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  • 28 weeks

    Celestia and Luna take a "bucket-list" sister vacation while Twilight and her friends struggle to cover the princesses' many royal duties alone.

    Congratulations, Twilight. With Celestia and Luna on their constitutionally mandated vacation, you're in charge of Equestria.

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    4 comments · 738 views
  • 105 weeks
    Fanfiction Reading Update #177

    Content Advisory: Contains unmarked spoilers for Monsters and marked spoilers for Twilight Sparkle: Night Shift

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    4 comments · 580 views
  • 113 weeks
    Fanfiction Reading Update #176

    There’s some slim pickings for this reading update, despite a two month gap. That’s partly because of the holidays, but mainly because of my mom’s stubborn refusal not to sleep in the living room—making fanfic reading (and writing) enormously difficult for me and slowing things to a glacial crawl.

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    1 comments · 344 views
  • 122 weeks
    Fanfiction Reading Update #175

    Advisory: contains unmarked spoilers to Before the Storm: Rise of Firefly.

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    7 comments · 610 views

Fanfiction Reading Update #171 · 10:06am Jul 10th, 2016

Advisory: contains unmarked spoilers for Winter Storm and Carousel.

I know it may be surprising, but I'm not dead nor have I hopped off the pony ride. I just haven't done much fanfiction stuff as of late. I'd love to say I'll be reading and writing more and all that, but I really can't. I really want to, but there's always other things—whether it be family, or school, or just Youtube videos—that can step in and grab my attention. Have a few fanfic reviews as compensation.

The Lunar Rebellion updates with some of that classic “war is hell and pointless” plot points no warfic would be complete without. The body count also rises.

Sparkle Day updates and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Confusion over the rapid shift in story aside, I really think I prefer the early story, with it's mystery and interpersonal drama to the current dragon-pony warfic. And it still amazes me this whole thing came from a romantic comedy oneshot about time traveling Twiluna.

Much like with movies or video games, fanfic sequels can be hit or miss. Sometimes they can be done because of the original's success without fully planning things out, other times they leave you wondering why a sequel was necessary when everything was seemingly wrapped up with a nice little bow. And then there was the times that a sequel fits like a glove.

Winter Storm happens to be one of those times. It's the sequel to Together Forever and Cadance, fresh off her defeat at Tyrantlestia's hands, is in the midst of planning her revenge, while also still trying to fix the golem issue that Shining's got. The first couple chapters reestablish things—from the obvious antagonism between Cadance and Celestia, to the continued desperation over curing Shining.

It's through that desperation that Sombra comes knocking. You know what road this leads down. I know what road this leads down. Twilight—a character who spends most of the story in a coma at the bottom of the ocean—knows what road this leads down. But, of course, Cadance does not. Or rather, she's so desperate and at the end of her rope that she lets him in.

Considering this kicks off the rest of the story, it seems like a weak link. Her desperation's played up rather well, but I still don't think that rationalizes Sombra. He's pony Hitler and you don't bring in Hitler unless you have a failsafe. Had Cadance had some kind of backup in case the totally obvious happened, I'd be more inclined to go with it, but just blinding trusting Sombra with no real plan B felt like the idiot ball was getting juggled a little.

So she brings Sombra in and you remember those vague threats looming on the undefined horizon Celestia was going on about in Together Forever? Well, they become much clearer and defined. For as everyone expects, Sombra's the captain and he's taking Cadance on a ruse cruise to take over the world. And herein lies the primary problem with the story. It all feels rather typical.

Typical in the sense that it plays like a standard dark action fic. There's a big villain, a little changeling plot twist thrown in, a big fight right at the end, and just when things are at their bleakest, the day is saved and everyone comes out fine—even Twilight, who I had thought had definitely been killed, is perfectly fine. And there's even a sequel hook. It plays just like you'd expect a darker action story to play.

That's not to say it's a bad story. Far from it. It's a really good story. It just doesn't really do anything surprising or innovative. The grimdark “everyone could die” angle's certainly played, but unless it's a oneshot, it's always a bluff by the author—well, almost always. Like you would really waste hundreds of hours writing a story and then a sequel to it only to end it like that.

The characterization follows Together Forever's, in that it's all very well done. Tyrantlestia still feels off, but at least there's some justification for her actions in the previous story. Sombra's used just as one would expect him to be—which is a little unfortunate given canon basically gives him a blank slate to work with. He's evil. He wants to take over the world. There's some “Pony Master Race” motives that are played, but they feel underdeveloped. Had more emphasis been placed on that, rather than the “overthrow Equestria and take over the world” element, he could have worked better.

I will give a lot of credit for the Windegos, who act as the answer to the “how are the princesses going to be dealt with?” question. It's the first time I can recall seeing them in a multi-chapter fanfic and they're used well, although I feel they work much better as a primary villain than as lackeys taking orders. It's like having dragons as a villain's mooks—it makes them less impressive and threatening.

Still, for all the problems sequels can have, Winter Storm had none of them. It did feel like a necessary continuation, it had an exciting and absorbing plot, and it's ending satisfied while still delivering future promises. I look forward to reading the next installment.

Winter Times receives...

...moustaches out of five and is upvoted.

Only recently did Fimfiction get a dedicated horror tag. Before that, you just had what I liked to call the Triumvirate—Dark, Tragedy, and Sad tags. If your fic had the Triumvirate, it was guaranteed to either be horror or grimdark.

If there's one genre I've always shied away from it's horror. Horror movies almost always go one of two ways—gore or jumpscares—neither of which I like and neither of which I find to be horrifying. Fanfics have it just as bad. Only instead of ax murderers, you have Everfree Forest monsters, OOC canon characters, or some kind of body horror fulfilling the gore camp.

Jumpscares are nearly impossible in fanfics, unless you put a gif at the end but who'd dare do such a cheap and lazy thing? No, instead you have the gutpunch. You know, that onehshot Triumvirate story where everyone dies at the end, Luna gets trapped in an eternal nightmare of darkness, or some such ending that leaves you feeling like you just got punched in the gut—sad and regretting what just happened. They're like a comedy oneshot, only instead of ending with one last punchline, they end with the darkest possible conclusion to the story's plot.

And they suck. Party because idiot balls abound, partly because there's almost never proper context given to what's going one, and partly because they make me regret I ever bothered wasting my time reading them. It's forced me to check the ending of every oneshot fic I want to read that has a dark tag just so I can avoid them. So I dislike the vast majority of horror fics on Fimfiction. I don't like the Triumvirate oneshots and I don't like the gorefics.

No, I like the atmospheric. The creepy. The best horror fics have no blood or gut punches, just a slowly building apprehension as you read on that it all could go horribly wrong. Could. It might end perfectly well and there's nothing wrong, but the only way to know for sure is to keep reading and find out.

Really, at their heart, the best horror fics are mysteries. Something might be going on, but you don't know and you have to find out. And that's where Carousel enters the picture, six paragraphs into my rambling. EQD so rarely provides me with fanfics these days, but the synopsis intrigued me, so I plunged into the mystery.

The story's set four years prior to the show, in a time so rarely visited by fanfics for some reason, as if Ponyville and the M6 that lived there don't really have stories to tell before the Summer Sun Celebration. Rarity's just gotten back from Manehattan and is growing disillusioned over her fashion career prospects. Her parents overbearingness and baby Sweetie Belle don't help things.

So she decides to set up shop in Ponyville and build her reputation from the ground up, and what better place to set up shop than the creepy, abandoned Old Town Hall that's been derelict for three decades? It even has ancient gas lighting that won't be highlighted a number of times as if it's important to the climax. The Silent Hill paintings in the basement of grotesque abominations writhing in agony are an added bonus.

Having secured funds from the Canterlot Historical Society and Filthy Rich's Business Grant Thing, she gets to work fixing her new house and ignoring the pink mare that hatefully glares at her from outside her window. But frustration quickly mounts as her dreams of fashion glory steadily sink.

You can really divide the story in half—a slice of lifey first few chapters which transition to the horror and mystery of the later chapters. And, perhaps, that's where a fault lies. It takes a while to get into it. The first few chapters are slow. Really slow. Rarity doesn't move into her creepy house until chapter 3. Slice of Life's well and good, but there's only so much of Rarity buying a house and dealing with her parents and HGTV maintenance I can take.

If I'm honest, had this been in the Possible Trackings and was only two or three chapters in, I probably would have cut it because of the slowness. There's a few much needed creepy scenes here and there to remind you this isn't a ponified Money Pit, but it still feels like an oil tanker moving out of a harbor. But I said it's perhaps a fault. I'd much rather it be too slow going in than too fast and while a part of me wanted to get right to the spooks, another part was glad things were taking time to develop.

The horror gradually percolates in, slowly displacing the SoL. For Rarity's frustration over distractions and owning a formerly abandoned building slowly transitions to despair and anger. As it does, she begins to dream and hallucinate. And, of course, it wouldn't be a Rarity horror story if those hallucinations didn't involve mannequins, now would it?

Those hallucinations are where the story really begins to shine. Nothing causes more apprehension or confusion than an unreliable narrator—especially when that narrator's omniscient third person. It helps to show off just what Rarity's going through: scary, confusing events that she has little to no control over.

And it all feeds a cycle. The dreams and hallucinations lead to anger and bitterness and that leads to more hallucinations until, combined with some bureaucratic horror thanks to the Canterlot Historical Society, it all causes a breakdown on Rarity's part and isolation from her friends and family. She's stuck with her creepy house and creepy paintings—along with plenty of animosity.

Speaking of those paintings, the real mystery of the story is peeled away at this point, for as she tries to tackle the bureaucracy, she uncovers where they came from. The former owner of the Old Town Hall was a painter, and letting you in on the quite obvious twist everyone saw coming, she committed suicide by gasing after she sunk into despair and bitterness over her failed career. Sounds familiar? Well Rarity sure thinks so and fires up the possible hope spot to derail the Triumvirate. She starts to mend her friendships and that leads directly into the climax.

The climax is one of the best I've seen in a fanfic and is definitely the story's highlight. Yeah, there's still two chapters left, so the likelihood of a dark ending is low—but that does little to stop the tension and anxiety as Rarity confronts the ghost of the artist, all while the gas lighting is cranked to full blast and the confrontation becomes a desperate scramble to escape before suffocating.

After escaping, the plot shifts into wrap up mode, which is perhaps the biggest failure of Carousel. Pinkie reveals what's left of the mystery in short order: the earth pony artist—Toola Roola (who, quite intentionally, was an artist pony from Gen 3)--who's causing all of this left the bad mojo in the Town Hall as a result of her innate earth pony magic, which, much like a smell, has a tendency to linger long after death.

Rarity, now determined not to fall to the same fate as Toola, sets things right by repairing her relationship with her family and friends and getting her finances in order. She's even able to come to an understanding with Toola's ghost, or the earth pony magic, or the paintings, or whatever's causing the spooky scary skellingtons and things wrap up just in time for the show to start.

It all gives a rather mixed feeling. I love that SoL feeling the last chapter gives—to the point where I really want some pre-show Ponyville fics now—but it's a far cry from the climax. It really feels like things got shuffled around. The whole reveal of Toola and the earth pony magic should have happened first, then have the big climax as Rarity tries to remove the paintings, then wrap things up.

The climax feels kind of wasted as a result. All that excitement and tension, and then you just get gradually let down like a deflating balloon. A deflating balloon that also reveals the whole mystery that's been the story's central plot. Still, it's miles away from the worst ending I've ever read and it certainly isn't a bad one, nor does it ruin the fic like so many endings can. It just feels jumbled up and not fulling making use of it's potential.

There's also one more minor complaint, and it's the very same one I had with Winter Storm. It all feels kind of typical. Atmospheric horror is rarely seen in fanfics, but when it is, it follows the standard pattern: there's the introduction of the main character and creepy location, the creepy location is built up through creepy things happening, the reveal of the monster/ghost, and a climax involving a plot point that's highlighted throughout the story. It even reads like some movies I've seen.

It's by no means bad, just a path I've been before. And honestly, I'm not sure there's really much the author could have done to get away from the path, without also sacrificing some of the plot or characterization and, thus, making it a worse story. It may be a familiar path, but it's tread down fantastically.

Carousel has a slow build up, but a great setting and characterization. This combines with a steadily building mystery and horror, which culminates in one of the best climaxes I've seen. The ending is slightly botched due to shuffling things around, and the basic plot's nothing earth shattering, but it's still a fantastic story. As a result,

Carousel receives...

...moustaches out of five, is upvoted, and is favorited.

Possible Trackings on deck.

I'm Sorry it had to Come to This is cut three chapters in primarily due to pacing issues. The story, which has a pretty interesting premise—even if x is a changeling is overused these days—suffers from hastily speeding through a lot of setup and worldbuilding that easily could have taken eight or nine thousand words. Instead of slowly simmering, the big reveal that the whole plot's centered around happens not even three thousand words in.

Flurry Heart: Equestria's Greatest Monster is tracked for its time travel plot and quite interesting first chapter hook.

Certified Oneshots by Quality Assurance International.

A Letter to Heaven starts out as some nice Dash Slice of Life and then I suddenly found myself on a feels trip without my permission slip. 9/10. Would go again.

One Last Act of Tragedy tells that classic “Twilight kills Tirek” story that was all the rage at the close of S4, only quite a bit different from the standard. It was interesting, but I can't help but feel it was also disappointing. There's a lot of story potential with Twilight killing Tirek but it's all tossed aside in favor of a boiled down look at Twilight's grieve. And it's very boiled down. Maybe that's to the benefit of the story, but it still feels like there's a lot of potential that was cast aside in favor of one of those avant garde artsy fartsy fic plots.

Palimpsest intermixes some nice dark magic action with a Twilight/Celestia interaction—one that focuses on Celestia's chessmaster tendencies and lack of sufficient backup plans when dealing with the thousand year old skeletons in the closet—that is very rarely seen in most fics and does it all very well.

Mother tackles the rarely used lovecraftian birth plot, but unfortunately has pacing issues which spoil it. It took a plot fit for a 30k word fic and compressed it into 4k.

RIP in spaghetti, Deadficetti.

Through a Glass, Darkly is transferred to deadfics due to the author mysteriously hopping off the ride. Quite a shame, as it was an enjoyable mirror universe fic. As always, I opt out of reading the “this is what would have happened” chapter in the event he hops back on and I'm spoiled on the ending.

And that's all I read for the dayquarter.

# of story updates remaining: 553.
# of “Read Later” stories remaining: 1,119.

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Comments ( 4 )
Author Interviewer

Always a pleasure to see your updates. :D So many stories to shift around!

Build wall

Thank you for reviewing my story and for such a complimentary rating! I'm glad you enjoyed it to the degree you did. You raise a lot of fair and penetrating points with some of the story's issues, especially regarding the ending. Whether it was the idea itself or my execution of it that went wrong, it's certainly the problem I hear about the most. The level of depth you went to in analyzing everything is very helpful for me to piece together what went well and how I can get better at what didn't. Thanks again!

Majin Syeekoh
Story Approver

Dude, that's like the best review ever!

Thanks, man!:twilightsmile:

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