First, I have a confession to make, and one which I hope will put my review of your work in context. I stumbled across this site by way of morbid curiosity. Although I do not read science fiction and fantasy as avidly as I did years ago, I still revisit Tolkien on occasion, typically in the fall or winter. This was one of those winters.
As a devotee of pop culture in all its good, bad and ugly manifestations, I was dimly aware of fan fiction, mostly through accounts of my 15 year old daughter during her spate of Harry Potter fan fiction writing. The genre struck me as truly nerdsome, worthy of a strategically placed and crudely lettered sign that proclaims “Kick me!” on one’s back. Thus, it was with sneering derisiveness that I surfed the Net when I wondered if Tolkien fan fics, akin to that of Potter or Star Trek, existed. I learned new terms like “Tenth Walker” and “Mary-Sue” which somewhat validated my suspicions that this was a sophomoric wish-fulfillment genre at best. Yes, some of the Tolkien fan fiction was loathsome in that “it’s horrible yet I cannot look away” fashion, and not unlike watching the Trek-fan dentist and his wife extolling the role playing of Troi in the superb “Trekkies” movie. I kept searching and eventually wandered to this site, and found some entertaining stories which were not cringeworthy.
At front and center page was “Another Man’s Cage.” The concise description of a year in the life of Fëanáro’s family drew me in, as Fëanáro and the Noldor have fascinated me for years. The Silmarillion is a wonderful epic, but was just not quite enough when it came to fleshing out this family. Clearly, there was much more behind Fëanáro and his passion, and the intense and inevitably tragic loyalty of his sons.
Your story brings these fascinating characters to life and illuminates them through the complex prism of culture, belief, technology, and above all, family. Your vision of Noldorin culture and politics provides an excellent backdrop for the later Fëanárion conflict. Your descriptions of their world…the light, the weather, the food, the flora and the fauna, paint a vivid picture.
Your characterizations are marvelous! I have always imagined the Noldor not only as the skilled artisans of the First Born, but also as Elvish scientists and engineers. As a scientist myself, I am biased, but I love your portraits of Fëanáro and Maitimo in particular. I can readily imagine Fëanáro and Leonardo Da Vinci engaged in lively conversation. Likewise, I expect that nanotechnology and modern molecular genetics would capture Maitimo’s interests. Nerdanel is a woman whom I’d like to meet: a polymath whose breadth encompasses art, craft and science, and who can identify with the wildly careening “balance” of career and family! The contrast of Findekano’s character with his cousins is well done, and his gradual assimilation into the clan is a pleasure to watch unfold, again putting the future (The Silmarillion) into context.
The details are nicely crafted. I enjoy the fact that venison and wild turkey are found on the Feanorian table (makes sense that deer and turkey are indigenous to Aman) and that the Teleri like their shrimp mo’ bettah with spice. The Elvish aversion to scars and deformity is handled well and fitting with their society and maybe even their “evolutionary biology.” Fëanáro s egalitarianism and agnostic attitude toward the Valar put much into perspective.
The exquisite detailing in your story makes the few modernisms which creep into the text jarring, and therein lies my only major criticism. I guess it’s easy enough to wave these away with a statement that “Hey, these folks are living in an Elvish paradise so they have pretty much anything and everything at their disposal,” but the modernisms detract. I don’t have a problem with pineapple appearing at breakfast (I can fit that in with the wild turkeys) but “flesh colored bandages?” Or a “papasan chair?” Similarly, I had a hard time accepting the solarium of one-way glass surrounding Nerdanel’s and Fëanáro’s bed at the Formenos house, yet the lack of glass windows in Macalaurë s bedroom. OK, maybe there’s a lack of screens, which is not inconceivable (not uncommon in Europe after all), but a brilliant mind like Feanor’s can come up with one-way glass but not screens? This is merely a personal quibble, but these anachronisms stand out in what is otherwise a consistent universe.
Granted, knowledge of Tolkien’s works is required to fully absorb this story, but it nearly stands on its own as a work of fiction. In spite of my initial misgivings (“Just how cringeworthy is a work of fan fiction going to be?”), I read your story over the holiday weekend with as much anticipation and eagerness as when I devoured Julian May’s and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s works in the past. Really, your experience and skill as a writer are evident.
I greatly look forward to the next installation as you weave the story of this fascinating family.
Signed and now less skeptical of fan fiction,
...and Happy New Year, too!
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