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REVIEW: Princess Luna and The Festival of the Winter Moon · 11:23pm Jun 28th, 2016

MLP episodes get reviews. Way too many reviews. The MLP comic books also get some reviews, because it's easy to put the colorful visual elements on a youtube video. And they usually have pretty attractive artwork too, so it's easy for fans to at least be curious as to what's going on in those comics.

But what about the official line of MLP books? I never see those get reviews anywhere! They're objectively more canon than the comics, not just because Berrow has written one episode, but she also gets inside info on what the show's writers are planning. Many of the books have little foreshadowing details that get called up in later episodes, such as the existence of Maud Pie. And sometimes even the characters refer to them!

Twilight Sparkle: And thanks to Pinkie's connections organizing the Ponypalooza Rock Concert, we've got quite a lineup for the Helping Hooves Music Festival.

there you go, that book happened.

But there's a real reason the comics aren't canon, and it's not because I'm bitter over some plotline or how some character was represented (fans do that all the time over the actual episodes, so maybe those aren't canon either). I actually like most of the comics, but I've found real objective evidence that they're not canon...

There, on the left! That's Andy Price and Katie Cook, the most popular artist/writer team in the comics. How can the comics be canon if the creators are characters in the show??? It only makes sense that it's in-universe fanfiction, based on the famous heroines of Ponyville. This is why they never refer to those comics storylines as happening. CASE SOLVED. :rainbowdetermined2:

OK, so everyone already has an opinion on the comics, but there was one exception to book reviews: the Journal of the Two Sisters. I saw a bunch of reactions to that one on this site. People just had to know those juicy details of Celestia & Luna backstory, and as added credibility it comes from a show writer who consulted Lauren Faust's show bible or something. Then they were disappointed that there was very little new material, and it wasn't that well written anyway.

What a shame that the one book by Amy Keating Rogers gets all that hype. So I'm going to review the superior G.M. Berrow books, which get very little attention outside of a few weirdos like me. Obviously little kids read them. But the older Brony fans aren't attracted to anything unless it has pretty visuals, so they're not gonna read. Those who do read, get all their stories for free here on FimFiction, so they're not gonna go out of their way to buy these books.

But I think these books do have something to offer. Even if you're already up to your saddle in high-quality fanfiction. Or whatever it is you read, I won't judge! :twilightsheepish:

Logic says I should do these in chronological order, but I didn't listen. I'm starting with the 9th book in the series...

Princess Luna and The Festival of the Winter Moon
by G. M. Berrow

Remember that Christopher Nolan movie, Inception? This seems really off-topic, since I haven't even started talking about the book yet, but bear with me.

Ask the average viewer what the title "inception" means, and they'll likely give the meme definition: a dream within a dream. Even though the characters clearly state that it's REALLY about implanting an idea into someone's subconscious, like a computer virus. But you can't really blame people for this misunderstanding, because while the movie was about the latter on paper, none of it was building up towards that theme. Everything was centered around the concept of dreams within dreams, and the crazy paradoxes and special effects you can get out of it. It was an action heist movie that just happened to take place within the concept of dreams within dreams, now have fun! (Much like how The Dark Knight wasn't really a Batman story, it was a standard crime thriller that just happened to have Batman characters in it)

It had some really cool special effects ideas, but most of them were stolen from Satoshi Kon's Paprika.

I compared it before to the Matrix, how the Wachowskis used flashy special effects scenes to emphasize the main theme: know that the world has no power over you, and you'll be free. Inception ignored its stated theme so it could use dream settings for "you're lucid dreaming! do whatever you want!" Though, for some reason, all of the antagonist's dreams resemble generic first person shooter maps.

Nolan's idea of "dream bigger" is to make a bigger gun. wow.

Kon says, at the very least, why not give yourself the ability to fly? and that's just to start.

Paprika wasn't just an excuse to have power fantasies, but used them to tell a story about how dreams and reality affect each other. There's a crime and mystery conflict to move the plot along, but that seems almost secondary to how much visual emphasis is placed on the relationship between society and dreams (and later on, in a brilliant subtle moment, the relationship between the movie and the viewers). It was a lot more honest about itself, and always keeps its message in the spotlight. Meanwhile, Inception ends on an intentionally controversial scene of "it was all a dream... OR WAS IT?" which is such a lazy and predictable cop-out. Anyone can do that.

Meanwhile, back in Equestria!

Ever since season 3, Princess Luna has been associated with dreams, as she guides several characters through their private fears, though none of those episodes were centered on her as a character. She'd been a background pony ever since the Nightmare Night story in early season 2, so fans were anticipating her getting a proper episode to herself. Took until season 5 to get that, in Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep? What an exciting episode that was. Luna's dream magic! Luna's suffering and guilt! The fearsome Tantabus!

Possibly written around the same time, and released late in 2015, The Festival of the Winter Moon was Luna's long-awaited turn to shine in the book series. Taking place shortly after the Tantabus events (summarized in a recap), it tries to tackle some very similar themes, but in a drastically different style. The story is that Luna wants to avoid the spotlight as much as possible. She never attends the Gala, and can't help but feel bitter over attending the Summer Sun Celebration, which seems to ruin Luna's quiet night to celebrate her sister's daytime. The CMC petition Celestia to create a new holiday for Luna, not like Nightmare Night, but a real holiday to celebrate Luna's accomplishments.

Luna refuses, but Celestia decides Luna needs to be appreciated, and secretly approves of it being set up as a surprise. However, Luna accidentally discovers the plans when the crusaders dream about it. She's disappointed that Celestia agreed to this against her will, though she doesn't want to hurt the feelings of the well-meaning ponies. So she creates a plan to sabotage the celebration by entering their dreams, and offering helpful "suggestions" of what their princess would want, such as garlic necklaces and itchy wool cloaks. With all these alterations added up, the holiday will be such a laughingstock they'll never try it again, and she doesn't have to directly reject it. :trollestia:

Wait.... that's Inception. It's literally Inception in My Little Pony! But not as a parody or winking reference. Without the flashy heists and action that everyone remembered, just the core concept that the movie neglected. She has fun planting these wrong ideas in the pony's minds, though she doesn't even realize that she's still punishing herself. It may not be a very logical sabotage plan, since she'll end up with a horrible awkward party when the ponies follow this through, but that broken logic isn't the point. Luckily, the book doesn't conclude with awkward cringing, but a nice magical friendship moment.

The surprise celebration isn't the conflict, it's Luna's issues of self-esteem and isolation, which I can strongly empathize with. It's one thing to overcome your guilt and stop torturing yourself (The Tantabus), and another thing entirely to stop rejecting love from those around you, out of fear that you don't deserve any.

(supposedly this quote is from Mr. Rogers, but I can't confirm it)

After reading this book, the Tantabus episode started to ring a little hollow for me. Sure, I thought it was a great episode, and lots of fun. Yet it was... mostly spectacle. Wandering through the characters' crazy dreams, chasing after a monster, then ending in a big climax where everypony in Ponyville uses their power fantasies to help Luna battle her literal inner demon. I can't help but compare it to Inception, where the memorable scenes are used to make an inner conflict more exciting (less boring?), rather than to reinforce the theme itself -- Matrix and Paprika.

Instead of exciting action, which works better on screen than in prose, the book just tries to be a charming slice-of-life. Those kinds of stories we used to celebrate on FimFic when we find them.... e.g. "This could be an episode of the show!" Yet they're so rare to find, as many writers focus on creating their own personal headcanons and AUs. Why develop the show's setting yourself, when the show itself has been doing that at a frighting pace in the past few years? It's like anything you write will become obsolete sometime this season. Well, whatever the reason, if I can't find them on FimFic, I'll gladly buy Berrow's books to get my fix. They do have an innocent, season 1 flavor to them, if that's what you're nostalgic for.

I do kind of wonder if the show made the Tantabus episode that way because it's become hostage to its own popularity? Like, they only get this one chance to do a Luna episode, so they gotta make it GRAND. Can't take a risk on making it a "regular" episode. I still love the show, but I admit this might be the weakness in how recent seasons have handled major events. Maybe. Or it could just be how individual writers do things differently.

It's not like the comics, where I think "this is like a really great fanfiction!" but once in a while, it surpasses the show itself, e.g. Big Mac and the Zen of Gazebo Repair. I kinda wish that one could become an animated episode of the show! But with Berrow's book, I can't help but think it IS an episode of the show, because it already fits so naturally. It already feels more canon to me than the wild Tantabus adventure.

NEXT TIME: Maybe I'll do the Princess Celestia book. We've never had a real Princess Celestia episode. Berrow's Celestia book would fit perfectly, I think. It takes an interesting approach I had never considered.

BONUS: I'm not including all the little details and surprises in the book, but I'll share a little taste of the extra worldbuilding, which may or may not appear in the show in a future date. Remember, this is CANON. The show hasn't contradicted these books yet (except that one time...)

So it turns out Luna does have Tiberius the opossum as a pet, introduced by Andy Price in the comics, but also 2 owls named Castor and Pollux. They watch over Canterlot while she's away? They only appear for one page....

Forget the owls, nobody cares about owls. :ajbemused: Here's what everyone's been dying to learn about... BAT PONIES. :pinkiehappy: Yes, they're officially called bat ponies. Luna has two stallions who pull her chariot for official royal visits, named Echo and Nocturn. She rescued them from a dragon, and they offered to serve her in return. They got seperated from their colony, so apparently there's more of them, living in mountain caves somewhere in the wild. Like the dragons, they're more of a kind of wild element than part of Equestrian civilization. They have no intrinsic link to Princess Luna or Nightmare Moon as a species. So, there's only 2 bat ponies in Canterlot, very uncommon in pony society, but possibly others could be out there in the world....?

Spread the CANON BAT PONY love. Unless it contradicts someone's headcanon, then they'll reject it anyway. Oh well. :derpyderp2:

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Comments ( 4 )

Because Present Perfect:

Reviews everything, he's done a few of the books over the years. This link here will take you to the page of his Giant Review Spreadsheet where he lists the titles he's reviewed, but there aren't any links on that spreadsheet to the reviews themselves...


too.... many... reviews...

hah, he hasn't reviewed THIS one. I'm safe!


I definitely think:

This is a worthwhile project, though. The world needs more thoughtful reviewers!

Mike Again

See, I thought the interesting thing about the end of Inception was that it isn't a "Gasp! was it all a dream?" scene. :twistnerd:

Cobb sets the totem to spinning... and then leaves it there, going away, and the screen goes black. Because it doesn't matter if it was all a dream, or if the movie's grand adventure happened. Either way, Cobb has achieved the truly valuable thing: he's faced the memory of his dead wife, come to terms with her death, and exorcised her from his mind. He's been changed, and is now, in a real way, a free man.

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