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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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Paul's Thursday Reviews CXXIII · 8:44pm Jul 12th, 2018

The countdown starts. In exactly one month, Bulletproof Heart will be released. I’m more than a little excited at the prospect, especially considering the positive feedback I’ve been getting from my pre-readers! I’ve also started work on the sequel. Still regretting that it’s development is guaranteed to be so much slower. Oh, well.

Had a scare yesterday. Thanks to some technical glitches, Microsoft Word has died on me. This wouldn’t be such a big deal since I use Google Drive a lot now for all kinds of things, but I had a 10k chapter of Life of Pie completed the day before, meaning a few hours of terror that I’d lost that work forever. Luckily, Drive came through with the upload, so that’s a bullet dodged. Still, I’d love to know what happened to my Word program. I greatly prefer writing in it compared to anything else.

Meh, one way or another, I shall survive and persist. In the meantime, let’s have some reviews.

Stories for This Week:

Rarity's Diary by paleowriter
A Door Jam by xjuggernaughtx
Wake up and Smell the Ashes by Flint-Lock
P3 Project Episode 1: The Emergency by Bookish Delight
The Destiny Trap by AndrewRogue
The Railway Ponies: Highball by The Descendant
A Study In Rainbows by Thanqol
An Orphan's Curiosity by Vertigo-01
Home Sweet Home: A Candy-Mare Tale by Knackerman
Beauty Will Tear Us Apart by Meta Four

Total Word Count: 108,120

Rating System

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

For those of you not aware, paleowriter only cares to write about one thing, and that one thing is Sparity. The results are typically mixed, but leaning towards the ‘good’ side of things. In this little snippet, Rarity adds an entry in her diary regarding the events of Secret of My Excess.

The first thing that comes to mind is that we really don’t need a recap of everything that happened in the episode. Alas, that’s precisely what we are given, making the first ⅔ of the story uninteresting. We don’t get to what we want to see until the very end, and that’s frustrating. The good news is that the end deviates from what I would expect from this author, implying that Rarity would reject Spike’s affections, albeit in the kindest possible way. This may be the only story in paleowriter’s short collection that doesn’t treat Sparity as an undeniable truth of the universe.

But even that little switcheroo on the author’s part doesn’t save the story. If Rarity had spent these 1,300 words reflecting on her relationship with Spike as opposed to recounting events everyone in the audience is aware of, this might have been golden. As is?

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
How to Woo Your Lady in Nine Easy StepsPretty Good
Ladies Don't Freak OutPretty Good
Of AgeWorth It

Well, that was silly and fun. In this winding story, Twilight and Applejack are asked to get Pinkie out of Sugarcube Corner. Why? Because Pinkie eats everything the Cakes bake, and the Cakes have been asked by the Princesses to host an important event for the day. They can’t do that if Pinkie’s eating the food as fast as they make it. But when Twilight and Applejack show up, they discover that Pinkie Sense says something amazing is going to burst out of Sugarcube Corner’s backdoor, and Pinkie won’t stop staring at it until it happens.

And… yeah, it gets crazy from there.

The first thing you have to do is view Pinkie as totally nonsensical and insane. No, I mean more than even the show suggested in its early seasons. This Pinkie takes her nonsense to a wholly new level. If you’re willing to accept that – and I imagine most of you will, because it’s Pinkie – then you should have no problem being entertained by this. It’s got plenty of show-style silliness, everything is connected in a way that keeps even the seemingly pointless opening scene have purpose, and there’s a brief but fun adventure involving horseshoes, a mobile door and a wyern.

I don’t know what prompted xjuggernaughtx to write this, but I might want some for myself.

Give it a read. It’s a ton of fun for fun’s sake that is sure to make you smile.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The New CropWHYRTY?
Awaken, ScootalooPretty Good
Indigo HoovesPretty Good

A story vaguely reminiscent of -TGM-’s Wither, Wake Up and Smell the Ashes envisions a world destroyed in an unknown cataclysm. From what we can see, all of Equestria, possibly the entire planet, has been wiped out in fire, although the exact reason is a mystery. Celestia yet lives, and faces madness as her broken mind works to hide from her the harsh reality of her empty, solitary life.

On the one hand, this has all the hallmarks of a proper sadfic, the type I would love to promote and praise. The things we see are indeed sad, perhaps a little depressing even. Celestia goes about her day forcing herself to believe everything is ‘normal’, even as the audience sees everything as it is.

The problem is that the story seems to lack any atmosphere. Instead of painting a vivid picture of everything around Celestia, Flint-Lock declares, as directly as possible, what is. “Oh, look, there’s a leg bone. Celestia plays with it like a sword.” Well, so much for taking a potentially heart wrenching sight and making us feel the pain. For a story like this to achieve its maximum effect, an author needs to really flex those descriptive muscles and put us directly into the scene. The whole “this happened, then this happened, then this happened” methodology isn’t going to cut it.

On the other hand, this story is meant to be told from Celestia’s perspective, in which case her madness would take away from the horror we could be feeling. The problem with this is that the author makes us, the audience, see everything as it really is, not as Celestia does, and so it’s not really from Celestia’s perspective, is it? I think that, if Flint-Lock was determined to not use the heavy description and atmosphere, the story would have been better served by making the reader see what Celestia’s sees, not what is really there, and leave us to figure out reality on our own. It might have even achieved the same gut-punch as a heavy dose of scene and mood could have.

Ultimately, I was not as interested in this as I probably should have been. The story is decent in content, but I just couldn’t feel the impact of it.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Composing a DreamNeeds Work

This is a strange little story. If you can call it a “story” at all. It’s basically Applejack getting cornered by Pinkie Pie into agreeing to help host Twilight’s “Welcome to Ponyville” party. No, really, that’s it. It doesn’t go beyond that. Pretty much the moment Applejack says “yes”, the story is over.

I have no idea what the purpose of this story is. That said, I get the feeling I’ll be reading the other parts in the not-too-distant future. It’s entirely possible that they’ll make more sense as a collection, and I’m curious. But as this story stands, it really doesn’t offer anything at all. The writing is fine, but with the entire story being so… unimportant, it has nothing to offer to make it memorable or even get someone interested in it to begin with. I can’t really recommend something like this.

Perhaps I should have read all the projects as one?

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Generosity TravelsWHYRTY?

The Destiny Trap

7,746 Words
By AndrewRogue
Requested by RTStephens

Eh, this is more of a recommendation, really. Regardless, I was eager to get a personal review out after I made a small one for Seattle’s Angels.

The Destiny Trap is a meaningful story in which Trixie visits a magician’s shop she’s never seen before and purchases a deck of cards with a special trick to them. When she tries this trick with Starlight, however, things go very wrong very quickly. Starlight has lost her cutie mark and her magic, finally getting a taste of her own medicine. Determined to correct this and help her friend, Trixie rushes back to find the pony that sold her the trick deck.

This is a delightful story that showcases the friendship between these two characters. AndrewRogue does a great job capturing both Trixie and Starlight’s signature voices, and the story is both easy to follow and pleasant to read. The pacing is a little fast, but the author manages to make it work, effectively squeezing into ~7,700 words what would have probably taken me twice as long (at least) without sacrificing emotion or impact. That alone is impressive.

Then we have Blackstone, whose presence barely makes a dent in the total wordcount of the story. And yet her motives, her history, and her goals are all effectively put on display so that there is never any doubt as to why she exists. That she is a decidedly good villain, even in the narrow confines of MLP:FiM, is the icing on the cake. An argument can be made that her defeat came a bit too easily, but people have been complaining about that for three seasons now (at the time of this writing, at least), and we have to acknowledge that there is such a thing as timeword count constraints in contests.

All in all, this was an interesting, endearing tale that more than earned its gold medal in the Writeoffs. This is one I strongly recommend, and am glad I got the chance to read it again.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Now here is an author who has more than earned his small army of followers.

In this story, we find ourself with a young colt who dreams of being a railroad engineer. Highball, the engineer of #3803 and the best engineer on the Baltimare & Ohayo line, is his idol and hero. This is the story of Highball, as told from the colt’s perspective, during a course of six to seven years.

And it’s a beautiful one. The Descendent once again proves his gift for building interesting characters out of what might otherwise be considered simple lives. The author breathes life into not only Highball and those around him, but also #3803 and the other trains, making the entire world come alive. And as it does, you steadily grow to appreciate and even care about these characters in a way that few authors can achieve.

I might have shed a little liquid pride.

The end result is an evocative story about destiny, the shattering of dreams, and the simple acceptance that life, in one way or another, moves on. It’s lovely, it’s sad, it’s real. This easily shines up there with this author’s other seminal work, Tangled Up in Blues (one of the very first stories I ever reviewed) for how it produces a world so unexceptionally normal and at the same time untouchably alive and interesting.

As always, I’m looking forward to more.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Tangled Up in BluesWHYRTY?
The Father of My ChildrenWHYRTY?
A Sweet Taste of CakeWorth It

A Study In Rainbows

18,629 Words
By Thanqol
Recommended by horizon

This was nothing I expected and everything I had no idea I wanted. Written partially in the style of the Sherlock Holmes stories (which is to say, dated), the story centers on Rainbow Dash, who finds herself living with acclaimed fashionista and eccentric detective Rarity. This Equestria seems a much grittier world: Rainbow is a war veteran discharged due to injury, Applejack is a loan shark, and Fluttershy is (begrudgingly) a rising star in the world of criminal justice. Then you find out that Rainbow’s career-ending ‘injury’ involved getting hit by enemy fire, AKA a pie, and you suddenly have a much better idea of what kind of world this is. When an unknown assailant begins attacking famous fashion icons with poison joke, Rarity enthusiastically takes the case, with Rainbow Dash ever at her side and struggling to keep up.

The very first thing that must be noted is the blatant dichotomy between the writing style and the perspective. The whole story is told from Rainbow Dash’s perspective. If the significance of that fails to heighten your awareness of the problem, my suggestion would be to analyze the nature and style of this sentence in all its peculiarities, and then try with all your undoubtedly prodigious imagination to view it as coming from the most ineloquent quill of one Rainbow Dash. That’s how backwards this is. And you know what?

It’s brilliant.

The clash between the writing style of the story with the brashness that is Rainbow Dash is one of the major selling points of the entire thing. Rainbow is still blatantly Rainbow, to the point that she talks about her own coolness, her distinct desire to avoid anything ‘sissy’, and tries to dissuade you from judging her by her decidedly uncool decisions in-story. And yet she does so with such sophisticated, old-school style that the juxtaposition can be nothing but extremely entertaining. Add to that the efforts made to paint Rarity in her own sophisticated light while also having to describe her terror of mud and dust, her propensity for melodrama, and her endearing sense of ego. In short, the characters are perfectly in-character, with all the humor and quirkiness that suggests, but we view it through a writing style dripping with old school eloquence and dignity. It never ceased to be entertaining.

I want more of this, Thanqol. Please tell me you expanded this universe at some point.

Oh, right. The story. It’s no slouch either. The mystery is both baffling and interesting, though Rarity makes it seem simple. The characters are fun to watch, the lesson is solid, the pacing perfect. Honestly, I have nothing to complain about. This one’s going right were it belongs, and I shall be looking forward to my next Thanqol fic.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author! (Odd, I was sure I’d read a Thanqol story before…)

I had no idea what to expect going into this one. It ends up as Scootaloo and Apple Bloom having a sleepover at the clubhouse. Sweetie couldn’t come because her parents had come home from a vacation and wanted to spend some time with her. This turn of events leads to Apple Bloom wondering what it’s like to have parents, and Scootaloo revealing that she’s an adopted child.

Now, those of you who read that summary will probably immediately expect this to be a sadfic. On the contrary, it is little more than a pair of children wondering about what makes their respective guardians any different from the real thing. It’s introspective, thoughtful, and even a little touching, all without ever falling into sadfic territory. If I had to use just one word to describe this one, I’d use “mature.”

And that difference makes it something worthwhile. It’s definitely worth the read for being such an unusual and refreshing approach. It’s a story about being happy with what we’ve got, and approaches the subject in a pleasant manner I can certainly appreciate.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Alternative Title: In Which Luna’s Impatience Dooms All of Equestria

I swear, it’s like watching a train wreck. You probably shouldn’t keep looking, but you need to know what’s going to happen next.

This mislabeled story is said to be a sequel to Something Sweet To Bite, but if Knackerman wanted to keep it honest he’d call it a prequel or, at the very least, the sequel to Something Sweet to Bite Too. At any rate, the story is set some indeterminate period after the founding of Equestria and the arrival of Celestia and Luna as rulers. Its premise is even more simple than its predecessors in that it shows the Candy Mare’s final descent into madness.

The story suffers from Knackerman’s typical issues of bad grammar, overlong paragraphs, over reliance on exposition, and poor/unrealistic dialogue. In terms of writing quality, it is somewhere between the first and second story, which makes sense considering it was written between them. It does indicate signs of clear improvement, though, so kudos for that.

Alas, the franchise is still splatterporn for splatterporn fans. On the positive side, it feels less over the top compared to the others, which I suspect is because Knackerman was actually interested in trying to create some sense of story and character this time. The problem is that Knackerman fails to focus on any one character as the ‘main’ character, shifting from a pair of foals to the Candy Mare’s biological mother to Private Pansy to Starswirl. I feel that, had the story focused on a central character (Private Pansy would have been my choice), the whole thing would have been stronger for it (and Pansy’s ultimate fate that much more cruel).

That said, I liked the characterization of Celestia and Luna as blatantly aloof, initially not really grasping the seriousness of death and the loss of a friend. Even at the end of the story, they have the gall to be cheerful after discussing the evil activities of a bloodthirsty, murderous madmare. I was put off at first, but I quickly came to realize Knackerman is probably trying to put them in the position of goddesses trying to comprehend their new position, or at the very least elite nobles with little awareness of ‘life’.

I also like how Knackerman experimented with worldbuilding for this one – entirely new ground for this author that I can see and not poorly handled in the slightest. The author shows that he’s capable of thinking beyond mere gore and angst, even if that’s really all he seems to care about. This is all balanced out by the caveat of the simplistic story and obvious outcome.

Well, the train wreck hasn’t stopped rolling, so I guess now I’ll have to see how the EqG world gets destroyed next. If you’re a fan of splatterporn, this will probably do something for you, albeit not near as much as the previous and later story. If you’re actually interested in a story, this will be better for you than the previous one, but it doesn’t compare to the third story in the set. And all of this comes with the warning that you have to be ready for the guaranteed bad end, or else you’ll just be disgusted.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
My Little DoubtWorth It
Something Sweet to Bite TooWorth It
Something Sweet To BiteNeeds Work

Alarm Clock was nothing short of whimsical genius. Beauty Will Tear Us Apart is… decidedly less so. But you know what they say about catching lightning in a bottle.

Ditzy Doo, now in training to be a government agent, is working on finding more about the architect responsible for creating Ponyville’s Town Hall, which was the cause of a lot of headaches for her in the last story. She’s recently discovered that a rash of events at the Goggle Heights Art Museum in Canterlot may be related to her investigation, and so she calls on Dr. Hooves to help her look into it. It would go figure that an old acquaintance, one Trixie, is now working there as a guard.

This story lacks the wit and whimsy of its predecessor, which can be a little disappointing for those who loved the style rampant in Alarm Clock. The story does what it can to make up for that, however, through the interactions of Trixie, the Doctor and Ditzy. We end up with a mystery of vandals and art thieves that is certainly fun and more dangerous than might be expected. It is well paced and exciting at times, but the best part to me was trying to detect the time-related clues, some of which I caught but many slipped by me until they were brought up.

There’s no apparent theme or purpose to the story beyond Ditzy and the Doctor going on another brief adventure, and the plot isn’t half as smart as I know this author can achieve. But for what it is, it’s been certainly worth my while. Read it if you’re interested in seeing the ongoing activities of a dimension-hopping Ditzy and her time-traveling Not-The-Doctor-Thank-God Doctor Hooves.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Alarm ClockWHYRTY?

Stories for Next Week:
Unexpected Confessions by Dianwei32
Breath of Fire by Shahrazad
Pinkie Pie's Last Nightmare Night by Admiral Biscuit
What Society Expects from a Princess by cursedchords
Lovey Dovey and the Business Pony by Crystal Wishes
A Flame in the Darkness by Othynrix
The Iridescent Iron Rat by horizon
Sundowner Season by Cherax
Celestia XVII by brokenimage321
Equine, All Too Equine II: The Days of the Prophets by stanku

Recent Review Map:

Paul's Thursday Reviews CXVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXX
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXXI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXXII
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Paul's Thursday Reviews CXXIV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXXV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXXVI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXXVII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXXVIII

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Comments ( 17 )

It's nice to see some of my fics still get read and reviewed every once in a while. It's been a long time since I wrote any published work, but boy did I enjoy it when I did, and definitely glad others still enjoy reading them. Thanks for the review! :twilightsmile:

Yours truly,

Clubin' with the Angels has paid off, huh? HUH?!

I'll go now.

Lovey Dovey beat out my own entry into the 2015 Hearts and Hooves Day writing contest that Crystal, myself, and a few others entered. I remember thinking it was a good mix of adorable and humorous. I happily took second place to her.

Ah yes, "An Orphan's Curiosity" was a cute story.

I'm a little surprised you or SA chose to review "A Door Jam," given the large number of views it has. But it was a fun story.

Ah, "Wake up and Smell the Ashes". Thanks for reviewing it.

Man it's been a long time since I wrote Study In Rainbows - but I am very glad you liked it! There is, in fact, a sequel - the Hound of Ponyville. I'm less confident in it as a piece of writing but it's been so long since I looked at it I can't trust my memory there.

If you're going to read any more stories of mine, Yours Truly is the universally beloved smash hit of my ponyfic career - but Do Not Serve These Ponies is my personal favourite.

Which reminds me that I need to sign up for an SA review set soon. I've discovered a completely ignored story that deserves extra attention.

In that case, you'll probably approve of my review for it (which was written weeks ago).

We were in a bit of a bind that week and had to make an exception. That or the powers that be didn't catch the rule break (:unsuresweetie:).

Turns out I've had Yours Truly in my RiL for a long time now, which is probably why I got it in my head that I'd already read one of your stories. With luck it won't be another couple years before I get to it. Thanks to my 'one story per author' rule it'll probably be ages before I get to The Hound of Ponyville, but trust me when I say I'm looking forward to it.

If you have "Yours Truly" on your RIL, I predict you will like it a lot. It's one of the few stories I'd recommend as a great example of how to do an epistolary story well. On the plot side... well, this is a common enough conceit, but it always strikes me as incredibly improbable when the main characters all just happen to pair up in romantic relationships. Plus the additional fandom conceit that Celestia turns a blind eye to piracy. My only actual complaint is that I didn't understand why Apple Bloom never contacted Twilight. But it's still one of the few stories I put on my Favorites list, back when I still used one.

Barely been here the last few weeks (I'm not even sure I've linked your most recent review from the story), but glad you enjoyed the one I slung at you! Thanqol was one of the classi--


... Man, how is it that I'm over here recommending your stories around but not actually following you? Fixed.

Also, Paul, re Word: what (approximate) version is it and what version of Windows? At a first pass I'd suspect that an update in the current one broke support for a very old version of the other, in which case you might want to see if you can do a system rollback to right before it broke. But there might also be some sort of issue with a library/DLL that the app uses, and if you've got the install media/download license handy, it might also be worth trying to uninstall Word and then put it back in place from scratch. (Especially if you can still pull the trigger on the system rollback afterward if that doesn't work.)

It was certainly an awesome story, and I'm looking forward to the next one, even if I won't be reading it next.

Also, I'm reasonably certain the problem came from an aborted update, which in turn came from a monitor-related glitch that forced me to shut off the computer manually while, unbeknownst to me, updates were happening in the background. But none of this matters anymore, as another update went through yesterday. It all works like normal now, and I didn't even he to do anything!

...still ended up writing a chapter in Drive, though.

I never left! Ponies for life bro.

I haven't been much for writing these days because my current passion is painting. I love it; it's a joy, everything I always hoped it would be. I'm still keeping my pen sharp through the medium of my play-by-posts, though!

That's awesome :twilightsmile: Have you posted your art anywhere?

Technically yes but not in a way that is convenient to view. I post my stuff to a discussion thread which is doubling for a bunch of other projects and life talk. Also I suspect Imgur is melting down on me.

If you want to unravel that: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?489653-Thanqol-Learns-To-Draw-Six-Stealing-Time

If you just want to see something cool: https://i.imgur.com/ffB0foD.jpg

Why not use an art site like DeviantArt?

I do have a DeviantArt account but my logic is that that's the website I link to display quality stuff - and my crummy cell phone pictures aren't really up to snuff.

The idea is that in six-nine months or so when I've got the spare money to get a proper camera, lightbox setup, and terrain backdrop I'll go back and take some professional looking pictures of everything I've done to date and upload 'em there all at once.

Ah, I suppose that makes sense, then.

Belatedly: Looking good! Thanks for the links. :)

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