Fanfiction review “The House of Elendil”

I decided to pick up a review request for a ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ crossover. While I’ve read the LOTR books, it’s been years and my memory is fuzzy. Only important point I recall is that it’s the story about a hobbit traveling the countryside (filled with enemies & monsters) with his friends to destroy a powerful (and magical) ring. As for GOT? I’ve watched the first two seasons and consider the TV series to be filled with too much sex. Nothing wrong with that, I like good skin-ship as much as the next warm-blooded male, but the show has it in more quantities than I would have liked.

That said considering how expansive the lore is in both universes, I would expect a crossover to be newbie-friendly. Even if you are a fan (of either source), chances are that the obscure facts would escape memory and an author should compensate for it. With that in mind, let’s begin shall we? Here’s the link to the story (WARNING: spoilers ahead!);

The House of Elendil by EricDal

The title means nothing to me and the summary reminds me of that famous poem from the LOTR books – the one which speaks of nine rings, lords and the one that binds them … etc. Reading further, it looks like I can expect a story of someone who comes from across the sea into Westros and joins in the political game for the Throne. Hmm… better do a quick search about this Elendil fellow (opens up google). It looks like Elendil was an elven king/ruler who first ruled over Arnor and Gondor. I guess that EricDal is planning a story of how those kingdoms get established in Westros instead of canon-LOTR universe (starts reading story).

The first scene is a near duplicate of how the TV series started. The Hand of the King is dead (fanfic does not mention how) and there’s a discussion between King Robert and Lord Varys about who the next Hand should be. Ned Stark is immediately thrown in by the King, but Varys convinces him to appoint Isildur Elendilion instead. He further convinces the King to create a Royal army trained and commanded by Ned Stark.

If I want to nitpick, I can complain about the odd comma missing here and there, but in general, the grammar is impeccable. The story-telling is also very well done. The mood of the King and his Master of Whisperers is well presented, showcasing their looks, actions and generally keeping me interested. That said, this is not a story for a ‘quick read’. It appears to be the kind of plot, that you must sit and enjoy. My only real complaint is the lack of horizontal lines to indicate the scene break. It took me an entire paragraph to realize that the author was narrating something else and was a bit awkward (continues reading).

And more good writing. I’m at the bit where a certain father hugs his two sons after a long political discussion and I have to say; the quality of writing in here is far above the usual I see in fanfiction. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that the author is a seasoned writer. If not, he has a very good beta-reader/editor.

On finishing the first chapter, I have nothing but praise for the writing. Plot-wise, we’re see a repeat of the early GOT episodes – the king comes and selects a Hand. Only this time, it isn’t Ned Stark he selects. There are a few changes, like Tyrion Lannister getting (or being promised) an entire library as a gift, but overall it’s the same theme (moves to second chapter).

The second chapter is set across the narrow sea, where the Dothraki are. Again, a re-hash of the TV episode, with the added companionship of Valandil, one of the elves. He’s acting as a mercenary (in what I term as a plot-hole), working for the Targaryens. I’m not sure how the author has set up the history here, but to what I gather, the elves supported Robert in his bid for the throne. For one of them to be siding with the enemy at this point … seems counter-productive. Then again, GOT is full of stuff like that, so it’s difficult to tell if this really is a plot hole or some part of a grander scheme.

As I reach the conclusion of chapter 3, I am reminded of the unfortunate fact that in canon GOT, we are not told anything about Jon Snow’s mother. At least, upto season 2 of the show (that I can remember). As for the fanfic itself, it maintains the staus quo. Which is an unfortunate thing, IMO. We’ve come to approximately 30k words and the only real change between canon GOT and this is that there are friendly elves in Westros. Take them out of the fanfic, and we are left with canon GOT. In other words, they’ve made no significant contribution to the plot with their presence. Thus, I am very disappointed with the plot so far (opens up chapter 4).

I’m not sure if this is part of canon, but I admire the weaves of the plot. Early in the chapter, the King, his Hand and Marshal are discussing an old battle. One of the details mentioned was about some rubies that went flying after Isildur (or one of them) attacked the enemy. Near the mid-point of the chapter, that point is brought up again when Arya mentions that she wants to go looking for them. I consider this a good use of exposition and follow-up.

And I am instantly disappointed with the resolution to the ‘Prince getting bitten’ issue. In canon GOT, he lied and got an innocent wolf killed. He was able to do that because of his position, and to a lesser degree because King Robert didn’t want to stand up to his wife. In this story, thanks to Isildur’s presence, we get a resolution more meaningful – the Prince is to be ‘disciplined’ as well as Arya Stark. Everyone else’s reaction is how I remember it to be from canon.

This has the makings of a fix fic. Might be a bit too early to assume that, as it’s only the first major change Isildur’s presence has brought about, but considering the lack of any real change for the past 3 chapters, I’m not exactly expecting much. Damn good writing, however.

And in chapter-5, we see Valandil making an unusual amount of effort to … educate Viserys. I do not quite understand why this is so. In canon, I was very annoyed with the fact that Viserys was a pompous fool, and this looks like an attempt to fix that without changing anything else. Reading further on, it looks like Valandil had to ‘hold back’ against striking the ‘dragon king’ for insulting his father. A contradiction. From what I understood of the earlier chapters, he joined the group willingly, knowing fully well who his masters were. So why consort with the enemy? All I see him do so far is to ‘fix’ certain points of canon which upset me. But what is the point of reading that? A good story has downsides that the heros (or anti-heros) need to overcome. If those are removed without new ones to substitute, is the story still worth it? I remain skeptical on the matter.

And we come across a poem. As a personal opinion, I find these long poems in a story to be utterly boring. They were so annoying in the original ‘Lord of the Rings’ books and didn’t serve much purpose, IMO. Shorter ones, like those sung by the Sorting Hat in the first Harry Potter book are a lot more tolerable. For better or worse, I’m going to skip reading this one.

And we come to the point where Jorah challenges Valandil to spill the beans. He reveals his heritage and in flowery words proclaims “I’m here to fix things”. I can’t read the author’s mind, but that’s the impression I’m getting. Jorah considers him to be a fool. I agree. Even after that Greyjoys story. Sad and unfortunate as it may be … I’m not convinced that it stands as a good reason to lend help to the enemy of Isildur’s King.

In fact, the more I read about this ‘plot to reform Viserys’, the more a certain word comes to my mind – “Ugh!” spoken in that distasteful manner.

The (what I assume canon) saying of ‘The Dothraki believe that everything important in a man’s life must take place beneath the open sky’ is taken to (in my opinion) the distasteful end of fornication between Drogo and Daenerys. I would probably have found the event amusing if I were reading a porn novel. As that is not the case, I am not thrilled. Fortunately, the author has refrained from describing it in detail (opens up chapter-6).

And that was just dull. Isildur gets word that the King’s life would be in danger at the tournament and goes about recruiting his son and Ned Stark to aid him. Once again; fixing a canon situation. Six. Six chapters and Isildur hasn’t been put in a situation where he’s in trouble or mortal danger. It looks pretty straight-forward and all, but compared to the excitement that GOT is, this is a monotonous and routine-like affair. Hopefully chapter-7 will ease my worries.

And I remain disappointed with the plot. The jousting tournament happened and an interesting match ends in a draw thanks to the King. The canonical talk between Baelish and Sansa gets interrupted by Isildur (for reasons I cannot fantom).  And with a prayer scene concluded, I cannot help but marvel as to how peaceful the religious situation is. While Isildur doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t follow the Gods of the Free Cities, I find it utterly unbelievable that he hasn’t been challenged over the fact. As someone who’s been in contact with people of various faiths, I find the situation too incredible, too … fantasy and ‘perfect’ like.

As I read the part of Sansa’s interaction with Joffrey, I’m reminded of why she was engaged to him in canon. It was to bring the houses of Stark and Lannister closer. As of season-2, that all but broke down. Here? That isn’t even explained or mentioned – acceptable in a fanfic as you can expect a reader to be familiar with canon, but … I do wish it had been mentioned. With so much other fluff in here, it seems a pity that it was skipped/glossed over.

As I finish chapter-7 (last one as of this writing), I have to repeat that the quality of writing and story-telling is far above what I usually see in fanfiction. Unfortunately, there isn’t much plot divergence to be found in this story. I can understand the need to repeat canon events for the beginning bit of a story, but after about 66k words, we still haven’t come to any divergences worth mentioning. Heck, I could summarize the entire story like this – the first few episodes of GOT typed in a web-browser with guest additions of a few LOTR characters. Only real change (that I can remember) so far has been the sparing of the Wolf’s life; Lady – the one whom Sansa was taking care of. Oh yes, and the utter destruction of the GreyJoys, I suppose. But that has such little impact on this story that I don’t know if it’s worth talking about.

The first chapter held a lot of promise – good story telling and writing. But the more I read, the more boring it looks. EricDal, if you reading this review; please note – I read fanfiction for canon divergences. If I wanted to know canon, I would have just watched the TV show. As things currently stand, I’ll recommend your story as a good example of excellent writing & narration. But for plot modifications? It’s so non-existent here, that I’m not inclined to even follow the fanfic. I would rather just watch the idiot box.

CORRECTION: Tavar (from spacebattles) pointed out that Elendil & co aren’t elves, but rather men with elvish blood thanks to marriage. I apologize for the mistake.