Dec
9th
2016

Today's story shines a light on a dark relationship.

My Queen

[Dark] • 1,659 words

She comes to me at night, sometimes, just when I think I may have fallen asleep. I've never known why or how, but in time, I stopped questioning her for the things we share. Call it an unspoken understanding that we have. A symbiosis. A silent accord, there in the dark, and I didn't press for any more. On one such lonely night, however, I get a little bit bolder.

FROM THE CURATORS: Although dark changeling stories may seem a little passé in our age of rainbow-sherbet antelope-bugs, this brief tale takes that classic darkness and runs with it.  "This is a faerie tale, sort of a pony version of 'Cupid and Psyche' or even 'Beauty and the Beast'," AugieDog said.  "But it's a lot bleaker than either of those ... slick and dark and very nicely doom-laden."  Chris had similar praise: "It creates a very effective atmosphere in scant words, before ending on a dark, evocative last line."

He wasn't the only one to remark on atmosphere — in fact, that was our most common compliment about the story.  "The atmosphere was well realized, the connections to succubi are welcome, and I love how unreliable the narrator is in his feelings for the changeling," Soge said.  Horizon was another voice in that chorus: "Good short fics have to choose one thing to do really well, and this makes the wise decision to focus on atmosphere, building up an effectively tight and tense mood," he said.  "I think that's exactly why the Chrysalis reveal works, even though that 'twist' is obvious going in."

But it's not just the atmosphere — this is also packed with excellent prose and voicing.  "It's full of great imagery, and our narrator really gets across that sense of taking pleasure in something so outwardly wrong," Present Perfect said.  Indeed, that unreliable narration prompted the central question raised by the story.  "My Queen really gets inside the narrator's head as it examines his sense of dependence," Chris said.  "It leaves a nice ambiguity as to how much of that is his visitor's doing ... just how much did he gild his own cage?"

Read on for our author interview, in which Bootsy Slickmane discusses plastic trophies, pet commentary, and cobwebbed children.

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Dec
4th
2016

Seattle's Angels is a group that promotes good stories with low views. You can find us here.

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Report Wanderer D · 928 views ·
Dec
2nd
2016

Today's story lets us hear some voices from Equestria's past.

A New Age

[Dark] [Drama] • 14,963 words

In the closing days of the Pre-Classical Era, at the dawn of the rule of the Royal Pony Sisters, the devastation of Discord’s cruelty hits hard and leaves an open wound. As the young and inexperienced Princesses Celestia and Luna struggle to keep the peace, powerful figures in all three Pony tribes bridle at the upstart Alicorns who so quickly and easily claimed power...

FROM THE CURATORS: Epistolary stories present a number of unique problems to a writer, but sometimes confining the narrative to letters written by the characters is the best approach to take.  And when Soge praised this story for "managing to showcase a variety of points of view from a number of very distinctive characters, all of which have great voicing and believable motivations," the rest of us had to agree.

"Absolutely necessary from a storytelling perspective," Chris said, while Present Perfect called attention to "the variety of media... the stories told, the multiple crumbling tragedies" and called the whole piece "unspeakably awesome."

"The characters are perfectly voiced throughout," AugieDog noted with Chris calling them "sometimes petty, sometimes poignant, but invariably fascinating." "The way that the author weaves in and out of show canon, while simultaneously doing a ton of world building was particularly masterful," Soge concluded. "But what really clinched the nomination for me is how, from so many disparate parts, a full narrative emerges."

Read on for our author interview, in which SaddlesoapOpera discusses fictional vacuums, plausible reliability, and the earthy aspects of earth ponies.

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Nov
27th
2016

The Royal Guard—Thanks for All The Fish Edition

Every few weeks, we’ve recommended six high-quality stories from a variety of authors and popular genres. From action/adventure to slice of life, from drama to comedy, from stories about ponies kissing to stories involving pink hairless apes, we featured a wide variety of stories so that every post had something for everyone.

However, over the past months, a sad fact has become increasingly clear: we at the Royal Guard are tired. It’s been fun, and I don’t think any of us regret the good times we’ve had or the reviews we’ve done... but none of us has the time, energy, and motivation to continue. So, I’m sorry to say that the Royal Guard is shutting down.

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Report Wanderer D · 1,949 views ·
Nov
25th
2016

It's time to learn the secret of what makes today's story great.

Gnosis

[Mystery] • 3,916 words

Life in Canterlot Castle is about more than just the Princesses. Many ponies spend their days working in the palace, toiling with their virtues unsung to keep life humming alone.

Meet Spot Shine, Aegis, Raven, and more. Take a glimpse through their eyes, even as Princess Celestia finds herself a bit under the weather.

Some knowledge must be earned, but remember: Some doors cannot be closed once opened.

FROM THE CURATORS: Like all good mysteries, there's more than one layer to this carefully crafted tale.  "On the one hand, this is a great slice of life piece that shows us the day-to-day of Canterlot Palace from numerous perspectives, while also telling a story about Celestia falling mysteriously ill," Present Perfect said.  "On the other hand, it's a perfectly insidious mystery, the existence of which might not even occur to you until the final scene."  The nature of that mystery, though, is something best left unspoiled.  "People should read the story before delving into commentary about it, because it will be more effective the less they know walking in," the author noted.

Our experiences reading the story bore that out — despite how different they were.  "When I first read it, I didn't twig to what was going on in the story until the second-to-last paragraph," AugieDog said.  Horizon appreciated the story despite being aware of its twist from the original draft in the Writeoffs, and Chris picked up the story's epiphanies only in hindsight.  "It's a clever story, and although it might have been too clever for me, I don't believe that it's too clever for its own good," Chris said.  "This holds up well to attentive reading, and still works when one knows/guesses the twist(s) from the start."

There were several reasons for Gnosis' strength on rereading.  "The character profiles are quite nearly strong enough to carry the story on its own," Horizon said, while AugieDog praised its tone: "This story builds such a distinct feeling of dread that I was primed and ready, looking for some sort of reveal at the end."  In summary, as Present Perfect said: "However you slice it, this is a really strong, clever story."

Read on for our author interview, in which Morning Sun discusses cake bribes, butt words, and non-unlearnable revelations.

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Nov
20th
2016

Seattle's Angels is a group that promotes good stories with low views. You can find us here.

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Report Wanderer D · 1,507 views ·
Nov
18th
2016

Due to some bad luck on timing (and some eligibility goofs on our end), this week we're still waiting for all of our pending featured authors to complete their interviews.  But don't worry — we've got you covered!  We keep track of stories which have passed through our approval process, but whose authors were uncontactable despite repeated effort.  We'd like to see these great stories get their time in the spotlight too, so we're presenting a pair of RCL-approved tales for your reading pleasure.

Gobbling and Other Traditional Pursuits

By LadyMoondancer

[Adventure] [Comedy] • 11,188 words

For years Nightmare Moon was considered "nothing but an old pony tale," but what did those tales actually say about her?  See Luna, Celestia, and Discord as viewed through pony myths and legends.

FROM THE CURATORS: "If Horizon doesn't give this a maximum score, I'll eat my hat," former curator Benman said, to which Horizon simply replied: "Your hat is safe."  He wasn't the only one — this collection of Equestrian folk tales earned multiple top scores and a rare unanimous approval.  "I'd have no trouble at all believing that these stories were entombed in one of the dusty back corners of the Golden Oaks library, and the varying tones and styles help sell this as a collection of disparate tales from different times, passed down by oral tradition," Chris said.

Some of that was due to use of strong source material — as the author noted, Old Favors is a very thinly ponified version of the Russian tale "Old Favors Are Soon Forgotten", and Horizon pointed out that Coyote and the Boulder "leans heavily on the Sioux folktale 'Iktome, Coyote, and the Rock'" — but LadyMoondancer's own creativity also shone through.  "What seals the deal for me is Chapter 2, which appears to be made up from whole cloth and yet is the same high quality as the ones that crib from existing mythology," Horizon said.  And the storytelling was always vivid and evocative.  "I swear I can smell the smoke from a fireplace and the borscht boiling on top of it," AugieDog said.  "The last one makes me long for something I never knew I wanted to see: the stories each tribe tells about where the other sorts of ponies come from.  Really nice stuff."

The Sound Of Sunlight

By Chicken Vortex

[Slice of Life] • 5 chapters, 25,000 words

When it comes to music some ponies have natural talent, while others have to struggle for it. The story of how one pony learned that in the end it's not who's playing that matters, but who they're playing for.

FROM THE CURATORS: How's this for a classic — it was published to Google Docs back in the days before FIMFic was collecting the MLP fandom's fanfiction!  It was one of the first stories the RCL considered, too, and even then it gave us some lovely tinges of nostalgia.  "Oh man! I had forgotten this story, but right when she ran into the homeless pony, it all came flooding back," former curator Vimbert the Unimpressive said. "This was damn good."  And Chris agreed: "It's held up much better than many of the stories from that era."

It was one of the earliest stories exploring the show's background ponies, but even at the time it painted a vivid picture.  "I will give the story kudos for its portrayal of Octavia's (and others') musical life, which are sadly representative of some prodigies' childhoods, and for not flinching away from showing just how damaging to a person those kinds of regimens can be," Chris said.  As Present Perfect put it, "It hits a lot of the usual tropes — she hates playing, she has strict parents, she's a shut-in with no friends — but elevates them to something more."

[Note: Readers report that the Google Docs links in the story's Equestria Daily post are now broken.  Other methods of reading the story include nallar.me's archive of old Google Doc-based fanfiction; and a google search reveals that it was crossposted to Deviantart, either by the author or a fan.]

Read more features right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.

Nov
13th
2016

Hello again, citizens of the FimFic world. PaulAsaran here, back for another set of reviews. What better way to relax after the crazy week we’ve had, amiright?

For those of you not in the know, I work on a tight schedule for a regular blog. The stories reviewed below are cherry-picked from that schedule. Only stories earning one of my two highest ratings and which I feel deserve special recognition make it here. We’ve got some interesting stories this time around, including one that may garner plenty of skepticism based on its premise alone.

So let’s get started, shall we?

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Report Wanderer D · 1,830 views ·
Nov
11th
2016

Loyal RCL readers will find a treat waiting for them in today's story.

Left Behind

[Drama] [Slice of Life] • 4,721 words

Fluttershy has been called away on an adventure. An adventure without Rainbow Dash.

FROM THE CURATORS: This story came to our attention via the Flutterdash group's third writing contest, where it felt somewhat misplaced — "there isn't even a [Romance] tag," as Present Perfect pointed out.  But Left Behind turned our heads with the power of its writing.  "When writing gurus talk about 'show, don't tell,' this is the sort of thing they mean," AugieDog said.  "We're presented with a series of scenes, some in the present and some in the past, that add up to create a picture of Dash's feelings toward Fluttershy."

Multiple curators remarked on the story's slow yet compelling build.  "There's a lot here that's enjoyable in its very low-key-ness," Chris said, and AugieDog agreed: "It's almost aggressively low-key. ... The author paints with an admirably light touch, implying things more often than stating them, and we're pretty much left to decide for ourselves how deep Dash's feelings run.  And that to me is a real plus in this sort of story."  Even slice-of-life hater Horizon was won over: "This felt like the literary equivalent of a well-painted landscape," he said.  "Its biggest strength is in the way it chooses tones and contrasts to create depth.  But all of the characters are also individually great, especially Spike, and their concerns are so real and wide-ranging that this piece is bursting with life."

While the protagonist was the biggest of those highlights — "this is one of the most solid pieces of Rainbow Dash-centric character writing I've ever read; it exemplifies all her best qualities while explaining away the worst," Present Perfect said — some of the side characters were scene-stealers. "This story introduced me to Zephda shipping, and now I am on that ship really hard," Present Perfect added.  And ultimately, all of those characters contributed to the emotional power of the piece.  "I especially appreciate the unspoken sense of sacrifice that permeates the mane cast, watching their younger sisters develop into normal lives while their own emotional bonds seem stuck in Harmony's amber," Horizon said.  "That lends this whole thing an air of powerful melancholy."

Read on for our author interview, in which Shrink Laureate discusses cuddly villains, conversational props, and adorably horrible cosmic-ray ships.

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Nov
8th
2016

Seattle's Angels is a group that promotes good stories with low views. You can find us here.

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Report Wanderer D · 1,648 views ·