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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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  • Thursday
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    Win $100 for Writing a Pun!

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    Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXII

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    Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXI

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Apr
26th
2018

Paul's Thursday Reviews CXIII · 8:57pm Apr 26th, 2018

Hey. You. Yeah, you. Wanna take a sneak peek at some Paulfic? Of course you do.

As of yesterday, the initial rough draft for Bulletproof Heart has been completed. As wonderful as that moment of finality after a full year of work was, it’s still not quite over. My next step is to go through the entire story checking for minor errors, adding elements to the plot I only thought of after the fact, and creating links to future events in the sequel I have in mind. I’m hoping this won’t take more than a week or two.

In the meantime, I have been convinced to try something new, or at least new for me. The Alpha phase is nearly done, so now I’m calling for Beta readers. That’s right, a handful of people will get the chance to read Bulletproof Heart before it releases. To be clear, I’m not looking for people who want to agonize over prose and whine about that missing oxford comma. I’m looking for the lay-readers, people willing to go through the material and give feedback on how they felt about the story. Did it entertain them, is it interesting, what parts did they not care about, that kind of stuff.

This will be first-come-first-serve, and I’ll start sending out links to the GDocs and a Discord server only after I’ve finished my final edits for the Alpha-stage of the draft. That may be a week or two yet, but I want to get a pool of potential readers early. There will also be a timeline for finishing the story, although I aim to be generous about this given it's great length.

So… who wants some Gunslinger Rarity?

Stories for This Week:

Changeling by CCC
A Close Encounter of The Cute Kind by TheNewYorkBrony
Twilight Sparkle Investigates by Bradel
Heart of Gold, Feathers of Steel by Nicknack
No, I Am Not A Brony, Get Me Outta Equestria! by BronyWriter
The Moon's Apprentice by Forthwith

Total Word Count: 572,259

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 0
Pretty Good: 3
Worth It: 2
Needs Work: 1
None: 0


Changeling

1,419 Words
CCC failed to provide cover art.

Twilight learned Rainbow Dash is a changeling. When she goes to reveal this news to Celestia, however, the princess decides to drop a bomb of her own: there are only a half-dozen unicorns left in Equestria. Everypony else – literally everypony else – is a changeling.

Given that the concept is absurd, one should expect this to be an absurd story centered on comedic value. And “one” would be correct. CCC wrote this just for a laugh, and it shows. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t amused, but that’s mostly because I prefer a bit of believability in my humor, and there’s nothing even remotely believable about this.

But this one isn’t a bad story by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just not the target audience. I can readily see what people get out of it, and I’m not at all turned off by the method of delivery, and so I am willing to put this in the middle ground rather than subjecting it to my ‘not for me’ category. It’s certainly better than the last story I read by this author.

Give it a try. You might find it amusing.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Discord Applies For Citizenship PapersNeeds Work


This was a curious combination of exactly what you’d expect and nothing at all like what you’d expect. Basically, Flash Sentry bumps into Twilight’s EqG counterpart. Bear in mind this was written before Friendship Games, so her characterization was still up in the air.

TheNewYorkBrony did a few things right here, including making Twilight more akin to the snarky version of Seasons 1 and 2. They also didn’t put on the drama by having Flash mistake this Twilight for the one he knows or immediately start conflating the two – which I would imagine is a go-to step for a lot of writers. In this sense, I like what’s been done here.

But there are problems, starting with an opening paragraph that just reeks of obviousness.

He was looking at his phone which displayed a picture of Twilight Sparkle, a girl he liked a lot.

Indeed. Thank you, author, for telling us something that we already know in a way so direct as to almost be insulting. This is followed by a few paragraphs of extrapolation we really don’t need at all. You could jump directly to the meeting and not lose a thing. Throw on top of that an unfortunate habit of making “mysterious commentary” like “Little did he know, he would be right.” As if this somehow makes the story more interesting. It doesn’t. At best, it makes me groan and shake my head at the blatantly amateur attempt.

And then there’s the final issue: nothing happened. Flash met Twilight, they have a five minute chat that feels like it was thirty seconds, Twilight leaves, insert mysterious commentary that tells us absolutely nothing. There is so much more that could be done with this concept, but TheNewYorkBrony doesn’t bother. How… disappointing.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Stupid, Sexy Twilight!Worth It


Today we get to watch Princess Twilight go through a particularly long and winding freakout. The underlying premise? She decides to create a series of videos to post (exactly where they’re being posted is never stated) in order to educate fillies and colts about assorted things. The reality is that the whole thing is just her attempting to understand her own sexuality.

I dare say the ‘Incomplete’ is a lie. The final chapter certainly feels like a solid place to end the story to me. Regardless, what we have here is a story one part amusing and two parts distressing. We watch as Twilight struggles to get over missed opportunities, distract herself from the loss, and ultimately try to use her videos as a means of getting some kind of closure. Then, of course, the final chapter reveals the real problem, which is no less saddening.

So, yeah. One part freakout, with all the amusement that has to offer. Two parts sad, because the issue wouldn’t be easy to get over.

And all good. The story is decently written, has good pacing, and the last little twist casts the whole thing in an unexpected new light. I must thank the Trampoline for introducing me to this one, and I will certainly be exploring more of Bradel’s library of works. I hope they’re all as nicely developed as this one.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


I’m not sure about that requestor. Did nothing on the site and disappeared after less than four months? I smell something fishy. But a request is a request, so…

This story retells the events of Griffon the Brush Off from Gilda’s perspective. In this universe, the Griffons are a dying race with perhaps less than a hundred members left, and their society and culture has degenerated as a result. Gilda was sent to Cloudsdale’s flight school as punishment by her violent, prejudiced, cruel father, but her time there was easily the best in her life. By the time of the episode, she’s been in exile for three long years, living alone in a cave far to the north of most of Equestria. Going home is easy, though. All she has to do is kill Rainbow Dash.

This is certainly one of the better Gilda stories I’ve read in a while. While many authors try to make her out as some secret member of royalty or, in other circumstances, a future general of her people, Nicknack makes Gilda into a complex, troubled youth. She’s constantly at war with her natural instincts, the expectations of her family and culture, and the who she really is. Since who she is doesn’t make for a good griffon, the war is pretty intense. That intensity, coupled with a desperate bid to reconnect with Rainbow and give her life some meaning again, shines through as she makes her visit to Ponyville.

And then there’s the ending, which doesn’t go where you might think. I was pleasantly surprised by where Nicknack chose to take it. That shouldn’t be so surprising considering this is the same author who gave us Dusk-Lit Waltz and Taking Care of Animals. Regardless, it is refreshing in its reality, even if it has a bitter aftertaste.

Interesting characters, plenty of exploration of griffon culture, and hard lessons all make this story worth getting into. If you’d like to see a Gilda who isn’t quite what you’re used to, this would be a great start.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Dusk-Lit WaltzWHYRTY?
Taking Care of AnimalsWHYRTY?


With the material I’ve read by BronyWriter so far, it eventually became clear that a lot of their stories involved some random human named TD who happened to be stuck in Equestria. Obviously, I had no idea who this TD fellow was and why I should give a rat’s ass about his activities. The obvious remedy: find his origin story. Aaand here we are.

Written during the Great Hiatus of 2013 (that’s be between Seasons 3 and 4, for you folks in Rio Linda), the story involves random and very ordinary TD. Yes, that’s his actual first name, and no, the letters don’t stand for anything. TD had a generally happy life and was going to school to become a teacher, but that was cut short when he got hit by a car on the way to work. How fortunate for him that Celestia happened to see this happening while coincidentally observing TD’s world from a sort of one-way mirror window through the dimensions and used her magic to save his life. How unfortunate that her doing so pulled him into Equestria, and she has no means of sending him back.

It’s hard to take anything seriously when the main character’s first action upon finding himself in a world of technicolor talking ponies is to punch said ponies’ ruler in the face. But that’s sorta the point. TD is very… ‘human’. And by that I mean violence-prone, temperamental, unforgiving, rude, and all-in-all not the harmonious sort (and he’s supposed to be in training to be an educator of little kids?). He starts off with a distinct loathing of everything around him, especially Celestia.

In his defense, he did have a perfectly happy life and family that he’s never going to see again, so his initial anger and sense of loss is perfectly justified. His manner of dealing with it, however, it just a tad extreme.

And none of this is to say that TD is a bad person, and over time he does gradually start to get along with the ponies around him. Particularly after he starts visiting Cheerilee’s classroom once a week to give lectures to the foals about life on Earth. His fondness for children sorta becomes his saving grace, making all other things in his life bearable.

The point is, this isn’t your typical HiE, which is precisely why I’ve enjoyed it so much. TD isn’t immediately adored, doesn’t find himself in romantic relationships (well, not without a love poison being involved, at any rate), isn’t a loser-turned-hero, and doesn’t immediately accept his new life as Ponyville’s resident freak. There are no great villains he has to overcome without magic, he doesn’t develop superpowers for being on an alien planet, and – of course – he doesn’t know everything about the show and characters and have a waifu. I loved the overall approach BronyWriter took with this.

I had a lot of fun, even as TD went through his less ‘harmonious’ moments and some genuine seriousness occurred. The story is at various times sarcastic, realistic, and silly. I daresay it still feels fresh despite having been around for nearly four years. It is, undoubtedly, one of BronyWriter’s better stories for its unrepentant attitude towards the entire HiE genre. The quality of the writing may be plain, but that doesn’t make the story any less entertaining.

As long as you’re willing to cope with a protagonist that isn’t exactly in tune with the whole ‘harmony’ thing, you may just be entertained by this too.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
One WordPretty Good
Broken GladiatorWorth It
This Day is Going to be PerfectWorth It
Twilight Researches HumansWorth It
DownfallNeeds Work


The Moon's Apprentice

412,134 Words
By Forthwith
Completed Story

This didn’t go at all like I anticipated. Which may have been the point.

With the disappearance of Sunset Shimmer, Celestia needs to train a new student to defeat Nightmare Moon. Naturally, Twilight Sparkle is on her radar. But Twilight is a Flare, an astronomically rare class of unicorn with magical surges capable of levelling entire cities. Flares take time to train, and time is not something Celestia has. But leaving Twilight without training leaves open a potential disaster that could cost thousands of lives. Instead of doing the mature, intelligent thing and teaching Twilight Sparkle alongside whoever is to become the bearer of the Elements, Celestia displays profound incompetence by slapping an inhibitor ring on tiny Twilight and telling her she is doomed to never, ever reach her potential, with the study of magic completely denied to her by default.

Naturally, little Twilight is beyond crushed. Her brand new cutie mark is worthless. How fortuitous it is, then, that a certain dark alicorn decides to visit her dreams and make an offer her little filly mind couldn’t possibly refuse.

The first thing I note about this story is that it seems to lack… direction. As in rather than planning everything out, it feels to me like Forthwith just started writing and let the story go wherever it desired to go. This is most apparent in the winding, curving path of the whole thing, but it is especially so with the ending, which leaves a wide range of plot lines unfinished and feels more like a “To Be Continued…” than anything. Despite this, every chapter is interesting in its own right, such that even without a plan I never grew bored with what was going on. And all this comes with the notice that I only think Forthwith went into this that way, but don’t know for sure.

The second interesting bit about this story is in the characters. Although we get to keep Pinkie, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash, we are introduced to a collection of new ponies. Some are background ponies, some are original, but they all come with interesting backgrounds and character that can make them fun to watch. Alas, none of them are given their respective dues, which is part of why I feel the whole story is unscripted.

Okay, so Rainbow did something incredible. A shame that concept is barely explored before she disappears from the story entirely save for a reference or two. Ditto for Fluttershy, who had plenty of potential only to disappear as unimportant to everything going on by, say, halfway through the story. Aaand ditto again for the Berries. Twilight is supposed to be friends with these ponies by the end. With how little a part of her life they take up once they’ve completed their duties under her, I’m tempted to question the validity of letting her keep the Element of Friendship as a crown.

At least Luna, Twilight, and Cadance get to be part of the big picture. But of course, they’re main characters. Woe be to anyone who isn’t in this story, because they’ll be dropped like so much debris the moment their use has run out. One can make the argument that this is all more realistic, though; Twilight’s attention and priorities shift as the situation changes. And I suppose that’s fine. But it’ll be thoroughly disappointing to anyone who falls in love with these worthwhile side characters.

Another factor to consider is the loss of our rose-tinted glasses. A great many stories feature Twilight viewing Celestia as near-perfect and worthy of adoring respect, if not outright love. In this version, the glasses come off, and we spend every minute with a Twilight who is bitter and always sees the absolute worst in everything Celestia does. This is an element I really liked about the story, because I got the impression we’d simply traded the glasses for shades. Since everything we see if through Twilight’s eyes, and she’s blinded by her loathing for Celestia, one has to wonder how much of the evil, manipulating, coldly calculating villain she sees is nothing more than her warped perspective.

I’m sort of throwing my thoughts out at random now, so let’s focus a little more. The story, for all its winding and lack of overarching connectivity beyond the central plotline, is resoundingly good. At the same time, it’s also resoundingly thoughtful. I don’t mean it makes you think, I mean there is little to no action in this story. The vast majority is just Twilight thinking about her situation for thousands upon thousands of words. So if you came here expecting some big brawl where Twilight duels Celestia in the name of the Moon or something like that, you will be disappointed. In fact, Forthwith makes it a point to disappoint, which is either extremely trolly, delightfully clever, or maybe both. I think I’ll lean towards both.

That’s not a complaint.

I could go on for ages. No, seriously, this story covers a lot of ground and it’s hard to focus on any one part for long. But to summarize: the worldbuilding is epic on an astronomical scale, the story is meandering but ever-interesting, the characters are a delight even if few of them last for more than a third of the story, and the ‘go-with-the-flow’ style makes it have an added sense of realism I can appreciate. The ending is at once unexpected, disappointing, yet strangely fresh – even if it radiates feelings of “I’m tired of writing this so have a quickie conclusion”. The relationship between Twilight and Luna was a treat so see grow from the beginning, although I feel making them a couple two thirds of the way through was in poor taste and may have been the worst move in the entire story.

In the end, the best way to describe how I think others will feel about The Moon’s Apprentice is “your mileage may vary.” If you want an actiony Moon vs. Sun adventure story, this isn’t for you. If you want something that focuses more on contemplation, led by a logic-minded mare who spends much of the story considering everything she can, this may be more for you. Twilight’s tendency to spend hundreds of words just sitting there thinking about her situation is at least tempered by others regularly attempting to make her pay attention to the real world, and it’s endearing much of the time.

So. Not a story for everyone, I think. But definitely a story worth reading. I think its flaws balance out nicely with its good sides. It might not floor you, but it may hold your attention to the end.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The Brief Reign of Princess TwilyPretty Good
The Ghosts of HarmonyNeeds Work


Stories for Next Week:
Sunset of Time by The Albinocorn
It's Okay Baby Girl by Ayla
An Owl Without His Books by OfTheIronwilled
More Than She Could Dream Of by Melon Hunter
1000 Years by tommal
Wyrmlysan by Chris
Love Is In Doom by Aragon


Recent Review Map:

Paul's Thursday Reviews CVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews CX
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXII
You Are Here
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXIV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXVI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXVII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXVIII

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Comments ( 12 )

Cannot wait for Bulletproof Heart. Sounds epic by the amount of effort and passion, and that cover art... DAYUM.

Glad you liked it well enough. It is one of the lesser TD stories, but it set up the character nicely, I thought, and paved the way for much better stories such as Wanderings of a Non-Brony and TD the Alicorn Princess.

Sunset of Time is slated for next week?! I can't wait to see your take on it! Super excited!

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

You should definitely check out the HoGFoSS sequels, they get even better. :)

>sees Sunset of Time
>overcome by sudden bout of nervouscited shivering

For a better exploration of the first fic's theme, check out Benman's "Changelings, Changeligs everywhere"

And you should definitely read more Bradel. Three nights, in particular, is a must read.

Resolves to read Wyrmlysan and Sunset of Time before you have a chance to review them

4848337
Yeah, uhh... Absent "The Legend of Dash Ketchum", I'd probably consider this one to be my weakest story on the site. Certainly one of the weakest. :twilightblush:

But I'm nonetheless glad you enjoyed it! :twilightsmile: And thank you for the review!

4848094
That makes two of us.

4848096
And I aim to read those... in time. I'm certainly curious as to where TD's journey takes him.

4848168
Oh, I intend to, don't you worry about that.

4848337
I'll keep that in mind. And more Bradel stories are definitely on the way, it'll just take a while.

4848374
You've got a week. Have fun!

4848519
You are most welcome! If this is one of your weakest, I look forward to what you consider to be strong.

4848130
4848316
Now I wonder if I shouldn't feel some small amount of pressure regarding my opinion of Sunset of Time. :twilightsheepish:

4848524
Pbbbbt. Excitement down to 1/2!

How fortunate for him that Celestia happened to see this happening while coincidentally observing TD’s world from a sort of one-way mirror window through the dimensions and used her magic to save his life.

But not the AIDS-ridden African nations,
Nor the victims of the Plague,
Nor the flood-addled Asians,
But healthy, privately-insured Australians Americans
With common and curable okay, actually a pretty lethal injuries

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