A Game of Chess

Author: Altariel

Nominator: Klose

2007 Award Category: Genres: Romance: Gondor - Second Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Novel

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: n/a

Summary: Faramir and Eowyn, after the fairy tale wedding.

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Reviewed by: dkpalaska  ✧  Score: 10

AGoC was among the first major fanfic works that I read. I loved it enthusiastically then, and I think it says much about its quality that I yet feel the same, rereading the story now after having enjoyed so many other well-written sagas. There is, of course, some bias - the "first love" syndrome, so to speak. But I am still caught up unabashedly in the author's succinct and descriptive prose, feeling myself struggle with the characters, at turns sympathizing and then wanting to give them a good shake - though not quite a la Denethor... The characterizations are what leave me dazzled the most, I think, even beyond the wonderful writing itself. I grumble to myself over some of Faramir's angsty responses, but I can see this sensitive and lyrical soul that Altariel has crafted, and how he could easily be ["war-fettered"] by having to force himself to perform to such a high level, against his better nature. Eowyn is also very well drawn here, able to understand and accept Faramir's limitations even as she celebrates his beauty. Like too many of us, though, they are each hampered by upbringing and pride, stumbling their way to true unity. And I doubt that I need to elaborate on my love of Imrahil; he gets some brilliant moments as the loving and sometimes too-intrusive uncle, only belatedly realizing just how much Faramir (rightly) is Denethor's son. Some of my favorite parts are uncle and nephew's own coming to terms. For all its realism ["after the fairy-tale wedding"] - or, actually, because of it - AGoC is a glowing tribute to the strength of love and the sacrifices of self that committed partners make to one another. Having had my own fumbles in the relationship department, whether with husband or parents, I find much of this story strongly resonates with me. And, yes, of course, as always: I love the chess imagery!

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 10

[spoilers] This is one of the earliest stories I ever read about Faramir and Eowyn. It is for me in parts painful to read, but, still, I come back to it again and again, since after all the pain, the ending is so satisfactory and balances out the painful beginnings. Both Faramir and Eowyn are deeply affected by their experiences during the war and even earlier. They both have learned well to keep up appearances and show the world the face they think the world expects. They just forget that a marriage doesn't work that way. And so, with relentless inevitability, the reader watches the mounting misunderstandings, miscommunication, and misconceptions until the final unavoidable confrontation when it all falls apart. But unlike in modern times that is not the end of it. What then follows is the uplifting struggle to rebuild the relationship, which is not easy, and the reconciliation at the end seems like a great victory and lets me tear up every time I read the story. The changing first person narrators who take turns in telling the story are very effective in making the consequences of the actions or non actions of the main characters visible. Faramir and Eowyn are well rounded characters and the supporting cast, most notably Imrahil and Aragorn, are very well drawn.

Reviewed by: phyloxena  ✧  Score: 10

First, great story. Second, very disagreeable. Third, still great. The whole idea of the story is very uncomfortable to me. I could barely believe Faramir would suffer from PTSD, even less in abusive Denethor, and the whole family violence issue in AGoC seems to me too modern. And father-figure-ish, hair cutting Aragorn. And small neurotic mannerisms, ring-twisting and nail-gnawing, to the boot. That said, every character is very credible, and fits in what little is told about characters' introspections ITB. I reread AGoC two times after being irritated and miserable with the whole thing, and now I'm rereading it the third time, finding more and more little precious details. The story is very well told, compelling and consistent, and made me trust it even as I wish it didn't. I almost cried at some particularly cruel to Faramir moment. Reading AGoC is like reading an original story. The only thing from LotR one absolutely has to know to appreciate AGoC is a description of the battle on outwalls; there is no use to magic, there is nothing Elvish about the Queen, no need to know more than mentioned here and there in AGOC about the politics and history of Gondor; AGoC stands very well on it's own. I believe it's a praise. My favorite line in AGoC is "vacuous and vain"; it is a jewel itself, and Faramir gets to show his anger, at least once.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 10

The marriage between Eowyn and Faramir might have been one of the most romantic threads within LOTR, but in many ways it was also a rather rushed one. The idea that in the stresses of new parenthood and the first period during which Faramir is active Steward while the King is fighting a defensive war to the east the marriage between the Prince and Princess of Ithilien might have suffered is all too likely, perhaps. The preconceptions and self-absorption of each leads to what appears to be a break in their happy marriage. At least the two of them do manage to recommense communication with more openness, and in the end their marriage and commitment are the stronger. Whether Denethor was always abusive toward his younger son is uncertain; certainly in the last couple years, at least, their relationship was not good. If it was abusive, then that Faramir turned out as well as he did is a wonder and a blessing. Some will be distressed by Faramir's memories of his father, but they are well depicted here, I think. The first-person POV going back and forth between Faramir and Eowyn with occasional visions from Imrahil's POV are well done. Descriptions are marvelous, and the feeling for the settings are remarkably well done. All in all, well, well worth the read.

Reviewed by: Bodkin  ✧  Score: 10

This must have been one of the first long stories I read - certainly one of the first to focus on Faramir and Eowyn - and I love it unconditionally. Quite apart from the beautifully drawn characters and their suffering as they struggle to recover from the damage of war and allow themselves to build a relationship that will endure into the Fourth Age, I thoroughly enjoyed a portrayal that sees both of the two lead characters (and, come to that, Imrahil and Aragorn, in their own way) as flawed characters who have struggled to emerge from chrysalises that could well have trapped them into repeating the errors of their forebears and failing to find the promise of those first days. And, of course, they never would. Not easily. Both Faramir (especially) and Eowyn are damaged - by parenting, by war, by a lack of trust. Not to mention (as you do) by their inability to communicate effectively with each other. Which chapters to I enjoy most? It's hard to say really - some are remarkably painful. But I love Eowyn sitting in Edoras, reading Faramir's polite note and finding his poem. And I love Faramir and Elboron in the gardens of their home in Ithilien. Faramir snapping - so bitingly and alliteratively - at the brainless product of generations of Gondorian breeding. And I am glad - so glad - that they managed to find each other again and come to an understanding - there on the Pelennor where the world nearly came to an end. This is such a beautiful story. Beautifully and elegantly written. Superbly characterised. Just ... probably my favourite ever.

Reviewed by: NeumeIndil  ✧  Score: 8

Please forgive utter frankness from a complete stranger. As the adult child of a "heavy handed" parent, I cannot accurately begin to explain the effect this story has had on me. I see a good measure of my own qualities, both good and bad, set down here in black and white, and as pathetic as this may sound, have come to realize that I need to have a talk with someone close to me. I have always hoped that something I write might do good for others in one way or another. Whether this was your goal or not, I felt I should tell you that you have done so here. The story itself is so easy to read and the changes in PoV very well handled. The line between moving narrative and simply "enjoying the view" so to speak is walked confidently and well. The flow is excellent and the characters both in canon and simultaneously more human and "real" than many I've seen. Nothing is overstated or over-used. This story, I feel, is remarkably better than much original fiction available in the mass market. Very well done, and my most hearty thanks. At times, one needs catharsis. I found it here.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 7

Formal but flowing language, very realistic, complex characterisations and relationships. I like the way this story is set up, with the three narrators taking turns in telling a chapter: it makes it easy to see how their different experiences and attitudes contribute to misconceptions and misperceptions and thus to the problems in the marriage. The story depicts in realistic stages how a relationship can (nearly) founder due to too little communication or miscommunication. It also shows how much patience, tolerance and will is needed to repair the damage. It is also a very good portrayal of PTSD (and I thought ["war-fettered"] was a clever description), not only of the symptons themselves and how they influence those that suffer them, but also what a strain it can be on their environment. I personally don't see Denethor as physically abusive, and Faramir less shaped by his disapproval, and also by his war experiences, but I can accept the way it is laid out consistently here and in other stories of the "Unabeauverse".

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 3

Whether or not one agrees with the direction Altariel has taken the post-Ring War characterisation of Faramir, this is a powerful and very well-written story. I particularly liked the characterisation of Eowyn; and Aragorn is also written quite well.