The Power Behind the Throne
2009 Award Category: Times: Ring War: Drabbles - First Place
Story Type: Drabble ✧ Length: True Drabble
Rating: General ✧ Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: An AU in 100 words. (Complete drabble)
Reviewed by: Dwimordene ✧ Score: 10
Altariel writes Faramir like no one else, with concise insight and beautiful, evocative prose. Alternate universes are always hard to write, especially if there is a fundamental change in a character, but she manages in just one hundred words. No need, even to name the point of view - we know almost instantly who speaks. What's impressive about the structure of this short drabble is that despite brevity, Altariel manages by the way she pulls in images and allusions to [The Two Towers] to set the scene so convincingly that we don't need any explanation as to why the story goes one way rather than another. As an example: [peace had settled upon all Gondor now, like frost.] The frost recalls Aragorn's initial appraisal of Éowyn, and the sickness that such frost represents. That unhealthiness carries, as does the metaphorical "chill", turning us immediately into dark territory. I like that she so carefully puts the accent on listening - that others should listen is the cardinal desire that the Ring's power is made to fulfill and plays in nicely with the title of the piece. It captures Altariel's sense of who Faramir is beautifully. And as in so many things she writes, I love that last line, another perfectly timed and worded allusion. Gorgeous work, as always, Altariel! Gondor lovers and Faramir-philes will surely enjoy this one.
Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger ✧ Score: 10
A very subtle and deceptive little drabble. As deceptive as Faramir might easily have been, had he given in to the Ring. And that's where the power in this drabble comes from. It starts off small (much like the Ring does when it's at its most tempting). And its first act is kindness. Or so it claims. And this kindness brings peace to the Ring-bearer, which is all well and good except for the fact that the drabble never specifies just what kind of peace this was. The fact that Frodo resisted seems to indicate that the peace was ultimately forced. And now all of Gondor has that same kind of peace. The use of the word ["frost"] is particularly helpful in adding a chill to this deceptive concept of peace. But Altariel isn't finished there, because there are other venues to explore. Like the fact that everyone now seems to pay homage to Gondor. And the fact that everyone seems to listen to Faramir's counsel. It's something he yearned for, and naturally, it would be something that the Ring would offer him. But again, it's deceptive. Everyone listens, but no one understands. And as the ["frost"] continues to spread over Gondor, the White Tree remains dead and no warmth can be found in the sun. In the end, the drabble feels very, very cold. And given Faramir's warmth and hope, particularly at the end of Tolkien's canon, this is a heart-wrenching contrast. Beautifully written!
Reviewed by: Clodia ✧ Score: 7
This sets up an alternate universe in which Faramir can take the Ring and yet remain perfectly in character, in that he considers it a kindness to take the Ring; he does not overthrow his father; he gives counsel to the new king and remains a power behind the throne. The imagery evokes a perfect winter: the resulting peace is compared to frost (peaceful, cold), an image carried over to the winter sun that cannot warm white marble. What is changed? Denethor is willing to take Faramirs advice, now that the bridge is retaken, and Aragorn establishes Gondor as a locus of power to which all corners of the world bow down, rebuilt in stone and marble. And that final poignant touch: that although Gondor is seemingly restored to peace and power, all of this is founded on the power of the Ring and the act of violence that first seized it from Frodo. All appears well but is not, as will no doubt become apparent in the long run.
Reviewed by: Dreamdeer ✧ Score: 6
Altariel does a beautiful job of saying so much with so little. Deceptively simple at first, the implications just grow and grow in the mind. She paints, with words, a picture that says at least as much with "negative space" as with what it actually tells us. I especially like her use of words that the assumed speaker might mean one way, yet the reader hears in an altogether different, contrasting way--masterfully done! And she shows real originality in how absolute power might manifest, according to the personality of the wielder. I found this story gently yet profoundly disturbing, matching the potential dark side of the main character with chilling precision, so very different from how his brother reacted to the same circumstance, and yet so akin! Thank you for this gift, Altariel!
Reviewed by: Elleth ✧ Score: 5
Completely chilling. The theme of ice and cold provides wonderfully evocative imagery that you used to its fullest effect. I am in awe of the vivid descriptions; despite the short form you really managed to paint a very astute picture of the cold atmosphere that must be reigning in Gondor in this dreadful scenario. And to come to that, I find the idea of Faramir corrupted by the Ring as tantalizing as that of Denethor as Aragorn's steward. Really, really well done, thank you so much for sharing this, and I will defintitely be coming back for a re-read or two. A pity that there is no story that explores this idea in more detail, but perhaps that would destroy the drabble's effectiveness.
Reviewed by: Larner ✧ Score: 5
What if--what if, having learned the nature of Frodo's burden, Faramir had taken the Ring, and had become the power behind the throne? All of his dreams reached save one--for in this world Sauron may have been cast down and Denethor might live, but the White Tree does not bloom! (Although as obliquely as the story is written it is possible that the unnamed protagonist is Boromir, although I do not believe he would have sought to have his father listen or would be content to be the power behind the throne.) A fascinating and chilling might-have-been, and one to make the reader think deeply on what Arda might have come to in this case.
Reviewed by: Elena Tiriel ✧ Score: 4
This is a horrifying "what-if"... What if Boromir had stolen the One Ring? Faramir said something in "The Window on the West" about not wanting Gondor to be even a benevolent mistress of glad slaves (or something like that...), but clearly the mistress is what Gondor has become with Boromir wielding the One Ring... Yes, all the world listened to Boromir with the Ring... his father, the new King... but one is left with a chilled heart. A profoundly disturbing drabble! I am left being very thankful that it is an Alternate Universe.
Reviewed by: Isabeau of Greenlea ✧ Score: 3
The Brevity Queen strikes again! Total creepy AU-ness in one hundred words. And it's so stunningly plausible-the disregarded younger son now being the one to whom everyone listens...or else...
Reviewed by: Elen Kortirion ✧ Score: 3
That's a simple and chilling AU there, very clearly and cleanly written with not a word out of place. Each phrase and sentence are well chosen to tell your tale in such a way that we can all fill in the gaps and extend this drabble into the much larger story it becomes in our heads. Well done.
Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland ✧ Score: 3
A chilling and haunting AU which asks a what if ?question that many readers have done.Had the son of Denethor taken the Ring and Sauron not won,what would have happened? The result is very different to Tolkien's and cleverly conveyed in 100 words.
Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon ✧ Score: 2
A deceptively gentle beginning, and a slow progression into a sad AU future when Faramir takes the Ring. Plausible, inexorable and well done.
Reviewed by: Nancy Brooke ✧ Score: 2
This was well done. To accomplished so much in a such short space without being stilted or choppy, and provide a gentle kick at the end takes expertise.
Reviewed by: obsidianj ✧ Score: 2
This is a chilling drabble. Luckily it is an AU, but a very plausible one. It is amazing what wealth of story can be written in just 100 words.
Reviewed by: Dreamflower ✧ Score: 2
Utterly chilling. Yes, it could have come to that. It is a very good thing that it did not. *shudder* What a frightening AU!
Reviewed by: Virtuella ✧ Score: 2
This is a chilling piece - quite literary. I like how you have included the imagery of cold and frost.