Wow. This story truly took my breath away, to the point that I have reread it several times, and each time, I notice something I didn’t see before and appreciate the story even more. Your exploration of Sirius’s psyche during such a dark time in his life was so expertly done here. I could really feel Sirius’s claustrophobia and his loneliness in this story. What’s more, you pulled off Sirius’s voice so well that I was pretty sure I could hear his voice in my head, and that made this tale so much more vivid and realistic, for me.
One of my favourite aspects of this story was the use of first person, which I thought was the perfect choice for this style, and you got into Sirius’s head so incredibly well throughout, especially by Sirius seemingly talking to himself at the beginning of the story. I really understood, as a reader, the way Sirius was driven so close to insanity as a result of being in Azkaban. The fact that Sirius called himself a “mangy dog” was heartrending to read, not just because he was clearly going crazy, but also because Sirius’s own self-loathing was evident. Most importantly, though, I thought Sirius’s internal monologue sounded completely natural, exactly how I would have imagined his voice, which in turn made his mindset easy to empathise with.
Another stylistic strength of yours was rather unconventional storytelling. The use of long sentences, for instance, was something I found really built up the tension felt during the scene when Sirius asks Fudge for the newspaper. I felt there was so much pent-up emotion in that one sentence, especially because of the lack of commas, and that really reflected the endlessness of time that Sirius was feeling while in Azkaban. Similarly, I liked your use of other technical details that truly reflected the turbulence of Sirius’s emotions while in his cell — the use of capital letters, for example, as well as question and exclamation marks, were all used so effectively. I also appreciated the fact that these techniques were used sparingly, as I think this kind of experimentation is easy to overuse.
There is so much to love about this story in terms of characterisation, as well, because I could see so many sides of Sirius’s character in what is quite a short one-shot. Most noticeably, I could see Sirius’s loneliness as a result of being surrounded by the Dementors through your description of Azkaban and Sirius’s description of himself. I could really feel how oppressive the atmosphere was in prison, especially by how Sirius was bombarded with the sounds of the inmates, the Dementors and even nature. In the same way, I liked how you used smell to paint such a vivid picture of how overwhelming Azkaban was for Sirius as a character.
I thought you showed Sirius’s intelligence, despite his incarceration, really well through his eloquence in the narrative. There were so many beautifully written lines in this (my favourite being “I don’t have a lot of words to spare, when thought itself comes in brief spurts”) that juxtaposed perfectly with profanity, and I felt that Sirius, however angry, would remain well-spoken, something I really appreciated. On that note, upon first reading, I will admit that I found the part when Sirius asks Fudge for the newspaper a little too polite, considering his mindset throughout. But then I thought about it, and it actually makes sense, bearing in mind his upbringing, because I have a feeling Sirius probably had manners forced upon him by his parents.
Though this was clearly character-driven, I loved that this had a plot to it, too. The flashbacks with James were so touching and well-chosen. I particularly liked the one in which James asks Sirius to stay with him over the summer, because I can imagine Sirius would cling so much to his memories of James to keep away the Dementors. I did find the non-linearity confusing, at times, but in a good way, because I could also see how it was a good reflection of Sirius’s mind, which would have felt that confusion keenly all the time.
Finally, I thought you handled the issue of self-injury with its due sensitivity. It made sense, considering how badly he was affected by Dementors, that feeling pain was the only way for him to have more clarity. Those moments stayed with me long after I had finished the story, and I applaud you for exploring the topic so well, without it ever becoming gratuitous.
As I'm sure you can tell, Natalie, this was such a beautiful read and definitely one of my favourites by you. Your story touched me and made me even more attached to Sirius than I already was. Keep up the fabulous work!
Author's Response: SORAYA! Finally getting around to replying :D A Spreview is always a great way to start (or finish) the day. This was such a great analysis of my fic - I am overwhelmed, to be honest :) I wasn't even aware of all the things that had gone into writing this! Thank you so much for this wonderful review!!
I feel like this story could almost be poetry. The language was so powerful and exquisite and lyrical that I felt as though I was reading a free verse poem. The sentences seemed so carefully structured that they enforced a constant rhythm throughout, but it was especially present in the second section. The combination of assonance (“invisible, inaudible, palpable ticking of seconds”) and interspersed alliteration (“tangled within my matted hair; the rattling of the Dementor’s breath”) gave more force to the rhythm, and the first example in particular read like the ticking seconds they described. Throughout the story I was in awe of your use of language, which was so apt to the character they were being spoken by.
Sirius’s ‘madness’ was depicted very engagingly, and when you wrote “I can grasp the presence of this ‘I’”, my whole mind went haywire, thinking of all these Lacanian theories about our relationship with the ‘I’, (the idea that we both fear and love that lifelike reflection we see of ourselves in the mirror), and for me it brought a huge amount of depth to both the story and to Sirius. The way he dehumanises himself at the beginning is a fascinating example of this - how, not only is he “Inmate Number 27”, but he also seems to separate himself from his body. He describes his “hollow” cheeks and “cracked” lips, but not the damage that’s done beneath: almost as though he’s too scared to tackle those deeper scars.
His on-going dialogue with James was very poignant, but it also served to support the link you surreptitiously make with Harry. When Sirius dreams about the monkey behind bars, I immediately thought of Harry’s similar dream in CoS, and it highlighted to me part of the reason those two empathise so much with each other: they both know what it is to be a prisoner.
Keeping the sections distinct from one another rather than blending them into a single monologue was very effective. It suggested, but didn’t confirm, the idea of time passing, but as there was no definite point in time, the idea of Sirius’s madness came over more strongly. We could see how his mind skitters about sporadically, or dwells on certain things - like his friendship with James - over long periods of time. Sirius’s meeting with Fudge gave the first hint of a time frame, but this wasn’t disorientating: it served to enforce Sirius’s own inability to comprehend time and the fragmented thoughts that plague him throughout the story.
This story had so many things that could be read into it that I read it a couple of times to think it all over. But it was the language that captured me, and I’m marvelling at your flawless integration of it into the many meanings of the story.
Author's Response: What an absolutely encouraging review! I have to say this gave me a much needed kick in the groin and make me want to continue writing :) Lacan's theories about "I" - ah! I didn't think that far into it while writing but, yes, our obsession with our sense of identity is a subject that is as fascinating as it is scary and confusing. How would somebody like Sirius, embittered and angry and almost on the brink of insanity, assess his self?That was the one of the two major things I wanted to focus on in this story, the other being his relationship with James. "He describes his “hollow” cheeks and “cracked” lips, but not the damage that’s done beneath: almost as though he’s too scared to tackle those deeper scars." That was my feeling as well. Brave as he is, I think Sirius would fear becoming something that is without any spirit or hope, something completely broken. I am also happy you mentioned the parallels between him and Harry, and the disoriented representation of the temporal frame. Living in a place like Azkaban, under the supervision of Dementors - that would drive a lot of people nuts. Every day would be the same, with yourself and your mind for company. It's so terrifying. Thank you for reading and leaving such a wonderful analysis behind! I mean it when I say it really made me want to write more. :)
LOVE! Wow, I absolutely enjoyed the contrast of Sirius' different mentalities. He was hopeless, and serious, then crazy and silly... Made me enjoy his character all the more! I really liked the little flash back, and am still pondering if the question James asked was meant to be asking Sirius to join him in death... There were several instances where I saw double meanings, and it made this stroy have so much depth. Really great job!!!!!! I have enjoyed all your work. Keep it up!
Author's Response: Kaylee, thank you for this lovely review! It really makes me want to write more!!!! :D
I can leave a reviewwwwwww - yayayayayayayayayyayayayaya. Vonnection restored. Okay, I liked this rather a lot because I think you managed to get into Sirius' head very well. My favourite part was that huge huge sentence when he's about to get the newspaper from Fudge. It made me hold my breath as I was reading and was very clever because it holds the tension to something seemingly mundane but we know is a pivotal moment in Sirius' life. POW! (see what I did there ....?)
The only thing I'd quibble is the line very near the end when he says, 'and it has been a long time since I was a dog,' because it appears he's saying that this is the first time he'd become a dog since being incarcerated, but he told Harry and the the others that he'd changed in prison so the Dementors couldn't get to him. (minor and measley quibble)
I loved the banter with James. Gahhhd, they were perfect. I'm all weepy now thinking about the fate of this pair. Oh, and 'Forever' being his Boggart - that was GENIUS!!!!! ~
Great story ~Croll~
Author's Response: Thank you for pointing that out! I have made necessary changes. And thank you for the read and review, as always! :D It makes me go a-flutter to impress a padfooticus and ME-Queen :)
OH! I am so glad you've expanded this! I remember loving the original drabble, which so conveyed the melancholy of the song. You've definitely kept that same tone, here. The phrase, the kind of long time where you forget to count the number of nights and days that have died, really jumps out at me and you mirror that throughout the fic because you've caught that endlessness and despair those kept in Azkaban must feel. And the memories interspersed make my heart ache so much... gah. I don't know why you made that ridiculous LS status about this fic. It's excellent. Stop being a silly billy.
Author's Response: Oh that ridiculous status! I was quite in a foul mood and being my ruthlessly ridiculous self and was also certain this wouldn't be received well by many as it is plotless lol. I'm thrilled you read and liked this, as I knew you adored the original and I was wondering what you'd think of the expanded version :) ThankE lots for the review!