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Titanium Dragon

TD writes and reviews pony fanfiction, and has a serious RariJack addiction. Send help and/or ponies.

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Read It Later Reviews #40 – The Djinni’s Tale, Mortality, From Dat Place to Dis Place, How Sunset Rose, The Stars Will Aid in Her Escape · 4:52pm Dec 19th, 2015

Unbeknownst to me, BronyWriter has long been a member of the Royal Guard. Yesterday, he jumped back in in a major way, and began reading stories left and right. I had to join in, as did a number of other folks, and between the lot of us we managed to process a whopping 15 stories in a single day, and put at least one decision (a consensus of at least two votes in the same direction are necessary to approve or disapprove of a story) on a bunch more.

Here are five reviews of stories I read yesterday, which finally put me past the point where I reviewed 100 stories for the Guard.

Today’s stories:

The Djinni’s Tale by Snake Staff
Mortality by BronyWriter
From Dat Place to Dis Place by Elric of Melnipony
How Sunset Rose by Oroboro
The Stars Will Aid in Her Escape by Dragonjek

The Djinni’s Tale
by Snake Staff

Adventure, Alternate Universe, Romance, Sad
18,659 words

In the deserts of Saddle Arabia, an explorer finds more than he bargained for in an ancient tomb.

Why I added it: The Royal Guard queue. My 100th story decision!

A traveler in an antique land finds a lamp buried beneath the sand.

The story of an unnamed (until the end) explorer finding a lamp containing a djinni, learning the rules, then making his requisite three wishes, this is honestly a somewhat standard story about a djinni in many ways – nowadays, it is standard to want to free the djinni, but this one does not want to be freed for some reason, despite her imprisonment in the lamp between masters being a terrible form of sensory deprivation. His first is thrown away, as is standard for such things, while the second is much better thought out. But what will be the third and last, at the end of all things?

This is a very archetypical story, and the writing style reminded me of older writing styles – and not really in a good way. The entire first chapter is very telly, and the rest of the piece is as well, though to a lesser extent. The story doesn’t really start to get interesting until over a third of the way through, as the first several chapters are spent on the protagonist learning stuff that we, as the audience, already know about Djinni. This is the sort of thing that can really be bothersome in a story, as the knowledge is essential, but the idea of the genie who gives you three wishes is an ancient one, and very prevalent in our culture. To avoid it being kind of boring, you gotta do something clever with it.

Unfortunately, this story didn’t really do that, and thus spends a large chunk of verbiage on stuff that the reader already knows. The rest of the story is decent enough, but it is predictable if you are familiar with such plots, and the story tags rather give away what is going to happen in the end to some extent. Ultimately, I found it hard to really engage with this story in the way it wanted me to; if you can get past the first 6,000+ words or so, it starts to finally become okay, but it never really wowed me, so I’m not really sure it is worth the investment.

Recommendation: Not Recommended.

by BronyWriter

Equestria Girls, Sad
3,162 words

Twenty two years after their defeat at the hands of the Rainbooms, Adagio has lost contact with her former cohorts. However, when she receives shocking news, she tracks down one of them for another meeting...

Why I added it: It is one of only five human-tagged story in the Royal Guard queue at the moment.

Adagio meets up with Sonata 20 years after the events of Equestria Girls 2. Sonata has changed a lot, but Adagio remains unsettled with the idea that someday, she is going to die. And recent events have made that even worse for her.

I noticed this story back when it was featured, but it ended up slipping past my “Read It Now” queue, so when I spotted this on the Royal Guard queue, and saw it was one of the only human-tagged stories left in the queue, I quickly snapped it up.

Unfortunately, while the premise of this story was decent enough, the story ended up very emotionally flat for me. You can guess at the reveal of the story from the summary, and the whole thing felt very predictable. Sonata and Adagio were both pretty flat characters, and neither of their voices came through very clearly in my head – they might as well have been strangers to me as a member of the audience. Adagio was noted as having grown up considerably, and frankly, it makes sense that she might not end up the ditz she was when she was younger, but it doesn’t really help reinforce her character very much. I was never sucked into Adagio’s emotions or mindset, and that made it hard for me to really care about what was going on with her. On the whole, the piece doesn’t really feel like it goes much of anywhere, and very little actually changes for Adagio by the end of the piece.

Recommendation: Not Recommended.

From Dat Place to Dis Place
by Elric of Melnipony

Adventure, Comedy, Human, Random
7,169 words

He's misanthropic, anti-social, lazy, shallow, and kind of a jerk. He's also not very bright. So why on Earth -- any Earth -- would a complete stranger expend the magical energy necessary to shove him into another reality, give him unfathomable power, and grant his every last wish?

Why indeed...

As requested, here's my parody of the second-worst thing to ever happen to fanfiction.* The cover art is only tangentially related, but it amuses me, so I'll keep it unless something better comes along. (A talented artist who loathes this ponyfic sub-genre as much as I do might attempt at some point to draw the main character in all his gear, but I'm not counting on it.)

Why I added it: It was in the Royal Guard queue, and was one of only three human-tagged stories I hadn’t read yet.

At first when I read the description, I felt a terrible sense of dread. Someone submitted a Displaced fic? That is not my thing. Maybe I should read something else.

Then I read the small text disclaimer.

Then I looked at the story cover image again, then re-read the title, and realized – oh, a pun. A terrible pun. About an obscure D&D monster.

Okay, now I have to read it.

At last! After months of waiting, it was finally here. Today was the opening day of UmWhatCon, the very first fan convention for people who are into things that they don't really get. Best of all, I had a VIP pass!

Me? I'm John D. Blankslate. (The D stands for "Doe".) My eye color, hair color and other physical attributes are surprisingly variable, so just imagine that I look like an idealized version of you. (If you're a dude, I mean. If you're a chick, imagine a dude you really wanna do the horizontal bop with.) I would tell you more about myself, but characterization is something that happens to other people.

Between the day I bought my pass and today, I had worked really hard on my costume. This was going to blow everyone away. Why limit your cosplay to just one character? I had the revolutionary idea of going to a con dressed as fandom itself. And after ages of preparation, I was ready.

On my right hand was the Infinity Gauntlet with all six Infinity Stones. (Or Gems, if you prefer the comics.) On my left hand was the full "emotional spectrum" of Green Lantern-style power rings, including the white one of Life and the black one of Death. (One was on my thumb, and the rest were doubled up on my fingers.) On my left wrist was an Arisian Lens, a distant relative of the rings. Strapped to my left forearm was the Elder Wand in its quick-draw sheath; on my right forearm was the Runestaff.

In the center of my chest was a Tron identity disc (in the original Frisbee-like style, not the ring style). Normally that would be on the back, but it was easier to grab this way; also, I had on my back a portable particle accelerator that was good for laying the smackdown on ghosts and other undead. Slung next to that contraption was a phaser rifle with a detachable lightsaber in the bayonet position, as well as a top-mounted Xeelee starbreaker.

It, uh, goes on like this for a while.

Fortunately, it gets better shortly afterwards, when he finally runs into the shopkeeper (or whatever the dude who sells people costumes in Displaced fics is called):

At last I got a look at the man speaking to me. He looked like a “Faces of Meth” PSA poster where the “before” picture was Steve Buscemi. I felt I could trust him instantly. “You kind of a jerk, kid?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“You like to break stuff?”

“Yeah.” Who doesn't?

“You a borderline sociopath?”

I frowned. “This is the one where I'm supposed to say 'no', right? I don't really understand what feelings are, but normal people tell me they get bad ones when I say yes.”

He smiled. It was horrible. “Great. Last question, kid. Do you like doing to canon what Catholic priests do to altar boys?”

“Boy, do I!” Was there anything better?

Now, for those of you who don’t know, Displaced is (or, I should say, was) a major meme on the site for a while. An outgrowth of the League of Humans Acting Villainous stories, it fundamentally has a similar premise – a character buys a costume from a vendor at a convention, and the costume teleports the character to Equestria, where he starts doing bad things because… well, whatever. That’s not important. Point is, shit goes down.

Unfortunately, while the story is clearly a parody of all these stories, as the person in question quickly proceeds to go on a rampage for no reason at all in Equestria in chapter 2, it is pretty hollow and soulless – while, yes, it is easy to make fun of people with such power fantasies, even dialing the whole thing up to 11 didn’t really make it all that funny, as the whole thing still felt as flat as ever without a character who you could care about. The whole thing has a general sense of detached unreality that many such stories have, and while chapter 3 explains why, it then throws the moral of the story at the audience with all the subtly of a very special episode, outright telling us why the protagonists of these stories are so messed up rather than really trying to understand them on a more intuitive level. The humor is completely gone in chapter 3, and nowhere in the story is as funny as the bit at the start with the shopkeeper.

This story is very much preaching to the choir, and does so at the expense of all else.

Recommendation: Not Recommended.

How Sunset Rose
by Oroboro

Slice of Life
2,837 words

Sunset Shimmer knew she was better than the other ponies around her, even if she didn't have her cutie mark yet. She had to be.

She just needed to find a way to prove it.

Why I added it: The Royal Guard queue, and it was previously in the writeoff.

Sunset Shimmer doesn’t want to be messed with, so she digs up dirt on all of her classmates to ensure that any time they try to “mess with her”, she can hurt them back and make them leave her alone. They’re clearly all jerks who don’t recognize her talent, and don’t understand that she’s always right.

So why does everyone overlook her all the time?

But she isn’t the only overlooked flower in Canterlot; every day, Celestia walks by a gnarled bush om her garden without paying it any mind. But Sunset knows that every day, when the sun sets, it blooms into the most beautiful of roses. Maybe if she could make it bloom, Celestia would stop overlooking it…

The story of how Sunset Shimmer became Celestia’s student, this says a lot in a pretty small space. Sunset’s mentality is already obviously malformed, but she doesn’t really quite understand how or in what way she is “wrong”. Every bit of this story points towards how Sunset Shimmer is “off” as a person, and all of it points symbolically towards why she failed as an adult.

Recommendation: Worth Reading.

The Stars Will Aid in Her Escape
by Dragonjek

Slice of Life
3,104 words

Nightmare Moon was not one to sit about and wait in hopes that she might sometime escape. She would bring about her freedom with her own two hooves!

All she needed was power. Enough to fill the stars and drag them from the skies.

For an alicorn in chains, that was magic she just didn't have. But she could take it; it was only a subject's duty to give of themselves for their Princess's sake, was it not? Still, that would take time, centuries even, and with such thorough bindings she would be unable to take more than scraps from from common peasants.

No, she would need somepony... special. Somepony attuned to the stars themselves.

And if no such pony could be found, then she would make one.

Why I added it: The Royal Guard queue.

The stars will aid in her escape.

So the prophesy that Nightmare Moon ripped from the mind of a pony said.

With a thousand years, Nightmare Moon has plenty of time to manipulate things so that the power of the stars will aid in her escape. A dream here, a freak coma there, draws ponies together even from Nightmare Moon’s lunar prison. Generation after generation produces increasingly powerful magic users, until, finally, at long last, she has the pony she has been looking for.

Twilight Sparkle’s power will be what will finally break her free.

A story of malicious irony, here we see Nightmare Moon trying to manipulate events in Equestria to ensure the conditions necessary to ensure her escape from the moon. It seems all too easy to her – Celestia may shield her own mind, but the traps she sets in the dreamscape are insufficient to stop Nightmare Moon’s progress. It all seems so perfect… but even the best laid of plans don’t always work out the way you intended.

A story of a chess game with mortals gone terribly wrong for one of its players, this is a fun if rather sinister piece. I’ve always enjoyed prophecy twists involving Twilight, and this story enjoys playing with the prophecy almost as much as I do.

Recommendation: Worth Reading.

The Djinni’s Tale by Snake Staff
Not Recommended

Mortality by BronyWriter
Not Recommended

From Dat Place to Dis Place by Elric of Melnipony
Not Recommended

How Sunset Rose by Oroboro
Worth Reading

The Stars Will Aid in Her Escape by Dragonjek
Worth Reading

As noted, we are running rather thin on the ground in terms of Human-tagged stories; there are only two human-tagged stories in queue that I haven’t read, and only five in total. But we’ve got something of a shortage of Comedy and Romance stories as well, with only four romance-tagged stories in queue that I haven’t read yet, and only five comedy stories I haven’t yet read. If you or someone you know has written an awesome Human, Romance, or Comedy story, shoot it our way or (if it is someone else) encourage the author to do the same.

In other news, there is another writeoff today; it is a minific writeoff, wherein we have 24 hours (as of 10 am Pacific Time – about an hour after this post was made, running through 10 am Sunday Pacific Time, or about 25 hours after this post was made) to write a 400-750 word minific. These are quite a bit of fun, and participation has been down a little bit of late, so if you’ve been worried about things being overcrowded, now might be a good time to jump in.

And finally, I’m planning on making a Christmas post of holiday-themed pony stories; I’ve already got at least two slots filled, but if any of you are aware of any good Christmas/Hearth’s Warming/other holiday pony stories, send me a link in the comments below (and possibly encourage them to submit to the Royal Guard :V ) and I’ll see about reading them.

Now, to get back to my own writing…

Number of stories still listed as Read It Sooner: 100

Number of stories still listed as Read It Later: 390

Number of stories listed as Read It Eventually: 1744

If you’re a writer who came here because you were notified that I reviewed your story, and you haven’t received a message yet from the Royal Guard, it means that we haven’t yet reached consensus on your piece. I’m just one vote; all stories require at least two votes one way or the other to reach approval. Unless you’ve received a PM from us, your story hasn’t been accepted or rejected.

Comments ( 5 )

I'm sorry if you didn't like my story. I was trying to get something more than that across. It's a story about two paths. The happy one that Sonata takes, and the one of anger and resentment that Adagio takes. She had so much resentment that she had to die that she didn't even try to be happy. I left the ending up to interpretation. Is she actually going to contact Sunset to start moving on, or will she stay stuck in her anger and resentment?

She's still in the "Dazzlings should be ruling the world" mindset, and that makes it difficult for her to move on. It starts to crack when she considers contacting Sunset. It's up to you if she actually does it. She could have the life that Sonata has.

That's what I was after, anyway.

Comment posted by PresentPerfect deleted Dec 19th, 2015

You have no soul. Djinni's Tale was beautiful.

So you're saying I should submit my one (favorably received, mind you) PoE story so it can get a "Not Recommended"? Gladly!

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