Cities (2014)

23705863“I deserved better friendship from you, Ben. Whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re trying to say about these parallel universes, just stop. I don’t want to dream anymore.”

On the day of a wedding in Manila, Celia Alix grapples with what ifs and multiverses where she could have had a happy ending. She could have had a quirky young romance in Seoul, or an edgy love affair of sorts in London. In another lifetime, in bustling New York, she could have experienced the woes of newly-wedded bliss. But in her present reality, it’s her best friend Vivian whom Ben is waiting for at the end of the long walk to the altar, as Celia stands broken in a far corner of the church, tucked into the comfort of her friend Henry’s arms. In another lifetime, was she happy? In another world, had she loved and been loved in return?

 

My main reader failing is that I avoid science fiction like the plague. To me, it’s usually confusing and full of uncertainty, which is enough cause for impatient readers to lose themselves somewhere along the pages of a novel. The multiverse aspect of Cities, however, only adds more delicious layers to the flavor of the entire story – Seoul is vibrant, London is deep, New York is sharp, and Manila is tender and gritty at the same time. The best part is that each of the subordinate story arcs is written with the style and sound of its featured city. This book is a delight to the senses, and I love how – despite a relatively loose ending – one feels satisfied in the end thanks to the sheer scale and grandness of it all.

The universe is a big, big place, and your current love story is not your only one. This book wants you to know that.

The idea of writing a romance across space is simply ingenious, and whatever major confusion that could have ensued from that effort is deftly avoided by clear-cut writing on the part of the author. It’s still not the most readable thing out there – because if you’re like me and you’re accustomed to traditional story flows, you might find the individual chapters choppily woven together – but it makes up for it through the variety of detail that’s presented. None of the characters were particularly appealing to me though. In fact, I downright hated one of the Carlas and at least two of the Vivians. But together, this ensemble cast works well.

The main appeal of Cities to me is that it unravels the crucial parts perfectly. The author has a way of delivering sentiment without sounding artificial. Given that this is a book partially hinged on regret-something-or-other, you would expect the main characters to be constantly teetering on the edge of the Abyss of Angst. But that is not the case here. Loss and love are fleshed out as in interplay between people and circumstance – here, emotion is not just a pithy declaration and a few adjectives mashed together. The treatment of romance in Cities is never callous. And I appreciate that tenderness.

So that’s why I really enjoyed this book.

Narrative: 2.5 / 4
Characters: 1 / 2
Aesthetic: 1.5 / 2
Personal Feels: 1.5 / 2
Total Rating: 6.5 / 10

Title: Cities (2014).
Author: Carla de Guzman.
Pages: 106.
Language: English.
Genre: Romance, Travel, Science Fiction.

Photo (c) goodreads.com

 

About the Author

Carla de Guzman started out like any writer, sitting in front of her dial-up Internet computer and discovering fanfiction. Riddled with sleep apnea and a vivid imagination, she started writing every midnight.

She still reads good fics obsessively, writes fanfiction secretly and still loves the idea of finding good fics.

She, her parents and nine crazy siblings love to travel together, eat together and watercolor together, so you could say she’s pretty happy.

WEBSITE: http://somemidnights.com
EMAIL: ck.deguzman@gmail.com
TUMBLR: http://somemidnights.tumblr.com
FACEBOOK: http://facebook.com/carladeguzman

 

This review is part of the Backlist Revival Project.
Many thanks to Carmel Lago and to Miss Carla de Guzman.

Trip to Tagaytay (v. 2014)

trip-to-tagaytay“Can you spot the country on the night side of the planet? I could be one of the multitude of blinking dots.”

Told in a letter written to his missed beloved, the protagonist of Arnold Arre’s Trip to Tagaytay takes us on a tour of a futuristic Metro Manila. Here, jeepneys have become museum artifacts, Aga Muhlach is President, and flights to moon are an everyday thing. The lifestyle of the common tao remains unchanged, however – our protagonist still can’t afford to fix his shower and he can’t even save enough money to visit his sweetheart, who lives in an unnamed distant planet. In a future of instant everything, love and separation remain complicated. That is the bittersweet takeaway of this 2001 National Book Award winner by one of the Philippines’ top artists.

I stumbled into this book while at Komiket 2016. Out of all the amazing works featured there, this one caught my eye because its title is deceptively simple. While my impression of comics and graphic novels is that they are usually quirky and hugely separate from mundane reality, the title Trip to Tagaytay made me think of humid summer afternoons and slow romances set against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. How very wrong I was. The romance aspect, I had been right about. But the simplicity of the setting in which this story unfolds, I had misjudged completely. Nothing about Arre’s vision of dystopian Manila is simple.

It’s scary to think that in the future, poverty will remain rampant, Manila will become even grimier, and brain drain has reached interplanetary levels – that is, everyone who can afford to leave has left. At the core of this 44-page sobering prognosis, however, Trip to Tagataytay remains a sincere serenade to a beloved who is missed. It is a testament to the suffering of the one who is rendered incomplete by the absence of his better half. And that is what gets to me – that is always what gets to me.

Narrative: 3.5 / 4
Characters: 1 / 2
Aesthetic: 2 / 2
Personal Feels: 2 / 2
Total Rating: 8.5 / 10

Title: Trip to Tagaytay (v. 2014)
Author: Arnold Arre.
Pages: 44.
Language: English.
Genre: Graphic Novel, Romance, Dystopian.

Photo (c) arnold-arre.com

What You Wanted (2015)

This is part of my effort to read all of Ms Mina V Esguerra’s books.

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What happened between them should have been a one-time thing. This is what Andrea Crisostomo believes with regards to Damon Esquibel, the playboy she had a one-night stand with during her sister’s wedding. It doesn’t look like what they are – whatever they are – is just a fling though, because they inevitably find their way back to each other, plotting revenge on the two people who broke their hearts and made them feel like trash. The more they use each other though, the more they realize they might still get a shot at their own happy endings – just not in the way either of them expected.

Review

Narrative
This is a sequel to a short story called Wedding Night Stand so it starts off where its predecessor ended. What You Wanted starts in the thick of things, which isn’t necessarily bad, although it is still what it is – the thick of things. I personally enjoy this type of narrative though because it makes the fleshing-out of the characters’ back stories fuller. Vision is 20-20 in hindsight, right? That’s true for Andrea, and it makes her story richer, because she’s able to contemplate on her life so far and make sense of it for the reader.

The change in tone through the novella is also delicious. Though the narrative, in first-person POV, starts off being pensive, its energy eventually snowballs the deeper our two protagonists connect. Through its pace, it shows you the developments in Andrea’s life – and the interplay of these two elements is fairly nice to see.

My only beef with the narrative is that towards the end, when Andrea and Geraldine (Damon’s Ice Princess) finally have their showdown, things get so confusing that even Andrea admits that she doesn’t understand what’s happening. And if even your protagonist doesn’t understand what’s happening, where does that leave you?

Rating: 3 / 4

Characters
The characters, as always with Ms Mina’s work, are very well-planned. There are so many layers to them, so many reasons for why they are who they are that even though you don’t know anyone like them in real life, you find yourself relating with many of the things they say. Again, the characters have always been my favorite part of Ms Mina’s works (aside from her witty writing style) but even among a cast of remarkable people, Andrea stands out. I really quite love her, even though I’m sure I’d be intimidated if I ever get to meet someone like her in real life HAHA.

The downside of this book’s characters is that there are quite a few of them whom you’re supposed to be familiar with. Although this novella is a stand-alone, it’s also part of the Chic Manila series, so there are people from other books who make cameos here. For example, Julie and Anton from That Kind of Guy are Andrea’s sister and brother-in-law. Granted, there are descriptions of them in this book, but something about their presence doesn’t seem solid to me. It’s almost as if they’re shadows of their former selves – which makes sense, because this isn’t their story – but I’m picky about these things.

I really cackled though when I read about Andrea’s Apollo Ortiz marathon and the return of the kebab store from Welcome to Envy Park.

Rating: 1.5 / 2

Aesthetic / Style
Ms Mina’s writing is on-point when it comes to broadcasting live from Andrea’s head. She is sassy, she is witty, she’s smart, and she knows it. This is another reason I love Andrea – she’s in advertising, so you can imagine how she would look at a plastic clothes hanger and see a potential weapon for an impending zombie apocalypse. (This was not a good example. I repeat: This was not a good example.) She really is funny though.

But! I really hate ellipses in books, so while I understand that they’re there to stand in for the awkward pauses in real-life conversations, that really doesn’t make me like them any better.

Rating: 1 / 2

Personal Feels
My favorite scene has Andrea standing in line for the long commute home. Not even the bit after where Thad (the jerk who slept with her only to dump her less than 24-hours later) offers her a ride. Nope, I just like seeing Andrea stand in line for hours because it’s so real.

To me, romcoms stand slightly removed from the masses. After all, they exist to remove you from whatever cockroach-infested, termite-polluted hole-in-the-wall you live in. But because I like seeing the rust in things – the imperfections in our daily lives that make them uglier and more precious at the same time – I relish mundane mini-plots like Andrea’s commute situation. These little problems, these relatively masa problems, they endear her and this book to me.

Rating: 2 / 2

Total Rating: 7.5 / 10
This is not my favorite Mina V Esguerra book simply because I am Andrea’s polar opposite. She likes to go to far-flung islands without any plan whatsoever; I refuse to sleep over at a friend’s house if I’m not carrying my toothbrush. In terms of voice and character development though, I argue that this is Ms Mina’s best work yet.

This is Filipino romcom gold. It’s not your traditional romance story, which is why I love it. Yes, there’s the meet-cute that ends up with two attractive people falling in love, but it’s also about self-worth, family, the frankly hypocritical values that we Filipinos have when it comes to women having sex. What You Wanted is very against-the-grain, and in a land of Catholic schoolgirls raised on the importance of mental and physical purity, it’s extremely wicked. But deliciously, unforgettably so.

Title: What You Wanted (2015).
Author: Mina V. Esguerra.
Pages: 134.
Language: English.
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Comedy.

Thanks to C for my copy.
Photo © minavesguerra.com.

The Fault in Our Stars (2012)

the_fault_in_our_stars

Hazel Grace Lancaster, 16, believes that everything is a side effect of dying. Diagnosed with cancer, she goes through the motions of living, and among her frustrated efforts is attending a cancer support group for young survivors. It is there where she meets Augustus Waters, 17, who is charming and attractive and takes an instant liking to her. When Augustus offers her the opportunity of a lifetime – for Hazel and him to fly all the way to Amsterdam to meet the author of her favorite book – she agrees. Suffice to say, they fall in love. But they also fall apart.

 

Spoilers ahead.

When reading romance, I try to avoid two genres: tales that follow the star-crossed-lovers vein, and stories that deliberately induce ugly weeping. This book belongs to both. The fact that it’s a top pick among adolescents made me shy away from it until I joined a book club where this was the assigned reading. I bought the book and read the first half in November; I started reading the second half just yesterday and finished reading within 24 hours. As I’m writing this, my eyes are still heavy thanks to about an hour and fifty pages of crying. It’s true that I cry a lot, and a lot of people who’ve read this haven’t cried, but I have to say it’s a very good book. It’s a very sincere effort.

The trouble with it is that it’s hard to get into the groove of Hazel’s language. To paraphrase Honest Trailers, these teenagers talk like weird old people.

I had the feeling that the beginning of the book focused so much in trying to convince you that these characters were intelligent; therefore, they had to speak in complicated sentences about philosophical topics. Hazel Grace would argue that existential arguments are a side effect of dying, and I agree that they most probably are. But I will also insist that the beginning of the book could have been a little simpler. Simple works.

The second half of the book though is just moving and profound and sincere. You empathize with the characters because they’re not emo teenagers – they are young people who are dealing with cancer, and this struggle makes them jaded about life. John Green understands suffering and is able to express loss deeply without glamorizing or romanticizing it unnecessarily. If the first half of the book is rife with angst that seems too polished to be real, the second half is just honest and heartbreakingly so.

When Augustus hits late-stage cancer and Hazel Grace fears daily that it will be the Last Good Day of his life, it breaks you. The waiting is excruciating, and what makes it worse is the stoicism and practicality with which Hazel faces the inevitable. The book also closes with a half-promise that someday soon Hazel Grace – brave, jaded, and optimistic Hazel Grace – will die. Despite this, however, the book ends on a positive note. It ends with these beautiful words:

Chosen Quotable: You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you.

My copy is full of entire paragraphs highlighted in blue. I’m glad that I decided to read this book, because it really is quite worthy of the hype.

This blog gives The Fault in Our Stars 4 out of 5 stars.

Title: The Fault in Our Stars (2012).
Author: John Green.
Publisher: Dutton Books.
Pages: 318.
Language: English.
Genre: Teen, Drama, Romance.

A Separate Peace (1959)

01Reflective Gene Forrester becomes best friends with the vibrant and enigmatic Phineas during the summer of 1942. While the war takes its toll outside the privileged Devon School, the two teenagers transition from one mad idea to another – from invented ball games and forbidden getaways to mysterious secret societies. As he becomes closer to Phineas, however, Gene realizes a deep-seated frustration and darkness within him. He unleashes this upon Phineas, and their friendship is changed for good.

My favorite books, when it comes down to it, are pieced together by a sense of loneliness and a determination to simply present a narrative regardless of form or language – the most important thing is to get the story out there for people to read. ‘A Separate Peace’ is a good example. It’s elegant in its languid way of unfolding events, but the most important detail of the novel is how his relationship with Phineas – and what happens between the two of them in the years 1942 and 1943 – changes Gene forever. The novel is sensitive and insightful without being melodramatic. Everything is laid out in the matter-of-fact language of the precocious intellectual that is Gene, and that’s what makes his realizations about himself and about human nature more relatable and startling.

The whole time I was reading the book, I was wondering what its title could mean. It’s referenced clearly within the story, but it doesn’t strike me as just that – that the ‘separate peace’ for these boys is the time they spent cushioned from the reality of war in their boarding school. In the first place, his last years in school meant for Gene an awakening of savage emotions within himself – a desire to hurt, a desire to become the best among his peers – and in a way, a period of battle during which he was struggling against his inner nature. To me then, what makes his last golden days at Devon even more precious is Gene’s realization that he is experiencing the last of true peace he will ever know. In the company of the trusting Phineas, Gene feels all is well with the world. But as his relationship with his best friend becomes rocky, Gene, too, has to face inevitabilities – he has a duty to serve in the war, as well as the task of learning to deal with the wickedness in him that marks his entrance into the world of adulthood.

Chosen Quotable: “I could never agree with either of them. It would have been comfortable, but I could not believe it. Because it seemed clear that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart.” p. 193

This blog gives ‘A Separate Peace’ 5 out 5 stars.

Title: A Separate Peace (1959).
Author: John Knowles.
Publisher: Bantam Books.
Pages: 196.
Language: English.
Genre: Coming-of-age.

Photo (c) Time Entertainment.

Paano Ba ‘To? (2014)

Because of end-of-term expenses I’ve had to hold back on book shopping. I’ve been wanting to read Ms Bianca Gonzales’ Paano Ba ‘To for a long time though, so when I chanced upon a bit of cash I went ahead and bought it. I finished my first reading of it and, without thinking, I instantly tweeted Ms Bianca:

AA

Imagine my horror when I realized that I just told her that I didn’t think I needed her book! What a horrible case of foot-in-mouth disease. Seriously though, I really didn’t think the book would help me. I’m at that point in life where I’m grasping randomly at books on positivity and motivation, but I feel that they won’t be able to help me change my situation. “My problems are too obscure.” “I can’t explain what I want to happen to my life.” I thought these things, and I thought that there was only a very small probability that books written for general support would be able to cover my issues.

Somehow though, I was able to relate very well to what Ms Bianca wrote about in her book. Frankly, I didn’t think it would be as comprehensive as it is – I appreciate how the author put effort into gathering expert opinion, because I think that shows how much she really wants the book to be effective; it’s not just a matter of having ‘published’ something. I think that no matter what one might be going through, there will be something in this book that one will be able to relate with. For example, here are some of my favorite quotes from Paano Ba ‘To? (No copyright infringement intended.)

“Normal lang yung nag-aalangan ka pa sa kung anong dapat mong gawin sa buhay mo. Mag-alala ka kung wala kang ginagawa para bigyan ng direksyon ang buhay mo.” P.60

“Be careful with your words, they are very powerful. Don’t criticize yourself if you know you are doing your best.” P.79

“… it’s not about being a ‘fashionista’ or a ‘beauty junkie.’ It’s about caring enough to look well-groomed and nice. Yung mukhang nag-abala naman. It’s not ‘just clothes and makeup,’ it is your message to the world about who you are.” P.97

“Envy can help propel you to achieve more. Jealousy can help you be on your toes so you don’t become complacent. What’s bad is too much envy and jealousy. How do you know that it is too much? When the effect hinders you more than it propels you.” P.132

BB

It’s probably obvious, but my favorite parts of the book are the ones about positivity and motivation. I like how the author recognizes that not everyone is naturally sunny – that not everyone can just shut down one’s thoughts and do what needs to be done. Moreover, I find the advice in this book to be very objective. Surely, it’s general because it’s meant to help as many people as possible, but the advice isn’t abstract. It’s not pa-Zen. When you look closer it actually tells you to find a dream and to commit to it – plus tips on how to commit to it, and tips on what to avoid. I appreciate that. I also love how this is done in a Philippine setting, because it feels like the book was written for me.

This blog gives Paano Ba ‘To? 4 out 5 stars because it serves its purpose of empowering young Filipinas. It is straightforward, well-written and very comprehensive. I wanted to read it because I needed a bit of motivation in my life – and I got what I wanted.

Title: Paano Ba ‘To? How to Survive Growing Up.
Author: Bianca Gonzalez.
Publisher: One Mega Group.
Pages: 151 pages, paperback.

Photo (c) modernfilipina.ph.

Top 5 Harry Potter Fanfiction

I got sick recently and to make my situation tolerable, I wandered into the Harry Potter fandom and updated myself on the latest fanfiction swimming around the web-verse. Harry Potter is the first fandom I ever got involved in, starting from when I was 12 and my mother got me a copy of Chamber of Secrets. Although I’ve entertained other loves in recent years, it’s something I’ll never be able to get out of my system even though the canon universe is as good as concluded. This is mainly due to excellent fanfiction that have been popping up every time I’m distracted with other fantasies.

Below I’ve compiled a list of my favorite Harry Potter fanfiction. When I was browsing for good stuff to read I couldn’t find many lists of recommendations – although perhaps I’m just not very talented at Google Search. I can’t say this list is comprehensive, because it’s based solely on my preferences and the extent of what I’ve read, but I do guarantee that these stories are top among the fanfiction that have stuck with me over the years.

Note: My focus in this fandom is mainly in the Marauder Era. Regulus Black is my favorite character, and his brother Sirius comes in at a far second.

5. Symphony for Quartet by Tinn Tam
Starting with the first meeting between Sirius Black and James Potter, this fanfic details the developing friendship between the four Marauders.

I assume the writer of this had no choice but to abandon this story due to personal reasons. Still, what little of it has been written is good enough to generate interest in its style and the characterization of the Marauders. Conveniently enough, none of the details in this story go against the HP canon, which makes it an even more convenient read. My favorite aspect of ‘Symphony for Quartet’ though is the nuance in the personalities of its four leads, as well as the author’s ability to make the scenes of her story come to life. It’s a shame this story was not finished – and looks like it will not be finished – because its synopsis suggests that the bulk of the story’s drama has not even been written yet. You might also want to read other stories by this author, because his/her style is elegant enough to merit a peek.

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2791980/1/Symphony-For-Quartet
Status: In-Progress at 13 chapters (80,165 words).
Genre: Friendship/Drama.
Themes: Sirius and James as spoiled pureblood kids with differing degrees of angst; Remus as a very stressed, insecure and sensitive bookworm; Peter as someone who *gasp* might actually be able to make brave decisions on his own; and, Lily as a charming and lovable kid, with Snape figuring into the story once in a while.

4. Bottle-Specs by takethefirewhiskyandrun
Four-eyed and odd Euphemia ‘Effie’ Savage has somehow caught the attention of Hogwarts’ hottest student Sirius Black, whom she has silently loved from a distance for a time now. His younger brother Regulus, who is as different from Sirius as can be, complicates matters, as Effie is stuck in a love triangle between two boys she would never have imagined herself to be involved with.

The last chapter of this story had me catatonic for days. Despite my utter disappointment with the ending though, ‘Bottle-Specs’ is still a great read. The dynamic between Sirius and Regulus is believable despite being ambivalent, and for all her shortcomings, Effie is a very relatable character. I appreciate how she is given a proper back story here, as well as leeway – in the form of a very insightful first-person perspective – to explain her world. The plot, while predictable towards the latter quarter of the story, is complicated enough to be real. The language is very engaging as well. Another story by the author, ‘You’d date Remus Lupin, right?’ is even more alive in terms of style and sarcasm, although the plot of that one is a bit too circular for its own good.

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10007867/1/Bottle-Specs
Status: Complete at 50 chapters (135,014 words).
Genre: Romance/Humor.
Themes: OC as a clueless ugly duckling; Sirius as the smug heartthrob with remarkable sensitivity; Regulus as the troubled, brooding brother; and, the supporting cast, including the Marauders, as members of the cool crowd who happen to be loyal and good friends as well.

3. Oblivious by Jess Pallas
Remus Lupin had always believed that his bite was an accident. When he’s forced to go undercover among werewolves as an agent for the Order of the Phoenix, however, he realizes his condition was not unintentional. Rather, it is the revenge of a werewolf with ties uncomfortably close to home.

This is probably the first fanfic in any fandom that I fell in love with. The author takes a lot of liberty with the limits of JK Rowling’s universe, and uses these freedoms so well one might just go ahead and consider some details of her universe as head-canon. The characterization is layered without being overly nit-picky or long-winded, and there are enough action scenes to keep one rushing into the next chapter. Definitely a must-read for Remus-Tonks fans together with ‘A Little More Time’ by the same author.

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2063033/1/Oblivious
Status: Complete at 43 chapters (180,462 words).
Genre: Drama/Adventure.
Themes: Remus as a dutiful son; Remus and Tonks as comrades-in-arms and partners-in-crime; Remus as a werewolf professor in Hogwarts; and, Remus as the (literally) oblivious target of a very ill-meaning and powerful nemesis, who is in cahoots with Voldemort.

2. Growing Up Black by Elvendork Nigellus
At age six, Harry Potter is rescued from the Dursleys and adopted into the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Under the name Aries Sirius Black, he is drilled into the duties and privileges of being pureblood while his relatives anticipate his rise as the next Dark Lord.

The Blacks are probably my favorite characters in this entire fandom, if only because they present a stark contrast against each other and against the rest of the wizarding world. This fanfic highlights these differences. Written in a straightforward manner that showcases the battle between Harry/Aries and Voldemort as well as the subtleties of ritualized daily living in the House of Black, ‘Growing Up Black’ makes Sirius’ relatives relatable and very human. What I like best about this story is that the characters may seem malicious to outsiders, but they are fiercely loyal to each other. They remind me of a mafia family – blood here being thicker than anything – only with wands, powerful magic, and aristocratic style.

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6518287/1/Growing-Up-Black
Status: In-Progress at 69 chapters (234,225 words).
Genre: Family.
Themes: Sirius and Harry as father and son with the memory of James hanging over them; Draco and Harry as best friends; spoiled, pampered, and snobbish Harry gets away with everything because he’s brilliant, rich and good-looking; and, the infamous Blacks actually have a heart.

1. Delenda Est by Lord Silvere
A war veteran at the age of twenty, Harry Potter is imprisoned by Voldemort during the final days of the Lost War. Forced to share a prison cell with Bellatrix Lestrange, who has been shunned by her comrades now that they are winning and no longer have any use for her, Harry finds himself thrown back in time by her family’s heirloom. Now in the seventies, he meets a younger, enigmatic Bellatrix Black, who is still untainted by the Dark Lord’s influence. Harry has no choice but to enlist the help of Bellatrix, who takes it upon herself to help Harry defend her world and her time against Voldemort.

Possibly the longest and most exciting fanfiction I’ve ever read, ‘Delenda Est’ seems to be the product of multiple brilliant minds – although the bulk of the actual writing seems to have been done by Lord Silvere. If you read the story in one go, you’ll notice the differences in writing. During the beginning, the narrative takes its time in explaining the politics and economics of the new wizarding world that Harry has found himself in, but towards the end the pace picks up and the style focuses more on action instead of philosophy, nevertheless being propelled forward by crafty political maneuvering on the part of the people around Harry. The lead character, for his part, is never short of action-packed battle scenes, which are among the best I’ve read because they don’t over-detail. The relationship between Harry and Bellatrix is of course a central theme of the story, and I fully appreciate how the author took the time to let their dynamics develop on their own. Nothing was rushed, and the wait was worth it. The sequel of this story, ‘Para Bellum’ is excellent as well, only it’s much more complicated than this one – and not in an entire beneficial way.

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5511855/1/Delenda-Est
Status: Complete at 46 chapters (392,449 words).
Genre: Adventure/Romance.
Themes: Harry as an extremely powerful wizard who knows close to nothing about politics but is excellent at dueling anyway so who cares; Bellatrix as still being prone to insanity although in this timeline she is offered a healthier, more productive way of managing her ambition; the wizarding world being similar to the Muggle world in the sense that it’s also being run by a handful of politicians who are mainly out to protect their own interests; and, Hogwarts as being a school for both innocent children who don’t realize that a war is brewing, as well as misguided teenagers who play a key role in starting the war.