphic scenes of both sexual abuse and assault. The worst ones are the flashbacks Harry experiences from his childhood, which are absolutely horrific, but there is also some dubious consent that goes on in the present between the main characters. Again, if this bothers you, my review will be fine, but skip the fic.
So once again, I think the best thing about this fic is the characterization. See, this is where Harry and Draco are together sworn into Voldemort’s service, and they’re forced to kill in cold blood, torture innocents, and generally be horrible people. Now, a lesser fic would have Harry shake this kind of thing off and just be cool with it. Trust me, this happens all the time in shitty Indy!Harry fics, and he’s normally just kind of ok. But that’s not the case here. No, both of them are seriously impacted by this turning point in their lives, and they both react in what I consider to be in realistic and plausible ways for their characters as they’ve been written up tot his point. Harry becomes even more emotionally unstable, vile, and cruel, while Draco develops PTSD. Harry’s cruelty is manifested in the way he treats his girlfriend, Pansy, while Draco is forced to question everything he’s ever believed (while eventually coming to all the wrong conclusions). Besides that, I just think their corruption is handled really well. Harry’s just fucking shot off the deep end, but in a way that I found to be interesting, if not a tad over-the-top at times, and while Draco’s is more subtle, watching him have to come to grips with what he’s signed up for works really well. Snape continues to be great, and Dumbledore and Voldemort are both still really well-done versions of these characters. Pansy didn’t interest me at first, but I think by the end of this book there’s a lot of potential for her going forward, so I wasn’t all that bothered by that either. Also, Theo Nott finally has some characterization! So hooray for that. Overall, Bolshe continues to do a bang up job with his characters.
Next up, once again, we have the pacing which continues to be great. Seriously, not having to slog through hundreds of thousands of words is such a fucking blessing after a lot of the stuff I’ve been reading lately, and I’ve just really appreciated how concise he’s kept everything. Doesn’t mean I like everything he’s written, but it all moves at a pace that keeps me engaged and never feels much like it drags. That’s probably why I’m able to forgive the stuff I don’t like as much, because unlike most fics where the bad stuff permeates the entire thing, here the annoying shit kind of flies by as I’m swept up more by the concept and the characters. Doesn’t mean I don’t still have critiques tho, because I absolutely do, just something I’ve noticed.
Lastly, we have the actual corruption itself. See, this is the fic where Harry goes full on dark apprentice mode, and as a result, I suddenly have to talk about torture. So what did I think? Well, I honestly thought it was pretty fucking well done. There isn’t all that much of it, it all seems to have a purpose to the story, and most importantly, they’re visceral and evocative. I won’t get into too much detail, but if you’re expecting the usual cruciatus fanfare, you’ll get that, but you’ll also get so much more. In particular, there was one scene that involved the slow peeling back of skin that was just….horrific to read but in the best way possible. Same goes for that flesh-eating ant spell. Like holy shit that’s dark, but it’s also creative. But even more impressively, while there’s definitely a fair amount of gore, the focus always seems to be more psychological. The true purpose of these scenes seems to be exploring Harry’s psyche, and I genuinely find his reactions to be even scarier than the actual torture itself. Not to mention, Harry just becomes a fucking asshole in this fic, and it’s handled really well. He’s an abusive, possessive as fuck boyfriend to Pansy, he daydreams in class about torturing and killing people, there’s one particular scene involving Hermione that is just permeated with nail-biting, horrific tension, and he’s very clearly becoming more and more unstable. Sure, Snape and Draco are trying to help, but it’s clear that they’re failing and kind of fighting an uphill battle here. So yeah, despite my reservations, I found this to be one of the strongest parts of the fic, and I’m very curious to see where it will go going forward.
Unfortunately, this fic is still severely held back by the prose. Now to give Bolshe credit, he does some excellent showing here and there in certain parts, but there’s also a lot of telling to balance that out. Lots of redundancy, lots of adverbs that don’t feel like they need to be there, and still a surprising number of both grammar and formatting errors. Is it better than book two? Well yeah, but not by much, and I’m really hoping some of this is fixed soon because we’re at the half-way point and I want to see this shit get better! I’ve seen what he can do in For Lack of a Bezoar and Echoes in the Fog, and I’m really hoping he’ll get somewhere close to that level by the end of this series.
Lastly, I didn’t find the actual plot to be all that compelling. There was too many sequences of magical theory lectures, the Sirius Black arc felt really pointless (although I’ve been told it goes somewhere in book 4), and Remus felt incidental as a character. Anytime the fic was focusing on the actual corruption stuff it was great, but the rest was kind of bland and felt more like a vehicle to get to the next great Harry scene. The Voldemort world dominance setup though, that shit slapped hard. Specifically the scene with the prophecy in the Department of Mysteries? That was incredible. Not enough to stop the plot from being a downside though.
One last thing I’d like to touch on before drawing conclusions is the way sexual assault and sexual abuse are handled here. Because yes, there are one or two graphic flashbacks to Harry’s child involving his vomit-inducing treatment by the character known as Mr. Roberts. I think it’s handled in a careful and mature way by the fic, and Harry’s trauma is portrayed very well. You all know that this kind of thing can be a deal-breaker for me, but honestly, it was very well done here. The same goes for the way Harry treats Pansy. If I thought, for even a single second, that the author was romanticizing the relationship they’re, you wouldn’t be reading this review right now. So trust me on this one, if you’re alright reading about fucked up, horrific things, the way they impact the characters is handled very, very well.
Overall, I think that Harry Potter and the Year of Broken Chains is the strongest fic in the series so far. It does a hell of a lot right, and it feels like it does less wrong (no, not Methods of Rationality, fuck off) than the previous two do. While still flawed, I found this to be a thoroughly interesting and compelling read, and would recommend checking it out.
Tier: Great Tier
Written on 11/25/2021