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First Impression Reviews: Episode Eight · 4:42pm Apr 19th, 2016

Fun Fact: I turned off “Show Mature” in my settings and looked at my to-read shelf. I lost five pages.

Another fun fact, I’m on my seventeenth page! Whee! Progress!

Now before I get into the heart of this episode proper, I want to address something. This particular installment encountered rather short first chapters/prologues, and both have quite a few chapters that follow.

So here is where this little review experiment might come up against some trouble. My criteria is that I review ONLY the first chapter/prologue, and if those are especially long, then I just review the first 3k words. It’s not, “If the first chapter is less than 3k words, then I read past that.” No. I do not. I’ve already explained my reasoning, but I’ll do so again. If an author is really of the opinion that a reader “should” keep clicking forward past their uber short beginning to become invested in their story, then they are mistaken.

It is the responsibility of an author to convince a reader to stick around on the strength of their first words. You can do this in 3k words. You can do this in two hundred words. But the point is that you do it. The logic is that the author is putting their best foot forward in trying to keep an audience to stick around. If they fail to do that, if they have the nerve to say, “But just keep reading! Give me more of your valuable free time!” then they are asking too much. There is even some additional psychological investment involved in clicking that link for chapter 2. Sure. It only takes a few seconds on most computers and internet. But think about all those pretty links the web has that say the same? “Oh look! This will only take a second!” Now how many of those do you click without feeling some desire to see what it’s about? Now how many of those do you not click despite having the vaguest interest in what it’s about? Exactly.

As readers, the fact that we are reading something at all is already a huge compliment to the author of that work. For an author to demand more commitment is really counterintuitive to the purpose of writing stories for entertainment. Readers of fanfiction don’t owe us writers anything. Yes, we are writing horse words for free, but the reader is still investing time and energy into something they may not even like.

Now that I’ve perhaps voiced those thoughts more clearly, I also want to add that this review series is not by any means some perfect source of great stories. Fics I recommend can still jump the shark for you later. Maybe they won’t for me, maybe they will. The point is--this is called first impression reviews. I’m giving recommendations based on early impressions in the hopes that I might get you to read something you might have otherwise passed up by taking care of that first and hardest step of reading the first chapter.

If everyone’s okay with this, then let’s get to it!

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!

Rites of Ascension by CvBrony
Rating: Teen
Tags: Adventure, Alternative Universe
Summary: A different take on alicorn ascension. Sixteen years after arriving in Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle is excited to have invented a brand-new kind of spell, but it will come with consequences she cannot possibly anticipate. Meanwhile, threats in shadows around the world conspire to overthrow the Solar Throne. With her world turned upside down, she will have to come to terms with the role that fate has dealt her while straining to keep Celestia in power.
Grammar: 4/5 - My newest pet peeve was present. New sentence after ellipses was not capitalized.

My Thoughts:
This is one of those super mega popular fics that is considered an “expanded universe” with a wiki and everything. Ooh la la! It was written before Season 3, so everything from that point on is not acknowledged in this story. While I am perfectly capable of reading adventure fics without a lick of romance, something about fanfiction makes me yearn for shipping. I don’t know why, honestly. But I was curious what this “different take on alicorn ascension” would amount to. My personal headcanon is that alicorn ascension is like vampirism in a way. Every alicorn created is progressively weaker than their progenitor. In this story, it seems Twilight comes across some kind of super crazy spell that does it for her, though.

The first installment is the prologue, so that was all I read. Things begin with a troop of mercenary stallions who are apparently there to do something to Twilight Sparkle. I couldn’t figure out if it was to kidnap her, or assassinate her. I’m leaning toward the latter. Princess Luna appears, apparently in the guise of Nightmare Moon, though she isn’t there to cheer them on. No, she’s there to protect Twilight, and to demand who the mercenaries work for. I was a bit taken aback that Princess Luna would show up, of all ponies, and that she would do so in such a manner. I guess this really is alternative universe if she’s hunky-dory with her evil persona from bygone days.

If you can buy into this story choice, Rites of Ascension’s prologue actually reads quite well. I like the succinct, but striking descriptions, like this one:

There, before him, stood the Princess of the Night herself, as tall as Celestia and as black as the void.

It’s fluid and strong visuals like these that keep me engaged with a story. I like intricacy just fine, but I’ve always preferred clever and minimalist approaches to character and scene descriptions.

The function of a prologue is to provide background information and other miscellaneous information that would otherwise not fit optimally with your main plot. Some people believe that prologues should be avoided at all costs, and they are right. A prologue should be a last resort. Does this instance in Rites of Ascension feel justified?

...Possibly. It’s true that the author could have launched into the story and presented most of these details later, but it would have felt awkward and like a lost opportunity. This scene is executed fairly well, and try as I might, I can’t imagine how this could have been addressed as past information. “Oh, these stallions were going to kill me and Luna stopped them? Gee thanks Luna! Say…but why is their leader babbling about Nightmare Moon? Luna? ...Luna?” It just doesn’t have any oomph! And for all I know, there’s some other information presented in this prologue that sets up other things I can’t foresee.

It’s a pretty okay start. Not the best I’ve seen--even with an assassination plot being thwarted, it felt a bit too quick, and the most interesting bit of it was when Nightmare Moon showed up. Still, it sets up a lot of questions I want answered: Why is Luna protecting Twilight as Nightmare Moon? Who hired the mercenaries? What could Twilight have done to attract this kind of danger?

Final Verdict: I recommend this one. It seems an interesting read, the writing is solid, and +1 for Nightmare Moon being badass.

Egghead and Featherbrain by TheLastBrunnenG
Rating: Teen
Tags: Sex, Romance, Slice of Life
Summary: Twilight and Rainbow Dash, together? Must be that 'opposites attract' thing. Then again, maybe they have more in common than they're letting on...
An ongoing series of slice-of-life snapshots. RD, I said to keep the Library clop-free, not... oh, forget it!
Grammar: 5/5 - I saw nothing wrong!

My Thoughts:

First TwiDash of my review series! This is a collection of flash fics that were originally written separately for a Tumblr blog. I confess that TwiDash appeals to my love of “opposites attract” (heck, this fic even mentions it in the summary) but its overwhelming popularity as a ship almost scares me away entirely. I don’t know why I like to hang out with mid to low tier ships on the popularity scale. That seems to happen in every fandom I join. Anyhoo…

The first flash fic of this collection starts off curiously. It’s a story-within-a-story, about a unicorn falling to her death, and a pegasus trying to save her. They confess their love to one another as they fall, and somehow, manage to find a happy ending when the unicorn casts a spell that creates gossamer wings, like the one that transforms Rarity in the Sonic Rainboom episode. At the conclusion of that little tale, it is revealed to us that Rainbow Dash and Twilight are on a date and reading books (I don’t know why RD would agree to this. She likes Daring Do, but reading books on a date…? She’s not that avid a reader.) Rainbow complains that the book was lame. Twilight responds that Fluttershy’s book (Surprise! She was the author) earns quite a bit of money.

The back and forth continues to a cute little ending that I don’t want to ruin for anyone. Though, I do want to say that I think I would have liked to have seen the fic extended just a teensy bit to see RD’s reaction to what Twilight does. As it is, I feel like it ends a bit abruptly. That might work for a comic where the visuals can convey many things in a single panel, but in prose, it feels lacking.

Final Verdict: This was really cute and fluffy! I think this very well could be the fic that finally sells me on TwiDash.

Current To-Read Count: 167/184

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