I don’t even remember how I came across it. I’m fairly sure it was one of the stories I came across when scouring FiMFiction for the top stories on the site. I came across Hard Reset early on and decided to download it. Even though it was dark, even though it was a death-based time loop thing...it had great reviews.
I see why now.
First of all, while these commentary/review/whatever-it-is is based mostly on my thoughts after reading the finale, there was a part in the original Hard Reset that really resonated with me. It was the ending. Ironic since Eakin said he added after complaints that the original ending was too abrupt. Looping timelines are common…but to have us see the aftermath is a rare thing. We got to see just how damaging this time loop had been to Twilight’s psyche. It had mentally destroyed her and while she was putting on a brave face, her friends weren’t fooled. It drove her to the point where she would very likely commit suicide, which is a very understandable reaction to what she’d endured, though it was definitely the wrong one. The depth of emotion, the depth of damage we saw in Twilight spoke volumes of Eakin’s understanding of Twilight’s character, both in his own work and as a character in the show. While some might look down on FanFics (I admittedly once was one of them), it take just as much skill to handle someone else’s character in a consistent and believable manner as it does to handle a fully original story.
Several nights ago, I started the story (well, I started it a bit yesterday earlier). I wanted to start reading right away, but I forced myself to work. I’m glad I did. But then it was finally time to relax...and read the finale of the Hard Reset Trilogy, “You Can Fight Fate.”
One thing needs to get out of the way first. Let’s be honest. The final book had a weak name. But the story more than made up for it. In fact, it’s my only complaint. It’s no secret that I’m a romantic, but I’m a romantic when done RIGHT. And this story did it right. Overall, the story was heartbreaking in parts, horrifying in others, heartwarming elsewhere and downright hysterical in yet other parts. Having Pinkie Pie hijack the story and become the narrator for a chapter in the second book and one in the third was a bleeding stroke of genius. I’m going to be studying those chapters, because I so very desperately want to pull off something like that. It’s brilliant...but more because it sounded perfectly in character for Pinkie. Shattering the fourth wall. Hell, there was a point in Book 3 where I saw the fourth wall as a series of mirrors down a hall and Pinkie Pie shattered them merrily with a hammer or something as she waltzes down the corridor.
I adored the love story between Twilight and Azealia (Couldn’t spell that to save my life yesterday). Azealia was a great character. A great OC that was well-rounded and came across as a real character and not as any sort of Mary Sue. I loved her. She was sweet, funny, hilarious, smart and a perfect match for Twilight. The whole changeling thing also didn’t bother me...but what made things even better was the scene where she confronts her and Azealia breaks down (hell, she was going to tell her before she was rudely interrupted). The Princess/Queen Twilight never forgave, never could let lo...but Twilight Prime did. She said that they would work it out. She wasn’t ready to give up on her. And she kissed her before journeying into the side timelines to recruit Nightmare Moon and evil Discord...what can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic.
But it was made even better when Azealia came out swinging Home Run right at the back of Celestia’s bucking head! I never saw that coming. That was the moment when I decided they absolutely, positively needed to end up together. Azealia was willing to take on the Princess of the Sun with a bucking BASEBALL BAT and ONLY a BASEBALL BAT to save Twilight, even if it was by Twilight’s own decision. Totally in love with her. Perfection. Total perfection.
Heh...but I never saw Shooting Store or Morning Glow coming in. They were a huge surprise...and a beautiful one at the end. Seeing a very real side of Celestia that felt completely natural, that was damn impressive as she died to save her son...only to have him reunite with another version of her. And hell, a real prince who doesn’t want the title? Yeah, he was freaking made for Rarity. ^^
If there’s another thing I’m known for, its altered states of mind. I love unreliable narrators. There is something amazing about being able to pull off that without a hitch. Eakin did this in spades. Not only did he pull it off in Hard Reset when Twilight was hit by the Changeling Venom (and she did it in a way that still made her Twilight, just certain aspects of her personality hyperfocused)...but even more so with the false reality created by the Regalia. I knew what was going on of course...and to see an altered version of both the pilot and the Season 3 finale rolled into a single chapter (and the comments were bang on accurate as well...these fit even better than the Season 3 finale because all the characters had LIVED that life instead of being forced into it with screwed up memories (actually, I was always a little unclear on that in Magical Mystery Cure)). That’s what made mixing up the characters after the grand finale so much more fun. Applejack and Rainbow Dash (the idea that the wedding date had accidently been the same for both Twilight and Azealia was brilliant) together. Yeah, I’m okay with that. Fluttershy working with Rarity. Pinkie Pie using animals to help her at Sugarcube Corner only to ask “What’s a health code violation?” (Priceless). Rarity doing networking now...and the bittersweet war inside Twilight in regard to her old life with a mare she never really knew…
And in truth, the whole alicorn thing? Yeah. It worked for me. In a big way. However, unlike Magical Mystery Cure, the feeling I got was that Twilight became a full Celestia-tier Alicorn instead of a smaller version like Luna or Cadence...or herself for that matter. I don’t know, that’s just what I pictured in my head. I loved the idea of her as a mother...and being a mother again. The female with female procreation thing didn’t bother me one bit. Heck, it’s not the first time I’ve come across it (though this felt a bit more natural considering the last one was for an all-female version of humanity). I thought it was wonderful and sweet. The ending was very much slice of life for the new Twilight. Married with one child and another on the way. Totally in love with someone...and their relationship isn’t perfect, but...oh what was that line? “Not happily ever after, but eventfully ever after.”
That resonated with me. Reminded me of when I proposed. “Happily ever after isn’t something you get. It’s something you work for every day.” What? Hopeless romantic, remember?
I felt that Twilight’s ascension was handled in a way that still felt natural and real, something that could have happened instead of the star path.
But I think what really did it for me in this story was that despite what I said earlier, we actually get a happily ever after...for EVERYPONY. Starswirl gets another shot with Luna...a real one. Twilight gets married to Azealia and has kids. Celestia is reunited with the one son she had lost. Applejack and Rainbow Dash end up running the farm together. Rarity ends up with Morning Glow. And Discord kicks his own ass (oh God, thank you so much for shattering the fourth wall with that one) ...though I had to prevent myself from howling with laughter when he pulled the Back to the Future II line with Twilight and Azealia...if only not to wake my wife because I read the whole damn story straight through and she was asleep at the time! I think I read that one three times and cackled every one of them.
It worked. It all worked. Some of the parts were darker than I liked, but even the eternally tortured Princess Sparkle finally got her rest. I remember what Twilight had said to her...and how horrified I’d been by it. I’m glad she came back...I’m glad there was a resolution to that thread.
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a story that actually got me riled up emotionally, at least at this level. In truth, I probably need to go back and read it again because I ended up rushing through some parts because I was so desperate to find out what happened next. It’s a feeling I’ve missed. The knowledge that I’ve just read a really good story...one that balances both light and darkness, one that pushes the entire gambit of emotions without feeling forced. That’s the real trick. I got the same feeling when I finished Fallout: Equestria for the first time (and pretty much every time after that). In fact, I think the last line of Fallout: Equestria is a good summation of my thoughts on the story.
“It is a great comfort to know that in the end, there’s always a light in the darkness.”
Heroes never die. Not truly. And we had a lot of heroes here...and it’s great to see that heroes do eventually get to rest...even if they’re tempted by Spatulas of Doom.
Hell, there’ll always be another Spatula out there. But sometimes, a true hero is the one who decides that something is more important. Like life. Like family. And like love.
What can I say? I’m a romantic. ^^
So to sum up whatever this actually is, this story has firmly entrenched itself at #2 of my favorite MLP Fan Fics of all time (right beneath Fallout: Equestria though it gave FO:E a serious run for its money). I look forward to going through the rest of Eakin's work, especially if it's as well crafted as this tale.
Oh, as I said earlier, I've created covers for the ePubs I'm reading. As a note, I've learned some important things about iBooks and ePubs especially with the iOS 9.3 iCloud update. I'll talk about that some other time...but it is specifically about how covers work (or don't in my case). So I've added them below. If you like them, go tell the original artists and Eakin. I just put some text on there. :)