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Minds Eye

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Minds Eye's Coin Flip Reviews 2: Ciphers, All the Time in the World, Dear Princess Celestia · 11:53pm Aug 24th, 2015

Welcome to the sequel no one asked for!

I’ve got three more stories for all of you, three more coin flips to make, and three more reviews to write. If the coin comes up heads, that story gets a positive review, and I highlight the things I enjoyed. Tails, and I go negative. After all, just because something is perfect doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

And away we go!*

Synopsis: Facing an arranged marriage, Fleur de Lis has one final chance to choose her own fate when her secret lover pays her a surprise visit.

Coin says: TAILS

The story opens with Fleur alone in her bedroom, mentally and physically preparing herself for her imminent wedding. Taking a break from the motions her mother has drilled into her, and from the “proper” decor that has been forced into her life, she pulls out a secret box of keepsakes to cheer herself up.

I might as well make this my first issue. How big is this box? Granted, this might have been saved for the list of minor issues and nitpicks later on, but I got a chuckle reading through the list of things Fleur pulls out. A seashell. A flyer. Photographs. A mail pouch. All these and an indefinite amount more somehow fitting inside a small box, which in turn fits into a hidden panel in her bench. After a splendid job of setting the tone, this impromptu moment of Hammerspace just made me smile and roll my eyes a bit.

In fact, I believe the tone of this story becomes one of its only weaknesses. After Cipher, Fleur’s true love, enters the scene, the story goes on a heart-wrenching trip that draws heavily on the theme of puppet strings established in the opening. While these strings guide the story to its conclusion, I wonder if they bind the reader a little too close to what’s happening.

I am specifically referring the Fleur’s parents, and the reaction Fleur fears they would have if they knew what was going on. Not only do they fill the role of overbearing and intrusive authority figures, but their “connections” also provide a deterrent to any thoughts of Fleur sharing her life with Cipher. It’s a common enough idea in stories about nobility, and I feel it’s left a bit undefined here.

There are examples presented in the narrative of how much influence they wield inside Canterlot, and while Cipher is a Royal Guard, Fleur’s father could call in a few favors within their ranks. Because of a monthly poker game, which left me thinking, That’s IT?

I don’t doubt for one second that Fleur and Cipher feared the possible consequences, but the threat that was so sharply clear and obvious to them was left so vague and hazy to me I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had whispered Crystalsssss in my ear.

Minor issues and nitpicks:

Fleur stared into the oversized mirror appraising, judging, criticizing every last detail.

There should be a comma after mirror to separate the following phrase.

taped to the inside of the it.

Extra “the.”

Princess Luna had stopped to autograph the back of her ticket.

The ticket this bit refers to is for Fleur’s first Grand Galloping Gala, which throws a bit of a wrench into the setting, canonically speaking with the show’s timeline.

abandon you like that either.”

“Then again...” Cipher scuffed a hoof

Cipher is the speaker in both these lines. The closing quotation in the first implies a different speaker in the second.

Final thought: This story made me want to punch something, and considering how trapped Fleur felt throughout, I mean that in a good way.

Synopsis: After years of research, calculations, and experimentation, Doctor Whooves and Minuette are ready to test their time machine, and one of them learns something about chasing after dreams because of it.

Coin says: TAILS

This story has a disarming charm to it--from the “science” the Doctor and Minuette employ to send her through time, to some curiously timed turns of phrase sprinkled throughout--that serves to mask the truth behind the setting, specifically how long the events of the story have been taking place.

It’s a clever idea, but it backfires a bit concerning Minuette’s characterization. Her love for the Doctor is established as her motivation fairly quickly, and her decisions don’t have a lot of weight beyond that.

Her first journey through time, fifty years into the future, leaves her wanting to return to her present as soon as possible to be with her Doctor. In spite of the fact she is told to her face that she will indeed return at a certain time, and armed with the knowledge of exactly why she and the Doctor don’t have a future together in this timeline, she goes back immediately to try and change the past rather than wait for the proper moment for her to return.

Thing is, Minuette dismisses any consequences her decision would have on this future. She doesn’t care about anything except returning to her Doctor. Even when she finds another future in which they can be together for a time, she regards him as not her Doctor. There’s another one out there for her to find.

On the surface, Minuette comes across as willful at best, and cold at worst. However, I think she’s neither. The subtext of the story paints her as desperate, a mare grasping at straws to find her dream. It depends on perspective.

And there lies the question. How often has Minuette travelled through time? There are only a few trips confirmed in the story, but I think it has to be more than that, considering the hints I picked up skimming it over again, and the trick Minuette is able to pull at the ending. That wasn’t exactly an amateur effort.

Overall, there is some good depth to this story. Not sure it should have been hidden, though.

Minor issues and nitpicks:

"roller skates".

Even though this isn’t dialogue, the period would go inside the quotation.

her muzzle parted in wonder.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this phrase before. I think her jaw dropping or her mouth hanging open would be good enough.

Co-designer of the first time machine to grace the realm of nonfiction; first mare to see the future; eligible bachelorette!

The semicolons are excessive. There doesn’t need to be that hard a separation between these labels.

She squealed on the tile and fought the grip of those icy hooves.

This is the icy hooves’ first mention, somehow grabbing Minuette off-page.

She burned, she fell apart.

Comma splice.

Final thought: While this is a grand idea with a touching ending, I can’t help but wonder if expanding the middle ground would have been out of place.

Synopsis: Twilight Sparkle writes another letter detailing her private demons, knowing she’ll never, ever send it.

Coin says: HEADS

Clocking in at less than twelve hundred words, this story wastes no time setting up its premise, or introducing its plot point, and this brevity serves as its greatest strength.

Stories dealing with depression in one of the Mane 6 always have a hurdle to jump: we see them almost every single episode. It can be hard to reconcile what we see and understand about these characters when some writer tries to tell us how one of them is harboring some secret sadness through everything.

This story’s approach strikes me as much more realistic. Twilight’s depression comes and goes, but while Twilight is able to live her life, its spectre is never truly gone. She lives at its mercy, for when it comes back, she breaks down under it and nothing else matters to her until she puts it to rest. The implications of this cycle are far more engaging than any story I can recall that features a twenty-four hour depressed main character.

And a cycle it is, because Twilight responds to it with an almost clinical reaction. Her self-therapy is right in line with her character, and the forthrightness of her letter speaks of someone who has pondered these same thoughts before, if not daily.

Again, I find this approach more engaging than similar stories. I was able to relate to Twilight’s struggle here not as a character that wallows for the sake of having a character that wallows, but as someone who tries to come to terms with her situation however she can.

I loved the ending, too. The final two sentences are a simple idea pulled off in dramatic fashion, and they left the story on as high a note as they could.

Minor issues and nitpicks: (not extensive)

As I walked home from yet another of Pinkie’s Welcome to Ponyville party

I believe “yet another” is referring to a singular member of a group of things, so party should be plural.

I forced myself to ignore it, and instead headed up the stairs; my hooves clicking against the crystal with every step.

The semicolon should be another comma. “Clicking” is not a verb you need to worry about matching with a subject.

This was in a passing though,

Thought would work better, although “This was just in passing though,” could also work, considering the context.

forced it back inward rather than outwards, depending on the intensity of the spell, I could be

Twilight is writing in a hypothetical sense, so “force” is correct at the start. Also, the phrase starting with “depending” kicks off a new sentence, so a period after “outwards” is better.

I didn't know why Luna surprised me as I slowly walked over to her.

Frankly, yes, Twilight did know. Someone was sitting in her reading corner for the first time.

Final thought: Solid execution takes this small idea and turns it into a nice snapshot of a pony’s life, both her low points and the hope she later feels.

*I certainly hope you’re not thinking of using my coin flips to decide whether or not to read a story. All three of these have their merits, and I strongly encourage you to read them and judge them yourselves.

Report Minds Eye · 513 views · #reviews
Comments ( 5 )

Drat, I got tails! :twilightoops:

Seriously, thank you for taking time to review my story, and I'm glad you liked it overall! I appreciate the feedback. :)

Oh, and thank you for pointing out those few small grammar goofs. They've been fixed. :)

You're welcome!

It's always interesting to read these, Minds. I'm not sure how you can write them like this and have them make sense either way.

[insert cliche about two sides of a coin]

[insert cliche about having an eye for things]

[insert cliche about... minding something]


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