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ThursdayFic recs, October 30th12 comments · 149 views
Hot dang, I love that there's a "new blog post" button in the drop-down now. Also, newer, easier-to-use story tagging system! :D
Things will be slow for a bit as I’m currently a third of the way into an audiobook of The Celestia Code, which will be my next vs. post. Unless, y’know, I read something else first. (I have a couple shorter ones lined up.) The upside is, my dad’s finally recovered from his heart surgery and will be going back to work, which means mornings are mine again! That means more time to listen to stuff, is what I’m saying. :B Also, when I said I wasn't doing Halloween recs this year, I meant it. Hope no one's disappointed.
H: 1 R: 2 C: 2 V: 0 N: 0
The Life and Death of April Fool by Prak
Genre: Surreal Comedy
A little filly named April Fool comes out from under a rock in the Everfree Forest once a year to play with the foals in the nearby town. This is a magnificently charming comedy, moving from whimsical fairy tale to bizarre random fic at the drop of a hat and without ever feeling disjointed. That is the biggest “thing done right” in this piece. I’m kind of amazed at how much comedy is packed into this, given that the fairy tale and nursery rhyme motifs are front and center. The twist at the end is the kind you’ll never see coming, but which makes perfect sense in hindsight. Definitely give this a read if you’re looking for something upbeat and cheerful (yes, in spite of “death” in the title, there is no darkness here) with maybe a bit of whimsy and carnival in addition.
Sacrifice by Mystic
Genre: Low Fantasy
Two pegasus knights climb a mountain, hoping to slay a dragon. This isn’t very pony, set as it is pre-Unification, and it’s rather telly, but man, it’s kinda cool. The dynamic between the two characters is compelling, and there’s a lot of little hints of world-building around the edges that really caught my attention. Plus, the fight against the dragon is a lot of fun. The ending is pretty well foreshadowed, so it likely won’t catch you by surprise, but if you ever wanted a tale of pony knights doing knightly things, check this out.
Recommended If You Don’t Mind Telling
Breaking the News by horizon
Oh yeah, horizon’s got a writeoff compilation too, so expect lots of him in the future. :B This has a great premise: how do you manage a disaster when they're all planned? Given the ponies’ control over weather, this seems a natural thing to consider, and the journalistic style makes this a hilarious read. This is absolutely brilliant, and its shortness means it doesn’t stretch out its central joke more than necessary.
Sugar, Cubed by BlazzingInferno
Genre: Slice of Life
This story is a giant middle finger to anyone who took “Don’t use your fancy mathematics to muddle the issue” to mean “Applejack is terrible at math”. Here, we see just what math means to her, both in the present and the past. Despite the Sad tag, the emotional overtones are subtle, and the result of the contest deftly avoids either of two poor outcomes. My only real complaint about this piece is the use of the title; it’s extremely cheesy, specifically as it appears in chapter 3. Still, the writing is good, and this is a very unique look at Applejack.
Sonata Grabs Twilight’s Peaches by Admiral Biscuit
Sequel to Twilight Eats Sonata’s Taco
Oh dear, we’ve crossed the memes. Never cross the memes! Anyway, all you have to know about the prequel to approach this story is that Twilight Sparkle ate a taco that was Sonata’s and it wasn’t sexual in the least. I find I like this story more, for a couple of reasons. First, while it’s mostly just an excuse to again have a silly sexual title, the characters feel a little more real and the situation is less far-fetched. The inherent ridiculousness is left to hang in the air while the characters move on with the story, rather than the setup. Second, it’s mostly just the Dazzlings arguing, and that’s always fun. Third, the touted locker room scene just barely passes muster by leaving all the true details to the imagination. And fourth, the ending has quite a twist to it. I hope we get more in this series.
Recommended for Sonata Fans
SundayFic recs, October 26th24 comments · 280 views
Man, do you realize Leap of Faith is a look at how scammers play on the fears of the elderly? Heavy.
Griffin from City of Doors has started posting redirects to his blog on his Fimfic account, along with rewrites of old reviews! So if you didn’t have a way to follow his site, now you can be one click away by following him here!
This is another monster review blog because I wanted to get one story out from each of the collections I’m now trying to get through. Expect lots of Cold in Gardez, Esle Ynopemos, Benman, Chris and Pascoite in the future!
H: 0 R: 7 C: 10 V: 1 N: 0
I’m Afraid of Changeling by Cold in Gardez
We kick off the story collections with a short piece about a changeling going to a psychiatrist. What a comedy this is! The centerpiece is the psychiatrist, who remains unflappable and entirely professional while his client does very changeling-like things. There’s a lot of great wordplay in this, and the punchline is fantastic. For feeling shorter than it is, it manages to pack in a lot of laughs.
A Night in the Barn by Esle Ynopemos
Granny Smith can’t sleep one night, which ends up being rather fateful. Honestly, I’d hate to think what would’ve happened if she hadn’t been up to see Applejack leave the house. This is a pretty solid little piece, giving us some nice background on Granny and approaching Applejack’s reaction to the loss of her parents in an original way. Definitely check this out if you’re into stories about that.
One Giant Leap by Benman
Sequel to One Small Step
Princess Luna seeks to reclaim her role as Princess of Equestria starting with a few titles, including... Captain of the Wonderbolts? I was kind of hesitant to get into Ben’s collection, because so many of the stories are abandoned, but despite being marked so, and being a sequel to a story of his I haven’t read yet, this stands on its own remarkably well. It comes in two parts, first Celestia and Luna playing Go and discussing Luna’s plans, then Luna and Spitfire racing for control of the Wonderbolts. It’s obvious that there’s room for continuation, but I was satisfied by the ending, not to mention it’s pretty funny. As for connections to One Small Step, all I saw was a mention of Luna’s assistant Lodestar, who I’ve seen in other stories of Ben’s, so I wasn't bothered by it and now you know enough to deal with her yourself. This is a good followup to Luna Eclipsed, and it’s well-written to boot.
Doppelganger by obabscribbler
Rarity takes over for Vinyl Scratch. The whole situation is as well-explained as it is far-fetched. My only complaint is that this is all setup with no denouement; I wanna know how the show goes! Still, if you ever wanted to see two characters interacting who normally never would, this is your chance.
Recommended as Light Reading
Dream Pony by Dimondium
Pinkie recounts her relationship with Twilight. This is pretty average as shipping goes: Pinkie likes Twilight, finally works up the courage to tell her, and finds out Twilight secretly liked her back. The draw is the follow-through and the voicing. I started off feeling like this was too serious to be Pinkie, but in short order the narrative really takes a turn for her style, and the serious bits are understandably mixed into that. As for the follow-through, we don’t see much of the courtship, but this goes into the wedding, and them dealing with other life issues: losing friends, relationship troubles. That said, it is all told, so YMMV.
Recommended for Shippers Only
One Day in the Crystal Library by FanOfMostEverything
The last three collections are (mostly) writeoff-based, and rather than read and review the literal dozens of entries for my writeoff edition, Imma just do ‘em with these guys. This one deals with Sombra and Cadence before all that “taking over the Crystal Empire” business. The ending scene feels rushed, but otherwise this posits a scenario that is both believable and interesting. I do wish a little more had been done with it.
Recommended If You Like World-Building Vignettes
Of Course, You Realize… by Chris
Rarity and Rainbow Dash play War; it doesn’t end well. This is maybe the definition of “just enough” as stories go: at not even 300 words, it's sufficient to get the scene established and lay out the punchline. I will make some bones about Rarity’s behavior, but it’s kind of worth it given that it's Rainbow Dash falling for it. Reading this won’t put a dent in your day, anyway.
Recommended as Light Reading
Sweet Temptation by Pascoite
Dinky Doo is taunted by a muffin. This is mostly light comedy for the sake of cuteness, but it takes a bit of a turn when Derpy Ditzy shows up. Also, there’s something truly amazing about Dinky saying “By Celestia, I’ll unmake you!” There’s a good balance of adorable and super-serious meant for comedic effect, but I can see a few places where word choices could have been improved. Granted, that’s comparing something two years old to the author’s current works; had anyone else written this, I might not have even noticed. Definitely worth it if you’re into cute stuff, especially as it doesn’t go overboard.
From a Filly on a Hill by littlerobotbird
Genre: Slice of Life
This is written very strangely, making it hard to suss out what’s going on. What I think it is is Dinky recounting a time she lay out on a hill after either a fight with her mother over having gotten into a fight at school (likely started by Dinky trying to protect her), or that fight itself. There are concrete things I can point to, like the tense shifts and certain spots where repetition doesn’t work, that are definite errors. And then the perspective starts getting all wonky toward the end, and the overall effect is simply confusing. I’m not sure what the purpose was of writing the story this way. (Up until the very end, I thought the narrator might be the spirit of Dinky’s departed father, watching over her.) I’m just baffled by it.
Trixie’s Favourite Pony by Blueshift
Reading by Sleipniiir that I am not linking to because the cover image is kinda NSFW
Trixie finally works up the courage to tell her favorite pony she loves her. This is an extraordinarily silly (and old) piece, written by the master of silliness himself. The central joke is amusing, things ramp up nicely, and it’s no longer than it needs to be. If you want Trixie silliness, look no further.
Recommended If You Like Silly Things
Scent by DegeTheMighty
After Ponyville’s first Nightmare Night celebration featuring Princess Luna, Big Macintosh goes in search of his missing little sister, all the while aware of an unfamiliar scent in the air. This does at least one thing majorly right, which is using an unusual sense to instill foreboding over the narrative. And “foreboding” is the right word, for that’s what I was filled with by the end. I was waiting for the proverbial skeleton to jump out, but this story doesn’t bother with trying to explain itself. I however was intrigued and wanted to know what the heck was going on. The answer is in the comments, but I’ll say this much: the one thing missing is an indication that the scent is a signifier in the first place. Once you know that, it’s just a matter of piecing together the fridge horror yourself, spoiler comments or no. Going through the story myself, I wasn’t quite looking at it from the right angle to get the full effect, and that’s fine, because I did at least get something out of this. If you’re looking for a spooky scare this Halloween, check this one out! (And if it spoops you too much, check out the parody in the comments.)
Recommended for Horror Fans
Rainbooms and Marshmallows by electreXcessive
Rainbow Dash visits Rarity, her self-esteem crushed after her encounter with Prince Blueblood, and cheers her up with sex. I’ll hand it to the author, the intro to this is pretty well-crafted, though it also contains my major issue with the piece. Rarity is clearly shown to be in the throes of self-doubt, her self-worth entirely nil. So is it okay that she has sex with the first pony to compliment her, genuine compliments or not? Beyond that, this has some weird issues with POV and cheesy dialogue. Face it, if you’re coming at this story for anything but the clop watch out for the fisting, you’re doing it wrong.
Recommended for Cloppers Only
The Words Won’t Come by True Blue Spark
Fluttershy tries to work up the courage to tell Applejack how she feels about her. At its core, this is pretty much every shipfic with Fluttershy on the attack. In true anime style, she “accidentally” cooks too much food, invites AJ out for a picnic, and then tries her damnedest to say the words she wants to. In true February fic form (I think; it’s been a while since I used that term), she starts out already liking AJ, and they end up practically married by day’s end. Non-shippers will definitely want to skip this, but if you like shipping — and this is one of my favorite pairings, I should add — this is fluffy and cute and features a great cameo by Apple Bloom.
Recommended for Shippers Only
Maud’s River by ArtichokeLust
Genre: Character Study
Maud’s reaction to Pinkie’s first party. As character pieces go, this is quite good. Maud’s voice subsumes the narrative, and it makes a good case for her having some kind of mental issue. (Not autism, though, she’s too good with metaphors. If anything, her inability to understand the actions and emotions of others sounds more like sociopathy, at least in this story.) It’s also a very admirable and believable effort to reconcile season four canon with season one. (Remember that period of time between Pinkie Pride and Maud Pie where the question on everyone’s mind was “Who is the third sister?”) Though I will say that adding in Maud finding Boulder was a bit of an overreach, but probably the only issue I have with this. I’m just glad someone not only tried to do this, but got it right.
The Brief Reign of Princess Twily by Forthwith
Wanting to give Celestia a day off, Twilight Sparkle finds a loophole in Equestrian law that will allow her to do just that. Hopefully. This story has a “Lesson Zero but not terrible” vibe to it. (The scene when Twilight is contemplating ways to cause a national crisis got me worried, but the execution pays off.) It’s a really fun piece, even if it drags just a bit in the middle. We get to see both Twilight and Shining Armor as kids in the palace, and Celestia having a little fun at Twilight’s expense. Plus, filly Twilight as a cranky tyrant is just lots of fun. Also, there’s plenty of Cakelestia. If you missed this back when it was in the featured box, now’s the time to check it out!
PETAshy by Chelis
Fluttershy ends up as part of an animal liberation raid on a facility, coordinated by the Eco Kids from school. What strikes me about this is how she gets involved in this: she’s got a crush on the kid with the green dreadlocks, if you remember him, and what she thinks is going to be a midnight tryst ends up being, well, this. That’s hilarious. That said, the ending is played rather straight, so this isn’t quite as funny as it could be. This is in major need of proofreading, with colon misuse and “they” instead of “the” all over the place, but if you’re here for lols, you’re probably not going to care much.
Recommended If You Like Silly EQG Stuff
Bad Sonata! by Syeekoh
The Dazzlings accidentally meet up with Twilight and Sunset at Donut Joe’s after their defeat, where a horrible truth comes to light. This story is kind of amazing for a number of reasons. First, it shows the Dazzlings post-defeat as actually caring about one another, Adagio for Sonata in particular. That’s definitely not how the trope has been going lately. Second, Sonata has a “stupid attack”. Third, it balls up a bunch of EQG-related fanon into a single explanation that manages to be the most Cards Against Humanity-style hilarious thing ever. And then we learn about the power of forgiveness. This is pretty good, but be warned, it does take a turn.
Recommended for Terrible People
Hooves of Clay by iisaw
Twilight attacks Lyra in broad daylight, revealing her as a changeling, then vows to do something about them. It doesn't turn out well. I have my misgivings about this story, and though it tackles most of them during its course, the primary one remains: I can’t imagine Twilight getting that angry. I mean, we’ve seen her that angry, two seasons after this story was written, but problems of using later show canon for critique aside, it took a clear and present threat to all five of her friends, the princesses, and Discord before she acted on her emotions. Still, this ends up being more about Luna, and Twilight bonding with Luna, and the state of modern American politics than anything. Yeah, that last one’s totally in there. This gets maybe a little tangled up in the allegory, focusing on it more than is necessary, but I nevertheless appreciated it, and that it ends on a positive note. Given how things stand at the start of the second chapter — from where most of my misgivings stemmed — I was expecting another The Hanging of Twilight Sparkle. It’s just a matter of getting everyone to calm down so they can talk things out like rational ponies, after which they don’t seem to be so out of character. And Twilight learns a letter about politics. Definitely a worth read, as it left me with a lot to chew on.
6d, 2hIf you liked Awful Rumors...6 comments · 112 views
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1w, 1dFic recs, October 23rd!34 comments · 312 views
Did you know I follow 26 people who haven’t written anything? Crazy, right? Some of them are admins who aren’t writers. Some are musicians or VAs who aren’t writers. And then there are the people who I hang around with all the time and tend to forget are not writers. And then I judge them. I am judging them right now because they need to start writing. :|
Pascoite’s begun an interesting conversation about EQD, fic rejection and decreasing numbers of writers seeking help over here.
Neighrator Pony needs more exposure! He’s done a reading of Old Friends by RBDash this time, which is an excellent story. Dude just keeps cranking these out. :D Remember, you can follow him on Fimfic to get the updates, he cross-posts the videos. :B
Lastly, after the my last blog’s impromptu poll, I will be doing a Skywriter edition of fic recs sometime in the future! I chose him out of a three-way tie mostly because he has fewer stories that need vs. posts than Cold in Gardez. <.< (Also damn, it’s amazing how many stories from both of them I read before I started reviewing.) So he can expect to have his entire life’s work shit upon get some analysis of his stuff soon! :B Ish. My next project is reviewing all the writeoff fics, of which there aren’t as many (in the group anyway) as you’d think. (It’s also worth noting that, since he got a number of votes, I have added all of autumnschild’s stories to my RIL, and I added a few stories by other people who were voted for, but who I'm not following. Expect some reviews eventually!)
Anyway, I have no idea how this one got so huge that’s what she said, but hold onto your butts RILs, 'cause it’s about to get bumpy!
H: 0 R: 9 C: 3 V: 3 N: 0
Mr. Lonelyheart Meets Miss Lovestruck by scoots2
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Cheese Sandwich is called upon to throw a wedding party for Braeburn. The only problem is, Braeburn hasn’t exactly met his bride-to-be, and neither is what the other expected. This is fun for a couple of reasons, and the big one is Cheese. He makes a great foil for Braeburn, and he’s characterized really interestingly. In Pinkie Pride, most of what we remember of him is the wacky party pony, but it’s easy to forget that he spent the first and final few minutes of the episode being very serious. It’s suggested, in no small amount of words, that he only gets silly once there’s partying to be had, and because no wedding party is imminent in this piece, he remains stoic. I will say I was a bit put off by the reasons why Braeburn and Cherry Jubilee are disappointed in one another, mostly for Braeburn’s side, though they do balance. Cheese sees her as older than expected, overweight, and very much made-up, while Braeburn is too young and not the rich, middle-aged ranch owner Cherry was expecting. The clincher is that one is meant to stay on an apple farm, and the other on a cherry farm, and they sort of neglected to mention that in their letters. I want to give this points for having a really great punchline, which is something that’s been rather lacking in stories I’ve seen of late. On the whole, if you’re up for a low-key comedy featuring an interesting mix of side characters, check this one out.
After Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie declare snowball war on Twilight and Applejack, things begin escalating. This is one of the best slice of life (that is, no-stakes) fics I think I’ve ever read. Central to it is a true understanding of the ethos of Equestria: that it is perfectly reasonable for an entire town, even its leaders, to drop what they’re doing in order to engage in what is essentially a huge game of pretend. Missteps were few. There are a couple spots where the comedy is meant to come from overblown language that doesn’t really fit the tone. I was surprised when, partway in, Twilight was addressed as “Princess”, because given her “what is the point of this frivolous activity, oh wait, now I am experiencing this emotion known as ‘fun’” reaction to the snowball fight, I had this pegged as a season one fic. The Princesses’ arrival was, I felt, wholly contrived, though Luna absolutely steals the fic with a single line. Derpy’s scenes were maudlin and helped drag the story out a little too long, and that is where the major issue lies. There are so many spots where it seemed like the comedic beat of the moment would be the perfect punchline to end the story on, but it kept going and going. For the most part, this worked, but the author got greedy and kept pushing for more, driving up the chance of narrative overreach. Derpy’s scenes were partly to blame for this; the CMCs were another part. I wouldn’t hold this story up as an example of pacing, but as a light, show-tone comedy, it’s really fantastic. I like this 8’s and 6’s man.
Lyra Grows Fingers by Scramblers and Shadows
So I went into this expecting a little of this action, and I was so very, very wrong. Lyra grows fingers… from her shoulder. Oh my god this story is creepy. D: Body horror is a really good way to get a reaction from an audience, but few are the ponyfics I've seen that have actually been able to pull off any real kind of horror. It’s not just that fingers are growing from a place they have no business growing, nor that they’re sentient and start attacking her, nor even that they keep fucking growing. What sells the body horror is that Lyra feels through them. And much like Ash in Evil Dead, she’s gotta hack them off herself. The writing is perfect, showcasing Lyra’s obsessions in good order and using the “pop” sound effect to make everything that much creepier. (The innocuous noise Doctor Cobra uses for the onomatopoeia in the reading really helped.) Missteps are few; mostly I was just concerned by how bitchy Bon-Bon is. She wasn’t selling “they’re in a relationship” very well, though she makes up for it by the end. There’s also a good bit of swearing and some other, minor asides that didn’t feel too pony, which surprisingly bothered me more than anything else. I was thrown by the phrase “horn field”, though it’s at least easy to figure out what it means. I did like making Lyra a music teacher, as that’s a rather unusual, but entirely believable step for her as a character. I was absolutely riveted by this story, and fans of Stephen King will find a lot to enjoy. As for the rest of you, ‘tis the season for creepy shit, so turn off your Mature filters (it does get very gory toward the end, and though somewhat gratuitous, I will say this is the one fic where gore actually adds to the narrative) and go check this out! As horror, it’s up there with NIGEB, and as an inversion of fandom tropes, it’s tops.
Best Friends Forever by Obselescence
Celestia pays Twilight and her friends a visit. I would love to leave the review with just that non-descript summary and “it’s Obselescence, go read it”, because going into this story blind is so very rewarding. But if that's not enough for you, let me give you a taste of what to expect. It’s obvious that something is wrong early on because Celestia is flying over an abandoned Sweet Apple Acres and she has to disable magical wards to get into Twilight’s castle. Most importantly, the castle has a nursery, and its cribs are filled with… Twilight’s friends. The rest, you get to find out yourself. Suffice to say this is one of the best “Crazy Twilight” fics I’ve ever read, and the ending is fantastic. It carries a really weird idea all the way through. I will say that there were a couple spots where I wished the narrative wasn’t telling us what was going on, but in the end, this one’s totally worth reading. And in season!
Fluttershy’s Night Out by Bad Horse
Genre: Real Issues
Fluttershy goes out to a bar and meets someone. This is a story about a lot of things, but I’m not sure I can figure out what it’s about about, and I fault myself. I feel like all the parts are there and I’m just not putting them together. If I had to sum it up, I would say “sex doesn’t make you a whole person”, but I think that would be missing something. There’s Fluttershy, pre-show, trying to find her place in Ponyville, conquer her fears and grow up all at once. There’s the ponies vs. animals thread, which I couldn’t figure out at all. Then there’s the fact that this was written by Bad Horse and I spent the whole time reading it in a tizzy, waiting for the big R to drop. But while you could read consent or lack thereof into this story, it’s plainly obvious that that isn’t the point. The point, as I think is more clearly stated by the epilogue (added in after a year), is kindness, and forgiveness, and quite possibly that forgiveness is more about the forgiver than the forgiven. Definitely worth a read.
To Be a Mule by archonix
A young mule in love with a unicorn has a lot to learn about the rules of life. I like this because it focuses on Equestria’s institutionalized racism without having that be the entire reason for the protagonist’s problems. It’d be a little pat if it had. Added to this is Dal’s father’s views on romance, which are wholly realistic and entirely appreciated. This is a short piece, but in it we get a lengthy view of Equestrian society from those on the bottom of it, not to mention a rundown of one man’s regret. It’s really worth the read.
Gateway to Happiness by Spacecowboy
I ran into this feller while in the midst of Project Bookshelf, and he basically goaded me into reading one of his fics. :V That said, most of his big ones were pretty long, so the chances of me picking something good out of the short ones were low (as I have found tends to happen). This one, for instance, needs some work, mostly just in the writing. It takes a few paragraphs, for instance, to really sound like Twilight, and there are some spots where sentences could use some ironing out. But at its core, this presents an interesting idea: Twilight telling Celestia what she’s learned about other ponies by looking in their eyes. This is, if anything, a refutation of your standard immortality fic, taking place as it does between seasons 3 and 4, and I appreciate that.
Recommended If You Value Substance Over Style
Magic, and Mayhem, and… Murder? Oh My… by Invictus
suggested by Blood_rose_doll for being my 468th follower
Genre: Psych Crossover
An Earth-banished Nightmare runs afoul of fake psychic detective Shawn Spencer in her attempts to return to Equestria, and ends up dragging him along with her. I don’t know jack shit about the show this is a crossover with, but from what I can glean through the Wikipedia page, main character Shawn Spencer is a gifted, Sherlock-Holmes-level detective who, for some reason, isn’t really a detective and has to use his deductive powers and eidetic memory to pretend to be a psychic so he can actually help the police. It sounds funny, at least. Needless to say, when I was assigned this story to read, I was dubious. I certainly wouldn’t have read this story on my own, but happily, I’m glad I did, and I’d like to thank Blood_rose_doll for recommending it and being patient while I got around to it. (I might even consider checking out the show now!)
So what worked? For starters, Shawn comes off as your standard snark-fueled protagonist, which may turn off those leery of HiE’s. However, what the author does right by him is A) not make him the only POV character (though the first switch to someone else was rather jarring), and B) not make him the only funny character. (I was impressed, for instance, that Shawn was not the one to make the requisite “only the Shadow knows” joke.) This story has a good Pinkie Pie, and Shawn plays off Rainbow Dash remarkably well. He actually turns out to be an interesting character on his own merits. We get to see him both exercising his detective skills, and putting on his psychic act not only to bamboozle his opponents, but to impress his allies. I particularly enjoyed the running gag of his malapropisms, which was never overused. (Oddly, I found myself comparing him to Harry Dresden a lot; I mean, he even has a tiny car with a name!) Ultimately, the story ends up being about Celestia trying to atone for her mistakes, which is a plotline I always find compelling.
There’s a huge amount of really great world-building in this, as the last half takes place in a lawless city of thieves and smugglers, whose existence is explained quite well. (And in the ballsiest use of canon to justify breaking tone, Pinkie is linked to it just as believably.) The best world-building involves the minotaurs, though I also liked the snatches of Diamond Dog language. And on that note, this is one of those stories that revels in spotlighting all the ‘major’ races of Equestria, yet manages to do so without feeling contrived. There are plenty of great side characters, not all of them ponies. This is also a story an example of a crossover done well. There was only one spot where a reference to Psych lost me and was never explained, but it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of thing whose loss didn’t negatively affect the narrative.
The story comes in three acts. The first quarter or so is more or less your standard HiE: Shawn comes to Equestria, has to figure out what’s going on, makes friends with ponies. It’s honestly the weakest part of the story, with only one bit making it interesting: the question of what will happen to the Nightmare in his head. (An aside: I fully expected that Shawn would end up possessed by the Nightmare, or at least unleashing it into the world; that’s not what happened, so I have to assume I read something into the story that wasn’t there. Hopefully that doesn't ruin the first part for you.) The second third or so involves Shawn getting caught up in a murder investigation in Canterlot. Now, while the reasons for this happening are pretty contrived, once you’ve made that transition from HiE to “oh, now he can can show off his detective skills”, things really pick up. Not to mention, the ponies’ reaction to things like crime and death really sells the difference between Earth and Equestria. What follows in the rest is a long adventure piece, with lots of politics and skulduggery and all that world-building I mentioned before, not to mention explosions and some really excellent action scenes. The story pacing isn’t perfect, but on the scene level, nothing ever felt dragging or overly detailed.
What didn’t work? Well, the humor was kind of hit-and-miss. Shawn does a lot of pop culture referencing, which I have to imagine is true to his show, but wasn’t always appreciated. (Another similarity to Dresden.) Most of what I didn't like was just little things, but there were also a couple of big, sexually-themed “it’s not what you think it sounds like” jokes that I didn’t appreciate. There were a couple spots where the narrative went in a direction I expected and didn’t want; the identity of the noble’s daughter is the big one that comes to mind, though it ultimately was a non-issue. This is one of the few stories I’ve ever seen whose writing is a valley; that is, it starts out fine, gets worse in the middle, and then recovers by the end. I’m not sure what happened there, but having a mostly typo-free ending was appreciated. Also, Shawn thinks Val Kilmer is the best Batman, and that is just not cool. Really, in hindsight, far more worked than didn’t.
Ultimately, whether you read this will come down to two things, and I’ll say this: don’t let the crossover balk you. It’s fine. The HiE stuff at the start is both pat and a bit of a slog, but once you hit the first investigation, it all becomes worth it. I’ll be holding this up as an example of a good crossover for a while.
A Bad Plot by Achaian
After overhearing what she thinks is Rarity and Rainbow Dash deriding her posterior, Twilight goes a little nuts trying to find out the truth. There’s a lot going on in this story, and it’s all baffling; suffice to say, this is an awful lot of work to make a pair of bad jokes. The first is the old fanon standby of “plot = ass”. The second is the book Twilight sharing a name with one of this show’s characters. And that’s more or less all there is to this. You’ve got Twilight acting like an idiot for a few thousand words, a la Lesson Zero. You’ve got a background running gag about Fluttershy that, while humorous in its reveal, is very transparently meant as a red herring/distraction from the main story. Pinkie is admittedly pretty funny in both of her main scenes, and I was amused by Luna’s awkward attempts at the end to be amorous. Oh, and I called this a metafic because I'm pretty sure there's a running thread of comparing the standard story plot -- rising action, climax, all that -- to an orgasm, while both are happening in real time. But honestly, I'm just not sure. Really, I just don’t think this was worth it, though given my opinion on Lesson Zero, I have to imagine the whole fandom will enjoy this story.
Scootaletter by Poultron
You know, I had Poultron in my “need to review one story by everyone I follow, but only has incompletes” pile, but he’s also got this story, which I had already read! There’s honestly not much here. It was published before the encoded word limit and doesn’t even hit the minific limit of 400 words, and it’s just a short letter written to Rainbow Dash by Scootaloo. I don’t really get anything out of it, but I’ll say this: he captures the mindset of an excitable six-year-old writing about something she dearly loves. It’s just unfortunate that that mindset is kind of… annoying. You won’t find any deep character reveals or plot twists… or plot at all, really. But if you like slice of life stuff, this won’t take up too much of your time.
Coming for to Carry Me Home by MillenniumFalsehood
I’m reading this piece for the same reason as the last one, though it’s kind of unfair to really critique it since it was apparently a commission. Well, beggars can’t be choosers. This tells the story of Mark Adams, the brony son of a minister, who ends up going through a lot of shit when his parents find out he likes ponies. The approach to bronies here is pretty light; phrases like “He’d watch Rainbow Dash create a Sonic Rainboom later” feel disingenuous in this sort of story, like the author doesn’t really know what MLP fans do in their spare time. Mark’s conversation with his friends likewise feels more like a pastiche than a real discussion. What’s worse, Mark’s dad is pretty much every ultra-religious stereotype rolled into one character: he’s raised his son to be manly, he hates “fags” and of course he won’t stand for any of that sissy, sinful stuff influencing his children. If not for the fact that this purports to be based on real events, it would be comical. And that’s what this really comes down to. The writing isn’t the best and the characters are stereotypes, but real people have gone through real situations like this for the same reasons. I do wish this hadn’t gone the BiE route, because it adds another layer of preposterousness to the whole thing, not to mention cheapening whatever real ills others may have gone through. Then there’s the whole “Celestia as agent of God” thing that just… I really can’t take that seriously. It’s no surprise, though, I knew this wouldn’t appeal to me when I went into it, so I’ve got no one to blame but my own silly OCD.
Recommended Only If You’re Actively Smarting from Your Ultra-Religious Parents Having Found Your Pony Stuff and Thrown the Book at You for It
Hips Don’t Lie by Syeekoh
Rarity is mesmerized by Adagio Dazzle’s swaying hips. This is actually a pre-Rainbow Rocks fic, written based off the Battle of the Bands promo video, and as such, a few bits of it don’t line up with the movie, which is fine. It’s obviously not meant to be taken seriously, and it’s amusing as-is. I do find it odd that Rarity was picked as the one for the joke to center around; it could have been any of them, honestly. And I kind of feel like the ending joke about Sunset Shimmer eating meat is somewhat funnier than the one all the buildup was for, but that’s just me. This is short and fun, and that’s all I needed.
Recommended If You Like Silly Stuff
Overture by SuperGiantRobot
Vinyl Scratch tells the story of how she met Octavia. My review shelf is getting me into trouble already. City of Doors reviewed this, and I noted that I had read but not reviewed it myself and had to wonder just why I upvoted a ScratchTavia. (One not tagged Romance, I’ll note.) The draw here is the voicing: it actually sounds like (stereotypical fanon) Vinyl telling the story. Not just being the “I” in something that could just as easily have been third person, but actually relating a tale to an audience sitting right in front of her. Her asides are humorous and she injects a lot of personality into a story that’s basically “I was curious about classical music, went to see it, and it was generally not my scene, except, oh, that cellist was hot”. The buildup makes her getting sappy about everything work even better. And, well, other than the first scene telling us that they got together afterward, this ends up not being a ScratchTavia at all, just an emotional recounting of a musical performance by someone who didn’t expect to get caught up in it. And now I know why I upvoted.
Rarity Sprains Her Hoof Applebucking by SuperPinkBrony12
Genre: Alternate Episode Ending
Story synopsis is right there in the title. I am thoroughly baffled by the existence of this. The “Pony Does X” title, tags, and general setup suggest a crackfic. Instead, we get Rarity spraining her hoof, Applejack taunting her a bit, Applejack taking her to the hospital, and Rarity ending up in a wheelchair for a little while. It’s played completely straight, and I have to wonder what the point is. (That she and Trenderhoof have a sober conversation toward the end of the story might be a clue to the author’s intentions.) I really don’t know who would want to read this, but I suppose it works as a thoroughly realistic “what-if” for Simple Ways. It's certainly not written poorly.
Spike’s Hoard by Shotoman
Genre: Future Fic
Spike meets the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ newest member ahead of a day filled with crusading. This is the second piece in today’s journal that I would consider a refutation of standard immortality fic tropes. It’s obvious what Spike’s hoard is going to be from the start, but overall the tone is upbeat and the ending happy, if also genuinely touching. I really appreciated the use of fandom characters as descendants of the mane six; I also liked that Pee-Wee shows up, but only as having found Spike centuries after they last parted. The author set out to show that memories of past friends and family make outliving them bearable, and he has done precisely that.
I love how "brony son of a minister" sounds like an epithet. :B