• Member Since 16th May, 2013
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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 CCVIII

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Paul's Thursday Reviews XXXV · 10:16pm May 26th, 2016

Good news! As of yesterday, I am officially caught up on all the reading I lost in the weeks surrounding my moving into my apartment. Granted, this only cuts about 5,000 words off of my daily reading schedule, but every little bit helps, right?

In other news, my parents bribed me with crawfish. Again. I'll be at their place over the weekend, but hopefully this won't interfere much with my plans to go through my writing schedule again.


Ah, who am I kidding?

Stories for This Week:

There is no Luna by a human
Secrets Between Siblings by Harmony Charmer (Re-Read)
The Heart of an Author by Oroboro (Requested by Oroboro)
The Last Link by Featherprop (Recommended by Viking ZX)
Of Age by paleowriter (Re-Read)
My Baby Sister by Sunset-Chan (Completed Story)
Total Word Count: 356,328

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 3
Pretty Good: 0
Worth It: 1
Needs Work: 1
None: 1

For something with close to 11,000 views and over 1,400 upvotes, I was expecting so much more.

There is no Luna is a short, simple tale with a big background concept. In it, Twilight is finally given the opportunity to visit the Forbidden Wing of the Canterlot Royal Library, a place so restricted that not even Cadance and Luna are permitted inside. Once inside, she soon unearths Celestia’s most carefully guarded secret, a truth so pivotal that Twilight must go to Celestia herself for confirmation.

And that’s exactly what she gets.

Let’s get one thing straight: the concept behind this story is solid. It opens up a whole new direction in headcanon that could be a worldbuilder’s paradise, to say nothing for the drama that a capable writer could produce. There’s just one problem…

That drama has not been produced.

The author took what is a solid conceptual background, described it to us, and then… that’s it. There’s no effort to explore the possibilities, no moment of dramatic introspection, no breathtaking confrontation. It’s just: here’s the truth, the end.

My reaction is to consider this story vastly overhyped. Wasted potential is a crime worthy of being drawn and quoted, and there’s more wasted potential in this story than can be excused. Am I supposed to just listen to Celestia’s tale and feel moved? The simple writing style nixes that somewhat, and even if it didn’t, all she’s doing is describing the circumstances, resulting in minimal emotional impact.

Simply put, the story is too short and doesn’t make use of what would otherwise be a wonderful idea. I suppose I can see people praising it for introducing something so unexpected into the world of MLP, but I need a lot more than that to be impressed. You can come up with all the clever ideas you want, but without ambition, they’re just theories waiting to be picked up by someone with more passion and the necessary time.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Okay. That… Uh, yeah. That happened. I guess?

Secrets Between Siblings involves the CMC and Rumble discovering that Applejack and Thunderlane are dating. That’s it. End of story. Nothing else to see here. Oh, well, AB and Rumble are mad because they were left out of the loop.

Honest, folks? I don’t see anything to this story. There’s no overarching purpose that I can see, nothing much in terms of conflict, nothing even remotely looking like a romance, and, oh, yeah, somehow it’s meant to be a comedy despite having no comedic elements to it. There’s no shift in tone, the writing style is so plain as to be downright dull, and it all moves at a single, solitary pace. The opening scene serves no purpose whatsoever, the part that could have been a great bonding moment between Apple Bloom and Applejack is skipped, and the conclusion left me with an overwhelming feeling of “Wait, that’s it?”

The story had one thing going for it, and that’s good character voice. Outside of that? I can’t help but think a better title would be “Nothing Happens, The End”.

Bookshelf: None

The Heart of an Author

137,980 Words
By Oroboro
Requested by Oroboro

From the moment this story first came out, I was intrigued. It was already set for reading when Oroboro requested that I get into it, which I’m glad for as it sped things up considerably. With no certainty of what was to come, I dove in with great anticipation.

I was rewarded.

In The Heart of an Author, Twilight is startled when Fluttershy arrives at her door asking her to read a murder mystery novel that she penned all on her own. But when the story ends up starring Twilight herself, and she learns that her friends are all the victims of said murder mystery, Twilight finds herself wondering just what the purpose of all this is.

Then she gets a visit from an entity that is by no means friendly. An entity that makes Twilight an offer she can’t refuse: the chance to solve the deeper mysteries of Fluttershy’s novel, and come to better understand her friend’s intentions. Now if only the entity in question didn’t seem to have ulterior motives…

This story is nothing short of a roller coaster ride. With every new chapter, new questions arise and the genre seems to go all over the place. The story is startlingly complex, but not hard to follow, and Twilight’s character is delightfully preserved from beginning to end. There were times when certain character behaviors bothered me, but if you look at it in context, there’s actually a legitimate reason for that behavior.

And there lies one of the curious things I really liked about the story; it’s aware of itself. The events play off of one another in ways that let you know that certain notions are being toyed with. For instance, death is all over the place in this story, and Twilight gets to see all of it again and again and again. The problem with this is that once you see so much death, it starts to lose its sting.

Then the story comments on this. Not only comments on it, but makes it an active element of the ongoing story. Little moments like this are all around, and give The Heart of an Author a distinct character all its own.

The scope of the story is vast; while primarily a mystery, it includes elements of romance, tragedy, action, suspense, slice of life and even AUs, with meta-observations for all. And the incredible thing is that this is all just subtext for the real story, pulled off in ways that don’t feel tangential or disruptive of the main plotline. Consider me impressed.

Oh, and by the way, that main plotline? Damn good. Oroboro claims this is a ‘thematic’ crossover, but I can’t help wondering just how much of this tale is his own and how much he borrowed from the original. I can’t make any judgements here, because I know absolutely nothing about the source material, but if the story is truly just thematic in resemblance then I am doubly impressed.

If there’s any one thing I could complain about, it would be that the villain (villains?) is rather vaguely defined. She’s OP with no real indication of why, although there’s enough background given to let one at least form a theory or two. In a way, she was a very good bad guy, but in another, her seeming invincibility coupled with enigmatic purpose leaves some room for doubt. I’m willing to let these doubts slide, since without said villain the story probably wouldn’t have been as good, but I can’t help but think that the very nature of the villain is a bit much.

Also, that picture in one of the later chapters? Terrible move. Talk about kill the mood.

Regardless of my hesitation to endorse the nature of the story’s villain, I can only praise The Heart of an Author. Inventive, excellently paced, brimming with literary awareness, it is a wonderful piece of literature that I can’t recommend enough.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

The Last Link

61,388 Words
By Featherprop
Recommended by Viking ZX

Okay, people, here’s a little tip for you: if you don’t want readers to immediately doubt your capacity as a writer, do not write a story in which the main character shares your pen name. That’s just begging for immediate suspicion.

That aside, this story intrigues me. I’ve always had a fondness for airplanes. Most of my family can’t stand flying, whereas I enjoy every second of it, and I continue to kick myself in the butt for not thinking of going to school to be a pilot. Seriously, it was the brain fart of the century. So anyway, finding a story that focuses on flying aircraft – modern aircraft – in Equestria has my attention, even though I fear it’ll be crummy.

But this was recommended by Viking ZX. I should have known better than to doubt.

The Last Link focuses on Featherprop, a pegasus who lives in the magic-restrictive Frostmane region. Due to the extreme difficulties of flying in the Frostmane, modern aircraft have become the favored means of travel, and Featherprop is one of the regions more experienced pilots. When a Canterlot unicorn with zero concept of the dangers shows up demanding a last-minute flight and waving around tons of money to get it done regardless of the weather, an unhappy Featherprop finds himself the one in charge of getting him to his destination. It ends up being one of the hardest flights of his life.

This story is about a range of things, but its proposed main purpose is to highlight the way small errors in judgement can come together over time to create the catastrophe at the end of the chain. Going beyond that, it’s also about learning how to stand up for oneself and make the right decision – and also recognizing what the right decision is. Written by someone who clearly knows a thing or two about modern aviation, it pulls no punches and makes it clear that the stakes in this business are always high.

Loaded with interesting characters, surprisingly deep worldbuilding, strong pacing and plenty of suspense, this was a treat from beginning to end. The story is just about as good as one can expect. It’s also an eye-opening look at a world most of us will never get a chance to see, with a strong sense of real-world applications. It’s thought-provoking without being preachy, and fits into the world of Equestria with capable neatness I didn’t expect at all.

And yet there’s got to be that one thing, right? While the story is excellent and the writing is generally solid, a few issues pop up here and there. Mostly, this involves what appear to be typos. They don’t appear often, but when they did they always caught my attention and distracted, perhaps because most of the story is so clean such mistakes draw the eye. How amusing it is, that a story can be so good that tiny things can seem to be so disproportionately important. I think we can forgive.

The only other issue I have is that Featherprop tends to always capitalize Pony, Unicorn, and Pegasus, and sometimes resorts to LUS. In the latter case, it’s not enough to be a serious detractor, but like the typos, I always noticed.

Yet those are small potatoes compared to the massive success that is this story. I can assure you that I will be investigating Featherprop’s other stories after this.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Of Age

83,206 Words
By paleowriter

Ah, paleowriter, the author who delivers Sparity fics like McDonalds hands out Big Macs. Such a shame they don’t write much anymore.

Of Age is the very first Rarity X Spike story I ever read, and that’s a good thing, because it doesn’t make the entire ship feel patently ridiculous. We start the story with a frustrated Rarity trying to understand her own feelings for Spike and whether a pony/dragon relationship is even possible. To this end, she writes a letter to Celestia asking if she can offer any guidance, particularly regarding the rate of maturity in dragons. Celestia’s response, however, has nothing to do with her query and everything to do with a looming war between the sea serpents and the dragons. Since Rarity clearly has an interest in dragons and is already well known to the sea serpents (thanks to one Ste’phan Ma’Ganette), she calls upon Rarity to act as mediator.

Things get complicated from there.

The first thing I note about this story is that paleowriter is one of those ‘like-the-show’ authors, in that they try to keep the style of the story in keeping with the style of the cartoon. This really annoyed me when I first saw it; we’ve got life-or-death situations plaguing our characters, and they’re cracking dumb jokes and fretting over getting dirty. It almost feels like the author has no idea whether to cater to a younger audience or an adult one, and that always annoys me (*coughSonicFranchisehack*).

And yet there is a certain logic to this approach, namely in that it allows the characters to remain true to their canonical counterparts in behavior and choices. In this aspect, paleowriter shines at managing to truly capture the voices and mannerisms of many of the characters, especially Rarity, Spike, Twilight and Pinkie. Applejack and Fluttershy are also decently represented, even if Applejack’s written accent is even thicker than I’m willing to tolerate (which should tell you something).

Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, is an abysmal failure. Apparently paleowriter is of the opinion that Rainbow is 100% selfish jerk, making even the worst situations into something of a joke and a chance for bravado. It’s a disrespectful view of the character that is thoroughly disappointing. paleowriter escaped dealing with the ‘Rainbow problem’ by simply having her stay in Equestria and away from the main story, but it was still glaring when it popped up.

A few other poor decisions exist, most notably the removal of Pinkie Pie in the same fashion that Rainbow was removed. Oh, yes, Fluttershy is taken out of the picture early as well, but at least she and Rainbow appear to have legitimate reasons to stay behind. Celestia and Luna’s reason for keeping Pinkie back? She’s a rock expert.

Now, outside of context that seems dumb, but it’s really not when you know everything about what’s going on; at that time, a rock expert would be useful. The problem I have with this is that there’s no reason whatsoever for them to pick Pinkie for the task. You can’t tell me there aren’t dozens, if not hundreds, of other ponies in Equestria who know a thing or two about rocks. I mean, Pinkie grew up on a rock farm. Big whoop. What about the ponies who are geologists? We’ll ignore Maud, since I’m pretty sure she didn’t exist when this story was written, but even so, you can’t tell me there aren’t plenty of more qualified ponies. This felt like a weak excuse for paleowriter to remove Pinkie from the equation. It also makes the removal of Fluttershy and Rainbow suspect, despite them having far more legitimate reasons to not be present.

Despite these missteps – and a few others I’m probably forgetting – this is a strong story from beginning to end. Rarity in particular shines as a character, and Spike proves no slouch in his own right. Common topics of both characters are addressed with varying levels of success, most notably the ‘Spike feels useless’ trope, which is worked in a way far more believable and less melodramatic than I usually see.

The pacing for the story is great; each chapter gives us something new to chew on or a climactic moment to follow, with nothing feeling like needless filler. Exposition is uncommon, although those of you who don’t care for listening to a character’s inner monologue may frown upon this story. Despite the cartoon humor of the characters, once things get truly serious – especially between Spike and Rarity – the subjects are approached with proper dignity.

There are a couple concerns. For instance, there is a great abundance of crying in many scenes, which begins to feel like melodramatic overkill due to excessive use. There’s also this sense of ‘everything’s going perfect’ at the end, despite prior indications otherwise. This is most obvious when the dragon Rojo spends the entire story being an arrogant asshole only to miraculously turn around at the last minute and decide to not be so bad after all. This made it seem like the author was changing his character on a whim to get the desired results. Oh, and Celestia appears at the last minute to do her whole “giving out honors” thing.

All in all, Of Age is a decent story. Maybe not the most creative, and it stumbles in a number of places I considered highly noticeable, but still decent. As the very first Sparity I ever read, I still look upon it positively.

Bookshelf: Worth It

My Baby Sister

66,433 Words
By Sunset-Chan
Completed Story

Without having read a single word, there are two lessons taken from this story. The first is that it’s sometimes a good thing to ignore what our brains are telling us. When My baby Sister came out, it mentioned diapers and all I could think of was that weird diaper sex craze that swept through the fandom last year. Seriously, I almost can’t think of a bigger turn off, and I’ve thought of a lot of possibilities. The cover art didn’t help matters any.

Which brings up the second lesson, and one almost everyone should know by now: cover art matters. The original cover art just hinted at the babying and nothing else. Combined with my natural disinterest in the whole diaper thing, I passed this one up even as it grew in popularity. Then, one day, I spotted it with the current cover art, and suddenly it dawned upon me that this might be something worth investing my time in.

Is it shallow? Perhaps, but whether we admit it or not, we all fall into this trap.

But I digress. My Baby Sister is an unorthodox story that starts off a little confusing, but grows into something that is as creative as it is worrying. We start off with Applejack taking care of Apple Bloom as if she were a newborn foal, complete with diapers and a pacifier. And they’re living in the cider house and they don’t want guests and they’ve barricaded the place and everything hurts and they can’t look at the sky and there’s no pain and everyone’s gone but everything’s fine and what the living hell is going on with this story? Gradually, without us being given any details, we come to learn the truth: the world has fallen to some sort of interdimensional apocalypse, and Applejack’s mind has broken in a desperate attempt to cope with her new reality. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that, but I won’t go spoiling anymore than I already have.

Ultimately, this turned into a post-apocalyptic tale with far greater depth than I ever expected. The biggest trial I think readers will have with it is that many would consider it ‘too dark to handle,’ because things tend to go from bad to worse to ‘oh, fuck me!’ as the story progresses. However, that doesn’t mean that this story is a complete downer, nor is there a total lack of hope. It’s one of those stories where the journey is painful, but the chance of a happily ever after seems within reach. In this aspect, I would consider it to be along the lines of Fallout Equestria in that everything seems grim, but with purpose.

The story does suffer from a few issues. The most notable problem with the writing is an overabundance of typos and incorrect words. You sort of have to recognize what the author intended over what the author wrote, because there are lot of instances where the wrong words show up, or phrases are repeated in a way suggesting the author thought of a better word choice but forgot to delete the old. I can’t tell if these mistakes are legitimate or the sign of English as a second language, but they are everywhere and they may frustrate you.

There’s also the matter of understanding exactly what’s going on. The pieces of the puzzle are all there, and for the most part I understood the nature of things, but I can see how some readers could get confused. Personally, I highly approve of Sunset-Chan’s method of information delivery. It completely removes the need for exposition, instead letting us see the events and figuring out the truth on our own. It encourages the reader to think, and that is something I’ll never disapprove of.

Even so, don’t expect things to be clear even when you’ve figured most of it out. Certain facts and truths are elusive, undoubtedly intentional omissions on the author’s part. I didn’t mind, as it kept things realistic, but at the same time it leaves one wondering. There are many occasions where I simply took in what was happening and couldn’t help but think ‘what the hay?’ There’s just enough to give us a big picture, but it’s fuzzy at the edges and we’re not looking at it from the intended angle.

The good news? There’s plenty of room for a sequel, even if the ending hadn’t been left as it was. If Sunset-Chan leaves things as is, I will be surprised, because the ending practically screams ‘there’s going to be another one!’

All in all, I really liked this story. It shows both skill and talent, even if the writing itself could use an editor’s touch. The concepts and direction are nothing at all like I anticipated, the style of plot development is wonderful, the characters well defined, the emotions strong. This is the kind of story that leaves me wanting more, and I wish it wasn’t rated M so I could add it to the Round Robins.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Liked these reviews? Check out some others:

Paul's Thursday Reviews XXV
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXVI
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXVII
Paul's Thursday Reviews Have Returned!
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXX
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXXI
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXXII
Paul's Thursday Reviews XXVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews XIV

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

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Comments ( 18 )

One more week down, and these were intriguing!
*waits anxiously for next week's*

Yay! Thanks for the review. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Heart of an Author was the first ponyfic (Though not my first fanfic, or even my first Umineko crossover) I wrote, and while in hindsight I can see a lot that I could do better, I'm still quite proud of it.

I may not be quite as original as you praise, but if you like the themes of HoaA and are interested in checking out the monumentally long source material, I can never recommend it enough.

In regards to There is no Luna: I've mentioned before (in many places), that I think headcanon delivery stories and twist delivery stories tend to be underwhelming compared to their reception. I've reviewed a fair number of them, and they almost never live up to their own vote/view counts.

I think that, for better or worse, the MLP fandom is the sort that likes exploring ideas and thought exercises. The nature of the show--with its oceans of unexplored details--makes it a ripe area for fanfic. Unfortunately, a good idea, or a good concept, or a good thought exericse isn't the same as a good story. In particular, this story's bland version of Celestia and her anemic narration feel a lot more like a blog post than a story.

Also: Paul Asaran and I wrote reviews of the same story that reached the same conclusion. Do I get all the street cred and babes now? :raritywink:

Author Interviewer

Okay, diapers aside, that last one sounds worthwhile.

Glad to see you enjoyed The Last Link. I think it's criminally under-read for what it delivers (even with a few typos and odd conventions). Granted, it's certainly non-conventional as far as pony-fic goes, but I think that's part of what makes it so good. It's fresh and new, and has a heart all of it's own.

And I've really started looking forward to your Thursday review posts. Even if I don't read all of the associated fics, you do a very good job of discussing each one and clearly give each some thought. Yours are some of the most quality reviews on the site, IMO.

I've always loved Featherprop's work. I believe his name may be found as editor in several of my stories, as a matter of fact. :)

I'll consider it, but honestly, I don't have much time on my plate for yet another thing to do. Still, maybe when things calm down (read: when I finish one of my ongoing stories).

I dunno what street cred you think I have. Or babes, for that matter.

Amazingly, the diapers and pacifier actually have a legitimate purpose in the story, delving right into both the physical and psychological underpinnings of the story.


Yours are some of the most quality reviews on the site, IMO.

I can think of no finer compliment. Much appreciated!

ORLY? I may just have to see if he's interesting in looking at my stuff sometime. I'm always interested in growing my pool of pre-readers/editors.

3975358 What? You mean reviewing fanfiction DOESN'T get you dozens of street creds and babes? I'm as shocked and appalled as I have ever been :raritydespair:

Sorry, bro. I'm in it 'cause I like it, but the more materialistic rewards are somewhat lacking. :fluttershysad:

it mentioned diapers and all I could think of was that weird diaper sex craze that swept through the fandom last year.

Uh, what? What kind of gross thing did I miss while I wasn't paying the fandom attention?

Be glad. There was a period of several months where you couldn't get on Derpibooru without seeing three or four images of the concept on the front page.

Thanks for giving MBS a chance despite the whole diaper-thing. It's always nice to read opinions of people who aren't "into it".

As far as your criticisms towards the spelling and grammar go, there's a simple explanation, not excuse. I wrote the majority of the story as an effort during the NaNoWriMo and posted the chapters without editing them. I just wanted the story finished after letting it lie around for half-a-year or so. Again, they're still there and I an actually see people not getting into the story because of them. One day I might get to fix them, when I find the time.

As far as the whole coverart debacle is concerned, it was impossible to find artwork that included at least the pacifier and conveyed the mood I wanted to go for with the story, so I simply used the most generic picture I could find. The original piece was meant to throw the reader off, if they were like "oh, a cute story about one pony babying the other" and then finding that the relationship is much more mutually destructive than the art implies. Still, when the comissioned work was done I was glad to switch away from that, because the story is intended to be a drama with fetish elements, not a fetish fic in and of itself. Nice to see that the piece did its work. :pinkiesmile:

Again, thanks for reading. Your reviews are always a pleasure to read, so it is quite flattering for one of my works to make an appearance here. Keep up the good work and I hope your future reads will be a pleasure.

Yeah, I never expected I would be caught reading a diaper story for all the world let alone willingly return to read more of Sunset-chan's diaper oriented stories.

It all started for me with their Diamond Tiara fic, dove into it as I was reading all the new DT fic that came in that day, I am the group admin of The Diamond Cutters who reviews and sorts DT stories after all, and I did not spot a warning for diapers on the fic. It's rated E for Celestia's sake, no one writes sfw fetish fics, you know?

That moment when it was introduced in the story I was flabbergasted. No turning back given how well it was before the reveal, had to insure the story wasn't improperly tagged E as some fics tend to do.
But nope, it was legit. No sexualization of the filly or diaper fetish. I was so relieved! Um, no pun intended. Or to mean I relieved myself... BAH! You get the idea.

But yes I can vouch for two of Sunset's stories and one of them you've already reviewed and experienced for yourself. Thanks for giving it a chance. A most honest and fair review. I too am hoping we get a sequel.

Sunset-chan, you diamond in the rough.

Um, I have been in a bit of a slump in the whole Luna and Twilight stories sections. Have any "Why haven't you read this yet?" recommendations for either pony? Slice of Life or comedy is fine, the longer the fic the better. Sorry for the bother. :twilightblush:

I would recommend following the link and browsing, but now you've got me curious. Not sure if you're specifically looking for stories featuring Twilight or Luna or Twilight and Luna, or if you're looking specifically for LunaLight stories. Either way, let's see what I've got...

Bookworm's Delight
Mood Wings
All The Mortal Remains
Schemering Sintel
Hello, Sedna

Over a Cardboard Sea
All the Stars in the Sky

Huh, a lot fewer Best Pony stories than I expected.

You might consider browsing my Pretty Good bookshelf for more. Alternatively, you can peruse the Collection tab of my Review Schedule spreadsheet, which has a list of all the stories I've reviewed, by rating, with links to the reviews.

Hope this helps get you out of your funk!


Again, thanks for reading. Your reviews are always a pleasure to read, so it is quite flattering for one of my works to make an appearance here.

This kind of thing always catches me by surprise. You would think I'd grow used to it, but somehow I always feel like nobody really reads these things. Then someone new comes along and I'm all, "Oh, wait, people do read these."

Anyway, I love it when writers commission art for their stories. It usually comes out to something so much better than what they can find by browsing. If I had money (like I used to) I guarantee I'd have commissioned art for all my stories. Anyway, I guarantee that I will eventually get to more of your works; I like to go back to authors I've reviewed in the past. It'll just take a very long time...


Huh, a lot fewer Best Pony stories than I expected.

Mhmm. It's surpsring, no? Sadly a lot of good epics with Luna focused stories stay rather incomplete a good chunck of the times as well... But that can be said of any good story I suppose.

Far as which I meant, quite honestly, any and all of the above. I rarely come across much good Twilight fiction these days despite how often she's been written, and Luna? Well, Luna is either drenched in self-insert fics, or just overdone retreads of the same troupes without any new flavors added. I'm grateful for the recommendations, finding Luna focused stories that aren't her making out with a human is quite rare these days.

I quite appreciate your reviews, keep them coming.

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