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First Impression Reviews: Episode Two · 8:02pm Apr 12th, 2016

Below are two fanfic reviews based purely on the initial impressions provided by the first chapter (or first 3k words.) For an outline of what my reviewing guidelines are, go here. Please do not request reviews!

Out in the Cold by EsperDerek
Rating: Teen
Tags: Sex, Romance, Sad, Slice of Life
Summary: Haunted by memories of her past, The Great and Powerful Trixie returns to the scene of her greatest defeat. Will she find a new path in life, or will the past make that impossible?
A Twilight Sparkle / Trixie story, originally published in April of 2011. It is presented here untouched, without being updated to match canon.
Grammar: 3/5 - Rogue spaces where there ought to be none. Author seems to make it their standard, leaving spaces after ellipses consistently, but I’m afraid this is not correct in all situations. Dense overuse of the same adjectives and adverbs (Twilight constantly being called “arrogant” in the first pages, for example.) One instance of incorrect verb form (“as the Ursa twisted and shudder”, should be shuddered). Word repetition. Awkward use of exclamation during narration--even for third-person personal it’s my opinion that exclamatory remarks from the narrator should be sparing, lest they feel like contrived attempts at forcing tone. Use of lead when it should be led. I see this so often (in fact, it was also in the last two stories I reviewed), I wondered if I should even point it out, but I’ve decided I will, if only to help get the word out: ‘Lead’ is a verb, but the past form of it is ‘led’. If you are writing in the past tense or requiring a past participle, you should write led. Please, please, please, if you learn nothing else from my reviews, remember this one thing! It drives me crazy every time I see it...

My Thoughts:
Sad and/or Tragedy stories will find a unique challenge with me, due to the fact that I could still reject them regardless of how well written they are. I know I said in my review guidelines that I like catharsis, and that can include being made to cry, but I was mostly referring to tears of joy, not tears of sadness. I don’t mind angst and tragedy in my stories--in fact, I’m quite guilty of including such elements in my own writing. But as a reader, I tend to prefer having the promise of a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes feelings of woe make later feelings of joy all the more sweeter. Still, when a story is tagged as sad or tragic…I’m very, very wary of it. Most times I’ll just skip to something else unless the summary can at least suggest that things will turn out okay in the end. Out in the Cold doesn’t really make any promises either way, but since it was a story that seemed to focus on Trixie’s redemption, I was willing to risk giving it a read.

The first chapter was over 5k words, so as per my own guidelines, this review is only based on the first 3k words of chapter one.

The story seems to open with what appears to be Trixie’s fantasy/dream--one where she saves Twilight Sparkle from an Ursa (the story suggests it’s not an Ursa Minor, so I’m assuming it means an Ursa Major, then). As this is a dream, Twilight and her friends are not acting in character. Still, there’s this weird jump into sudden attraction--no real build up at all. Trixie sends the Ursa away, Twilight thinks she’s beautiful and amazing. Trixie turns to say something to her, and she is struck by how attractive Twilight is. I get that it’s a dream, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic. Despite knowing this, it still felt very jarring to me. I felt distanced from everything happening.

When Trixie awakes from her dream, she finds herself living in far less romantic conditions, and very much alone. She adamantly attempts to deny her attraction to Twilight, and mourns the loss of her belongings and shelter after the events of the MLP episode Boast Busters.

After a rough night, she tries to find some shelter. She accidentally wanders into a town that is apparently her hometown. Seems unusual to me that she would do this without recognizing things immediately, but all right. She finds herself faced with having to confront painful memories and flees. This is the second time the story has hinted at some painful past, and I’m not too enamored with its approach of the subject. What follows is a strange smattering of broken dialogue--flashbacks, I’m assuming--revealing tidbits of Trixie’s tragic past.

This is where I stopped. I couldn’t read on, because I knew I didn’t need to.

Final Verdict: I think that Trixie has amazing potential for fanfic authors. Her canon characterization makes her an odd bill for a sad/tragedy story, and I’m sorry to say this one failed in overcoming that. Even ignoring the particular challenge of making Trixie a tragic protagonist, I think the story’s approach would have failed any character. It felt rushed, heavy-handed, and contrived. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing this one.

The Things Tavi Says by shortskirtsandexplosions
Rating: Teen
Tags: Random, Slice of Life
Summary: My roommate's name is Octavia, or "Tavi" for short.  She likes vintage red wine, soft pillows, and long walks on the beach.  But, more than anything, she loves music.  She loves it with a passion that radiates with every burning color of the spectrum.
Each day I spend with her... or without her, I learn a little bit more about life, about the sick beat to which we all dance, whether we know it or not.  I hope you don't mind if I say a few things about her.  Just a few things.  One can learn a lot from Tavi.
After all, she saved my life.
Grammar: 4/5 - Solid writing, though again with the spaces after ellipses where they shouldn’t be. You only include a space if you’re starting a new sentence. If what you’re writing after the ellipses does not require a capitalization, there is no need for a space. The chapter is written in first person present, but the verb tense seems mixed. Sometimes things are being described in simple present (e.g. she walks, I walk) then suddenly we’re slipping into present progressive (e.g. concentrating, placing). I confess that anything beyond past tense has me doubting my knowledge, but I want to say the author is getting things confused a bit here. Understandable, as writing in present tense can be challenging. (If I’m wrong, then apologies!) But it’s not something I really noticed much, and I easily ignored it. I only caught it because I had my “critique vision” turned on.

My Thoughts:
I was quite excited to start this one, as I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, and I really do love Octavia and Vinyl Scratch a lot as characters.

The story opens with a colorful and captivating scene that, in summary, is quite simple. Octavia comes home, lamenting that she cannot find her cat, Scribbles. Vinyl quietly listens to her, and all the while, she sees bursts of color associating with the sounds that are made. This is a pretty interesting characterization of her, and perhaps a challenging one to depict correctly. It’s a real-life condition called chromesthesia, I believe. It’s a type of synesthesia, which is when stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. (And yes, I copied that from Wikipedia. Sue me.)

I stare calmly at her. Then, adjusting my shades, I take a deep breath and peer across both halves of our makeshift studio/foyer. A bright sun pours in through the front windows, rich and green with the soft ambiance of Ponyville beyond. Somewhere, a neighbor's dog barks, and the jagged red bands briefly interrupt my concentration. Centering myself, I pivot in a full circle, listening intently. At last, I'm bathed in warm waves of undulating orange. They're resonating from the upper left corner of the room, atop one of my speakers.

I smile. True fans of bass are hard to find. I'm certainly not about to complain.

Concentrating, I reach out with magic and lift the kitten from her curled sleeping spot. The orange waves crash against pink bluffs as she mewls in protest, but she's far too tired to put up a fight.

In describing this odd and fascinating neurological condition, the descriptions became a little denser for my mind, as I was forced to pay closer attention to envision what the author was trying to describe. I don’t mind doing this. I like it when writing makes me sit up and work a bit, not necessarily because the writing is confusing, but because the prose is weaving visuals that cannot be conjured via lazy thinking. I really did enjoy the way the writing conveyed Vinyl’s chromesthesia, and it added a kind of magic to an otherwise mundane moment between friends.

I like Vinyl’s narrative voice. It has personality, but avoids becoming grating thanks to her laid-back descriptions. I love how Octavia is written. She sounds so very British and cultured, but not wooden at all (an unfortunate pitfall authors suffer when attempting to write her).

Final Verdict: A magnificent start to a slice of life story! The random tag seems to suggest a lack of an overarching plot rather than chaotic silliness, which is good. I definitely recommend this!

Current To-Read Count: 180/184

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Comments ( 3 )

What are the odds that I might be able to beggar a review or two from you?

3865830 Doh! But I'm trying to make my to-read list smaller, not bigger! :unsuresweetie:

How about this--after I get through my current list, I'll review something of yours later. (so in a way, I'm still adding you to one of my shelves, just not the one I'm trying to clear, lol. Aren't semantics fun?) I might even have something of yours on my list already--it's so freaking long, I can't remember what's on it! :applejackconfused:

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