When Day is Done
2007 Award Category: Genres: Alternate Universe - Honorable Mention
Story Type: Story ✧ Length: Novel
Rating: Teen ✧ Reason for Rating: There are some depictions of violence in the story.
Summary: In which we find out what would happen if Merry and Pippin went to Mordor with Frodo, instead of Sam; and yet things have not all changed so drastically as they might.
Reviewed by: Dreamflower ✧ Score: 10
When the author told me of her concept for this AU I was intrigued and enthusiastic. Even though I was beta, I still enjoy the story *as* a story. The AU premise is simple: Merry and Pippin end up accompanying Frodo into Mordor instead of Sam. While there have been briefer AUs dealing with one or the other going with Frodo, most of them have ended darkly and in disaster. This is not that sort of AU. Instead we are treated to a brilliant psychological study of the dynamics between the characters and how the relationship between them is impacted by their circumstances, and how the dynamics of three people and Gollum are different than those of two people and Gollum. This is listed as slash, but there is very little in the story to indicate that there is a physical relationship between the three cousins. Certainly there are oblique references to episodes in the past, and perhaps a few more reassuring touches and comforting kisses than are strictly cousinly, but it is mostly an examination of the very deep and abiding love between the three that goes far beyond the physical. We will see that this experience cannot help but change their relationship. The prose is amazing. There were times when I would actually forget I was beta-ing the story, and had to go back to the beginning of a chapter, for I would get so caught up in the drama of it all. And since she was using the original for her outline, there was a good deal of blending canon material--I found her writing so good that sometimes I actually had to go and double-check, to see was I reading *her* or JRRT! Her ability to keep a very tight third-person POV, that cuts more closely to the bone than some people's first-person is showcased very well in this character-driven story. ["Of course they were all weary. And cold. Pippin wandered along at Frodo's back, and thought of home and hearth: of Yule at Brandy Hall, though Yule was months behind of the great fire and the great feast, though he hardly missed the presents. If they even knew the time. He could hardly recall how long it had been since they had broken from their friends. He found himself wondering if they would ever go home. But they went on. Day went on as well, and the mists lifted some and the light brightened some as well. Pippin rubbed his hands together, then rubbed them against his cloak. It might keep him hidden from unfriendly eyes, but it did little to keep him very warm. Pippin looked at the waste about them with distaste. Gollum halted them and they rested for a while, but he hardly felt rested. He didn't want to go on. He looked at Frodo, but Frodo seemed far away, lost in his thoughts. He looked at Merry instead: Merry, who had been looking at Frodo, but somehow felt Pippin's gaze and turned his head. Merry seemed uneasy, and weary of course but he lifted his arm and offered his embrace, and Pippin took what was offered."] You can just feel their weariness and sorrow, as they just keep slogging on. And as the reader takes the long and painful slog through Mordor with them, it also helps to give a fresh slant on the original, seeing places in which Sams touch is missed by all three of them. Sam is never forgotten, and I am very much looking forward to seeing his half of the tale. If you like stories that are rich in detail, and character-driven, you will love this one.
Reviewed by: Elanor ✧ Score: 10
This seamless AU, in which Merry and Pippin take Sam's place on the long road to Mordor, is an experience in and of itself. Carefully interspersed with Tolkien's own text, it is a deeply thoughtful, character-driven journey into despair and darkness, and a fascinating look at how that ever more enshrouding darkness plays out in the minds of the clever and capable Merry Brandybuck, and the light-hearted, sweetly loving, and desperately young Peregrin Took. We know what resources Sam had; but we are held in suspense here as we wait to see whether Merry and Pippin can bolster Frodo's strange and frightening decline, and themselves withstand the desolation of the Black Lands and the pernicious influence of the Ring. The sound of the narrative is astonishing, not only for its uncanny match to Tolkien's own, but for the moods it evokes: the mind-numbing strain of the journey; the creeping domination of the Ring; the grief and loneliness of the three travellers, who cannot give or find comfort in one another; the soul-emptying horror of the last day. This is a writer who understands the emotional complexities of Tolkien's characters and is skilled enough to control them for the duration of a very long story--a difficult task by any measure, but particularly formidable in this context. Not one, but two very different characters must face the unknown with Frodo, and triumph or succumb to the power of the Ring. Both Merry and Pippin are fascinating to watch as they struggle to stay upright and keep moving and honor the lives in which they lived and loved before they made their artless choice to descend into hell to keep Frodo safe. Beautifully written, carefully conceived; a triumph of insight, patience and love.
Reviewed by: Garnet Took ✧ Score: 5
This story goes to a place that I have often wanted to explore; the world of what might have been. Dana clearly knows these characters so well that she can put them into a situation different than what really happened and make it totally believable. I had to keep reminding myself that Merry and Pippin did not go with Frodo. The odd little things that Pippin keeps feeling are a nice touchstone for the readers because he, like they, seems to sense that there has been a slight disordering of the world. There are some very interesting little questions raised by certain events in this story that I really hope Dana fleshes out in a later work. Great job.
Reviewed by: PipMer ✧ Score: 5
I was blown away by this story. I originally found it through Marigold's Recommendations, and it truly was a treat to read. The vivid descriptions are reminiscent of Tolkien's own, and in some places it was hard to tell the author's words from Tolkien's! It was that good. This is an AU in which Merry and Pippin accompany Frodo instead of Sam into Mordor. I found it comforting that the three cousins would stick together through it all. It was an interesting exploration of what might have been. Now I can hardly wait to see the Sam AU that is supposed to come out of this!
Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel ✧ Score: 4
This was a fascinating alternate universe in which Dana explores how the journey to Mount Doom would have been different had Merry and Pippin accompanied Frodo rather than Sam. She stays true enough to Tolkien's style of writing that it's difficult to tell at times where she's quoting from the books and where her own writing begins. I can't wait to see the corresponding tale with Sam in Rohan and Minas Tirith!