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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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Mar
29th
2018

Paul's Thursday Reviews CX · 9:04pm Mar 29th, 2018

A whole week of not writing. I daresay it was necessary. It was nice to be able to dive into gaming like I used to, but I know better than to let that sink its steely, pixelated hooks into my flesh for a second time, so I finally ended the little vacation yesterday. I won’t be seriously into writing again until next week due to a busy coming weekend; I just don’t see the point of trying to pick up steam when I know I’ll have to hit the breaks again. Still, I am writing again in general, so it’s a nice start.

That being said, Songbird is now my top priority. The story has been on the backburner for ages, partially due to editor availability and partially due to my own loathing of the deeper editing process. But no more. I aim to make Songbird the monthly release of April, and I’ll do that even if my editors are unable to get to every chapter. This story’s been sitting in development hell for over a year now and I’ve had enough.

Reviews? Those haven’t slowed down at all. Let’s have a look.

Stories for This Week:

A Draconequus' Guide to Immortality by ArgonMatrix
Mistakes Best Not Remembered by Sorren
Within and Without by Cloudy Skies
All the Time in the World by Adda le Blue
Before the Storm: The Rise of Firefly by Firesight

Total Word Count: 431,050

Rating System

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


What’s that, another ‘immortality sucks’ story? Not quite. In this one, taking place just a day after Twilight becomes an alicorn, she starts to wonder about the nature of immortality and whether it’s a good or bad thing. Recalling an offer from Discord to give her a little advice, she decides to talk to him about it.

The story gets a leg up on others of this subgenre by avoiding having Twilight whine and fret over her apparent immortality. Instead, it has her begin with the obvious first step: trying to determine the pros and cons of such an existence. But… not at first. First, ⅔ of the story has to introduce the scenario, poke fun at Spike, and generally talk about nothing related to the story’s main topic. Setting a scene is fine, but this one feels like it might be stretching it a bit. Your mileage will vary.

In ArgonMatrix’s defense, those scenes are pretty good on their own.

I generally liked Discord’s advice to Twilight, too. I’d have liked it more if the author hadn’t used the fourth wall-breaking draconequus to rub the slightly more original approach in our faces. But hey, it is slightly more original, so I guess I’ll permit the narcissism.

Decently written, slow but still endearing, and taking a somewhat different approach to the topic. Not a bad story on the whole.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Don't Feel — Pretty Good


Mistakes Best Not Remembered

3,364 Words
By Sorren
Recommended by Pascoite

And here we have another Luna sadfic. But this one adds a little something extra I didn’t expect. The story involves Luna visiting the old castle in the Everfree to reminisce on her crimes. While there, she goes to the dungeons and discovers that her greatest mistake had gone unnoticed by everyone, even herself, the entire time.

Short, cruel, and perhaps intended as a foreshadowing of things to come, Mistakes Best Not Remembered is a pretty decent darkfic. It makes a solid effort at being atmospheric and mostly succeeds, although at times I felt it might be trying too much. That’s a minor issue, though. The only thing that really bugs me is that it’s just another remorseful Luna fic, but that’s a subjective complaint.

Really, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this story. It’s atmospheric, well written, and hits the reader with an unexpected twist. If you’re a fan of sad Luna, you can’t go wrong here.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Princess Luna has decided the time has come for her to... er, ‘interact’ more with the ponies who defeated Nightmare Moon, hoping to help them improve their bonds of friendship and their personal growth. To this end she invites the lot of them on a journey to explore the consequences of their past actions, specifically as those actions relate to Gilda and Trixie.

This story was written before Season 2 ever aired, which means that to get into it you have to ignore practically all of the character development that has happened since then. This is not an easy pill to swallow, believe me. It means that there are a lot of peculiar flaws each character possesses, flaws that don’t fit them as we now know them. Take, for example, a Rarity who doesn’t have faith in her own future, or a Fluttershy who is legitimately afraid of being left alone or behind even in the most friendly and harmless of situations.

If you can swallow that pill, there is some interesting material to cover here. Cloudy Skies takes time to examine each of the Mane 6 and Princess Luna, giving most of them some sense of personal growth. Pinkie is a bit of an exception here, but only because her issues are tied directly to Rainbow’s and Fluttershy’s, so once they’re all good she is too. Still, it’s a minor hiccup in a generally solid showing of character growth. Which, in the end, is what the entire story is about.

Along with this character growth is a decent amount of exploration and worldbuilding, including learning about griffon culture and the history of Equestria in general, especially in regards to Luna’s past. This is really more spicing than a major influence on the story, but it’s pretty good for what it is.

All that being said, issues abound. My first problem is that some of the decisions made by the characters make no sense. For example, Luna calls upon all the Mane 6 for a meeting. She then politely, respectfully invites them on a journey, taking pains to ensure them that there is no obligation to go and she’s only trying to help. Somehow this immediately devolves into Rainbow Dash accusing Luna of trying to split the Elements of Harmony up and destroy their friendships. Never mind that nothing Luna said or did even remotely suggests this. Throw in Twilight saying something that is somehow taken to be deeply insulting when it isn’t. The entire scene felt wholly unnecessary and thrown in just for the sake of squeezing out a bit of drama.

Another example is Applejack. No, that’s really it, just Applejack. Half the time she’s telling everyone “I don’t trust Luna enough to so much as turn my back on her.” The other half of the time she’s saying “I don’t understand why none of you trust Luna. She’s cool.” Seriously, she flip-flops between these two views with every chapter, sometimes from scene to scene, for no reason. At times she gets outright violent, only to turn around five seconds later and pretend everything’s always been fine. Applejack has no personality continuity, and it’s annoying at best. Like the issue above, I half-suspect the author didn’t know what to do with her except to change her up every time some drama did or didn’t need to be injected into the story.

I'm not even going to get into the TwilightxLuna ship that doesn't seem to exist for any reason other than the author wanted it to.

Then there’s the writing. There are a lot of small, minor mistakes that build up over time to become frustratingly eye-catching. If that was all I might have hand-waved it, but then the author throws in nonstop LUS. There are a lot of purple unicorns, white fashionistas, orange farm ponies, and so on. I could understand doing it once or twice a chapter, but Cloudy Skies wields LUS like a crutch. It grows to be a problem very early and never goes away.

Overall, the story is… decent. But I’ve certainly read better by this author, both in content and delivery.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
No Recipe For PerfectionPretty Good
Where Your Heart IsPretty Good


Now this is more like it, Blue!

All the Time in the World centers on Minuette, who has been the good Doctor’s assistant and fellow researcher into time travel ever since they got their cutie marks together. Today, at last, they have uncovered the means of travelling through time. Though everypony, even the glorious Princesses of Equestria, refused to support their project, they have at last reached their goal. Minuette agrees to be the first pony to travel through time, heading fifty years into the future.

It’s… not what she hoped.

Stories about the flaws of time travel aren’t uncommon, so delivery is important. How fortunate it is that Adda le Blue pulled off a pitch-perfect one. The pacing is solid. We are fed just enough information to keep things understandable, but not enough to seem like an overload, all while maintaining a touch of mystery. Tell is abandoned entirely for a constant stream of visual input that never lets you miss the emotions at play. This story is by far the best I’ve read by this author.

The only thing that may bother some people is the lack of clarity on what Minuette has become by the end of the story. She’s shown having some incredible abilities, but it’s not clear why. Has she gone through hundreds of iterations of the time loop and we were only shown three of them? Did she naturally develop an affinity for time magic as a result? I think so, but I’m not sure. This one grey area is the only part I see that could lead some readers to disapprove of what’s happening in this story, if only because they don’t know for sure.

If that’s the only thing, then I suppose it’s not a big deal. It certainly isn’t to me. You might disagree.

But for my part, this is a thoroughly enjoyable, endearing, and emotional story about a mare learning that the most important dream in her life has been in front of her all along. Consider me very happy.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Miss Sparkle, Psychopath — Worth It
True Love Never Dies — Missed Audience


Before the Storm: The Rise of Firefly

258,706 Words
By Firesight
Completed Story

Before the Storm: The Rise of Firefly is the start of a trilogy centered on the titular Firefly, a pegasus pony who lived roughly three hundred years after the banishment of Princess Luna. It is set in the prelude years of a horrible war between Equestria and the Gryphon Empire, a period in which Firefly becomes the first mare in history to graduate training in the Royal Guard and rapidly rose through the ranks for consistently excellent leadership and merit. While she does so, we are also given a look at the Gryphon Empire’s invasion planning as told by the warrior Layan Kaval.

And that’s just the beginning. Along the way Firesight gives us clear, wide-ranging looks at Equestrian and Gryphon culture, military doctrine, history, government, codes of ethics, magical study, and more. Nor does the story focus on Firefly and Kaval solely. The story is told as if it were a book being written by the ponies and gryphons who lived the events, and Firefly regularly hands over the quill to others so that they may ‘share their part of the story’. Later Firesight goes above and beyond the call of duty by adding in extraneous chapters detailing the rank and file, actual troop numbers, and types of awards for both armies. There are even maps of battle plans featuring intended and actual troop movements. The sheer effort and attention to detail put into this story is astounding. I’ve always wanted to do something like this, and seeing someone else achieve it is wonderful.

There are a few catches in all of this. For one, despite the fact that there are battles and military engagements, we never actually get to the war. Indeed, the story ends right when the war starts! This is obviously intentional and a great ploy for getting readers to continue to the sequel (as of this writing, not completed). But it may cause some consternation to those who just went through ~260k words eagerly anticipating something that just wouldn’t come.

There is also the problem of voice. Even though many characters lend their words to the story, they all write in pretty much the same way. Which makes sense from the perspective that most of the story was written by the same person (Firesight did have some help from one or two guest authors), but doesn’t make sense from the perspective that these are different characters with different perspectives who almost certainly have different writing styles. I’m more than willing to forgive this, as changing a writing style to accommodate such things is terribly hard (from one who knows), but it may be an agitation for the more nitpicky readers out there.

But perhaps the biggest issue I have is, in fact, the numerous tangents. People are reading these stories for Firefly and Kaval. Things are getting interesting! I can’t wait to know what—oh, nevermind, we’re going to past events starring entirely different characters engaged in activities not clearly related to the ongoing material.

Talk about annoying.

In Firesight’s defense, these tangents were very interesting and did a wonderful job expanding upon the world as we’ve known it. They stopped bothering me after three or four times. But there are others who might be thinking that they really don’t want to know all this stuff (especially encyclopedic descriptions of troop types and medals and military ranking). I guess if they want to skip to the ‘good stuff’, that’s their prerogative. Personally? I’d have put those details and tangents – all of them – at the end. Normally I’d recommend taking such stories and making them separate entities in FIMfiction (i.e. new stories), but I can’t say that this time. For once I feel that the story wouldn’t have been complete without the tangential material. Kudos to the author for making that possible.

I’m eager to read the sequel. Right now this is looking to be the single best Equestrian historical war narrative I’ve ever read, and I’m shocked to admit that may include The Age of Wings and Steel. The characters are realistic and interesting, the action exciting, the pacing pitch-perfect, the writing solid, and the world detailed and ever-growing. It gave me everything I could possibly want and left me begging for more.

And we haven’t even gotten to the war yet.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Stories for Next Week:
Tiny Twilight Tales by Foals Errand
Fancy That? by HapHazred
Daring Do and the Dance by Georg
Stallions of Equestria: Adam's Apple by Mr Lovecolt
Plus One by Sapidus3
...But It Often Rhymes by Posh


Recent Review Map:

Paul's Thursday Reviews CV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CVI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CVII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CIX
You Are Here
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXIV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXV

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Comments ( 15 )

4828192
Only an average of 30k/day.

...I suppose that would be a lot by most people's standards.

I'm not even going to get into the TwilightxLuna ship that doesn't seem to exist for any reason other than the author wanted it to.

As a princess pony lover, and a lover of many princess ships, I've noticed that this is a common problem with many examples of the TwiLuna ship. Struggles with development and characterization can be found in a surprising amount of stories. Though, the gems with the pair can certainly be pretty great, if harder to find.

4828198
Perhaps it should instead be said that you read consistently, which has probably been your greatest strength these years

4828192
4828198
Back when this site was my life, (aka last year), I'm pretty sure I did about 40k/day on average...

4828218
I suppose, but a lot of the stories you'll read in this sub(sub?)genre start with the premise that Luna and Twilight are already into one another, which is generally fine if you want to bypass that whole "what do they see in one another?" phase of the relationship. But Within and Without doesn't do that, it starts from scratch with no romantic feelings present. And then the feelings start... because... uh... they've been in close proximity to one another? Maybe? It's an entirely different kind of problem, and far worse for it.

4828395
Yes, that's a nice way of putting it. I approve.

4828475
Yes, see? I'm not crazy after all! I've just been doing it consistently for... uh... many... years...

...yeah, not helping myself. :twilightblush:

4828624
It certainly sounds like it!

Thanks for such a favorable review! :pinkiehappy: I've given you a shout-out here:

https://www.fimfiction.net/blog/803526/another-good-review-for-rise-of-firefly

This was one of my favorite stories to work on while it was in progress, and I often used it as a break from my more adult works. Fun fact: this story actually came out one of my M-rated stories. It was inspired by Part 9 of The Lawyer and The Unicorn, where Firefly appears as a channeled spirit (courtesy of Ace Attorney character Maya Fey. No, really) in the modern day. She described the events of the first four chapters there, so I decided to write what was supposed to be a short story and go no further. But I realized I had something very compelling and promising, so I extended it into a full-blown military epic, having always wanted to write one.

I couldn't be more happy with how it came out, though it's been a struggle to find readers the whole way. Anyway, a couple minor comments on your review: At one point, the bonus chapters were at the end, as appendices, but then I decided to move them into the story proper since the places they appeared were at the points you kind of needed to know the information that was in them. Your point about different writing styles for different characters is well-taken, but unfortunately, for my all writing skill, that's a talent that for now eludes me. You'll be happy to know that I have at least three guest authors lined up for the sequel, though, to handle at least some of the different-point-of-view duties.

Speaking of which, the sequel already has twelve chapters against it and bonus material, though here I'm pretty sure you won't mind the two that take place in the middle of the story. Two battles are already in the books within it, with another (and the most major to date) nearly done. Whenver you get to it, enjoy!

TInto the Storm: The Flight of Firefly
Before the Wonderbolts, there were the Bolt Knights. And before Rainbow Dash, there was Firefly. The story of Rainbow Dash's ancestor, the founding of the Wonderbolts, and the outbreak of the Great Pony/Gryphon War.
Firesight · 305k words  ·  155  6 · 2.2k views

4828697

Speaking of which, the sequel already has twelve chapters against it and bonus material[...] Whenever you get to it, enjoy!

The #1 rule of my reviews is that I don't do clop Wait that has nothing to do with this nevermind.

The #2 rule of my reviews is that I don't do incompletes. When you finish the sequel, only then will it go into my list for reading. I understand that may be a while, but them's the rules. But don't worry, I'll be reading something else by you in time.

Anyway, thanks for the shout-out! But thanks more for the awesome story. If it continues on like this, I'm sure it'll be an epic to remember. I'm glad you decided to expand upon that short story. I know exactly how it feels to find something and want to make it more than it already is.

I've had this tab open ever since you'd posted the blog. I can't find—and still haven't found, really—the words. Thank you.

When All the Time in the World was released, reception was a little cold in comparison to my last few. It made me think that I didn't know what the reader wanted and didn't have the skill to make the reader want what I had to offer.

While I can't say that it's given me any sort of confidence, it certainly helps to hear that someone I hold in such regard feels this way about my meager offerings. Maybe I should take writing off the back burner after all.

Thanks again for this. It means a lot to me.

4832142
No, thank you for developing your skills enough to make this happen. I loved your story, and it makes me look forward to what else you have to offer. It's a shame All the time in the World doesn't have more attention.

4832150
Well, jeez. :twilightblush: High praise. Well, you can expect more in just a few weeks thanks to the Switcheroo, but I must say that even I'm not sure how this project will go. It's unlike anything I've done before. I'm eager to see what your assignment brings as well!

4832187
Uh... well, yeah, except... I was never given one. After asking twice for an update, I eventually gathered that I probably wasn't getting one.

4832191
Aww! Think it's worth asking again if the deadline is less than three weeks away? I will hound them relentlessly for the sake of more paulwords, haha.

4832331
I appreciate the sentiment, but it's not really necessary. If they are so unconcerned about their own contest to not bother responding to queries about it, then I can't be bothered to show any interest. Besides, I've already decided on another story to release for the month of April, and it's long overdue.

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