PaulAsaran 1,998 followers · 79 stories

Technical Writer from the U.S.A.'s Deep South. Writes horsewords and reviews. New reviews posted every other Thursday! Writing Motto: "Go Big or Go Home!"

News Archive

  • 1 week
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCCLIX

    Hello, FIMFiction! It’s time for another round of reviews.

    Over the last two weeks I have been pondering what I could use this introductory segment for. I always seem to have something to talk about, but I don’t know if the public at large is interested in most of those things. Do I bring up my own attempts at writing, at the risk of it looking like self-promotion? I’d discuss writing in general, but there are plenty of places that already do that. I used to talk about things going on in my own life, but that feels inappropriate. I am, at least for the moment, at a loss. Suggestions would be welcome!

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    56 comments · 1,977 views
  • 125 weeks
    SA: The Last Round

    "So, what do you think, Corejo?" Wanderer D asked, politely showing off the stack of papers in his claw.

    The burlap sack with the printed (in color!) face of Corejo remained silent.

    "I see, yes, yes!" Wanderer D cackled. "Ahahaha! Yes! I agree! This story should do fine! So, who's reviewing it? RT?"

    The sack that had the picture of RTStephens on it tilted just enough for a single potato to roll onto the table.

    "And we have two! Alright, team, I expect you all to figure out who's doing the next one, okay? Let's not keep the readers waiting!" He glanced expectantly at the several sacks with pictures around him. "Alright! Dismissed."


    "Ah, intern. Is that my coffee?" Wanderer D took the proffered mug and downed the contents in one go. "Excellent! No time to rest! We have to edit what the guys just handed to me."

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    110 comments · 9,322 views
  • 147 weeks
    SA: Round 186

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

    The Dodge Junction train ramp was not where Floydien expected to be part of a reunion.

    He especially didn’t expect it to happen four times in a row.

    “Wait, Winter? What are you doing here?”

    Winter’s eyebrows raised. “On Summer vacation. What about you?”

    “Uh, same.”


    The two Angels looked to where the voice came from. Cynewulf came running up to them, a wide brimmed sunhat and sunglasses adorning her head. “Fancy meeting you two here!”

    Floydien scratched his head. “Same. Are you on vacation too?”

    “Yep! Had a blast down on the Horseshoe Bay coast.”

    “Well, ain’t this something!”

    All turned to the fourth voice. Knight strode up, his body decked out in fishing gear, complete with a fishing pole balanced over his shoulder. “Haven’t seen so many of us in one spot since vacation started.”

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    12 comments · 5,069 views
  • 162 weeks
    SA: Round 185

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

    Winter and Knight stared out at the bleak townscape. All around them, the fires raged unchecked as Ponyville's former occupants stumbled mindlessly about, their undead faces ravaged by rot and decay as they moaned for sustenance. Knight turned to Winter.

    "Ready to go?"

    Winter nodded and shifted a backpack. "Got everything with me. I guess it's now or never."

    Knight gave a wry smile. "That's the spirit. You do have your reviews, right?"

    "Of course!" he said, patting his chest. "Right here."

    Knight nodded and said, "Alright, here's the plan: we stick to the shadows as much as possible. From what I can tell, their eyesight isn't that good, but their sense of smell is excellent. We just have to stay upwind."

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    10 comments · 4,653 views
  • 169 weeks
    SA: Round 184

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

    “I see. Alright, I’ll let him know.”

    Intern twisted a dial on the small mechanical piece attached to his ear, retracting a blue, see-through visor from across his face. He turned to Floydien, crossing his arms. “It’s confirmed. Generation 5 is on its way. Season 2 of Pony Life is just around the corner. And the series finale of Equestria Girls was scrapped for a holiday special.”

    Floydien lifted an eyebrow. “And, what does that mean for us?”

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    10 comments · 4,805 views
  • 172 weeks
    SA: Round 183

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

    Over their heads the flak guns peppered the sky. The planes roared and sputtered. The clouds were dark, heavy with the child that was war. It was all noise.

    Cynewulf looked around the bend. “You know, I’ve been reading old fics. Remember Arrow 18?”

    Floydien slipped—a Floydien slipped—One Floydien came through the fractured time in the lower levels of the Sprawling Complex. “Uh, human in Equestria?”

    “Yeah. You know, we were probably too mean about those.”

    “They were terrible. I mean some of them. I guess a lot of everything is terrible.”

    “Well, yes. But anyway, I was reading it, and it occurred to me that what I liked about it was that it felt optimistic in the way that Star Trek was optimistic. It felt naive, but in a way one wanted to emulate. To regress back into it.”

    “Uh, that sounds nice?”

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    7 comments · 6,014 views
  • 178 weeks
    SA: Round 182

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

    “Okay, Winter, hit it!”

    Winter pulled a lever that ignited a rocket placed underneath the communal Christmas Tree. The tree blasted through a cylindrical hole and out into the skies beyond. It only took seconds for the tree to become a tiny red dot against the blue sky.

    Winter stepped away from the control panel and down to where Intern was standing behind a fifty-five millimeter thick glass wall. “We could have just picked up the base and tossed it in the garbage bin outside, you know.”

    Intern scoffed. “Yeah, we could, or we can go over the top in a comedic and entertaining manner that leads into our reviews.”

    “You’re getting all meta, now.”

    “Exactly! On to the reviews!”

    ROUND 182

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    6 comments · 8,041 views
  • 183 weeks
    SA: Round 181

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

    For the first time in the year that he worked there, FanficFan finally experienced quiet in the Seattle’s Angels Compound. All the other reviewers had gone home for the holidays, leaving him and Intern to submit the last round of reviews of the year. However, with Intern off on an errand, FanficFan was left alone.

    With stories ready to be read by his partner, all the reviewer could really do was wander around the empty building, taking in all the holiday decorations left behind from the Office Christmas Party a few days prior, like office space holiday knick-knacks, lights strown about the ceiling and wreaths on nearly every door. Plus, there was some leftover cookies and egg nog, so that was nice. 

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    8 comments · 6,457 views
  • 186 weeks
    SA: Round 180

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

    Cynewulf lay in a grassy field. This was a curious occurrence, as the Seattle Angel’s Dyson Sphere-esque compound basement labyrinth did not usually have grass. 

    But like she had many times before, she’d been teleported here, and whether or not the sky above her was real or not, she didn’t mind. The grass was nice, and the wind was nice, and whatever happened happened.

    There was a great crash and Corejo stumbled into the grass to her right.

    “Oh, god, are we out? How did—”

    “No clue. I suspect that it’ll just take us back anyhow. Did you have the reviews? The machine came for me a few days ago, so I’ve got mine.”

    “I… Uh, I was late. I mean, we both are, unless you’ve been here for days.”

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    9 comments · 8,208 views
  • 191 weeks
    SA: Round 179

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

    Winter peered cautiously out the corner of the broken window, surveying the damage outside. He turned to his companion.

    "Looks like we're trapped in here," he said quietly.

    Intern grunted and adjusted the bandage on his arm. "Nothing we haven't gone through before." He looked up at Winter. "Got your reviews?"

    Winter nodded and patted his chest pocket. "Right here, where they're safe." He turned and looked once more out the window. "Now, it's simply a matter of getting through all those ponies." Winter shuddered as he took in the horrors before him.

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    10 comments · 5,301 views

Story Reviews » Paul's Thursday Reviews CCCLVIII - It's Showtime Edition · 9:38pm May 30th

I've always wanted to start a blog with that.

Good evening, FIMFiction!

Those of you unfamiliar with my sleepy avatar, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: Who is this weirdo and why is he suddenly invading the site-wide news feed? Allow me to illuminate you.

The name’s PaulAsaran, RariJack is the OTP, and Luna and Rarity are Best Ponies. Oh, and I do reviews. Which is what this blog is all about! You may have seen my name sprinkled around FIMFiction in the form of my "You can has review!" calling card. As the massive roman numeral atop this post implies, I’ve been doing it for a while. Close to a decade, in fact. Apparently I’ve impressed someone out there, because earlier this month I got invited to take these reviews to the news feed. It was flattering and intimidating. I waited a long time to make a decision, but seeing as you’re reading this you know what I eventually chose.

So here we are, my first public review blog. These reviews come out every other Thursday, so now you have this to look forward to! I’ve created a separate blog explaining how my review system works (including how I handle requests), which is linked at the bottom of the blog, but for this initial blog I’ll link it here so y’all don’t have to scroll all the way down there to read it. For those of you not wanting the whole spiel, here’s the cliff notes version: 10 fanfiction reviews per blog, one of which will be a longer story, plus one non-fanfiction story. All ratings and genres may appear, but no direct links will be given for M-rated stories (because site rules). No clop, usually nothing incomplete. I am not a cherry-picking reviewer and sometimes I take risks, so there will be some negative reviews every now and then.

My humble thanks to the admins for giving me this opportunity to spread the word on good (and bad) stories across the site, and for all the generous support I received from my friends and followers when I sought out advice on whether to accept this. It was that overwhelming positive reaction that pushed me over the edge.

As much as I theoretically love talking about myself, I’ve said enough. We’re all here for one reason, and I think it’s high time we got to it. Who wants some reviews?

Stories for This Week:

Crumbs by daOtterGuy
Cypress Zero by Odd_Sarge
On the Wing of Friendship by Deathscar
Rainbow Typhoon by Nonsanity
Recovery by Soufriere
Tending to the Heart's Forgotten Garden by Botched Lobotomy
Apple Sense by Godzillawolf
Celestia's Secret Secret Room by naturalbornderpy
The Days in the Cavern by PinkamenaPiePrincess
Ptolemy by Wellspring

Total Word Count: 254,805

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 2
Pretty Good: 6
Worth It: 1
Needs Work: 1
None: 0


7,352 Words
By daOtterGuy

Bright Mac and Pear Butter are gone. That’s it, just gone. Or perhaps… “lost” is the better term. Granny Smith will make sure they come home, even if she has to keep trying every week. It doesn’t matter what her grandfoals have to say about it.

Set immediately after the deaths of Bright Mac and Pear Butter, this is a story about grief. After trying to read the story of Hansel and Grettel to an Apple Bloom who just doesn’t get it, Granny latches onto the story as a means of coping. Convincing herself that Bright Mac and Pear Butter are merely “lost in the woods”, she starts going out every weekend to leave a trail of pie crumbs for them to follow back home.

Big McIntosh and Applejack take it about as well as could be hoped. Which is to say, not well at all.

This was a hard-hitting story. Every chapter has its moment of impact as each member of the Apple Family hits a breaking point – in Granny’s case, two of them. It’s a story about regrets, self-forgiveness, and healing. Apple Bloom’s chapter was the best, IMHO. I especially like how every chapter begins with the tale of Hansel and Gretel, but with each retelling the tale changes a little to come closer and closer to the truth Granny Smith is trying to hide from. Very effective.

A capable sadfic with a positive conclusion, and an excellent introduction to this author. Definitely give it a go if you want to see emotional turmoil done well.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Cypress Zero

114,971 Words
By Odd_Sarge

Searing Cold is a cargo ship captain. He’s also a kirin, which is notable to most ponies. He’s just arrived at Cypress Station, a densely populated, asteroid-based space station that he considers home. And he was glad to be there… up until a cyborg pins him down and threatens him. But kirins are peacemakers, and Cold – intentionally or otherwise – may be the best peacemaker in known space.

Gotta admit, it was the concept of a science fiction starring a kirin that got me interested in this. The ‘war machine’ mentioned on the cover page was not remotely what I was expecting.

This is a story of “friendship trumps all”, which the cynic in me is rolling its eyes at but the pony lover within me can’t stop grinning about. We first meet Searing Cold, a kirin just back from a courier run with cargo that is legal, if barely. He is ambushed by Fokienia, a cyborg who was made to be a weapon of war by a secretive organization known only as The Facility. Fokienia just escaped the main base of said Facility and is trying to gain her freedom, and she only went after Cold because he might be in the way (let’s casually ignore the fact that  she snuck aboard his ship). But as a kirin, Cold is a firm believer in using diplomacy to solve his problems. Thus does he talk Fokienia down and even begins to help her.

Which is why he spends much of the story fleeing with her from some very unpleasant ponies fiercely determined to get her back.

Fokienia and Cold of course work together to fight back and avoid capture. That’s to be expected in a story like this. The curious bit is how much of a contortionist act Cold, Fokienia, and Odd_Sarge perform, bending as far back as they can to make every encounter a nonlethal one for all involved. Even most of the bad guys are going in with nonlethals in an effort to achieve their aims in the most bloodless way possible.

If these were humans, I’d find that preposterous. But they’re ponies, so I’m alright with it, to my own surprise.

In the entire story, I think we might be able to identify one truly villainous pony, and that pony only appears for… one scene. In the entire story. It’s practically a cameo, except cameos are for ponies we know, and we don’t know this one beyond the fact that he’s among the (usually) faceless pullers of strings. Literally all other encounters in the story involve ponies who fiercely believe in their causes and fail to realize that their goal and the goals of their opponents aren’t all that different. Or, to paraphrase one commenter: the left hoof and the right hoof don’t know what the other is doing and the rear hooves are doing their own thing in the meantime. They’re all part of the same overarching body and they all have the same or similar goals, but their unwillingness to communicate with one another has unnecessarily put them at odds.

Cold and Fokienia? They’re just trying to kick-start the communication.

There are a handful of annoying complexities. A lot of characters will show up and depart just as quickly, and while they have an impact on the main cast they themselves barely exist (like that villain I mentioned). There’s also this one scene where a bunch of ponies are talking about a coming, inevitable war on Cypress Station but their explanation for why is… obtuse. I left that chapter understanding the conflict even less than I already did.

Then there’s this one fight that is told in this obscure, somewhat-first person perspective where it’s hard to tell what’s actually happening. You get some of it, enough to know that Cold and Fokienia won. But later, when the narrative returns to normal (and sometimes several chapters after), they reference specific things that happened in the fight and I’m like “wait, that happened?” I get wanting to experiment with the narrative style a bit, but in my (humbly correct Southern) opinion, this one didn’t quite work.

But ignoring those bits, this is a very capable effort to ponify (and kirinify) science fiction. It’s got “friendship is magic” baked into its core, there’s some decent worldbuilding worked in to justify everything, and it takes great pains to maintain a semi-realistic vision of a space-born future. With a great focus on character growth and some strong (and unexpectedly non-lethal) action scenes, it’s about as good as one can hope. It is a bit of a slow burn – Odd_Sarge takes their precious time getting into the meat of things – but as long as you can tolerate that, I see no reason not to recommend it, particularly for lovers of sci-fi.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Rainbow Dash wakes up after a battle against Sombra’s forces to find herself in a lot of pain, both physical and emotional. But it is only her pain. Others are also hurting, including her best friend. That’s more important than her pain.

This isn’t so much a story as it is the opening chapter of a story that will never see the light of day. It sets up the scenario, lets you know what the stakes are, and then it ends. You will want to know where it is going because, through this small window, Deathscar demonstrates the talents of a capable writer. But you will never know, because what happens next does not exist. For some people, that will be extremely annoying.

The good news? This is clearly set in the Sombra War timeline but before Twilight appeared there, thus we at least have an idea of where this is going. That’s hardly satisfying, but it’s something.

I like what this has. I even feel like I can appreciate what Deathscar was trying to do with it, because it’s clear there was never any intention of going beyond this point in the first place. The author demonstrates a capable sense of Show vs Tell, creates a scene that feels vivid, and really makes the emotional state of all involved clear. But the fact that it ends without any real resolution counts heavily against it, at least in my eyes.

A good showing of the author’s quality in writing, but a poor demonstration of the author’s ambition. Still, if all Deathscar’s writing is this capable, I’ll be looking forward to whatever I read next by them.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

When a series of unfortunate events lead to the Wonderbolts being one too many ponies down, Spitfire offers Rainbow Dash to temp in for a coming show in Manehattan. Naturally, this is a dream come true. Alas, it is a dream that won’t last very long, because there’s a monster storm approaching the city and nopony, not even a Wonderbolt, stands a chance against it. But Rainbow is there, she has valuable skills, and she’ll do what she can to help.

This was an interesting tale of a traumatic fight against nature itself. Most storms depicted in MLP fanfiction are something akin to enemies to be defeated or weapons to be controlled. It’s very rare to see a story in which a storm is outright unstoppable, and when that happens the true threat of such a thing may be underplayed. But Nonsanity makes this storm a true hurricane, something so huge and so powerful that not even the almighty Rainbow Dash has a hope of denting it.

What makes all of this so interesting is how traumatic the event is depicted, particularly for Rainbow Dash, and how incredibly hard she fights through it to save as many ponies as she can. It’s far more emotional a story than I ever expected, one in which Rainbow learns that sometimes the best you can do is just… well, the best you can do, and sometimes that’s good enough.

Vivid descriptions, intense bouts of emotion, and a pony of Loyalty struggling to overcome herself and maintain hope in the face of inevitable defeat all combine to make what is a thrilling, sometimes painful story of self-discovery. It is an excellent introduction to this author that leaves me looking forward to more.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


6,200 Words
By Soufriere
Sequel to The Rejected

Sunset Shimmer wrote in her journal to Twilight! Except that she did so in some super-ancient language that not even the brilliant Twilight Sparkle has been able to figure out (shocker, I know). Luckily, Celestia is able to read the runes, which open with the rather disappointing line: “I write this entry expecting and hoping that Twilight will not be able to read it.” So if the letter is not meant for Twilight, who is it for?

This is intended to be the last entry in Soufriere’s “Sunset Recovery Arc”, a series of 13 short stories beginning with Sasha and totalling around 61k words. The series details Sunset falling into a deep depression, complete with self-isolation and self-harm, and her gradual recovery into a functioning member of human society, largely thanks to (an eventually crushing) Rarity’s insistence on being there for her. For the last few stories Sunset has been hard at work on a research project she’s adamantly refused to tell anyone about, and in this story we finally get the fruits of those labors: a private, personal letter to Princess Cadance, who tried so very hard to be her friend before she left Equestria.

On the one hand, I am glad to have reached this point in the series. It’s good to see Sunset finally getting that last confirmation that she’s going to be fine.

On the other hand, some of the decisions are… odd. Like (Princess) Twilight’s strange behavior that has literally everypony around her constantly on edge, up to the point that Celestia feels it appropriate to trick her into leaving Ponyville for a while to give everyone there a break. Or the mention that Mayor Mare is now a criminal who was granted asylum in the Crystal Empire. Or how Sunset wrote this long, personal, hopeful message to Cadance only for Cadance to not get an opportunity to respond at all (and somehow being okay with that).

Odd decisions all around… although I will note what might have been a Civil Service-verse reference, and if I’m right about that then I thoroughly approve.

I question the appropriateness of the more humorous quirks in a story that is, on its face, supposed to be about the final step in Sunset’s psychological recovery from the deepest pits of depression. I can forgive some of that on the suspicion that they might be part of another set of stories (eyes the so-called “Burrito-verse” warily), although I don’t suggest that with any confidence. But when it comes to the weird decisions surrounding Cadance and Celestia, I can’t make heads or tails of it. Yes, it might be nice to see Celestia offer forgiveness this way, but let us not forget that Sunset wrote specifically to Cadance. So what, is she just not going to answer now and leave an emotionally vulnerable Sunset to think that she doesn’t want to respond? Celestia can say “I got this” as many times as she wants, in regards to Cadance’s part in all of this she does not. Talk about butting your giant white muzzle where it’s not wanted.

Not a bad end for the arc, but not a great end either. It almost feels rushed, as though Soufriere decided to try and hit both Celestia and Cadance’s parts out in a single story when they should have each had their own. Still glad to finally get here.

And now there are a few post-arc sequels to get to…

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
SashaPretty Good
Sunset Shimmer: Spider QueenPretty Good
One Does Not Deny A LadyPretty Good
Rarity Visits Sunset Shimmer at 4 a.m.Pretty Good
Rarity Reveals...Worth It

Alternative Title: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Twenty years is a long time to be together. And now they’re not. Wallflower Blush turns to her old, forgotten diary to try and sort through her feelings now that Sunset Shimmer has left her.

This one is told in multiple chapters, and each chapter is told in two parts. The first part is Wallflower Blush writing in her diary, trying to put down in words her feelings now that Sunset Shimmer has broken up with her after twenty years. Each chapter depicts her gradually coming to terms with this new reality and how painful it is to do so.

The second part is texting conversations between the two of them back before they were dating. Each chapter gradually builds up their relationship as friends and classmates until they get to the inevitable point of romance.

The two sides serve as delightful juxtapositions, one to highlight how it all went so right and another to try to understand how it all went wrong… or at least accept that it did. One feels like it’s building up to something great, the other like it’s deconstructing down from something horrible. Both are well-crafted compliments to one another and tales in their own rights.

The text messages were my favorite part. Not because they were objectively happier, but because it’s so rare to see someone pull off such an emotional connection between two characters using only dialogue. Botched Lobotomy handled it like a pro, making it so very easy to understand exactly what Sunset and Wallflower are feeling in any given moment. Some people might want to take notes.

An all-around excellent fic, with a creative method, emotions on both ends of the happy/sad spectrum, and a conclusion that was nothing save appropriate. I can see why it won the contest it was part of.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Rarity in SlumberlandWHYRTY?

After reading the now-published Friendship Journal, Pinkie realizes that Applejack has her own version of Pinkie Sense but doesn’t know it. She’s determined to prove this to Applejack. Applejack would rather not believe a word of it. That’s when Pinkie decides to call in backup…

This story is written in the style of one of the show’s sillier episodes. The first half or so involves Pinkie doing various things in an attempt to make Applejack aware of her Pinkie Sense, like trying to drop apples on her head or randomly slamming open doors Applejack would have been hit by if she didn’t stop at exactly the right moment. When none of this works, she eventually calls on Maud to really hammer the point home.

I thoroughly approve of both this idea and its execution. The show-like humor is well managed without throwing off the characters, i.e. Applejack, Pinkie Pie and Maud all behave in ways that make perfect sense given who they are. Then you get to the second half which is notably more serious without sacrificing that sense of being show-like. Really, it’s about as good of an “unofficial episode” as one could hope.

My only point of contention: I thoroughly disagree that Applejack’s “Apple Sense” only kicked in with the episode Somepony to Watch Over Me. I am of the belief that – assuming we maintain the concept that she has it at all in canon – she’s always had it from the beginning and it simply wasn’t obvious or refined enough for regular, practical application. But meh, that’s just me.

Not a bad story at all. Give it a go if you want to watch ponies being silly for a short time.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Just A PonyPretty Good

A guard accidentally let slip that Celestia has a “secret secret room” where she goes to de-stress. Twilight, ever-curious and desirous of knowledge, wants to know more about this topic. The good news: royal guards are easy to bribe.

This was highly entertaining. From how Twilight bribes the guard to the exact method of opening the hidden door to Celestia’s (secret secret!) room to exactly what Celestia gets up to in said room, it all works wonderfully to bring a smile to my face. The words “silly”, “fun”, and “adorable” all come to mind. Show-like is also suitable, with perhaps the sole exception of Luna’s secret destressing practice (although with a bit of tweaking it too could fit).

There’s not much else to say. It’s a cute story that exists for the purpose of being cute. What more could you want?

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Bookworm's DelightWHYRTY?
Any Last Requests?Pretty Good
Princess Celestia's Newest Arch EnemyPretty Good
This Dance We DoPretty Good
Please Open The DoorNeeds Work

It’s A Canterlot Wedding from Cadance’s perspective. What more do I need to say?

When I saw that this story existed, I was really hoping for something different. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a story that tried to depict exactly what it was like for Cadance while she was trapped in the caverns from her perspective, and that had some appeal to me. Alas, PinkameanPiePrincess decided on a different approach.

You know what would have made for an interesting story? Cadance, trapped in the caverns for a week with no idea what’s going on, how much time has passed, or if anyone ever realized she was gone. That could have been a roller coaster of turmoil ripe for the skilled author’s plucking. That’s what I was hoping for with this story.

Instead, we just get A Canterlot Wedding retold in detail. Chrysalis allows Cadance to witness everything we’ve already seen in the show and react to it. That’s it, that’s all this is. You know all the events, you’ve heard all the dialogue, the author is just repeating it for you.

To be fair, there is some attempts at originality in there. Cadance can only see the things Chrysalis does, for example, so there are things she’s witnessing that Twilight didn’t, such as exactly what Chrysalis said to Fluttershy, or a handful of conversations with Shining Armor. We get to see exactly how Cadance was captured, although that amounts to her getting instantly defeated by changeling goo with zero attempt whatsoever to fight back.

The part that I most approve of was a genuine effort on PinkamenaPiePrincess’s part to replace the songs with conversations that use the lyrics as dialogue. I say ‘approve’, but I specifically mean the intention; the delivery left something to be desired, with most of said dialogue coming off as forced and unrealistic. I still appreciated the attempt.

But the few attempts at creativity couldn’t disguise the fact that this is just a familiar story retold with no extra bells or whistles. I wish I could say that the writing is good enough to serve as a counter to these issues, but…

I had no idea where I am[...]

I fell to the floor. She had hit me where it hurt the most. My heart.

Yeeeeah. Apparently this author thinks subtlety (and Show) is for the weak.

A pity. This was all-around uninteresting to the point that the ending excited me for being the ending.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The Battle of Fort BookWorth It


62,610 Words
By Wellspring

Alternate Title: A God in the Equine

Surprise the Pegasus, Element of Laughter, is dead. She has been for some time, and ever since Twilight has been hiding in her library, so disassociated with the world that Spike had to go live with Fluttershy. Many ponies – most – believe that Twilight murdered Surprise. Twilight agrees with them. But she’ll find a way to fix it. Surprise will come back. No, not just Surprise: the entire world.

Or you could just say Twilight has an epic freakout of ultimate Twilighting.

There are two things about this story that stand out. The first: yikes, is the writing crummy. The number of errors are innumerable, specifically because I’m certain any attempt to count them would accidentally omit several errors due to so many appearing per sentence. Incorrect verb tense, multiple verb tenses within the same sentence, added words, missing words, incomplete sentences, references to human anatomy on equine characters, pronouns arbitrarily changing, and on and on and on. When the story started I was faced with the unpleasant reality that it was going to be a tough read. Worse, it’s got ~61,000 words in a single chapter, all of it equally badly written.

It was a long day.

But all of that makes the second thing all the more surprising: this is a great story. Yes, the writing is crap, but the context is something of a sadfic masterpiece. And once you get to the end it’s not so much sadfic as it is… context. Lots and lots of context.

The gross simplification is that Twilight, after supposedly accidentally killing Surprise the Pegasus – again, Element of Laughter – devotes her life to finding a way to bring Surprise back from the dead. This involves an in-depth study of forbidden magic, complete self-isolation, and eventually an effort to commit genocide. Yes, genocide. Willingly, premeditated, and total.

And you might be wondering: how the heck does the end of all life equate to bringing one pony back to life, and how in Luna’s name could that possibly be worth it? I mean, if one pony is alive at the expense of all others, that one pony would have a pretty crummy life, wouldn’t she?

Twilight thought of that.

Along the way we get advanced magical theories and lore, some of which will probably go well above your head (especially in the scene where Celestia is trying to explain things to a thoroughly and understandably confused Rainbow Dash). To be honest, sometimes it felt like Wellspring was abusing a thesaurus in the hope that Big Words would make them appear smarter than they are. But the concepts are later summarized in several ways so that one of them eventually seeps into the caverns and crannies of the reader’s brain, or at least it did for me. And it all ties the story together, beginning to end, in a surprisingly tidy way.

The culmination of all of this is a climactic battle in which Twilight, wielding godlike powers, gets into no-holds barred life-or-death brawls with half of her friends and Celestia. Some of this fighting is over the top, including things like Twilight getting smashed by a flying tombstone and coming out of it with only a minor bruise. I spent my youth working at a cemetery, and let me tell you: a blow like that would crush most people’s organs. So yeah, things get anime-esque ridiculous, and that’s before the summoned meteor shower.

If you’re into that kind of thing, I’m sure it will be deemed awesome. To be fair, Twilight does have an excuse for why she can take such punishment. But other characters don’t and somehow still pull it off, so results may vary.

There’s also the question of organization and its impact on reader interpretation. From the very first moment, the Twilight Sparkle we meet doesn’t seem remotely like the Twilight Sparkle we know. She’s an OC, gloomy and mean and seemingly full of spite. The story lets us know quickly that Surprise is dead and this is the cause of Twilight’s abrupt about-face in character, but to me it’s not remotely enough to justify things. Thus is the reader forced to undergo some 50k words of watching Twilight being a supervillain with little proper justification behind her actions and behavior.

Eventually, when the climax has passed and the story is practically over, Wellspring finally reveals to us the facts. Hell, they show them to us directly. This might serve as a proper catalyst for all that came after, but it’s way too late for all those readers who abandoned the story 45,000 words ago because Twilight is acting OOC.

I can see why Wellspring thought it was a good idea to do this. There’s a clear flow to the story that benefits strongly from this not being the first thing we see. The opening we have now is a hook, as is the mystery of Twilight’s behavior and that often-mentioned but never detailed encounter between Twilight and Surprise. I suppose Wellspring decided that the risk of losing the impatient was worth having those hooks.

And the story is indeed a powerful one. Even with all the grammatical issues and blatant attempts to over-epic things, it was hard not to get worked up over the events. Fights get desperate. Beloved characters will die, sometimes in agonizing ways. Connections will be both forged and destroyed. Emotions will run rampant. Then that ending comes that puts it all together and… well, it’s a fantastic ending. I’m not even talking about the epilogue; the last 5,000 or so words are a kick in the gut, but in a good way.

This will not be getting my highest rating. The issues in the writing are far too great and constant for me to forgive, and some elements are a bit too melodramatic/overblown. But I’ll still be rating this highly, because this is a rare case in which the meat of the story almost makes up for it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Arthurian—The Black KingWHYRTY?
Why Do Apples Taste So Sweet?WHYRTY?
All About RarityWHYRTY?

Bonus Review: This is How You Lose the Time War

198 Pages
By Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Published 2019

Across time, space, and reality, there is a war. Two organizations – entities? – battle for eternal supremacy through timelines and alternate universes. To fight these wars, they raise soldiers. Or is it warriors? Perhaps secret agents. And two of these, the best of the best, are about to meet. In doing so, they will discover something far more important than winners and losers.

I was hooked in no time.

The story is set in this strange reality where two supreme, culturally exclusive powers – the Agency and the Garden – do battle across the many threads of reality. Red is the Agency’s greatest asset, a dimension-hopping super soldier capable of the most daring, most suicidal acts. Her ever-continuing mission is to traverse the threads of the many different timelines making changes, some small and some huge, that the Agency believes will lead to all timelines across all dimensions eventually having the Agency as the supreme power.

One day, Red is just about to perform another daring act of time espionage only to discover at the last second that her plan was already thwarted by another player. This rival, Blue, is Garden’s own top super soldier, and she’s more than happy to goad Red with letters left at the place of her defeat. This soon leads to a cat and mouse game where Red and Blue start one-upping each other in ever more elaborate schemes across time and space, each leaving their outsmarted other a cheeky letter explaining exactly why they won that round.

But as time goes by – as much as time can exist for two immortals constantly going forward and backwards through it across various dimensions – the letters change tone. The agents begin to find things they admire in one another, praise each other's methods, and begin to look forward to their next letter regardless of whether it comes from victory or defeat. As crazy as it might seem, Red and Blue go from arch-enemies to respected rivals to friends. They begin sharing stories, interests, pasts.

But when you work for nearly omniscient entities/organizations that regularly monitor you for deviancy, how do you maintain a friendship with what is supposed to be your enemy?

This ended up a ton of fun. It comes with historical quips, references to historical events changed or prevented or encouraged. Billions may die, but billions will also live. There is so much that is alien and hard to conceive, and the authors make no attempt to explain such things. How do the agents leap from timeline to reality to past to future? How is it they can possess a body and then leave it with the original occupant none the wiser? How is it a message can be written in the taste and crunch of a berry, or the entrails of a baby seal? Yes, that last bit really happens, and those aren’t even close to the strangest things.

Perhaps we might refer to it as “soft technology”. The reader is going to have to accept this concept to really get into the story, because every page is layered with nebulous claims of fantastic things happening without any explanation for the rules surrounding those things. But as long as you can go with the flow and merely accept that these things “are”, then you should be able to focus on the underlying point: two souls finding love and themselves in an existence of ceaseless conflict.

In some ways, this is everything you’d expect from the most basic “rival spies fall in love” premise that serves as its skeleton. The fantastic world through which that story plays out, however, gives it a revitalizing breath that kept me smiling from start to finish. Throw in timey-wimey shenanigans, an underlying mystery that I should have seen the solution to from miles away, and an endearing wittiness in the letters shared by our protagonists, all topped with a dash of dread regarding the awareness that their dalliance could be discovered by their respective orders at any time.

It all comes together to form a very fun read. I have no choice but to highly recommend it, especially to lovers of science fiction, time travel shenanigans, and unconventional romances. I am so glad I discovered this one.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Stories for Next Time:
The Midnight Run by Midnightshadow
All because of a test by DitsyDerp
Counting Noses by Kris Overstreet
Finding Home by Krickis
The City Upon a Hill by GaPJaxie
The Place I Feel Safest by Lucky Seven
Play My Track, Vinyl by iDash
Changeling: The Movie by Obselescence
Gee, Tempest, Why Are You So Tall? by Super Trampoline
Rainbow Dash Digs Herself Into A Hole by Thanqol

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Reading Progress:

Twilight Sparkle: Night Shift
68.11% (84,820 / 124,536)

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64.37% (55,022 / 85,480)

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Comments ( 50 )
TCC56 #1 · 3 weeks ago · · ·

A great opener for the site-wides, and a damn good slate. I'm really hoping you do more daOtterGuy and Odd_Sarge, as well - both are excellent writers with a robust library. I think you'll quite enjoy more of theirs.

Welcome back to the public scene, friend! Maybe in a few months I might bother writing something worth your attention :derpytongue2:

Congrats again on becoming the site reviewer, you absolutely deserve it!!

Rego #4 · 3 weeks ago · · ·

Paul on the News Bar! Very nice. I'm glad you decided to take the plunge and let your review blogs be posted to the sidebar.
And I can second daOtterguy being of stellar quality. His descriptions and narrations are some of the best I've seen on the site. He also has the only Flash Sentry I've enjoyed. Definitely a good author to explore.

It begins. :raritystarry:

So stoked to see this finally get its gizmos a-going, bud! Can't wait to see the wider reach and (hopefully) positive reception by newcomers this series will now get. It's gonna be weird not seeing these blogs when looking at your Blog tab, but I'll get over it. :twilightsheepish:

In any case, a solid slate as ratings go for your inaugural site-wide edition! I wasn't too hot on the one story here I've read, Celestia's Secret Secret Room, finding it largely standard "eh, why not" throw random/cute things at the wall, excepting the quieter pathos that leaked in around the end. But it's diverting and amusing enough.

And echoing what TCC56 said – only your first stories from daOtterGuy and Odd_Sarge? You've got plenty more greatness ahead of you where they're concerned! :scootangel:

Excellent to see you unleashed on a wider audience!

Congratulations, Paul! May you gain many new readers who delve into your decade-long backlog!

Apparently this author thinks subtlety (and Show) is for the weak.

Oh I feel this so much right now. I was gifted a book recently and ... It has these issues among others. But it was a gift, so I've gotta finish it.

The almighty red label!

Good luck and good work.

This is how you lose the time war is fantastic! I loved how strange and poetic all the sci-fi was - and as an eternal sucker for quality enemies-to-lovers, I liked the central romance quite a bit, too.

Also, thanks for the kind words! I know it's, like, artist law to hate your past work, but I'm still quite pleased with Tending - it was also the first piece I wrote that won a contest, so I've got a soft spot for it.

Congrats on the site post!

Only one I've read is "On the Wing of Friendship."

The author demonstrates a capable sense of Show vs Tell

Odd, I had exactly the opposite reaction. I also found it needed quite a bit of proofreading, but if you didn't pick up on that, given how much it bugged you in a couple of the other reviews, this may have been revised since I saw it. I do agree that the conclusion is weak, but I didn't come at that from the point of view that it might be leading up to a sequel or that it's supposed to use the canon episode as its conclusion.

Here's to the first of perhaps many sitewide posts!

Cypress Zero is one that's been sitting on my radar for a while, maybe I should move it up into the queue.

Author Interviewer

daOtterGuy and 0dd_Sarge are both names I recommend digging deeper into, I keep finding good stuff by both of them :)

I see a lot of recommendations for the rest of Odd_Sarge's stuff and I agree wholeheartedly. Iridium and Black-on-Black in particular resonated with me

I’m pleased as punch to see you in the recent news column, and as a site post in my feed. And with a lot of great and interesting stories up on the list! Can’t wait to see more!

So, on the less pleasant, Cypress Zero side of things: thank you very much for reading, and I’m really surprised with your rating; I’ve been more anxious about your review than you know (and as I refresh the page and see more and more comments including me[!!!], extremely surprised). A discussion last month about CZ labeled it as a “formative work for the writer”, and I really think all the major annoying tics and mistakes—not limited to the issues you mentioned—fall under that umbrella. I will say, I’m proud to have made those mistakes, and I hope to keep improving as my stories go on. However, I’m still sorry you willingly put yourself through them. In the end, all the bads of CZ were written for me.

BUT, the ponies were for you.

If these were humans, I’d find that preposterous. But they’re ponies

This right here is everything to me, because negative nuances aside, I set out to instill a certain theme in Cypress. The theme I had in mind is exactly what you listed in summary: “friendship is magic baked into its core”, and particularly, its persistence in spite of the setting. One of the things I covered in my story notes blog for CZ is my eternal, intimately personal desire of “trying to reinforce themes of friendship and magic into my stories about the world of MLP:FiM”. Cypress Zero illustrates my desperate attempt to translate ponies to one of my favorite genres, while simultaneously being one of the hardest genres for me to justify for ponies. And again, I’m all too glad that the amateurish mistakes plaguing the fic didn’t hide the goal of “ponies!” from you.

As to not turn this into another rambling comment, I’ll move on. After the monumental challenge of writing CZ, I’ve still plenty thoughts in mind for writing more ponies in sci-fi. But for now, I’ve returned to my obsession with pre-Hearth’s Warming and pre-FiM settings, because while the far future of CZ is my interpretation of how ponies might fit into that space-born future, the magical land of the pony planet is where I truly feel they belong.

Thanks to all for the kind words, even if I really feel I’ve barely earned any of it.

Wowie!! I always enjoy reading your reviews and am thrilled that this may make it easier for me not to miss 'em. You are definitely worthy of the spotlight, always so well spoken in-depth and constructive. Congrats on getting the invite and I look forward to future Paul Reviews in my news! :yay:

Posh #16 · 3 weeks ago · · 2 ·

Botched wrote one of the best stories I've read on this site, period. Was proud to see it win the SunFlower contest. In a competition that was pretty well stacked, Forgotten Garden stood head and shoulders above everyone else.

If you're reading this, go give Botched some love and attention, or I'll come to your house and put my shoes on your coffee table.

ooo, ive been meaning to read time war for a while; ur review has definitely bumped it up to the top of my list. congrats on the first site-wide blog!

There are a handful of annoying complexities. A lot of characters will show up and depart just as quickly, and while they have an impact on the main cast they themselves barely exist (like that villain I mentioned).

Then there’s this one fight that is told in this obscure, somewhat-first person perspective where it’s hard to tell what’s actually happening.

I must confess, I was initially very excited about Cypress Zero, but I struggled to stay invested in the story because I eventually got lost on what the conflict was about. Maybe it was because of the quirks mentioned above, or maybe I was a little too focused on waiting for genre tropes and story beats that never appeared.

I did finish it, but it left me wishing that I'd vibed with it more. :fluttercry:

Oh hey, I remember Secret Secret Room.

After reviewing stories for so many years, could I selfishly ask if you have any writing tips for somebody wanting to write good stories?

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5783790 5783794 5783795>>5783819 5783826
Surprised to see all this praise for daOtterGuy and Odd_Sarge. Perhaps I will fasttrack (in a manner of speaking :twilightblush:) more by them and see if the hype is real.

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Maybe in a few months I might bother writing something worth your attention :derpytongue2:

It's bound to happen eventually. You're on my author's list just like everyone else I've read. Alas, that list has almost 800 names on it, so you can understand it takes time to get to some people.

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He also has the only Flash Sentry I've enjoyed.

My lone story heavily featuring Flash Sentry is sitting in a dark corner crying right now.

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Huh. You're right, they don't show up, although if I look at the Blog option in the dropdrown list at the top of my screen it still shows up. I guess it only appears in my private list. Part of me thinks I could double-post just to have it show up, because I would like to use the blog list as a record, but if it appears in my private list then I guess it's fine. Maybe I'll start linking to it in my non-review blogs just so that my followers have a permanent link to it whenever they want.

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We've come to an age where fanfiction, once the joke of all literature (and still is according to the Guardians of Publication), can be just as good if not better than published works.Actually, we've been there for over a decade now.

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This is how you lose the time war is fantastic! I loved how strange and poetic all the sci-fi was - and as an eternal sucker for quality enemies-to-lovers, I liked the central romance quite a bit, too.

It was great, wasn't it? Glad to see someone else has already found it! It's kind of amazing how in the midst of all the WTF? going on throughout that the authors somehow managed to make the romance still feel genuine. Between two people who never even meet face to face, no less!

I know it's, like, artist law to hate your past work

Maybe for other artists. I love all my works! I might cringe at some of my writer's mistakes on some of them, but I don't love them any less for them. And no, thank you; Tending was great!

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Yeah, I suppose they did make some improvements then. Always good to hear! There were a few spots of Tell, but they were blended with Show in such a way that I felt they complimented one another for the most part.

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I will say, I’m proud to have made those mistakes, and I hope to keep improving as my stories go on.

Nothing makes me happier than to hear this. Writers should take pride in their mistakes. They're how we improve.

At any rate, I feel like you achieved exactly what you were after, despite some of the issues. I look forward to the next one, but first: the sequel.

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Hah! Shows what you know; my coffee table is so full of electronics there's no room for those shoes!

Not that I'm at risk of not reading more Botched works.

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Here's hoping it lives up to my review!

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Oh, I understand. There's that scene in the shop we're they're supposed to be explaining what's going on and I'm all like "Uh... So who wants the what with the when and the why?" The plot definitely needed some de-tangling in the middle.

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You'd have to be a lot more specific. There are so many individual topics that I'd need to write a genuine, publishable book to even pretend at talking about everything. Alternatively, you could:

  1. Ask me to review a story of yours for feedback (assuming there are still any slots left!)
  2. Simply read through my many past reviews to see my past criticisms.
  3. Contact Bad Dragon and ask about their list of helpful blogs/guides. Every time he sees someone ask a question like this he responds with a massive list of them covering a wide range of topics.
  4. Join Viking ZX's Unusual Things blog and read through its history. He has a ton of blog posts with excellent writing advice regarding a wide range of topics.
  5. Join The Writer's Group and ask specific questions for advice there. You can count on somebody responding there!

Quality reviewing is back in the Fimfic news feed? Is Fimfic finally healing? Hell yeah! Congrats, Paul

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I don't know if it's a sign of FIMFiction "healing", but I appreciate the "quality" compliment nonetheless!

Per…haps I should’ve been more specific.

How would you say setup and payoff should go? Should the writer be a mastermind and have everything planned out from beginning to end, or just wing it through the writing process and come up with the twists and turns as the story comes? And which do you find more enjoyable to read?

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Some thrive on that "seat of the pants" writing style, whereas others can't do anything unless they've planned out every step of the story in advance. Take, for example, Stephen King. There's a famous story where a woman, on her deathbed and a huge fan, begged King to tell her how The Dark Tower series would end. He had to inform her that he had no idea; he was making it all up as he went. For someone like me, not knowing the ending before I even start writing is tantamount to insanity, but nobody will tell you Stephen King is a crappy writer.

To the point: Different methods work differently for different people.

My personal preference as a writer is a combination of both. Whenever I start a story, I always have an idea of the Big Picture. I know the start and end, and I know the big, important moments in between. All the gritty details of how to get from Point A to Point B? I make that up as I go. Sometimes it works great and I can pack and ship it right off, other times I need to go back and make improvements, but for me it's easily the best way to get the job done.

One thing I absolutely recommend is to always finish a story before publishing anything. I used to be the type who published chapters as I wrote them, but this led to all sorts of issues with the plot's skeleton – topics brought up and subsequently forgotten, plot holes, pointless tangents, and so on. Nowadays I feel it's better to write it all down then take some time to fix the errors that inevitably come from developments that came during the writing process, that way the final released project can be at its best. Sure, it'll take longer to get that sweet, sweet approval from readers that all writers thrive on, but it's worth it if you're looking to write a better overall story.

As for "which reads better"? Neither. Again, different methods work better for different people. I've seen some authors release stories chapter-by-chapter as they're written and make amazing work, and I've also seen people flounder because of the same method. I've read stories that were meticulously planned from start to finish, but the author was so focused on said plan that when better options became available they either ignored them for the plan or didn't see them at all, whereas there are others who go all Twilight Sparkle-levels of organization and make amazing works of art. Both methods have their pros and cons and neither is better than the other.

The key is figuring out which one works best for you. The only way you'll be able to determine that is to try things out and see what happens. Yes, that'll probably mean you'll make mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable. They're also critical to your development as a writer. Don't be afraid to try different methods and practices for yourself. If something goes wrong, you now know what not to do. If something goes right, keep using it and maybe experiment with it a little, try to find ways to improve upon it. Will some of your stories flop? Inevitably. Live with it, love it, learn from it, and you'll be on your way.

That’s a big helping of advice, and I appreciate you taking the time to write it out. Thank you.

I’ll see about making sure I write the whole story out and smooth over the creases afterwards, and try the different methods along the way.

The roman numeral is "358".

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Which means I've posted 357 blogs prior to this one, not counting back when I did them on Mondays or the ones I wrote before they became a regular thing.

Congrats on the site posting, that's badass and you totally deserve it. The work you've put into your reviews for such a long time is nothing short of incredible—I check them weekly, and I've found so many lovely stories I otherwise would've missed.👏

I'm biased towards Forgotten Garden for a couple obvious reasons, but it really does remain one of my favorite stories on this site. I'm normally a hopeless romantic, so I was a little surprised to find myself agreeing with the rest of the judges that a story about falling out of love should win the contest, but gosh dang it it's just so well-written in every way. I think my favorite thing is that at its heart and at its end, for all the grief and regret of lost romance, there's a glimmer of hope about learning to love oneself, which is the most important love of all. That's how I took it, at least. You did amazing work on it, and I'm glad you're proud of yourself because you should be 🙏💖

Comment posted by TheronActs deleted June 5th
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Ask. That's it. If you don't want me to read/review your library – ever – then say so and I'll put you on the... Well. I was going to say "ban-list", but that has certain negative connotations I don't intend. At any rate, I already have a few authors who have asked me to never review their material, and I do try to stick with those requests.

Just be aware that it is total. You can't say "never read my stories" and then later go "except this one". If I can't read one thing from your library, I can't read anything from your library. I'm not going to let authors cherry pick what they think is their best and not be allowed to explore the rest of their library.

EDIT: I've added review banning rules to my rules blog to account for this clear oversight on my part. Head there to get the details, although it's mostly what I said above.

Thank you sir.
Have a great morning

I'm far too late, so this will be very short, but huzzah for this starting in earnest! And indeed, yet another recommendation here for daOtterGuy's stuff.

Bandy #50 · 1 week ago · · ·

Stoked to see another great Botched Lobotomy fic gracing the review board! Equally excited to see Time War getting a well-deserved moment in the limelight. It's Max Gladstone's absolute best!

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