By The Light of Earendil's Star

Author: Branwyn

Nominator: Raksha the Demon

2006 Award Category: Genres: Adventure - Second Place

Story Type: Other Fiction  ✧  Length: Novel

Rating: PG-13  ✧  Reason for Rating: For non-graphic violence and a few instances of graphic violence.

Summary: After an ambush in Ithilien, young Faramir has little hope of rescue from his captors or from his own despair. Unless help unlooked-for should arrive ...

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Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 10

I've loved this story ever since I first read it, long before it was finished. It's probably my all-time favorite Tolkien fanfiction action/adventure story; and the author also writes one of the best versions of Faramir. Not to mention Boromir. And especially Denethor. [By The Light of Earendil's Star] presents a gripping adventure, with plenty of well-realized and exciting action, and marvelous characterization of not only Denethor and his sons, but three very memorable Original Characters - something I rarely see in Tolkien fanfic. And the Orcs, though ghastly, evil in their intent and actions, are credibly written, as intelligent beings rather than totally stupid brutes. The military action is extremely well-written; from Orc encounters and forays to Ranger battles and Boromir's desperate, and inspired, gambits. But it's more than a simple action/adventure story. The medicine and herblore is convincing. And the description of terrain and structures is particularly elegant. There's an understated quality to the expression of emotions that makes that expression all the more effective. When I read the quieter parts of the tale, (and there are many) I am reminded of Ursula K. LeGuin's style in the Earthsea trilogy. And there are so many good bits in the story: Denethor's memories of his sons in their childhood while he knows they are both in terrible danger and possibly dead, and, later, Boromir's surprise at his father's physical strength, Faramir's brave attempts to preserve his men's lives, the scary scene when an Orc stalks a defenseless and wounded Ranger in the night, and the lovely epilogue. The usage of the myth of Beren as a sort of archetypal and thematic reference is wonderfully done, and very apt. Not to be missed.

Reviewed by: annmarwalk  ✧  Score: 10

This powerful story begins with a simple premise. A ranger patrol, led by young Faramir, is overrun and captured by orcs; Boromir organizes their rescue. In hands of this marvelously skillful writer, this becomes a tale of action, horror, suspense, and humor. Brimming with meticulously researched detail, vivid description, and finely drawn characters (both canonical and original) this extraordinary tale never wanders down the twisted path to A-U, nor descends into hurt/comfort, but remains true to its roots as a gripping action-adventure yarn. The most outstanding feature of this tale is its fine characterizations: Boromir is young, somewhat reckless, but imaginative and resourceful. His impetuous decision to steal boats and ambush the orcs who have captured Faramir and his companions is completely in character. Faramir, badly wounded, is still able to inspire his companions to unimagined acts of strength and courage. Original characters, such as Boromir’s longsuffering second-in-command / bodyguard, Haldan; and Boromir and Faramir's cousin, Eldahil, serve as excellent counterpoints (and occasional comic relief). Even the orcs have their own personalities and rivalries which are integral to the plot. Another noteworthy feature of the tale is the meticulous research and wealth of detail. Fight scenes are realistically and accurately described, providing marvelous visualizations. Medicinal herbs, structural and architectural features of a surgical room, and Gondorian hangover cures round out the corners of the tale. Faramir’s feverish dreams (particularly an exquisite vision of stargazing expedition, as a small child wrapped securely in his father’s arms) provide lovely stories-within-the story, each of them as intricately detailed as the whole. Special recognition must be made of Branwyn’s characterization of Denethor. Far from the cartoonish madman of the film, her Denethor is a loving and compassionate father who has felt himself forced to present a powerful, controlled persona to his people. Every parent can empathize with his despair, when he believes Faramir to be dead; and his elation and then worry when he discovers his child alive, though severely wounded.

Reviewed by: Anoriath  ✧  Score: 10

I think it is hard enough to create a fully developed character, but, in fanfic, one of the most difficult challenges of writing is creating an other-character who can stand up to the strength of Tolkien’s characters. Not only do we have three volumes of work in which Tolkien’s characters live and breathe, but our readers have years of experience reflecting on and living with them. Quite the challenge, then, to put your own characters side by side and interacting with them. So, when a fanfic author is able to create lively characters that stand up well against Tolkien’s characters, it makes for a particularly enjoyable experience. Of all the things I liked about this piece, I think you were particularly successful in developing Haldan and Eldahil into characters that were full-rounded and believable within their context. Not only that, but they were truly unique. Haldan was in danger of being a stock-character. Yes, yes, an old campaigner assigned to the young and hot-blooded Boromir, but, despite the danger, you never let him falter and become merely a mirror by which to reflect Boromir’s actions. And then Eldahil! *snork* Oh, my. Now there is a wonderfully unique other-male-character in fanfic. A fop, of all things! Not something I’ve really seen before in fanfic and played delightfully well, in that you, again, did not allow him to become a stereotype of his most relevant characteristics.

Reviewed by: obsidianj  ✧  Score: 6

This is a great, gripping tale of adventure in the woods of Ithilien. After Boromir learns that Faramir is captured by orcs, he immediately mounts a rescue mission without asking for permission first. I love Boromir's impulsive decision to come to Faramir's rescue, but he is not so reckless that he doesn't come up with a plan that has some hope of success, although his second in command is a big help. I think the characterization of the brothers is spot on. The original characters Captain Haldan, cousin Eldahil, Ranger Hirluin all have their distinct voices and fit seemlessly into the story. Even the orcs are well characterized. Denethor's desperate search for his sons and how he already relys on the Palantir is chilling to read, especially that he, this early, already doesn't get the whole truth. That should have been a warning to him. Thanks for a great read.

Reviewed by: Acacea  ✧  Score: 6

I loved this story from the moment it started outIt had everything that appeals to the Faramir fan in me. A promise of angst, Ithilien, rangers, orcs, Boromir, Denethor, the works, and it's extremely well-written. It's descriptive yet not overdone and works just perfectly. From the descriptions of the ambush to the descriptions of Minas Tirith to the red flowers that Boromir attacks, every bit is beautifully captured. The characterisations are excellent, of Faramir but of course. And of Boromir who goes in to rescue him. And of Denethor particularly when Faramir returns. And the OCs all of whom shine on their own. I loved the details too. I read this a year ago, and yet those little things stayed on in my mind - the red flowers, Denthor on the boat with Faramir when Faramir returns, all of which contribute to the excellentness of the fic.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 6

This is very exciting and beautifully written story.I kept wanting to know what happened next ! I felt concerned for the brothers.Boromir is just amazing,no wonder his men respect him ! Faramir,was badly hurt in this story and his fate had me on edge..I was glad Boromir's cousin was still alive which made a pleasant surprise Many chapters were moving and all,well written and enjoyable I was relieved when Faramir was on the mend and Denethor seemed to care though I disliked the way he treated the other men . Atotally unique for your insight into Denethor's character.Very refreshing and original !I like Hirluin very much,something I rarely say about OCs ! it was so good to see them all recovering and contented.I also liked how you brought the star into the last chapter.The puppies were ever so cute. A well written and original story which I have enjoyed.

Reviewed by: dkpalaska  ✧  Score: 5

Excellent prose. Well-written action sequences, with many reflective moments adding depth and poignancy. I did stumble over some of the plot devices - there were places that felt unrealistic or forced, and occasionally the dialogue seemed a bit choppy. The writing was fast-paced and gripping, however, and I was able to "go with the flow". The many viewpoint changes are handled adroitly, and the characterizations of both canon and original individuals are crafted skillfully and believably. Denethor in particular is marvelous. The descriptions are beautifully handled. They were full and evocative, giving me a very clear picture without overwhelming or slowing the story.

Reviewed by: Perelleth  ✧  Score: 4

Eldahil could surely enter the final short list of the most endearing human original characters in fanfiction. The cheeky cousin of Denethor's sons comes out as a archetypical shallow, shameless, carefree, mischievous hero with a golden heart. He is a good counterpart to a very deeply worried Boromir, in mad search for his younger brother, to the point that he not only enlivens the story but completely steals the show, and in what a manner!

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 4

Now, it *has* to be really something to get me to like Denethor, whom I have loathed for thirty-nine years! Again, I have to thank the MEFAs for finding this tale for me--very high quality consistent writing, suspenseful, a delightful OC in Eldahil--and I didn't even mind the lack of hobbits! It was rather graphic in the violence, but nothing that did not seem called for by the plot. An excellent read!

Reviewed by: Bodkin  ✧  Score: 4

This is such an exciting story - I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. And I must confess to a real liking for Eldahil. I would like to learn more about him! And Hirluin, too, is a delightful character. As if Boromir wouldn't strain every nerve (including those of the readers) to retrieve his brother from disaster! It was such a relief when they reached safety - even if they suffered damage along the way. Loved the epilogue, too - and the suggestion that there could be further episodes in the adventures of Boromir and Eldahil

Reviewed by: Súlriel  ✧  Score: 2

You had me hooked on this one with the orcish opening and I have followed along. As always, you've woven an interesting and thoughtful adventure.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel  ✧  Score: 2

Suspenseful (although I found some of the twists rather improbable), interesting OCs. The portrayal of Denethor is wonderful.