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REVIEW: Twilight Sparkle and The Crystal Heart Spell · 11:47am Jul 21st, 2016

oh boy. this is the infamous one. should I skip it, since everyone's already heard negative things about it? maybe you'd rather hear about the fun Discord book instead? I dunno, I just felt like writing about this one now.

Twilight Sparkle and The Crystal Heart Spell
by G.M. Berrow

This was the first MLP book by G.M. Berrow, not counting the Equestria Girls: Through the Mirror, which is just a novelization of the first movie. I haven't read that one, because why would I need to? Maybe there's some hidden gems in there, like some actual depth for Flash Sentry's character, but nobody cares about him anyway. not even Hasbro's writers, since they ignored him in the next 2 movies.

Remember how I quoted the first 4 pages of the Celestia book? I liked that it turned a standard recap and establishing shot by doing it in action, which launged right into the start of the story. Twilight's book starts with 5 pages of recap, and none of it is in action. It's even more necessary for the intended audience, covering 3 seasons of development and Twilight's crowning. but it's so boring. :raritydespair:

a few chapters in, Twilight goes to the Crystal Empire, and there's a 1-page recap of the King Sombra episodes. it has no relevance to this story. getting tired of recaps. :ajsleepy:

I scrapped this post already because I was recapping the plot without having anything interesting to say about it. I'm just gonna skip to the big interesting things. I feel a little scatterbrained trying to figure out this book's plot for the 3rd time.

summary: Twilight has just become a Princess, but she is worried because she doesn't know how to be a good ruler. she ends up asking a lot of characters for advice. there's a weird spell that I can't even explain but it turns out to be one of those "the magic was inside you all along!" thingies.

Princess Cadance tells her origin story! her fans rejoice! it's a very short fairy tale, but at least it's something to work with. it's not just fanservice either, because it's meant to show that Cadance's ascension was very different from Twilight's. she's the Princess of Love, not Friendship.

Gilda and Trixie appear in this book. they seem to be the local town bullies, just hanging around Ponyville being up to no good. after getting in a fight with her friends, Twilight ends up listening to their bad advice. that sends her into a downward spiral because of the magical necklace that amplifies positive/negative emotions. I don't even want to explain that, because the magical elements in this book are awfully vague.

even if you don't like the characters, it's pretty obvious this is a poor use of Gilda and Trixie. they're generic bullies now? Twilight's listening to them? :rainbowhuh:

at Bronycon, I attended G.M. Berrow's panel. she revealed that this antagonist had originally been a changeling! BUT the Queen Chrysalis storyline was going on at that time in the IDW comics, and Hasbro didn't want another story about changelings at the same time, so they forced her to replace with Gilda. okay, this is a lot more understandable. from Berrow, that is. Hasbro's decision is still baffling. is it really breaking continuity or something?

for that matter, I didn't realize they cared so much about what was happening in the chapter books and comics at the same time. for material that isn't even canon, they sure control it tightly at times. I was joking about the books being canon while the comics aren't, when really it's a matter of Berrow having more influence with the writing staff. oh yeah, Berrow also revealed in her panel that she was able to convince a writer to include SOMETHING from the comics and put it in a future episode in Season 6. so there, now the comics are canon too! :duck:

ok back to the book. the scenes where Twilight's hearing voices suddenly make a lot more sense if you know there's a changeling following her, trying to influence her. now I'm glad to know she doesn't have schizophrenia.

dang, I still can't get over what Hasbro did. a changeling.... got abducted.... and replaced with Gilda. nopony notices anything strange with this. oh the irony! :trollestia:

arrhh, I'm distracted. DO YOU SEE NOW? it's funny now that I know the secret behind the book, but back then this just looked like lazy writing! and so many people dismissed Berrow because of this!

the book does have some interesting concepts. I mentioned how Twilight has that necklace thing, and her spiralling negative thoughts creates a divide between her and the Mane 6. she dismisses their silly ideas for ruling a kingdom, and starts to wonder if being a leader means doing things more of her own way. it becomes kinda like a cross between Party of One or Lesson Zero, how she drives herself into unhealthy isolation. it's not quite as entertaining, without the animation and funny gags of a crazy pony weirding out the normal ponies.

but I also think it works in its own way. since it's in prose instead of animation, the isolation can happen internally. no need for external gags to express it, like Twilight pulling a Gollum with her reflection. and without the zaniness, it felt like a much more realistic, serious matter. I had a lot more sympathy for this Twilight. and it was actually painful when she starts ignoring her friends, because she thinks she has to focus harder on finding this vague magic spell.

clean up this story, and I think it could've fit in the tv show, perhaps as the Season 4 opener. of course it wouldn't, because Lesson Zero already exists. and this was written to fit as a book, not animation. but despite all its serious faults, at its core it's very much in tune with the spirit of the show.

so my feelings towards this one are a paradox. I don't recommend it because Hasbro meddled with it too much, and it doesn't get very interesting until halfway through (recaps!) ....... yet it's not nearly as bad as everyone says! I can see hints of the shine I saw in the later books, that Berrow does understand what she's writing about. I suppose she hadn't developed the confidence yet, still nervous about writing for children. yet at the same time, this story about leadership, and self-caused isolation from friends... that was awfully risky for the first book in this series! it could've just been a regular slice of life story about adorkable book horse princess.

the next several books did scale back to simpler slice of life stories, so I guess she learned a lesson. do something too risky, and of course it'll fall apart when Hasbro plucks out your changeling. :derpytongue2:

also learned from the Bronycon panel, the titles of the 3 Daring Do chapter books she wrote are also confirmed canon entries within the in-universe Daring Do series. so hey, Rainbow Dash is reading this same real-life book that I'm reading! worlds collide! :rainbowderp: however, Hasbro's not allowed to actually say those specific book titles in the show. even though Berrow's books are also their property, they can't use them...? full reason was unknown.

this is why I think arguing about MLP "canon" is so pointless, because instead of being an artist's vision, most of it is tangled up in arbitrary legal anomalies like this. just look at Derpy.

Book 8 / Princess Celestia and The Summer of Royal Waves
Book 9 / Princess Luna and The Festival of the Winter Moon

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Comments ( 7 )

dang, I still can't get over what Hasbro did. a changeling.... got abducted.... and replaced with Gilda. nopony notices anything strange with this. oh the irony! :trollestia:

Who is the true menace now? Everyling? Or a single gryph? with assists from Trixie. You gotta believe she's got tricks up her sleeve. Someone write a fic where there's a changeling invasion about to commence, only to be blindsided by Gilda and Trixie, who apparently are bigger dicks than the vast majority of the Changelings.

The book needed more Nine Inch Tails.

inconvenient Trixie ruins the villain's evil plan. again!

Ahh, corporate meddling, where would we be without you?

A much better place >:[

I bought the Celestia book on your recommendation, and will likely buy Luna's as well, so I'm looking forward to reading those. It will be interesting comparing them to the masses of fanfiction I've consumed.

hope you enjoy them!
if not, there goes all my review credibility :raritycry:

I appreciate your insights about these. I haven't checked out the books and I'm not sure if I would otherwise... but they sound decent enough, and I might with my kids.

excellent, i hope they're still enjoyable.
this Twilight book is the only one I'm not sure on. everything after it was much more consistent.

I think this book justifies its existence simply by being the inspiration for Skywriter's Lady Prismia and the Princess-Goddess, which is adorable, fabulous, wonderful and all kinds of other good things.

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