The Turn of the Tide

Author: Altariel

Nominator: Dwimordene

2007 Award Category: Genres: Alternate Universe: Gondor or Rohan - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: Éowyn in the Houses of Healing. A short AU.

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Reviewed by: Dwimordene  ✧  Score: 10

Once upon a time in Tolkien fandom, there was a real 'thing' in the Alternate Universe category, for substituting Faramir for Boromir on the quest. Obviously, the real killer would be the Parth Galen scene – if Faramir is immune to temptation, then just what would happen there? How would the quest go forward? How would he and Frodo get along? He and Aragorn? Would Denethor go out in a despairing blaze if Boromir were in 'safe' in Gondor? All these questions were certainly waiting to be explored, and quite frankly, once I encountered Altariel's work, I expected she would eventually succumb and write her own version. Well, it's been several years since that initial reading of "Fire Sermon," but finally, here we have it! Faramir goes to Imladris in Boromir's stead! Except, you almost miss it in the opening paragraphs – it isn't until a little later that you realize that 'the Steward's son' isn't Faramir, but Boromir, and then we see the unique focus Altariel brings to this AU scenario: the relationship that is set up between Eowyn and Denethor. At this point, obviously Eowyn is at a low point herself: she has slain the Witch-king, but that has not made her feel any less the prisoner. She is, in many ways, Denethor's match – two people badly scarred by their encounter with the Enemy's malice. And so there is the danger of a new mauling, on one side or the other, for badly wounded people are not always safe to be around. I love the way Altariel aligns youth and anger, and the confused uncertain defiance of fate over against the hardness and bitterness of age that knows too much. I also love the way that Eowyn's swift meeting and loving of Aragorn is effectively redirected: a chance encounter with Faramir on his ride north to Imladris is all it takes to impel her towards Gondor, when there seems to her to be no hope beyond simply seeing the land for which Faramir may well have given all. The relationship with Boromir in the first part of the story, as we learn how Eowyn met and loved Faramir, and how she came to Gondor, is beautiful in its spareness – a virtue Eowyn gives to Boromir, which strikes me as fitting in its way. It raises so many questions that must be left unanswered, suggests so much that will not be fleshed out in this vignette, and so leaves one with the sense of loss and worry for Boromir, who seems also to have been hurt along the way, though free of the Ring's spell, he lacks the drivenness of bookverse!Boromir. Anyone who has wondered what Boromir might have been like had he not gone on that quest should definitely read this story! Actually, anyone who loves the Steward's family of Gondor should read this, or who finds Eowyn an interesting character. It's a lovely AU, done in very few words, none of them wasted. Beautiful work, Altariel!

Reviewed by: dkpalaska  ✧  Score: 10

Absolutely, an incredible AU. Spare and subtle, there is so much contained therein that a reader wishes could be expanded upon; like Tolkien's LotR, there is a backstory only glimpsed, which adds depth to the bare essentials that Altariel has chosen to share with us. It is left to our imaginations how the ["wreck of Rauros"] fell out, how Faramir's presence altered the dynamics of the trip through Mordor, and how (oh, I *wish* we could see this!) Aragorn and Denethor's first meeting goes. I think in the end the ambiguity only increases the power of this alternate vision. Despite the tremendous shifts to the original storyline, none of the characterizations deviate from the books. Eowyn still loves despite the brevity of her meetings with her intended, appreciates forthrightness and is wounded in body and soul; Faramir is perceptive and can read Men's hearts, and pities and loves Eowyn immediately; Denethor is yet stern and rigid and without hope. Boromir is perhaps the most interesting individual in some ways, as here Altariel reveals the unusual situation of the favored son dealing with his father's displeasure. Marvelous interactions, particularly those between Eowyn and Denethor, buoyed along by excellent and evocative writing. The story resonates strongly with me not just because the ending is what I wish had truly happened (although I do *love* this ending), but because Altariel has blithely appropriated so many minor details from the original story and applied her own delightful twists: the Steward's Son that meets Eowyn on the walls is Boromir; the love that Eowyn follows South is Faramir, and not solely out of despair; the Anduin brings Faramir to Boromir - alive; Denethor visits Eowyn and gives her a cloak; and perhaps my favorite, Eowyn proclaims Imrahil's words to Denethor, but in triumph! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful...

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 8

A truly stellar AU that left me screaming for more. The story is short and ostensibly simple; in this Alternate Universe, Faramir went to Rivendell while Boromir took his place in Ithilien; and Faramir met Eowyn on his way, and they fell in love and spoke vows. Now, Boromir, having allowed Faramir and Frodo and Gollum to procede from Ithilien to Mordor, prepares to accompany Aragorn's host to the Black Gate; and Eowyn and Denethor stay in the City, waiting for the people they love to return or die. The moods are sketched subtly, with elegance and perception. There's a curious sympathy between Denethor and Eowyn; it is lovely to see him be the one to give her the starry mantle. And it's fascinating to see an Eowyn who has never thought herself in love with Aragorn, whose heart is fixed on Faramir. The language is occasionally Tolkienish; at least in beauty of expresson - the bit about the world seeming to exhale is awfully pretty and perfect for that point in the story. And I love the last paragraphs, particularly Eowyn's triumphant mention of Denethor's sons returning after great deeds!

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 8

As ever, the story is written elegantly and meaningful. I like the way the "AU-ness" is revealed only after a time. We are led to believe the man coming to her is Faramir, supported by the descriptions Éowyn remembers from the women - although in truth, the description does fit either brother. Interesting where you see the divergences from canon, prompted by the differences between the brothers, and how, despite it all, the "integrity", the needed consequences, can be kept after all in the narrow margins allowed for chance (fate?). It's also somehow reassuring that the basic characteristics *don't* change, even under so very different circumstances, like the love between Éowyn and Faramir, or Denethor's complex character. The encounter between Éowyn and Denethor, filled with tension, and unspoken thoughts and feelings, is fascinating and very poignant; especially the fact that in a way he takes the role of Faramir in keeping her company each day, which strengthens the similarity between them mentioned earlier.

Reviewed by: stefaniab  ✧  Score: 6

In this story, Altariel spins a "wish-fulfillment" AU for all of us who love Denethor and his sons. Altarial uses Tolkien's style well, without "trying too hard" or using overly stilted language. She presents a ferociously chilly Eowyn at the Houses of Healing, interacting with characters who in canon are dead before her maiming on the Pelennor Fields. Altariel's story unfolds its AU aspects at a leisurely pace, which leaves you wondering why Boromir is alive, how was it that Faramir and Eowyn met and fell in love in Rohan, and what the heck was Denethor doing at Eowyn's side when Sauron fell? This story works as a unit. However, to me it suggests a jumping off point for a story that Altariel might spin in greater detail in the future. At least, I hope she will. For starters, I want to know how incipient king Aragorn and ruling Steward Denethor form their new government?

Reviewed by: Isabeau of Greenlea  ✧  Score: 6

Spoiler Alert! As AUs go, this one is more hopeful and much more perceptive than most. It's not just the fact that both Boromir and Denethor live, it's that Faramir went on the Quest and Eowyn met him in Rohan and loves him and not Aragorn. This gives Eowyn's own quest to Minas Tirith a validity, at least to me, that is lacking in canon. Her responses to Boromir, and later to his father, are very interesting because of this, particularly her growing relationship with Denethor, in whom she sees a kindred spirit. The despair, tension and fear that hang over Minas Tirith after the Armies of the West depart for the Black Gate are the same as they are in LOTR, Eowyn still has her nightmares to deal with, but the final outcome is ever so much happier!

Reviewed by: phyloxena  ✧  Score: 5

The only successful attempt to show that "if Faramir went to Rivendell it was better thing" I can recall, and I looked really hard. This short story is breathtaking, it is true to its pace as a poem should be, and as precise in tone. From Boromir's "My brother!" to Denethor staying on the path to kingly gifts, everything is in place. I love realist!Eowyn who doesn't care for Numenorian mystics (and realist Denethor who has no use to it), and I wish Altariel had written it all, or even few more episodes in between... But guess it's to much to ask for.

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 4

[spoilers] This is very AU - and at the same time oddly in canon. The whole reversal of Faramir going on the quest, but still the main things stay intact. You had me wondering who came to see Eowyn until I figured out how AU this AU is. The characters are all very well drawn. I like the way Denethor and Eowyn form an attachment just by standing on the walls and waiting. And the end is so typical for the different characters of Eowyn and Denethor.

Reviewed by: Llinos  ✧  Score: 4

[Spoiler Alert] A well executed "what if" story. Though this story is written from Eowyn's pov what really caught my interest were the references to Faramir going to Mordor. I am not surprised that Faramir's nobility carried him through and that he did not make Boromir's mistake of misplaced judgement and estimation of what the Ring would actually do were he to take It. I'd like to read more of this AU of the Quest!

Reviewed by: NeumeIndil  ✧  Score: 4

Ooh. This is a *very* different take on the waiting in Minas Tirith from those I have read before. I have to say, I almost like this version better than canon. There is more hope for Faramir and his troubled family in this way. The strength you've found in him and shown to us is admirable. Eowyn's relationship with her father-in-law is another narrative path I think I should like to see more of one day. A wonderful, thought-provoking piece.

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 4

A fascinating AU--it was Faramir who took the quest of the riddling dream rather than his brother; and as he went northward he paused at Edoras. Now, in company with Denethor, Eowyn watches eastward where all their hopes have gone, for Boromir follows the bearer of Anduril to the Black Gate. Well told and much in keeping with the original, although the singing eagle is conspicuously missing.

Reviewed by: Nancy Brooke  ✧  Score: 3

I found this a fascinating weaving of U and AU as it were, changing characters but not situations skillfully. There was some beautiful writing, but I liked best and was happily surprised at first by the similarities Eowyn finds between herself and Denethor. Very illuminating and sensitively rendered.

Reviewed by: agape4gondor  ✧  Score: 3

[Spoiler] Excellent 'Boromir lives' tale - and Denethor too. Very pleasant for a heart that loves the men of Gondor. I wondered what was happening at first, but really enjoyed the story, after I figured it out. My favorite lines were - [mockery of an old man at the defiance of the young.] And Denethor's [that is how they destroyed themselves] part. It did my heart good to see the 'banners' of the Steward's sons. Eowyn was well written.

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 2

Ooh, chilling and compelling all the way through. I really like the connection between Eowyn and Denethor, as I can see how they might have gotten along very well.

Reviewed by: Linda hoyland  ✧  Score: 2

[spoilers] A fascinating AU full of beautifully written what if moments.It was very interesting seeing Denethor and Epowyn keeping one another company as they wait for Faramir's return.