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

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  • Thursday
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXII

    Wow, last weekend was a busy one. Family gathering was relatively small this year, for obvious reasons. Although I must emphasize the “relative” part; usually when there’s a big holiday like the 4th, we end up with 20 people or more present. This weekend was “only” nine, including me, my parents, and my brother’s family of six. That’s right, six. That boy is a glutton for punishment, I swear to

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    7 comments · 215 views
  • 1 week
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXI

    My preliminary editing of the original fiction version of Guppy Love is all but finished! Soon I will have the entire story stored in GDocs and ready for prereading, which means it’s about time I started really looking for prereaders. I intend to ask the prereaders of the MLP version to come back to evaluate the changes, but I’d like to get a few others to offer a fresh perspective. I’m

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    16 comments · 303 views
  • 2 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCX

    Howdy, folks. I’m afraid I don’t have much to report this week. Well, other than the very real possibility of maintaining 2,000 words/day of writing this month. Feels like I haven’t pulled something like that off in ages. Pays that I’m finally cutting down on the video games again. It comes in phases.

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    4 comments · 321 views
  • 3 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCIX

    The past week has been one of highs and lows. The brief crash has led to me being two days behind on my reading schedule. The good news is that I’ve got a Vacation Week coming up in a couple weeks that I can use to easily make up the lost time. The bad news is that my current major reading project was scheduled to be finished the day before its review gets published, so I’ve no choice but to

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    7 comments · 358 views
  • 3 weeks
    Charity Stream!

    I usually save these kinds of things for my main review blog, but this one's time sensitive, so: my old friend Cerulean Voice is hosting a charity stream! Head here to get the details.

    0 comments · 81 views

Paul's Thursday Reviews XXVII · 1:59am Feb 12th, 2016

Whelp, folks, this is it. I was supposed to be on a reading break, but that got sidelined as I had to finish the readings for this week's review session, have been pre-reading for someone (and will be for at least the next few days), and had to read a bunch of Writeoff entries in the sake of fairness. But after this, I'm really taking that break, and as such there will be no Thursday Reviews for two or three weeks. Part of this is for my own sanity; I've been doing this nonstop for a lot longer than twenty-seven weeks, and I'm ready for a rest from obligatory reading. Another part of it is the knowledge that I've lost my lead in the reading department, and before I get back into it I'd like to rebuild just such a lead. As such, while I intend for my break to only be for a week, maybe a little longer, I'm holding off on doing reviews for even longer than that simply so that I can start building up a proper lead again.

Rest assured, your weekly dose of review crack will be back in time. As Applejack might say, there ain't no point in plowing fields when the harness is broke. Soon as my head's back in the game, you'll be seeing me again.

In the meantime, two new things about this week's review set. First, I've changed my "Not Bad" bookshelf to "Needs Work," as I feel this more accurately reflects my view of the story. You'll find the very first story with this rating among today's reviews.

Second, there are six stories reviewed this week. From this point onwards, I intend to alternate between five and six every week, with the extra story always being from my re-read pile. The goal is to try to get through the re-reads list – which is finite and can't be added to – faster in order to gain an extra slot for things like the RiL or requests.

Alrighty then! Let's get to some reviews. Enjoy them if you can, because we won't be seeing more for a few weeks at least.

Stories for This Week:

The Longest Day by LuminoZero
Twilight Sparkle and the Very Confusing Day by kudzuhaiku
Husklands by Nighttide (Requested by Nighttide)
A Ballad of Eeyup and Nope by Ambion (Re-Read)
The White Mare by Warren Hutch (Re-read)
Adopting Fluttershy by Flutterpriest (Completed Story)
Total Word Count: 348,896

Rating System

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

I went into this one looking for something sad as only the tale of the royal sisters can provide. Instead, I got a distant explanation of things sensed secondhand.

Or so it would seem.

In The Longest Day, LuminoZero attempts to describe how Celestia spent the millennium of Luna’s exile. It begins with her vowing to literally not sleep until Luna returns home, and casting a curse upon herself to make it so. I had anticipated the story centering around her coming around to this decision. Instead, we get Celestia’s abstract thoughts from the beginning of her decision all the way to the night Luna returns.

The big mistake with this story, at least to me, is that it is all told in this passive, ‘watching it from the sidelines’ tone. I felt no strong emotions in this story, no lingering pain and sadness for Celestia’s loss. It felt more like I was reading from a vague history book. Celestia speaks more like a dispassionate observer than the pony who lived and breathed every long minute of wakefulness of a thousand years.

Conceptually? It’s alright, I suppose. The grammar is decent, too. But in the end, I just didn’t find anything in this story worth investing in. All in all, I am disappointed.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

This did not go anywhere near where I anticipated. From the description, I thought Discord was simply going to make a sleepover very unusual, and perhaps a bit sensual. Now I wonder how the author got away with a Teen rating.

In Twilight Sparkle and the Very Confusing Day, the Mane 6 are having a sleepover at the library when Discord shows up, hoping to participate. When Twilight insists that the sleepover is for mares only, Discord promptly transforms into a female form, Eris, after which an already tipsy Twilight agrees to let her in. That evening, just before they all fall asleep from having too much to drink, the girls lament that guys ‘have it so easy’ compared to mares.

The next morning, every single character in the world has been gender swapped. Naughty bits, horrible puns, endless innuendo and uncontrollable horniness occurs.

When I first started reading, my guard was raised. First line in the story:

Twilight Sparkle loved going through her checklists.

If you want people to question your capacity as an author, start off by telling the audience something that they are painfully aware of.

Suffice to say, the writing isn’t the most eloquent. In fact, there were a couple of things in the opening act that bugged me. But eventually I gathered the true nature of the story and stopped caring. Really, if you’re the type of person who can’t let go of your headcanon and take in a bit of nonsense, you won’t enjoy this.

I had fun with this one. Some of the sexual innuendo and pun work struck me as far too silly – the segments with Iron Will and Zecora were my least favorite – but overall I consider myself entertained. It’s a like a crackfic, but doesn’t take it to the extremes I disapprove of. I think I’ll be looking into the sequel.

Bookshelf: Worth It

As we all know by now, I won’t read a story till it’s finished. But of course, review requests are an exception, so I found myself reading Husklands. This story, presumably inspired by the changeling that appeared at Matilda’s and Cranky’s wedding, reveals that the changeling hive of Chrysalis is bordering on extinction. Chrysalis herself is dead, and the new queen is struggling to prevent civil war.

This news is brought to the attention of Equestria when an injured changeling arrives in Ponyville. As comprehension dawns on all, Celestia decides to send Twilight and Ponyville’s resident changeling, Switchback, to the hive to open up peace negotiations. Unfortunately, it appears the other side of the changeling war has followed the injured changeling to Ponyville, and they begin doing things the way Chrysalis always should have.

The very first thing I noticed about this story is that the narrative is telly to the extreme. Over and over again, Nighttide uses the narrative to repeat blatantly obvious information, either from earlier in the narrative or from the dialogue. It put a constant damper on my enjoyment of the story; if you can’t stand telly language, don’t read this.

Another negative was the dialogue, which at times either didn’t fit the speaking character or just felt off in delivery. Combined with a narrative that just won’t quit, it proved very distracting.

All of this is added to with regular uses of exposition. In fact, the story opens up with a bunch of needless exposition to explain why Twilight and Shining are in the Everfree, why this is considered a safe place to be, and the nature of their relationship. Most of it wasn’t needed.

Despite the weak writing, the story itself is fairly interesting. I looked forward to learning more about changeling culture as Nighttide conceives it, and I also liked how certain characters – like Shining Armor – aren’t so ready to be at peace with the changelings. Given the ongoing acts of the (apparently evil) changelings in Ponyville – which does fill me with dread, if only due to seeing bad things happening to characters I love – it appears that the stage is being set for a very powerful conflict and more than a little drama.

In short, the plot has all the proper ingredients for what could be an epic story, the kind that I could get enjoyment of despite the lackluster writing. It’s far too early to determine whether this will be a great tale or a terrible failure, but at the moment it’s definitely leaning towards the former.

Still, I would strongly recommend to Nighttide that s/he acquire an editor, preferably someone with plenty of experience. The story so far could be so much stronger with a proper narrative and some dialogue tweaks.

I had mixed feelings for this story the first time I saw it. I felt as though the writing style had charmed everybody into ignoring a pointless story. But now, with my second pass and a lot more experience under my belt, I can safely say this about my first time reading it:

I didn’t get it.

A Ballad of Eeyup and Nope tells of how Big McIntosh is put to trial via a bet from Applejack: if he can go a full day without saying “Eeyup” or “Nnope,” she’ll do all his chores for three. If he fails, he has to dance in the middle of town in a bonnet. As part of the deal, he has to go into town and mingle with others, a means of tempting him into failure. Not one to back down from a challenge, he accepts. What follows is, for Big Mac, nothing short of an adventure wrapped up in slice of life goodness.

Let me go on record as saying that I am envious of ambion’s prose. It’s witty without drifting into absurdity, conveying both the simple and the complex via delightful metaphors that never stop. The narrative alone makes this story entertaining. I only wish I could take the amount of clever wordplay used in a single chapter of Ballad and apply it to even one of my stories. A favorite example:

The syrup of courage slathered itself across the fried apple-filled batter of his soul.

My literary taste buds salivate for the honeyed wordplay of this narrative comfort food.

But it’s not just the narrative that makes the story. The plot itself is quite good, that being of a Big Mac who starts off serious and sober, but who gradually (and with a little push from some friends) discovers the benefits of coming out of his shell and living for something other than apple trees and plows. It’s a heartwarming tale though and through.

And of course, it also pokes plenty of fun at the idea that Big Mac gets all the mares, even if he doesn’t realize he’s getting them. The continuous subtext on this matter was great, constantly leaving me wondering as to whether I’m seeing what I think I’m seeing. Shippers beware, you’ll see what you’re after all over the place, even when it might not really be there.

And then we have the characterization, which was nothing short of spectacular. Every character who shows up is depicted so perfectly that you’d swear they were lifted right out of the show itself. From Applejack and Rainbow’s day-long ‘war’ over the bet (culminating in a battle over more laundry than one would think the Apple family could realistically have) to Twilight’s eggheaded freakout over relationship probabilities, they are all in their best form for monumental entertainment. Except for Rarity, who – to my immense pleasure – proved herself the most ‘sane’ mare of them all for this little scenario.

Above all others, Pinkie was masterfully written. ambion captured her ridiculousness in a perfect pitch of zany antics and, when the time called for it, serious fun. I have never seen such a perfect Pinkie Pie in fanfiction.

Which leads to the glaring omission: Fluttershy. She gets mentioned. Once. That’s it. Why is it that every member of the Mane 6 shows up and has some significant appearance and yet she more or less doesn’t exist? Don’t get me wrong, the story was fine without her, but it felt strange to not have her there. Unfair, even.

There were other issues as well. For instance, the big climactic moment involves something Twilight had been working on for the past week. The problem: we are given no clue about it at all until the climax comes up. I’d call it a Dues Ex Machina, but that’s not it at all since the ‘problem’ wasn’t really controlling Big Mac’s situation in any way. It still comes completely out of left field though, and may leave readers scratching their heads in confusion.

All in all, A Ballad of Eeyup and Nope is a solid story, fun from beginning to end, continuously witty, and all with a quiet but solid message for the reader. I can’t resist pushing it up a level from my original rating.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

The White Mare made waves when it first came out, mainly due to its worldbuilding. I read it a while back and rated it highly, but naturally, without a review to show for it I had to give it another go. The end result has left me feeling uncertain.

In this version of Equestrian history, Celestia abdicated the throne after she defeated Nightmare Moon and went into hiding. The world moved on without her, and Equestria is now The Republic, a generally peaceful land ruled by a civilian government. Celestia and Nightmare Moon are little more than legends in the memories of the populace, although the former is even more so due to countless supposed ‘sightings’ in the Everfree Forest.

Enter Fluttershy, who goes through all the same motions and falls into the forest as a foal. There she is found by Celestia herself, who defies her millennium of solitude to befriend the timid pegasus. The brunt of the story takes place ten years later, when the threat of Nightmare Moon becomes real.

As I said, the very first thing of note about this story is its worldbuilding. Most authors who create alternate universes do so in a way that keeps everything familiar; locations, names and events are readily recognizable. To their credit, Warren Hutch takes worldbuilding to the next level by completely reimagining Equestria on the whole. Canterlot is now Canterville, Ponyville doesn’t exist, the Everfree seems far more spacious.

The huge changes aren’t limited to locations, either. Twilight is now a researcher and historian, generally considered a laughing stock for her faith in ancient myths. Applejack grew up in Manehattan – complete with a Brooklyn accent – and works as a door-to-door seed salemare. Every character is different from what we know in some fashion, right down to their cutie marks being altered. About the only pony who hasn’t changed dramatically is Pinkie, but even she’s not quite what we’re used to. And yet, despite all these shifts, they are still the characters we know and love on the inside.

Perhaps the most telling of them all are Celestia and Nightmare Moon themselves, who come out looking less like almighty alicorn demigods and more like petulant, squabbling children. This change actually annoyed me, but it’s mainly because the headcanon demon in my head is stomping and gnashing his fangs at the startling differences. Knowing they are plausible within the bounds of this re-imagined Equestria is enough to let me ignore it.

The story is decent, but it can be dragging. It goes through the agonizingly slow process of introducing each of the Mane 6 (and Zecora) one at a time before finally getting to the point everyone reading wants to see. The story relies on its worldbuilding and the need to re-introduce old characters in new ways to keep it going for roughly ¾ of the way, and depending upon your patience it’s either a great maneuver or frustrating. I think it mostly depends upon how interested you are in learning about the changes, which appear to be the intended primary draw anyway.

The biggest flaw in the story, by far, is in the narrative. Don’t get me wrong, it’s mostly fine. The problems come in the form of LUS, and when I say that, I don’t mean the occasional mention of lavender unicorns. We’re talking about a colored carpet wrapped about the entire story. There’s lavender unicorns, butter yellow pegasi, blonde earth ponies, alabaster mares, every possible type of LUS you can think of for the Mane 6, used continuously with no regard for decency or shame. I’ve never seen it abused so brashly, and it does a lot more than just get in the way of the flow of the story. It’s distracting in the worst way, but the real kicker is that the author openly refuses to acknowledge it as a problem.

There’s a lot good about this story, showing a certain level of creativity. It takes some skill to be able to disassociate with the origins enough to make something that looks wholly different, but Warren Hutch pulled it off. If not for a few glaring issues in flow, plot and writing style, this might have landed in my favorites.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Up until now, I’d never read an “Anonymous in Equestria” story. I avoid them because the concept is so blatantly obvious, and most of the rumors I’ve heard liken them to a form of wish fulfillment.

But come on. Fluttershy. As a filly. Being adopted. The potential for adorableness, coupled with the crack that is Cute-a-shy on the cover, broke through my feeble mental defenses. And you know what?

It felt like I was reading some wish fulfillment.

First, let me get to one thing I really liked: the style. Many, many an author has attempted the journal-style story. Even the best of these tend to make a single mistake that stands out to me like a sore thumb: they don’t write journal entries properly. They write out entire conversations, they describe scenes in intricate detail, they write as if the individual writing the journal is there rather than recalling events. It happens all the time and it annoys me to no end.

To Flutterpriest’s immense credit, that didn’t happen. In a rare instance, someone has managed to write a journal-like story that actually reads as a journal. Honestly, folks, I don’t know why this is so hard for most people, but it feels great when someone finally does it right. The story focuses more on Anon’s interpretation of events, his emotions and his recollection. There’s no sense that everything is happening right at that moment, and for that I am very pleased.

And then! Then, when the end of the story comes in the form of a court case and the direct knowledge would be preferable, Flutterpriest takes the wise step of turning the case numbers into the story. Good show, oh priestly one.

Buuut, then we get to the issues. The first thing I didn’t like was the pacing. I don’t mean the pacing of the story, which was pretty good, I mean the timing of events. To my knowledge, adopting parents don’t go from complete strangers to getting choked up over being called “daddy” in one day. I’m expected to believe that everything that happens in this story takes place over the span of around two months.

Not buying it.

Everything in this story happens far, far too quickly to be considered reasonable or realistic. Still, it’s not that huge an issue, because it could easily be remedied just by changing the dates in the journal to something a lot longer. Still, it bugged me from the beginning, so it warrants mention.

The second thing I didn’t like was the handling of the court case against Anon. It felt less like a court case and more like a soap opera dreamed up by someone whose entire experience with the courts can be summed up in a single episode of Law & Order. Even granting that this story takes place in Equestria, which may have different rules for legal cases, the whole thing felt fake. Mayor Mare in particular didn’t appear to be doing her job properly, especially when she decided the verdict entirely on her own and left the jury hanging.

But more than anything, I hated the writer’s treatment of the villain. Flutterpriest took an established pillar of Ponyville’s community and turned her into a scheming, obsessive, spiteful and cruel stalker. To call her OoC would be more than just an understatement, as this is an insult to her established in-show character. Even worse, there’s the presumption that this story will lead to all the same events in the show, which means that said villain will be allowed to go back to doing exactly what she’s always done after her punishment. Frankly, I don’t know how that could be even remotely possible.

So in the end, this story is a mixed bag. It has the cuteness of a proper foal fic, the seriousness of a proper parenting fic, but it makes some terrible mistakes that can’t be overlooked. There’s not enough bad to condemn the story, but there’s not enough good to put it on a pedestal, either. In any case, it hasn’t improved or reduced my impression of the “Anon in Equestria” genre in any way.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Stories for Next Time:

Stupid, Sexy Twilight! by TheNewYorkBrony
Angel Kisses by Vanilla Mocha
Celestia's Surprise for Twilight by DarkTwily (Requested by Cerulean Voice)
I Forgot I Was There by GaPJaxie (Re-Read)
Twilight Sparkle's Report on Fluctuations Of The Local Entropic Gradient And A Proposed Solution by alarajrogers (Sequel to Discord in Hell (Not Literally))

Liked these reviews? Check out some others:

Paul's Thursday Reviews XVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews XIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews XX
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXI
Jeremy's New Years Reviews!
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXII
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXIV
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXV
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXVI

Want me to review your story? Send me a request! Check my profile page for rules.

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Comments ( 10 )

I've been doing this nonstop for a lot longer than twenty-seven weeks

so it's like your own post-season hiatus?

I look forward to the return! your reviews are enjoyable and useful. most reviewers aren't able to do both.

So uh... what shelf does Husklands go on? I guess none, since it isn't finished.

Anyways, looks like I've got a couple more to add to the list. Except now I've got to catch up on reading your stuff.

I had a bit of surprise, reading through these; one of my fics has the same cover as Husklands, and I was (briefly) confused to see it there.

Anyway, enjoy your break from reviewing! I hope it reinvigorates you. Whenever you're ready to do some more, I'll be looking forward to them!

I've been doing this nonstop for a lot longer than twenty-seven weeks,

Great marmalades, what? You, sir, need a break! Everyone does, everyone once it a while. We'll patiently wait for your return. Enjoy your recuperation!

Enjoy your break, you've certainly earned it! :twilightsmile:

Good lord. Take a break and smell the flowers, man. You deserve it.

Also, why does your 'none' bookshelf have 161,032 stories in it? :rainbowhuh:

Glad I achieve such a standard! And yes, I suppose it would be the equivalent of a post-season hiatus.

Husklands receives no rating whatsoever. I normally don't read incompletes, and I won't rate them at all until they are completed, even when a review is requested for one. On the other hand, when (and if) the story is finally finished I will be reading it again to assign one.

Good to know! I'm still not sure just how long of a break this will be. I may stretch it out until I have tow or three weeks of reviews written and ready to go, because I much prefer to be ahead of schedule.

I haven't bothered to check, but with over a dozen of my previous "Monday" review sets, plus three or four "unique" ones like the New Years review set, I think I may have gone 40 straight weeks without a break. So... yeah, I think I qualify as overdue.

Heh, oops. I think that was the word count for the previous week's review set. No idea how it got there, though. Fixed.

I'm a bit late to the party, but anyway; great set of reviews, though I didn't enjoy Ballad of Eeyup and Nope quite as much as you did. Still a good story, but I didn't really get it. :applejackunsure:

Enjoy your break and come back refreshed. You deserve it. :twilightsmile:

Wow! Thank you for your review of Adopting Fluttershy. Honestly, the issues you brought up pretty much list the things I would do different with the story should I have done it over. Hopefully another Anon In Equestria story will change your mind to our little genre in the future. :twilightsmile:

Huh... you'v reminded me about "A Ballad of Eeyup and Nope" and why... well why I started viewing the White Mare as great less and less... I was never able to explain why I started forgetting that story, but you did very nicely :)

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