Shards of Courage
2009 Award Category: Times: Second and Early Third Age: Akallabeth - Third Place
Story Type: Story ✧ Length: Short Story
Rating: General ✧ Reason for Rating: no warnings
Summary: A squire is trusted with an heirloom of the king but at what cost to his honor
Reviewed by: viv ✧ Score: 10
It ain't easy writing about a character that gets barely a mention in canon. In this case, that character is Ohtar, who was with Isildur at the massacre at Gladden Fields. In this story, he is charged with delivering the bad news -- among other things -- to Isuldur's widow and son. Alassante, you've very capably depicted the honor of a soldier who is willing to take the flack and be called a coward if that's what he needs to do to fulfill his duty to his commander. He keeps his doubts and conflicts to himself, despite the fact that they plague him fiercely. But when around others, he is very stoic, exactly as I'd expect a Numenorean-descended soldier to be. You've left it to the other characters to perceive and assuage his turmoil. Similarly, I was impressed with the characterization of young Valandil: what a composed little kid! But so appropriate, given his heritage. Without saying so explicitly, the scene reminded me how startling this tragedy must be for him, who never expected to be king since he had all those brothers. Although mourning a father is significant, how much worse to discover that you're also mourning brothers and a life of, if not indolence, then at least reduced responsibility. Now he must be king-in-waiting, and his life will perforce change. You've shown us, in the space of a few sentences, how he realized this transition. The poor little bit. Finally, your AN gave me a bit of a chuckle: oh, the arguments we have with ourselves regarding canon! I think you made the correct choice.
Reviewed by: Imhiriel ✧ Score: 5
The descriptions, though brief, illumine the various surroundings clearly in setting and mood. The protagonist's character is developed very well, his voice distinctive and engaging. His relation to Isildur - close but not too close - is just as I might have imagined from what little is known. His guilt at being sent away from the heat of battle is understandable; and the explanation for why he was selected plausible, as someone who knew and loved Isildur. It's just a little detail, but the idea that Thranduil sent help to the Gladden Fields - even if it was in vain - was very moving to me. And of course, it's a neat explanation for how word might have become known of what happened.
Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger ✧ Score: 5
You always hear about the valiant hero who died saving another, or the valiant hero who conquered and saved his people, or the valiant hero who lived but whose people perished despite his efforts. Rarely do you hear about the valiant hero who left his kin behind to die, but Alassante saw the potential and ran with it. The delivery of Narsil to Rivendell is the perfect opportunity to showcase this rare brand of hero, and I loved getting to know Ohtar a little better. The trouble is that he has problems seeing the courage in his own deeds. It takes several different characters offering their thoughts to bring him around, but in the end, Alassante's tale delivers powerful insights into courage and valor.
Reviewed by: Robinka ✧ Score: 4
A very significant moment in the history of Middle Earth, but told from the point of view of an almost unknown charater (like many other barely mentioned characters in Tolkien's universe that were given significance, but were sometimes left without a name). Ohtar -- squire to Isildur -- brought Narsil to Rivendell at Isildur's clear order, but against Ohtar's own choice. If he could, he would have stayed by his king's side. His thoughts are poignantly described in this story. Wonderfully drawn characterizations!
Reviewed by: Súlriel ✧ Score: 4
I loved watching this take shape in the Garden and am especially pleased with how well it came together for you. You found a way to work an amazing amount of depth, emotion and characterization into this short story of a virtually unknown character, and yet by this time, I feel that I know him - his pride and fears and regrets - and his resolve to Valandil. As many times as I've read this, it still brings tears to my eyes.
Reviewed by: Ellynn ✧ Score: 4
This is excellent! I really like your portrait of Ohtar and his thoughts. His feeling of guilt is so heavy and I symphatize with the poor man. Queens words [Isildur loved you, Ohtar. Do not feel shame for following his orders. He knew you would do as he bid and live on to protect his son, until his time to be king.] show that, although this is the most tragic moment of her life, she is still so observant. Most women, after hearing that her three children died, would break down; yet she was thinking of her men first (above her own needs) and she saw Ohtar's grief and guilt. A true queen.
Reviewed by: elliska ✧ Score: 4
This is a really impressive response to what looks to me to be a difficult challenge. Taking on an entirely different type of character and first person writing in the same fic would have been enough to keep me from trying the challenge, but Alassante did an incredible job with both challenges in this fic. I really love these canon-based stories she has been writing recently because she really has found interesting things to elaborate on and she has done a fantastic job with all of them. Very enjoyable and well written!
Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland ✧ Score: 3
I don't usually enjoy Simarillion stories, but this one gripped me and held my interest. I found myself truly caring about the man who brought the shards of Narsil to Rivendell and feeling for him. A beautifully written story.
Reviewed by: Nancy Brooke ✧ Score: 3
I am struck anew at this rereading at how full a character Ohtar is. This is the soul of fan fic - wondering 'how would this obscure character feel at this dramatic moment' - and creating a full and complete story from that wonderment.
Reviewed by: Larner ✧ Score: 3
This look at the character of Ohtar and how he might have been as a youth and as Isildur's squire is thoughtful and expresses well the grief he must have known. Well told, with excellent characterizations.
Reviewed by: Sevilodorf ✧ Score: 3
As an exercise in breaking type, it is well done. The POV remained consistent throughout as did the personality of the character. I found the dialog a bit stiff, but still believable.