By the Light of Roses

Author: Dawn Felagund

Nominator: Ithilwen

2009 Award Category: Genres: Longer Works - Third Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Novel

Rating: Mature  ✧  Reason for Rating: sexual content, violence, thematic content

Summary: As the Age of Bliss draws to a close, Fëanor has been banished from Tirion and tensions run higher than ever between the sons of Finwë. Erestor is a young Noldo just accepted into Fëanor's service as an apprentice in Formenos. Challenged intellectually by Fëanor, he finds himself on the brink of spiritual and sexual awakening as the House of Fëanor its slow fall into ruin.

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Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 10

I was surprised to see this pretty unique take on Erestor’s youth on the list for this year – I would have expected it to have long since participated in the MEFAs – but on the plus side the nomination gave me a good excuse to go and re-read this emotional rollercoaster of a story. In Dawn’s story, young Erestor is a Noldorin loremaster in Valinor, apprenticed to Feanor himself during the years of Feanor’s exile. Trying to escape from the aftermath of an unhappy affair with a fellow apprentice at Fingolfin’s court, Erestor finds more than just book-learning in Formenos. As if living in the dysfunctional crucible of the Feanorian household weren’t difficult enough, Erestor’s hero-worship for his teacher soon develops into a proper crush. Having grown up in a heteronormative society, punished for his “aberrant” leanings, Erestor is surprised to learn that Feanor not only feels no disgust for him but actually returns his affection rather passionately, although to Erestor's great pain Feanor never stops missing Nerdanel. Yet both are capable of strengthening each other for a while - until the fateful summons to the harvest festival arrives at Formenos... Dawn’s unusual but believable characterisations and her painfully accurate observations on what it is like to grow up different from the norm make this story moving, sometimes painfully so; her lively way of setting the scene for the drama and her clever play with clichés and expectations make it a rewarding read.

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 10

This is such a sad and poignantly beautiful story. As one usually find in Dawn’s writing, the sights, smells, tastes, and descriptions makes one live every moment of the account with the point of view character. After reading virtually all of Dawn’s stories that fall within in story arc of her novel [“Another Man’s Cage”] it was fascinating and wonderful for a change to get a look from the outside at the details on the most personal level of the lives of Fëanor and his family. This story is actually written in an alternate universe from AMC, but nonetheless Fëanor and all of his sons and their relationships are recognizable within the context of Dawn’s previously developed characterizations. One can truly believe that these are the little boys and teenagers that we learned to love in her novel AMC. This novella is set in the period of Fëanor's exile in Formenos, so we are given a view of her familiar characters, all grown up and faced with a situation they never would have imagined in those more peaceful times. The narrator, Eressetor (Erestor) is intimately involved with the family and yet one step removed. I still chuckle at how my mouth fell open when I found that she had written a slash story of Fëanor and my skepticism that someone could make it work at the level of canon authenticity and believability of her previous work. She has done it fabulously well here. Once again also, Dawn shows her skill at writing the pain and insecurity that is part of a coming-of-age story for her POV character. Additionally, she deals with a whole series of questions and attitudes about the question of homosexuality within in a society that does not accept it and a family whose individual members to varying degrees accept or reject those prejudices. If these things were not enough conflict to make a great story, there is also the constant and pervasive theme of the beginning of the long decline of the hopes and dreams of the family of Fëanor, as individuals and an entity.

Reviewed by: stefaniab  ✧  Score: 9

I decided that 2009 was my year to read a Silmarillion inspired novel. I also was determined put my prejudices aside and read a quality slash novel. "By the Light of Roses" filled these requirements, entertained me, and gave me food for thought. Central to the story is Dawn's characterization of Eressetor, apprentice to the formidible Feanaro. He is sensitive, somewhat arrogant, talented, and troubled by his nascient homsexual proclivities. Not only that, the poor elf has to daily live with the sheer dysfunction of the whole pack of Feanoreans. Eressetor's sexual relationship with Feanaro is passionate and believable. As for the Feanoreans, their trials and tribulations were the high points of the story for me. For anyone who is considering reading "Roses," be aware that the slash relationship is graphic but always used to advance the plot. Secondly, as I am not a Silm fanfic regular, the use of Quenyan, rather than more familiar Sindarin names made it difficult at first to identify various characters. Nonetheless, I think a general LOTR fan fiction audience would enjoy this beautifully written work.

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 8

Dawn's portrayal of Fëanor and family as depicted in her masterwork [Another Man's Age] was the first Tolkien fan fiction story I read when stumbling upon this crazy milieu in early 2007. I read [By the Light of Roses] not too long after that (the story has been on Dawn's LJ) and was impressed by its cohesiveness with the aforementioned novel and Fëanor's family now sliding into dysfunction. Again Dawn's acumen for the psychological shines throughout this story. Best of all is the excellent characterization of Erestor, a young man who truly carries a lot of baggage. With realism and sensitivity, Dawn approaches the subject of a young man wrestling with his sexuality in the face of one which is muscularly heteronormative. Erestor's introspection and subsequent realizations both of himself and his mentor are not facile, and these ring with the authenticity of the struggles and prejudice that gays and lesbians face in our primary world. Ultimately, for me this was a profoundly sad piece which Dawn, through her handling of character, attention to detail, a compelling plot and intelligence that infuses all, makes convincing.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 5

This is a remarkable story for a number of reasons. The characterization of Erestor is really quite well done: a young man who has thoughts and desires which he knows are not the societal norm and who initially struggles between trying to suppress those desires and wanting to explore them further. The Feanorians are recognizably similar to the characters we see in Dawn's 'Another Man's Cage,' yet have the expected changes of many more years of experience. The descriptions of an incredibly dysfunctional family ring really true. Erestor's love for Feanor and jealousy of Nerdanel - I found them to be really believable, which I wasn't certain I would at first. A wonderfully dark story with a suitably dark ending.