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Nines


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May
3rd
2016

First Impression Reviews: Episode Eleven · 1:11am May 3rd, 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!

NOTE: I'm reviewing a mature story this episode, so while this post is still SFW, I'm only linking to the author's story list.



Bad Girl Twilight by Twidashforever
Rating: Mature
Tags: Sex, Romance
Summary: Rainbow Dash is brash, rude, and cocky; and Twilight Sparkle has finally had enough of it. During yet another argument between the two, they fight about proper procedures, expectations, and rules that have to be followed. When push comes to shove, it leads to a dare: if Twilight can buck the rules for one day, Rainbow will admit she’s wrong and do as Twilight says. If Twilight can’t, she can no longer pester Rainbow about it.
Twilight begins to grow more and more bold in her actions as the day progresses. This leaves Rainbow with no choice but to step up her game if she wants to win. But there are certain lines that—once crossed—can never be uncrossed. And if they do cross them, will Twilight even want to go back?
Grammar: 4/5 - One instance of a missing period.

My Thoughts:

Twilight Sparkle is one of my least favorite characters in the show. The best way I can vocalize my dislike for her is that I find her too much of a teacher’s pet, an insufferable know-it-all, and a stick-in-the-mud. Perhaps some of it has to do with me being able to see those qualities I dislike about myself in her. The bottom line is, I dislike Twilight in the show… But I tend to like the way fans portray her much more. Most fan fictions I read highlight her better qualities and tone down the rest, which is why I can still say that TwiLuna is perhaps my favorite pairing above the rest.

TwiDash, on the other hand, is still something that I’m trying to accept. I know I’ve recommended a TwiDash story in the past, but I’ve been so busy with reviews and writing that I never read more than the first chapter. All that said, Bad Girl Twilight still had some challenges to overcome for me as a reader. This is something I want everyone to keep in mind going forward.

The premise of this story is pretty straightforward. Twilight is fed up with Rainbow Dash’s irresponsibility which leads to them clashing. RD turns the tables under the hail of criticism when she dares Twilight to stop being responsible and obedient for one day. The first chapter pretty much is just 100% set up. We don’t get to see Twilight being the titular “bad girl”. I’m not sure it would have made a difference.

I had issues with this story’s characterization. Not of Twilight, surprisingly enough (though the fact that she so closely resembled canon Twilight did her no favors) but of Rainbow Dash. What could I possibly have objected to? Was she brash? Yes. Was she cocky? Yes. Was she irresponsible? Yes.

She was also an asshole.

Rainbow Dash can be a jerk. There’s plenty of examples of this in the show. But she still treats her friends like her friends. Even when she’s mad, she still calls them by name. She doesn’t devolve into constant name-calling. In this story? For some reason the author has Rainbow frequently referring to Twilight as “Egghead” or “Princess”. I get that she’s defensive and probably trying to get a rise out of Twilight, but this story choice just didn’t find its mark with me. Calling her friends a taunting nickname is absolutely something Rainbow would do, just not all the time. In the first chapter alone, the infrequency with which Rainbow Dash says Twilight’s name, even shortened, feels...impersonal. Distancing. She sounds less like Twi’s friend and more like some stereotypical bully.

Other, smaller nitpicks that I have: The constant use of all-caps words. It’s a personal formatting preference of mine, but I prefer italics to any situation that could potentially use all-caps. I just feel like it’s more graceful. It also doesn’t force tone quite so insistently. The other nitpick? I’ve heard it said in the professional community that dialogue without descriptive action or, at the least dialogue tags, can have the “floating head” effect for some readers. Like this:

“What’s the weather going to be like today?” Susie asked.

Tom shrugged. “I don’t know, and I don't care.”

“Butthead. Can you just check?”

“Ugh… Fine. Whatever.”

“So what’s the verdict, genius?”

“Partially cloudy, with a chance of shut the hell up.”

“Eat me, Tom.”

"Not tonight, Susie."

The last few lines feel kind of in a void. The reader is forced to fill in the blanks by trying to imagine what Susie and Tom are doing while saying these things. Some people find this difficult, especially when trying to keep a good reading pace going, so what can happen is they stop seeing the scene and just imagine the characters just saying the lines without much energy, or even emotion.

It’s my personal opinion that not all instances of floating dialogue are bad. For exchanges that are meant to read as if they are happening quickly, this can be effective--provided the exchange doesn’t go on for too many lines and what is being said is kept short. Other times, if an author feels there’s a brief moment in the conversation where a response otherwise lacks much in the way of action, they might feel like they can get away with just a line of dialogue alone. I’ve done this. I’ve seen published authors do this.

But the point is to know when to do it, and I don’t feel like Bad Girl Twilight seemed to know when those times were. A lot of Rainbow Dash’s dialogue is floating without much description of what she’s doing, of how she’s reacting, and it comes across as flat. This took away the energy that was supposed to be building in this scene.

Final Verdict: There will be times in this review series when I will go against the popular opinion. Bad Girl Twilight is a popular story. I can concede that the author has skill, the idea has promise, and their characterization of Twilight is spot on.

But I don’t like Twilight being too spot on. I also thought that Rainbow Dash was not spot on. Other choices of the writing force me to say… I cannot personally recommend this story. It just didn’t do it for me. If you can forgive the things that I had issues with, though, then maybe you can still give it a shot. The story isn’t terrible. Again, it just didn’t do it for me.



Lingering Shadows by Yoru-the-Rogue
Rating: Teen
Tags: Adventure, Romance, Sad, Tragedy
Summary: Unsettling dreams are starting to worry Princess Luna.  She is positive these dreams hold an ominous portent for all of Equestria, but there is only one stallion who knows for certain the answers she seeks. King Sombra has been imprisoned again in Shadow since his defeat and the shattering of his body, but he is no less cunning and ruthless. And as Luna tries to interrogate him over time, she finds there is a softer side to the unicorn king, one nopony has seen before.  But Celestia fears for her younger sister, warning Luna against Sombra's advances. Is the once-tyrant truly starting to court Princess Luna...or is she simply being used as a pawn in his plans to regain power?
Grammar: 5/5 - Looks good to me!

My Thoughts:

Ah. Another sad and tragedy story. What intrigued me about this one was the fact that it had Luna and Sombra as a pairing. I mean, they seem like good candidates for a tragic tale, but as a pairing? I’m surprised I don’t see them paired more. There’s a certain appeal to that. Back when I used to be an avid Harry Potter fanfic reader, I used to ship Draco/Hermione hard. Really, really hard. Something about having a good girl getting involved with the bad boy will always have that certain allure. I read all kinds of D/H stories. Ones where Hermione reformed Draco. Stories where Draco corrupted Hermione. Stories where they both killed each other in a tragic fate…

The latter sorts of stories were always difficult to read, but I do remember liking them. This Luna and Sombra tale made me remember those adolescent days when I was into that kind of thing. So I guess I picked this partially out of nostalgia.

Anyway, Lingering Shadows has a very strong narrative voice. I like the gravity that goes into Luna’s character. She feels burdened, but not necessarily angsty. You can still feel the effects of her past, but she is clearly intent on moving forward. The imagery used is strong and easy to visualize. It’s a sign of the author’s skill that they are able to use a refined vocabulary without the story feeling difficult to read.

If you’ll forgive this tangent of advice: I don’t mind when something I’m reading makes me fetch the dictionary. (Please do read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It will challenge you, and pleasantly so.) Most times I can infer definitions with contextual clues anyway. What some new authors fail to understand is that just because you have a robust vocabulary, that doesn’t necessarily mean that levying it at your readers at every opportunity is the best way to tell your story. All you’re going to do is frustrate your audience and come across as pompous. You have to consider who will be reading your work. What is your demographic? If you aren't writing to a niche set of intellectuals who aren’t intimidated by words like “pococurante” or “assiduous”, you’re better off picking simpler phrases that mean the same thing, or rephrasing your writing to allow for something simpler.

Lingering Shadows does a stellar job of setting the pace. Luna’s life has been recently unsettled by a troubling dream. Considering that dreams and the night are her domain, this is no small matter. She considers going to Celestia for help, but she decides to pursue the matter on her own. Where does she go? To Sombra’s magical prison cell, where he has apparently been kept since his defeat by the Main 6. They have a very interesting conversation, with Sombra taunting Luna, and the Princess of the Night dodging his verbal jabs in her pursuit of answers. Immediately, we get a sense of mutual attraction. It’s very subtle, but you can feel the pull as much as the push between these two powerful personalities.

I don’t know what this story has in store. The first chapter just set the rest of the story up, but it did so in a very enthralling way. I kind of hope that it has a bittersweet ending at least, but that might be a vain thing to wish for considering the tags and the overall tone of the story so far.

Final Verdict: This is a really good story. I was tempted to add it to my favorites, but because I know that this could still jump the shark for me personally at a later time, I will refrain from doing so. I don’t quite have that faith that I’ll continue to enjoy the story further in like I did some of the past favorites I’ve added from this review series. BUT, I can readily recommend this story. Lingering Shadows is written with skill, and it’s obvious that the author put a great deal of thought and effort into their plot and characterizations. I think anyone into tragic adventures might enjoy this!

...Also, isn't that cover art amazing? It's freaking amazing. :rainbowderp:


Current To-Read Count: 160/184

FUN FACT: I finished the 17th page of my reading shelf! Only 16 more pages to go!! :pinkiecrazy:

Edit: Ah, the dangers of cut and paste... Fixed the grammar score for Lingering Shadows!

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Comments ( 6 )

The bottom line is, I dislike Twilight in the show… But I tend to like the way fans portray her much more. ... I can concede that the author has skill, the idea has promise, and their characterization of Twilight is spot on.

But I don’t like Twilight being too spot on.

Interesting. I don't think I've ever seen anyone have a problem with a character being too much like the show. Out of curiosity, if Twilight were a villain in the show rather than the main protagonist, do you think you would still feel this way? Basically, I'm wondering if the fact that Twilight is presented as a potential role-model is what bugs you or if it's the character attributes that you highlight themselves.

As an example of what I mean, consider Diamond Tiara. I despise Diamond Tiara now that she's been "redeemed", but when she was a bully and villain, I really liked her as an antagonist. There wasn't any attempt to rationalize or downplay her vileness -- she was just a bully who enjoyed the rush of power that causing pain and misery to others provided. When she was "redeemed", she had a Sudden Onset Tragic Backstory that was used as an excuse for her behaviour. Now that she's nominally a good guy (or, at least, no longer an antagonist), it makes all the vile things she did previously far more odious -- she didn't do those things out of sick enjoyment; she knew better and still did them! -- and presents the horrible idea that bullying is just fine as long as something in the bully's life is bad.

Where does [Luna] go? To Sombra’s magical prison cell, where he has apparently been kept since his defeat by the Main 6. They have a very interesting conversation, with Sombra taunting Luna, and the Princess of the Night dodging his verbal jabs in her pursuit of answers.

That gives me a bit of a Silence of the Lambs vibe.

...Also, isn't that cover art amazing? It's freaking amazing. :rainbowderp:

That is very striking cover art, I have to agree.

I finished the 17th page of my reading shelf! Only 16 more pages to go!! :pinkiecrazy:

Yaay! Congratulations!

Comment posted by Nines deleted May 4th, 2016

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Interesting. I don't think I've ever seen anyone have a problem with a character being too much like the show. Out of curiosity, if Twilight were a villain in the show rather than the main protagonist, do you think you would still feel this way? Basically, I'm wondering if the fact that Twilight is presented as a potential role-model is what bugs you or if it's the character attributes that you highlight themselves.

I've been trying to understand my dislike of Twilight since I first joined the brony herd. Discussions with my husband seemed to indicate that it was the stuff I mentioned at the start of my review--her hero/teacher worship of Celestia, her borderline arrogance when dispensing knowledge, and her obsessive observation of rules and systems. I've also come to realize that perhaps I see personal qualities I wish I could get rid of in Twilight's character. Her strict adherence to instructions, for example. In the episode where she has a sleepover with Rarity and Applejack, there was a joke where Twilight found herself more concerned with the fact that a tree crashing into her house was not listed in her book rather than the fact that a tree just crashed into the middle of her house. I know. I know, I know. It was a joke. A silly joke in a silly kid's show. But I do that in real life. I can't see the forest for the trees, and when I realize I'm getting caught up in little details, I get upset with myself. People get frustrated with me. I get frustrated with myself. Seeing Twilight do that just makes me frustrated.

I don't mind bookish or brainy characters. I don't even mind OCD behavior. Rarity is my favorite Main 6 pony, after all. But the way Twilight is characterized just rubs me the wrong way. The issue lies in what she prioritizes. Details. Small, stupid details. Half the time her motivation is also in currying favor with Celestia. I hate that sycophantic behavior.

But you asked if I would like Twilight better as a villain. I had to think on that a while, and I think that... yes. I would like her better as a villain. I do dislike that she's the "leader" of the Main 6. I know people would probably want to call me crazy for saying it, but I think Applejack would be a far better leader for the group. She's grounded, hard-working, and has her priorities in the right place--oh! But because she's not a fancy-schmancy unicorn who can cast magic, and because she's country (read: simple-minded) she can't be. Ridiculous.

...Sorry. I got ranty. :twilightoops:

That gives me a bit of a Silence of the Lambs vibe.

Huh! I'm surprised that didn't occur to me. It is a very similar set up, isn't it?

Yaay! Congratulations!

Thank you! :twilightsmile:

I don't mind bookish or brainy characters. I don't even mind OCD behavior. Rarity is my favorite Main 6 pony, after all. But the way Twilight is characterized just rubs me the wrong way. The issue lies in what she prioritizes. Details. Small, stupid details. Half the time her motivation is also in currying favor with Celestia. I hate that sycophantic behavior.

I see. Cool.

Do you dislike Human!Twilight as well? I ask because she seems much less obsessed over lists and doing things to prescribed procedures. She is rather reckless in Friendship Games, given that she builds a device that is meant to study the strange energies she's detected and it clearly is not functioning as intended, but she continues to use it, even as the anomalies continue to get more dangerous and extreme. And then she utilizes this same unknown, dangerous energy by effectively being goaded into it (Science!Twilight is a terrible scientist). She also clearly has no love for Headmistress Cinch nor does she even know Principal Celestia, so the sycophantic behavior is non-existent.

A lot of people claim that Human!Twilight is basically just first season Twilight, but given how reckless and impulsive she seems to be, I have to disagree.

But you asked if I would like Twilight better as a villain. I had to think on that a while, and I think that... yes. I would like her better as a villain. I do dislike that she's the "leader" of the Main 6.

Interesting. Thanks for answering!

I know people would probably want to call me crazy for saying it, but I think Applejack would be a far better leader for the group. She's grounded, hard-working, and has her priorities in the right place--oh! But because she's not a fancy-schmancy unicorn who can cast magic, and because she's country (read: simple-minded) she can't be. Ridiculous.

Eh, I'm not going to call you crazy for it, but I do think you're over-simplifying the reasons as to why Applejack would not make a good primary protagonist. Really, what it comes down to is that she's so stable and grounded that there's not much one can really do with her. She has flaws, sure -- she's stubborn, prideful, and can occasionally be overprotective to the point of being smothering -- but for the most part, there isn't much there to hang a plot on; she's by far the most mature in mentality of the Mane Six. That's why Applejack is sometimes referred to as "best background pony" because she's very difficult to write for. Rarity is just as responsible and hardworking as Applejack, but her flaws are rather more deep (or, at least, sharper and closer to the surface) and her drama whoring is emblematic of her immaturity.

Meanwhile, Twilight's obsessive compulsion and rigid adherence to rules and detail to the point of absurdity has been and could be mined for plots, as is her near-worship of Princess Celestia. The fact that she's a unicorn is also useful from a storytelling perspective (it gives the author a lot more options as to both problems and solutions), of course, but I don't think it's the primary reason she's the main protagonist.

I'll also note that Twilight has been getting better at this over time, so it's not like her character flaws aren't getting rounded down a bit (or worse, sharpening on the whetstone of flanderization).

As a side note, I read an interesting hypothesis that Twilight's freakout in Lesson Zero was actually caused by Post-Traumatic Stress from the whole Discord thing. Celestia was relying on her to fix the problem and she initially failed catastrophically. Not only that, but the reason the whole thing wasn't a complete failure on her part was because of those friendship reports she sent; getting a little obsessed with them when they were key in defeating an eldrich abomination of pure chaos and madness is certainly a possible PTSD symptom.

...Sorry. I got ranty. :twilightoops:

Don't worry about it. If you can't get ranty in your own blog, where can you? :rainbowwild:

Huh! I'm surprised that didn't occur to me. It is a very similar set up, isn't it?

It is, indeed. "Tell me about the ponies, Luna."

Thanks for taking the time out to respond to my curious little queries! :twilightsmile:

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Do you dislike Human!Twilight as well? I ask because she seems much less obsessed over lists and doing things to prescribed procedures.

I don't actually. You're right. The fact that she doesn't display the stuff pony Twilight does really helps my ability to like her. In fact, her backstory made her far more sympathetic to me as well. It's a subtle difference, but still a difference. Is she still obsessed with her studies? Yes. But I felt there was a distinct loneliness that was driving her academic pursuits. She was trying to fill a void because she didn't feel like she fit in with her classmates. Pony Twilight was genuinely disinterested in other people. She was into her studies because she hungered for it, not because she was trying to make up for something. Also, Sci-Twi may have come across as ridiculously reckless in the films, but I think that was more due to storytelling convenience then a sound character decision to take to heart. When it's a blatant shortcut on the part of the writers, I tend to forgive those things. I also feel she is a bit easier to forgive for her mistakes. As a human adolescent, she's inexperienced and impulsive. But pony Twilight feels like a young adult to me. She's living on her own and handling very adult affairs, after all. That makes me less forgiving of her antics.

But that leads into weird debates regarding pony maturity and the actual ages of the Main 6, and it's not really something I have energy going back and forth on. :applejackunsure:

Eh, I'm not going to call you crazy for it, but I do think you're over-simplifying the reasons as to why Applejack would not make a good primary protagonist.

That's fair to say! The fact that Applejack lacks any major flaws is part of the reason why Rarity beat her out as my favorite Main 6 pony. A flawed character is easier to write, and of course, more interesting.

As a side note, I read an interesting hypothesis that Twilight's freakout in Lesson Zero was actually caused by Post-Traumatic Stress from the whole Discord thing. Celestia was relying on her to fix the problem and she initially failed catastrophically. Not only that, but the reason the whole thing wasn't a complete failure on her part was because of those friendship reports she sent; getting a little obsessed with them when they were key in defeating an eldrich abomination of pure chaos and madness is certainly a possible PTSD symptom.

That's an interesting idea! It's pretty good headcanon. Too bad it's still headcanon. :applejackunsure: I wish the show runners could have thought of this and at least alluded to PTSD as an underlying reason for her erratic behavior.

A lot of people claim that Human!Twilight is basically just first season Twilight, but given how reckless and impulsive she seems to be, I have to disagree.

I'm one of those people! But after reading your thoughts, I must say, I've gravitated towards your way of thinking.

Thanks for taking the time out to respond to my curious little queries! :twilightsmile:

No problem! I like talking about this stuff. I'm hopelessly bored much of the time.

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Is she still obsessed with her studies? Yes. But I felt there was a distinct loneliness that was driving her academic pursuits. She was trying to fill a void because she didn't feel like she fit in with her classmates. Pony Twilight was genuinely disinterested in other people.

Agreed on both points. Sci-Twi is definitely more sympathetic than Pony!Twilight. In fact, Amending Fences is one of my favorite episodes because it highlights just how terrible a pony Twilight really was before she had her friendship epiphany.

Though I still take a bit of issue with the show overall in how it characterizes introverts as broken and in need of fixing. I mean, it's kinda baked into the show with friendship being literally magical, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

Also, Sci-Twi may have come across as ridiculously reckless in the films, but I think that was more due to storytelling convenience then a sound character decision to take to heart.

A fair point. I suppose that's why it didn't really bother me overmuch.

I also feel she is a bit easier to forgive for her mistakes. As a human adolescent, she's inexperienced and impulsive. But pony Twilight feels like a young adult to me. She's living on her own and handling very adult affairs, after all. That makes me less forgiving of her antics.

Also fair points.

But that leads into weird debates regarding pony maturity and the actual ages of the Main 6, and it's not really something I have energy going back and forth on. :applejackunsure:

Fair enough and I agree. Though I did note with amusement that her apparent adulthood makes Pony!Twilight's crush on Flash Sentry to be quite creepy. Robbing the cradle much, Twi?

That's an interesting idea! It's pretty good headcanon. Too bad it's still headcanon. :applejackunsure:

Indeed. But I accept it with my other headcanon, like the characterization of Cloud Kicker as a Lovable Sex Maniac and that the Pie family is actually ridiculously wealthy but their austere nature means they don't flaunt it. And that Pinkie is actually a primary investor in Sugercube Corner. And that the reason why Limestone Pie grumbles about the finances is because the sudden reappearance of the Crystal Empire has flooded the market with cheap, high-quality gems, driving down the prices.

I'm one of those people! But after reading your thoughts, I must say, I've gravitated towards your way of thinking.

Huzzah! Of course, if Sci-Twi's recklessness was just a writing convenience then most of my reasoning goes out the window.

No problem! I like talking about this stuff. I'm hopelessly bored much of the time.

Groovy! Well, not groovy that you're bored. Groovy that you like talking about this stuff and aren't annoyed at my pitiful textual flailing.

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