By Less Wrong
Status: Complete, Word Count: 127,000, Pairing: None, Genre: Drama/Humour
Summary: Chapters 65 – 85 of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
Listen to the Audiobook, Narrated by Eneasz Brodski, Here: http://media.blubrry.com/hpmor/p/www.hpmorpodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/episodes/HPMoR_Part_4.m4b
Disclaimers: Although this fic was uploaded to ff.net under the name Less Wrong, the name of the author is Eliezer Yudkowsky, and I will be referring to him as Yudkowsky for the rest of this review. I should also make clear that the way I experienced this fic is through the official audiobook (linked above.) While this doesn’t change any of the actual text being discussed, it is very likely that an especially excellent voice, or an especially bad voice could colour my judgement on certain scenes and even overall characters. So if this review persuades you to either read or hold off on Call of the Phoenix, do keep in mind that all of this is just my opinion, and this is just one instance where that becomes a bit more obvious and quantifiable than it normally would be.
Plot: Hermione Jean Granger and the Call of the Phoenix represents the unfortunate end of MoR’s solid streak. This section’s plot is ridiculous, and it was very difficult for me to sit through. As the title implies, this part focuses rather heavily on Hermione, and I’ll admit that I was pretty excited for that going into it. Despite being one of the fic’s main characters, Hermione hasn’t really received much of a substantial arc up until this point, and I was curious to see what Yudkowsky would come up with for her. As it turns out, he came up with a storyline that’s so incomprehensibly bizarre that it basically killed my interest in the fic. Throughout HJGCP, we see Hermione form the Society for the Promotion of Heroic Equality for Witches, or SPHEW for short. (God, I can almost hear Yudkowsky wanking himself off over how clever he thinks he’s being). She, and several of the other more minor female characters from MoR (Daphne Greengrass, Tracey Davis, etc.) go around stopping bullies from being bullies, and it would honestly be charming if the tone wasn’t broken. Seriously, why the fuck is this fic so boring? I’ve seen Yudkowsky write awesome, engaging sequences before, and I’m genuinely baffled as to why I hate this so much. But I really do. The character interactions become flat and dull, the sequences get repetitive, and the humour just does not land for me. Then, for a couple glorious chapters, we get another of Quirrell’s battles and suddenly everything is fun again, before we end with the arc that I probably feel the most conflicted on out of any in the entire fic. Because while the “Hermione is framed for murder” arc does wonders for Harry’s characterization and actually features some fairly ok political sequences (at least by fanfiction standards), I absolutely despise the way Hermione is suddenly turned into a stereotypical damsel in distress who needs to be saved by Harry, just for the sake of the plot. I mean come the fuck on, there has to have been a better way to get Harry in front of the Wizengamot than that. Overall, HJGCP’s plot is a jumbled and boring mess. While it does have a few redeeming points here and there, I honestly cannot say I enjoyed it for the majority of the time I was reading. I have the unfortunate duty of placing this section in the ‘Not Good’ tier. Man oh man was this a drop in quality, and I haven’t even gotten to my least favorite part yet.
Characterization: HJGCP’s characterization is so whack. But before I start ranting, let me get a few good things out of the way first. Quirrell is still amazing. He’s been amazing since his introduction, and that does not change here. Specifically, there’s one scene here between him and Hermione that I really like. On a similar note, Dumbledore is also still amazing. At this point, those two are easily the most consistently good characters for me. So those are the positives, and the negatives are everyone else. I already kind of complained about Hermione in the plot section, but I guess I’ll expand a bit more on that. This section’s Hermione starts out as being a conduit for Yudkowsky to make himself feel clever by mocking canon, and then ends up as a plot device for Harry’s self-actualization. She doesn’t really have much of an arc to speak of, and consider that this section of the fic focuses pretty primarily on her, that’s a serious issue. Harry, on the other hand, just doesn’t have character traits in this section until near the end when he has to save Hermione from the grasp of the Dementors. I mean, it’s great that he gets those few chapters near the end, but it’s still a disappointing change. Draco doesn’t have any characterization worth mentioning. He’s boring as shit from beginning to end, and he seems to only exist to create plot contrivances. I should mention that Neville has a couple great scenes, but anything positive that these scenes bring to the table are directly countered by the reintroduction of Lesath Lestrange. Lesath was first introduced in part two, and I didn’t really think much of him. He seemed to be more of a vessel for Neville’s growth, more than anything else, and I thought he functioned pretty well within the plot. Then, he shows back up here, and he just sucks ass. Like I’m sorry, but there’s just no other way to put it. This is the first time in the entire fic where a joke just falls completely flat for me, and I finally understand what people mean when they say that they find MoR’s humour to be pretentious and annoying. Overall, HJGCP’s characterization is bad more often than it’s good, and I have no other choice but to place it in the ‘Not Good’ tier.
Dialogue and Tone: I’ll keep this one short. The dialogue is fine. It’s not nearly as snappy and fun as it is in the previous sections, nor do the serious scenes carry weight the same way they did previously, but it’s serviceable. The tone is a big problem. I’ve gone on and on in my reviews of the previous section about how great the tone was there, and all of it is just thrown out the fucking window. This section gives me whiplash with how quickly it flips between fun comedy scenes and serious, dramatic, intense scenes. Sometimes it tries to blend the two, like with the Lesath Lestrange bullshit, and other times it lingers on one for so long that the fic just gets monotonous. While the dialogue is still quite good, the tone is very much the opposite of that, and it averages out into the ‘Average Tier’.
Action: Thank god that the action is still good. If it wasn’t, I think I’d probably have gone insane reading this. While I dislike the Hermione vs. Bullies arc on basically every level, I have to admit that the action sequences involved were written very well. Even if I hate pretty much everything about the way this section characterizes the fic’s main characters, I have to admit that the dead corpses of what were once characters I was invested in still fight in a cool, fun way. Also, props to that one mock battle, because it almost succeeded in breathing life into the fic. In fact, there were a few short chapters where it did do that. Too bad it didn’t last. Anyway, this section is going in the ‘Great Tier’.
Writing Mechanics: Mechanically, this fic is still as good as its always been. Unfortunately, the pacing is no longer good at all. I mean, not that it ever really was (except maybe in Legion of Chaos), but it’s much, much worse now than it ever has been, and it actually bothers me now that I’m not having fun reading it anymore. Those two things balance out to being in the ‘Good Tier’.
Overall: What a fucking disappointment. I was genuinely loving MoR. It was coming off of the absolutely fantastic Azkaban arc, and I was excited to see the fallout of everything that went down at the end of Deathly Shadows. And I enjoyed seeing that for about one chapter, before the fic just started pissing all over itself. It’s a shame as well, because I was really excited to see what Yudkowsky would do with Hermione’s character now that she was being placed in the center of the action, and now that she was serving as the main POV. Too bad the thing he decided to do was ruin everything I liked about her and just make her be whatever the plot needed her to be at any given time. Ya know, that basically sums up this entire section. Things that I was excited to see, that are ruined by horrible execution, plot ideas, and characterization. What a mess.
Final Thoughts: I thoroughly disliked Hermione Jean Granger and the Call of the Phoenix for the majority of the time I spent reading it. I can fully understand anyone getting turned off from the fic by the onslaught of shitty decisions that are made within these twenty chapters. The only reason I wasn’t was because Sam Gabriel kept harassing me about getting to the end. I would make some quip about hoping that part five gets better, but I’ve already read it, and I already know that it just gets even worse. Anyway, that’s all I have to say about this section. I hope you enjoyed reading my semi-structured rant.
Tier: Not Good
Written on 08/25/2021