Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Dark Forest

Author: Anarithilien
Nominator: Spiced Wine
2011 Award Category: Incomplete: Drama - Third Place

Story Type: Incomplete : Length: Novel
Rating: Mature -- Reason for Rating: Mature Language/Themes
Summary: 75-80% complete Post-War. When Legolas and Gimli venture into Fangorn, little do they realize the danger they are about to meet or the wretched secrets they will uncover from ages past. Rated M. Violence and minor slash in later chapters. Features Legolas, Gimli, Thranduil, Galadriel, Celeborn, Treebeard, Celebrimbor, Narvi and a cast of original characters.


Reviewed by: ziggy -- Score: 10

This is one of the most ambitious and well-constructed stories, novels, in fan fiction. It starts straight in with a strange and inexplicable opening with Legolas injured and a second voice berating him for trying to escape. Then it flits back to a beautifully constructed scene, slow and lingering of Legolas experiencing time, and contrasting it with mortality. That sets the tone really, for the narrative, which is very well structured and by the time we have reached the point we are now at, you realise that the writer has intended this right from the start. There is clearly meticulous planning, attention to detail and precision in the writing. The chapters in which Legolas is under the spell are close and claustrophobic, everything is seen through a murky darkness, like shadows -almost 'through a glass darkly'. Sunk in Legolas' half dream so everything seems distant and unreal. The characters are on an AU storyline but totally canonical. Thranduil, whose actions as described by Legolas seem unreasonable and cruel, certainly not in keeping with canon, is later explained in such a way as to be entirely realistic and reasonable. The role Annatar plays in all of this is deadly, compelling and utterly believable. Even Galadriel is, I found, more convincing because of her manipulation of a young and naïve Thranduil – more convincing if you know her role in the Silmarillion, and the fact that Oropher moved his people to escape her interfering, as he saw it. Galadriel is redeemed in this however, and in such a way that her return to Aman seems well earned for she gives up so much in order to rescue Legolas. Which takes me to the theme of water. The elements are used in such a way as to cast light on the symbolism inherent in Tolkien’s work but not explicit; the rings of power seem connected with the elements and speak to the races most connected with them. The dwarven ring is fascinating in what it says about dwarven culture and beliefs, and yet is so subtly explored that is never feels like a treatise, but a natural uncovering of what was already there. I have to mention the Orcs because I think that is one of the things in this story that is most original and most heart wrenching really. The cameo of the Orc queen is both fascinatingly horrible and tragic. She deserves special mention for the minor part she plays in this story but the characterization is wonderful. In fact, the characterization in this is superbly developed throughout. There are times when you feel your own loyalty to canon characters is used against you and tricks you into thinking one thing and then writer then sends you off into an entirely different direction. It’s clever and complex and subtle. Most readers will be put off by the length but it needs every one of its 60 plus chapters to explore this and the writer is uncompromising, never letting the reader off. There are too, some richly detailed descriptions that bring you right into this story. That conflict of dream and reality is used perfectly throughout and very consistently. Illusion and deceit become mixed with reality and memory until you disappear into a labyrinth and that is the intention, I feel. And behind it all, is Annatar, Sauron and HE is depicted in a glorious series of images, as a man, as a god, as a demon. You just can’t help admiring him! Gimli is a jewel in this story. In terms of how he thinks and feels, he is different - his connection with the earth is superb and I think one of my favorite lines ever is this: As a dwarf, fresh earth always smelled like a beginning place. And that alone is enough, but it goes on, delving ever more deeply into just what it means to be a dwarf in the same way as the writer gets beneath what it is to be and Ent, with digging and being treed. This will make you think more deeply about the nature of the races of Middle Earth, and the nature of the Rings - in a far more philosophical way than Tolkien ever did. I am in danger of writing an essay on this but the length and quality of this deserves every word and more.

Reviewed by: Spiced Wine -- Score: 9

I have to copy my review from one I left on Fanfiction.net, as I am behind with reading it, and forget to look on that site 99% of the time. This is a very different story, and the way it is written requires that a reader completely put themselves in the hands of the author. I tend to anyway, and soon pull out if the author does not seem to know where they are going, so I buried any questions that occurred to me (and many did) and simply got on with reading. I will still reserve any questions until the actual end - by which point, they will probably have been answered. I found the way you wrote about the orcs compelling; it really stood out for me, as it illuminated a lot of their darkness, if that makes sense, and the times of Legolas and Faeldaer did feel oddly dreamlike, although I had to read on to have my suspicions confirmed. This is a different take on Galadriel and Celeborn, and Thranduil too, having been a friend of Annatar and the 'slow poison' of that relationship, and what it did to him. Thank-you for the slightly slashiness even if it was all lies and sorcery and dream, (pity! but beautifully done) I did appreciate the moments. :) Well done for making it such an unusual story.

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale -- Score: 9

In a time following the Ring War, a badly injured and incoherent Gimli is recovered by Elves who know only that this Dwarf speaks the name of Legolas, prince of Lasgalen. What follows is a complicated and ambitious narrative in which a Second Age partnership between the Ents of Fangorn and the Elves of Hollin, a young Thranduil's passionate friendship with the Man he knew as Annatar, and early decisions of leadership by Oropher and Galadriel, have lasting consequences for Legolas and for those who know him. Memorable original characters like Faeldaer, an Elf monstrously deceived by Sauron, and Greywood, a damaged Ent long maddened by the taint on his woodland domain, have their part to play, as do the malign influences of ancient deceptions, magic rings, and the inexorable [cuivëar], or sea longing. However, it is the strained and disaffected relationship between Legolas and Thranduil that is the ultimate focus of this story. Long, non-linear and sometimes prolix, but highly imaginative and deeply character-driven, [Dark Forest] explores the lasting tensions between father and son, past and present, and between dream life and the waking world.

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel -- Score: 6

In this tale, the author offers readers a truly diverting tale of adventure and questions answered, doing so with poise and wonderful style. Legolas and Gimli's characters are wonderful, and the plot as it unfolds is amazing in its intricacy and elegance. This is one of the rare stories where the author has taken time to broaden the setting, scene, and stage so that when the rising action does come, it's spectacular. My only problem with this piece is the author's disregard for fact and statements made in canon writings, but if the reader is able to set those things aside (I, unfortunately, am not), there is no reason s/he will not find a great deal of enjoyment from this story, as it is, without a doubt, well-written and engaging.

Reviewed by: Melusine -- Score: 4

This is an ambitious story, impressive in its sheer scale, its intricate plot, and the vividly detailed descriptions. The menace we see a glimpse of in the books and movies is enlarged, so like Gimli, one feels the forest closing in, bit by heavy bit. And as if that weren't enough the echoes of the past add to the intrigue. An interesting epic, to be chewed, swallowed, and digested.