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PaulAsaran


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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Dec
21st
2017

Paul's Thursday Reviews XCVIII · 4:46pm Dec 21st, 2017

This started off as a crummy writing week. I missed Monday and Tuesday because I was off on all-day trips getting up close and personal with big warships, and I'm sure I won't get any writing done today while I'm headed to visit my parents. Still, I managed to make up for it. How? By writing 6k words yesterday. It left me feeling quite accomplished! If only I could pull half that much on a regular basis.

In the meantime, I'm all but finished writing the rough draft of Songbird. Once that's done and I've given it a week's slot for editing purposes, I aim to resume one of my long-desired stories: No Heroes: Life of Pie, which has been on hiatus since February. But that doesn't mean Songbird will be released soon. On the contrary, I aim to put it through some editing paces, and I know my preferred editor won't be able to rush through it in a week. But I'm okay with that. Quality over speed, right?

Also, this set of reviews reminds me of a certain need. For a while now, I've been working on catching up with my Author's Scoring spreadsheet, getting it up-to-date and all. One thing that's been coming up lately is that I've been recording Incompletes and the new 'misaimed' ranks, not to mention the 'crackfics'. The problem: my spreadsheet's auto-counting and grading depends on a broad scan of the data, and so will factor these special cases into its calculations. It's not fair to have these fics counted towards a writer's totals, because these stories provide no additional score. They basically count as zeroes as far as the equations are concerned, which means that any incomplete, crackfic, or misaimed is severely hurting that author's resultant average.

I need to do something about this. Ideally, I'd like them to not be counted at all. Yet also ideal is my desire to see these stories included in the records.

Eh, I'll figure it out. Spreadsheets aren't that hard as long as you know the lingo, and I most certainly know the lingo.

Enough of that. To the reviews!

Stories for This Week:

The Diary of an Evil Pony by TheBrianJ
Lost by OleGreyMane
Always Here by anonpencil
Equestria Girls: The Dilemma by Phantom Shadow
Night Reigns by tursi
Total Word Count: 132,983

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 0
Pretty Good: 2
Worth It: 1
Needs Work: 1
None: 0


The concept with this one is nothing new. Fleur de Lis – real name unknown – is a con artist who seduces rich stallions, robs them blind and then disappears from their lives. For the first time, she’s infiltrated Canterlot, with the intent to scam the city’s most eligible bachelor: Fancy Pants. I’m sure almost every one of you reading this knows where this is going.

There are two major points that I came away with from this story. The first thing I feel obligated to do is judge it against every other story that follows the premise of ‘conwoman falls in love with target’. Ultimately, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. If you’ve read a single story with this concept, then you’ve read this story. From that perspective, it doesn’t achieve much of anything.

But then there’s the other aspect. This is a journal-style story, and over the years I’ve found that most people have no idea how to write these. So imagine my surprise when TheBrianJ hits it almost perfectly. There are no detailed conversations being recorded, no very specific physical activity repeated with disturbingly perfect memorization hours or even days after the fact. Everything is told in generalizations, all but the most memorable bits. For this alone, I have to give the author high marks. I can’t describe how refreshing it is.

The one part that may or may not kill this is a scene that actually isn’t a diary entry. For a brief time, TheBrianJ abandons the journal style of the story for a third person perspective. It’s only one scene, and it is an important one. I can understand why the author chose to do this, as it allowed him to give us details without breaking any journal-style story rules. That said, it is a complete breach from everything the story offers us, which runs the risk of making it jarring and confusing.

For my part, I consider it a decent sacrifice for the better good of the story. Even so, I can’t help wondering if keeping things in a diary format wouldn’t have been better. I suppose we’ll never know. As it stands, I think I’ll let it be a subjective issue, likely to affect each reader in a different way.

For getting the journal style of writing done right, I applaud this. However, the cookie cutter plot combined with the questionable nature of the late style break forces me to bring it down a notch. I think it’s well done enough to warrant a positive rating, considering I left the story satisfied.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good


Lost

4,231 Words
By OleGreyMane
Recommended by Pascoite

In this unexpected tale, Fluttershy is summoned to Twilight’s to view a recently discovered fossil. It is soon realized that the dog-sized remains belong to a pre-history pony. And when Fluttershy touches it, she sees things from a very different perspective.

Lost is curious in its manner, using MLP as a device for viewing the ancient life of a pony back when they were only just starting to grasp basic concepts like time and family. The story ends up being tense and alarming, mostly because the reader already knows the outcome and is just waiting, breathlessly, for it to happen. From this perspective, I really liked it.

There’s just one problem: how? Fluttershy proves capable of seeing this ancient pony’s last moments, and even remembers them once she gains them. No explanation for this is offered or even hinted at. There’s not the faintest clue, and without one we can’t even begin to speculate. This, I feel, is the author’s one critical error.

For taking us somewhere I never expected to go, I approve. So long as you can tolerate sadfic and a focus on a character you don’t know, it’s definitely worth the read.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good


Always Here

2,621 Words
By anonpencil
Requested by SleepIsforTheWeak

In this 2nd person story, “you” are an agoraphobe who is struggling to find a way to deal with the pressure of your fears. Just the idea of going to get the mail downstairs fills you with panic. Fortunately, you’ve got a ‘friend’ in the form of Twilight Sparkle to help you out.

Mixed feelings with this one. On the one hand, it’s an interesting look into the life of a person who struggles with things most of us can barely comprehend. On the other, it tries to make ‘you’ the person who is suffering from these things. To be honest, I’m not fond of 2nd person stories for exactly that reason: it feels as though the author is trying to cram understanding and emotion down our throats rather than utilize any kind of subtlety. Even worse to me is that there’s no way ‘you’ can actually behave like I do, since the author has no idea who I am or how I would really behave in any given situation, so the whole thing comes out forced.

But that’s a subjective complaint.

To be honest, this story didn’t have much of an affect on me. That being said, I don’t think that is any fault with the story. Indeed, the story is well written, well paced, and well delivered. I would go so far as to say it’s a good bit of sadfic, even if it comes and goes in no time. One could also make a compelling argument regarding how this story reflects the potential 'healing factor' of MLP in the lives of its fanbase. If you’re interested in getting a look at the world from a different angle and can tolerate a ‘you’ character, give it a go.

But for me?

Bookshelf: Missed Audience


The first story I read by this author was Equestria Girls: Applejack's Secret, which proved to be a curious story about Applejack stripping to help out the farm. It drew my interest for being a story involving an inherently sexual topic without being clop, and those stories aren’t common. The story itself was only so-so, but I was curious to see if the author had tackled any other topics in a similar manner, so here we are.

In Equestria Girls: The Dilemma, we discover that Big Mac and Fluttershy have been dating for months. One night Fluttershy is having a sleepover at Rainbow’s place. The two get drunk, one thing leads to another, and now Fluttershy’s worried she might have been a lesbian all along. Her solution to this problem? Get Big Mac in a bed ASAP and see if she likes guys more than girls.

I suppose a reader’s enjoyment of this story will depend heavily upon why they’re reading it in the first place. I was hoping for something a little deeper than ‘Big Mac and Fluttershy do the deed in graphic detail’, but that’s exactly what I got. As such, the story ended up being uninteresting to me. But if you’re interested in seeing two virgins go at one another with enough skill to have their virginity called into question? You might get something out of this.

...if is set in the EqG world, does it still qualify as clop? Eh, either way, it still counts as porn (although I note the new tags fail to identify it as such).

Anyway, ignoring the unrealistic interpretation of sex that takes up half the story, it suffers from a few technical issues. Worst case scenarios include lines that immediately contradict themselves, such as:

As the bell rang, signaling the students to journey their way to their next class, Fluttershy began making her way to the cafeteria for her lunch period.

Lunch period is a class?

There’s also sections with far more detail than is needed (and I'm not referring to the sexual descriptions in this case), strange phrases that don’t mean what the author likely intended, repetition of the same words within very short spans of one another, use of character-identifier behavior that is more annoying than endearing, corny lines said in apparent earnest, and anything else I’m neglecting at the moment. The worst lines are the ones that try to milk the ‘reason’ they’re doing what they’re doing, which come out more awkward and dumb than romantic or sexual.

In summation, this is a story that will probably appeal to the cloppers, save for those of higher standards (believe it or not, they do exist). Anyone not here for the sex should move on.

Bookshelf: Needs Work


Night Reigns

110,521 Words
By tursi
Completed Story

Ah, another ‘what if’ story. In Night Reigns, we once again encounter an AU where Rainbow Dash never performed the Sonic Rainboom as a filly, and so none of the Mane 6 ended up where they were supposed to. In addition, Sunset Shimmer never lost her apprenticeship under Celestia, and so she was the one sent to Ponyville to stop Nightmare Moon. Simply put, she failed to read the signs Celestia had been giving her and thus didn’t stop Nightmare Moon. Fast forward ten years: Equestria is trapped in eternal night, and Nightmare struggles to rule as Queen over a populace that is quiescent, but not particularly happy.

And then a meteor hits the Everfree Forest…

This is a story that tries to be ambitious, and does a decent enough job of it. True, the background concept is trite (although I suppose combining two AU ideas into one helps), but the author does well with what they have. The story stars a variety of characters who all get a fair amount of attention, not a balancing act most can manage well.

We have Celestia, who manages to escape the Sun by force. Weakened and hunted, she spends much of the story trying to find a way to reunite with her sister without being killed for the effort, all while dealing with her guilt. Then there’s Nightmare Moon, who is terrified that her sister is furious and intends to destroy her, but can’t grasp why Celestia hasn’t acted yet. Her role is made all the more interesting by her constant struggle to understand why her citizens aren’t happy under her rule, although this concept is only half-explored. Along for the ride are: Sunset Shimmer, on the run these ten years for fear of her life and feeling the fall of Equestria is her fault; Sterling Honor, Nightmare’s captain of the guard who fears his loyalty may falter at any time; and Stratosphere, an excitable and immature scout of the Royal Guard who just wants to ask Sunset out on a date.

The cast of characters are interesting, to say the least. It includes a few side characters who are worth the time to learn about, complimenting and advancing the main characters well. Character development and relationship development are constant and competent, and I especially enjoyed the interactions between Ulfrid and Nightmare.

There were a number of things that gave me pause, though. The story suffers early on from what I like to call ‘amateur writer’ mistakes, although these gradually start to fade as time goes by. Considering the two-year timetable of the story’s release, I’d have been far more critical if they hadn’t. The pacing is fine, although at times I felt it was moving too fast. This had nothing to do with the writing style and everything to do with so many big events happening, not all of which were absolutely necessary.

Which brings forth the major issue I had with the story as a whole: it is all so heavily dependent on contrived scenarios. The Alicorn Amulet just happens to land in the hooves of Sterling Honor when the story starts, and Sunset finds a reason to take advantage of it in the most perfect (and most blatantly stupid) manner she could, leading to Celestia working to bring the Crystal Empire back because why not, and all of this coalescing into the return of King Sombra and… yeah. Why the heck couldn’t this just be a story about two sisters struggling to find a way to communicate with one another? tursi could have easily managed the same wordcount by skipping the Rube Goldberg-style series of events and focusing on Celestia and Sunset trying to find a way to deal with Nightmare Moon, and I argue we’d have had a much better story for it.

Oh, well. The story is entertaining for what it is. Trying a bit too hard, perhaps, but still a worthwhile adventure. If tursi can narrow their focus a bit, we might get some even better stories. As for this one?

Bookshelf: Worth It


Recent Review Map:

Paul's Thursday Reviews XCIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews XCIV
Paul's Thursday Reviews XCV
Paul's Thursday Reviews XCVI
Paul's Thursday Reviews XCVII
You Are Here
Paul's Thursday Reviews XCIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews #100!
Paul's Thursday Reviews CI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CIII

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Comments ( 7 )

I absolutely adored Diary of an Evil Pony. While it's not the entirety of my characterization, the Fleur and Fancy depicted therein make up a decent amount of how I envision them in my own stories.

.....

I just realized this means more I have to read. Oh well, good thing I like reading!

I missed Monday and Tuesday because I was off on all-day trips getting up close and personal with big warships,

Which big warships?

4755275
I suppose there's something to be said for that. Alas, the depictions don't have much in common with my own headcanons, but I don't hold that against the story.

4755279
Yes, read ALL the horsewords!

4755493
The battleship Texas and the carrier Lexington.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I know in my highschool, lunch period could be 4th, 5th or 6th period, meaning you'd have two-thirds of the school going to class during any of those periods.

Going through the spreadsheet won't be too bad, unless you also intend to review the scores you gave to screen for ones that would have gotten one of the n/a ratings before you gave such out.

Look on the bright side, you've written more than me! On the down side, that's not very hard. :P

Good luck on the spread sheet.

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