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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 CLXIV · 8:24pm Jun 13th, 2019

Are you planning to go to Bronycon and want to visit Aquaman’s Bookstore? Are you not going to Bronycon but still want to order some of the store’s stock via mail order? Then please, head over here and fill out the survey put together by RBDash47. It’s important for us authors to know how many books to prepare for the event!

Meanwhile, SuperTrampoline’s Feghoot Contest starts tomorrow! Keep an eye open for it and join the terrible punnery, if you dare.

My vision is finally on the level that I can read and write without difficulty, so earlier this week I got started on the whole writing thing again. But first, I had to re-read the chapter I’m working on, as there’s a lot going on in it. My weekends are shot so long as my sister and new niece are home—I’m struggling just to get my reading done on Saturdays and Sundays—but that’s okay. My niece Evangeline is adorable and I’m willing to tolerate it for her.

Once I finally get this next BPH chapter finished, I may release a short story. It’s been a while and I’m getting antsy. Just don’t know what short story to write. Too many ideas.

In unrelated news, I notice that with the passing of May, I have now been here for six years. I ran the numbers and found that in the June-May 2018-2019 year, I managed to produce ~640,000 words. That’s just over 200k more than last year. Still didn’t hit my 2k/day goal (missed it by 110/day), but even so I am quite pleased with myself. Here’s hoping I do just as well next year! And that less of those numbers are editing-related.

To the reviews.

Stories for This Week:

The Last Days Of The Kingdom of Equestria by bigbear
Gentle Persuasion by Minds Eye
Vinyl Scratch is in a Tree and Refuses to Come Down by Doccular42
Princess Celestia's Legendary Litany of Laughable Losses by Prak
Monsoon by Arcelia
I Don't Give a Dam by RTStephens
Celestia XVII: Velvet's Promise by brokenimage321
Before the Dawn by SilverMuse
Happiness Is What You Make Of It by Nameless Narrator
When Consequences Come Home by kudzuhaiku

Total Word Count: 232,868

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 1
Pretty Good: 6
Worth It: 3
Needs Work: 0
None: 0

A griffon scholar flies to the mountains of the Frozen North to meet the one creature that still remembers the old kingdom of Equestria: Spike the Dragon.

With a name like that, I expected this to be a lot darker. Which may have been intentional. Anyway, the story centers around our scholar asking Spike questions regarding the past and, more specifically, the actions of Princess Twilight Sparkle, widely regarded as Equestria’s greatest villain. Of course, the public secret is that Twilight Sparkle is directly responsible for an entire world of harmony, friendship, and lasting peace. It’s an interesting dichotomy, made all the better by Spike’s words.

bigbear approached this in a good way. Spike doesn’t retell events directly, as in a story, but instead explains various aspects of Twilight’s goals and actions. It creates a more realistic slant, leaving a wide range of questions behind, all of them good. The ideas that build this story are great, generating massive potential for worldbuilding and historical recreation. The concept behind this story could have made for a great epic, but works just as well with this short retelling.

The catch is that said retelling is a little too brief. The author could have paced this out, given us better visuals and atmosphere, or even just more of the world’s history through the interview. Personally, I would have built up the griffon’s character and reaction to give the conclusion a more firm foundation. Still, for what it is, this is a nice medium of ambition and practicality. Well done, author.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Alternative Title: Rumble Has Good Taste

Rumble has the perfect gift idea for Scootaloo’s birthday, and he goes through all sorts of things to make sure it can happen exactly as it needs to. Now comes the single hardest part, maybe the hardest thing he’s ever had to do in his life: actually talk to his crush. Luckily (or not), Thunderlane and Cloudchaser are there to offer some encouragement.

As an unabashed shipper, I found this downright adorable. I’m sure most guys have experienced this at some point in their lives, and watching poor Rumble struggle with the very idea of talking to the filly he likes provided me no end of entertainment. It basically runs like this:

If something like that sounds entertaining to you, then you have no reason to not read this. I don’t care that it’s not original and doesn’t bring anything new to the idea, I was having too much fun at Rumble’s expense.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Just an Old FoolPretty Good

The title’s not a joke, Vinyl Scratch really is in a tree and refuses to come down. She has been for four hours now. It’s getting late, Octavia forgot her keys, she’s got a career-changing audition with the Royal Canterlot Orchestra tomorrow, and Vinyl won’t come down. Needless to say, Octavia is not amused.

But I am!

This story went right where I expected it to the moment I saw that Octavia needed to be ready for an audition the next day. Despite that predictability, I was still entertained. Vinyl’s silly behavior in the beginning of the story and Octavia’s understandable frustration with her roommate had me grinning. Of course, then we get to the serious second half of the story which, again, does exactly what I expected. I’m not holding that against it.

It might not bring anything new to the topic at hand, but it’s still an entertaining little piece. And quite well done considering it was written in only an hour-and-a-half. I can think of no reason not to recommend it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Princess Luna spent a lot of time studying the history of her thousand years in exile. This information allows her to taunt Celestia over one amusing little issue: she couldn’t win a fight to save her life. In fact, Celestia has literally never won a fight. She’s not exactly proud of that.

Many people, including myself, prefer to believe that Celestia, the alicorn who can literally move the sun, is extremely powerful and capable. Alas, the show prefers to tell us that she’s a prissy pony princess incapable of doing anything whatsoever, hence her regular insistence on sending Twilight to solve all her problems. Prak saw this and thought it would be amusing to take it to even further extremes. And y’know what?

Prak was right.

This is all a bunch of silly fun, and getting to witness just a few of Celestia’s downright pathetic combat moments was highly entertaining. If that sounds like something you’d like to try, by all means give this a go. I certainly shared Luna’s mirth.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Killing TimePretty Good
Angel Crashes a WeddingWorth It


1,198 Words
By Arcelia

Derpy is overwhelmed with the feeling that she’s unappreciated in Ponyville. So, one Tuesday, she takes a day off to just sit in the Palace Gardens and enjoy the rain by a particular statue.

This was a curious story. Atmospheric, introspective, and just a little confusing. Why did Derpy decide to take her day’s break in the Palace Gardens? How is it Princess Celestia knows her personally? Was it really necessary for the Important Pony who talks with Derpy to be the princess? Other little niggles.

Arcelia still struggles with plot logic, but it’s on a much more minor scale that the previous stories and thus easier to forgive. It’s largely a love note to everyone’s favorite mailpony and a bit of contemplation over what makes a pony special. Well written and thoughtful, it’s certainly the best I’ve read by this author so far. The only other issue is the large amount of spacing between paragraphs, although I’m willing to bet that’s a FIMFiction glitch than anything the author did.

Not a bad story at all, even with its oddities that may or may not be mistakes.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
All The Bitter RemainsNeeds Work
Tea Party With a DraconequusNeeds Work

When the Ponyville Dam breaks during the events of The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well, one pony didn’t survive: Bricks n’ Mortar. There’s just one problem: that dam is Bricks n’ Mortar’s baby, and he can’t permit it to fail again. Not even death will stop him from making the Ponyville Dam the safest dam in the world. Now if he could just get his staff to stop questioning the nature of his apparent un-death…

This was silly for silliness’s sake. It largely centers on the workers Waterlog and Shifter as they follow along with the ghost’s orders out of a combination of respect and fear. The story is simple, fast, and does everything it needs to do. I have no idea where RTStephens got this concept from, but it’s amusing enough to justify its existence.

Read it, be entertained, move on.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Strong Bad Receives a Friendship ReportPretty Good

It’s been a decade since Twilight Velvet last spoke to her old friend, now a hated enemy. But one night, seemingly out of nowhere, the Princess of Equestria arrives at her doorstep, haggard and sickly, to make one final, desperate request.

It helps to be aware of the setting for this story, which is in a world where the Princess of Equestria is mortal and the Monarchy is descended from a family line. The story is, basically, about Twilight Velvet’s agreement to raise Celestia and her brother Blueblood after their mother’s imminent death. The story never reveals to us exactly why Velvet and the Princess fell out with one another, instead focusing on Velvet’s healing process and acceptance of two new members of her family.

I’m not sure if this will do anything for anyone who hasn’t read the original story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but then, I know these characters as the AU portrays them. I think it’s a moving piece even without that knowledge, as it has a good message and delivers it well. Even so, consider reading the original first.

A nice expansion of a universe that definitely needs it. I can only hope that we’ll see more of this AU in time.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
For the Good of EquestriaPretty Good

Before the Dawn

102,232 Words
By SilverMuse
Requested by Ice Star

Alternate Title: All This for an Alicorn Battle

When Celestia and Luna are called upon to visit the Crystal Empire and coronate the reigning queen Gemfyre’s son, it leads to Luna meeting a young outcast named Sombra…

There are a great many terms I could use to describe this story. It’s one we’ve all heard before in one way or another, so ‘predictable’ is what first comes to mind. You know how it goes: protagonist meets soul mate, love happens at preposterous speeds, soul mate becomes evil, protagonist insists soul mate can be saved, yadda yadda. The story writes itself and has on many occasions, even outside of the fandom. Doing it with Sombra and Luna isn’t new either, not even when this story was written. In fact, Sombra and Luna are the go-to couple for this kind of thing, as I’ve seen (Celestia and Discord being the alternative).

All of this means that any author who tries it has to bring their A-game if they’re going to make it stand out. The result has to be creative, ambitious, unique, and/or written with an expert’s touch. So how did SilverMuse do?

Not bad, actually. While the romance between Sombra and Luna is rushed to the point of ridiculousness—and even worse, falls into the “oh, you like my night, I love you now!” trope—it only starts off shaky. Get past this initial nonsense and the story suddenly goes from fast-paced romance to a slow, steady fight to maintain Sombra’s sanity. This is one of the story’s best traits: it doesn’t have Sombra start off evil or become so on a whim. It takes time, desperation, and manipulations from outside forces, gradually pushing him over that edge.

Once he falls over it though, it quickly becomes apparent—despite his regular insistence otherwise—that there’s no going back. What starts off as decisions made out of desperation and wild hope gradually descends into outright madness where logic no longer holds sway over hatred and vengeance. In a way, this is the most believable fall from grace for Sombra that I’ve ever read, and that puts it a few steps above most.

I’ll also give credit for the attempt at worldbuilding, tepid though it sometimes felt. SilverMuse never bothers to give us the bigger picture, but plants a number of small seeds to remind us that a bigger picture exists. Hints regarding Celestia’s and Luna’s pasts, the history of the alicorns, and the culture of the Crystal Empire are all over the place. Alas, they never form into anything concrete, but I suppose I’m willing to take this over nothing at all.

Yet I have a handful of major regrets. The first is entirely expected, and comes in the form of Luna’s and Sombra’s dialogue and relationship growth, coupled with Luna’s thought patterns. It’s so predictable you could skip entire scenes and know what happened anyway based on context alone. It’s all rather grinding and makes me wish that the author had at least tried to come at the whole scenario from a different angle.

The second matter that annoys me is the final battle, which was… spectacularly unnecessary. “Solar Nightflare”? Seriously? What in Equestria were you thinking with that one, author? Anyway, we’re somehow led to believe that the evil force that created King Sombra only over months of subtle manipulation and coercion is able to take over an alicorn in an instant, particularly one whose entire manner is anathemic to it, in seconds. No, SilverMuse, I’m not buying that weak excuse for how it happened.

This smacks of a ploy to have some overdramatic DragonBall Z-style beatdown for the climax. And again, it was completely unnecessary, as Sombra proved that he was more than enough of a threat to both princesses combined. Or would have been, if they hadn’t somehow gone from getting their flanks kicked all over the place with ease to becoming undefeatable gods because the author demanded it. Y’know, Sombra, when you’ve just beaten into a bloody pulp two of the most powerful creatures in the land, you don’t sit there and gloat and give them the thirty seconds they need to join together in a clearly visible display and create the Super Ray of Doom and Harmony™. Which you can’t somehow conveniently dodge like you’ve done so many before.

The strength consistency in this story is nonexistent. Every time a fight happens, characters go from “nearly beaten to death and barely able to move” to “kicking butt and taking names like a boss.” We regularly see characters take hits and act like they are a big deal only to shrug them off five seconds later and continue the fight as if they’d never been touched in the first place. If you have any interest whatsoever in seeing a realistic series of conflicts rather than “lasers and explosions and pew pew!”, this will probably annoy you to no end.

When all is said and done, I find myself willing to put this on the middle ground. It makes a number of stumbles in its delivery, but this is balanced out by how it has a very convincing description of Sombra’s fall from grace. I just wish it hadn’t ended on such a weak (so to speak) note.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Happiness Is What You Make Of It

102,938 Words
Nameless Narrator failed to provide cover art.
Recommended by Thought Prism

Meet Greyscale. Homeless, he’s a little slow and can’t speak properly. Poor guy thinks he’s an idiot. But he’s unnaturally resilient, extremely resourceful, and always sees the best in everypony around him (sometimes to his detriment). He’s happy to work for a few bits a week, is okay with living in a box in an alley, and is just about the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. This is his story: where he came from, where he’s going, and the ponies whose lives he touched in unexpected, sometimes even profound ways.

Before you ask, no, this is not a ponified Forrest Gump story, though there are some similarities. It’s about an endearing, innocent pony who is just trying to make his way in life, which ranges from working at a high-end brothel to living in a mental asylum. He makes friends, tries not to make enemies, and does a surprisingly good job at helping those around him better their lives. It’s really quite delightful.

I loved Greyscale as a character. My single favorite line was in a late chapter where he gets excited because, Sweet Celestia, now he can buy more boxes! Or ‘boks’, as he calls them. I laughed out loud, and yet it also showcased his charming, eternal innocence and simplicity. It’s truly hard not to like Greyscale.

Yet he’s not the only star of this show. A variety of other strong characters make appearances. Grey Shrine, the guardsmare who gives Greyscale his first real opportunity and believes in him when he needs it the most. Drizzle, the unstable nymphomaniac who is always nonplussed that Greyscale isn’t interested… and might just need that. Feather, the outcast prostitute who is surprised to find herself sharing a cardboard box with a stallion who would rather be her friend than anything else. Nurse Chin, built like a tank and always keeping a watchful eye on her patients… for better or for worse.

Point is, there are a ton of interesting characters to get to know in this story. They come and go, and while not every character gets the same treatment of learning their history and sticking through from beginning to end, all of them are so well developed that it seems clear to me that Nameless Narrator had backstories for them all. They all work together seamlessly in a way that really makes the world come to life, and it’s a wonderful demonstration of this author’s prowess.

Couple that with pitch-perfect pacing, a plot that never grows stale even when nothing’s happening, plenty of humorous moments revolving around Greyscale’s tendency for completely misinterpreting situations, and a mystery that lasts from beginning to end with a most satisfying epilogue.

If I had to complain about any one thing, it would be that some revelations felt… late. There are some clues that pop up that are, by their very nature, something you’d think would have been obvious from the get-go and yet nobody comments on them until the story’s more than 2/3rds over. But that’s a minor complaint, drowned out by a whole ocean of “yes”.

Needless to say, this was a treat. I’m happy to give it my highest rating and grateful to Thought Prism for introducing me to it. My only serious frustrations are that it took me so long and the story is to thoroughly ignored.

I might have to go to the Angels and correct that.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

In The Weed, Tarnished Teapot had an encounter with a manticore that he would rather forget. Unbeknownst to him, this event led to the birth of Megara the Lioness, who has wandered out of the jungles and into civilization in search of her father. Twilight Velvet has been called to the Crystal Empire, where little Megara has been found, and intends to bring her home.

It’s interesting that I’m reading this less than a week after completing Princess Twilight Sparkle's School for Fantastic Foals: Winter Break, which featured a lot of Megara. Clearly, I should have read this first. But at least this story manages to confirm my suspicions regarding where Megara came from.

This, like so many of kudzuhaiku’s stories, is more of a bridging piece intended to make some revelation than a story unto itself. It introduces Megara, gets her to meet her father, the end. While there’s nothing wrong with the story as it stands, neither does it achieve much beyond the obvious. So long as you’re okay with half-pony/half-manticore creatures being cute, you’ll enjoy this, but that’s really all it has going for it.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Princess Twilight Sparkle's School for Fantastic FoalsWHYRTY?
Filly Twilight Sparkle and the Mystery of the Groaning GhostsPretty Good
Trixie Lulamoon and the Horrendous HypothesisPretty Good
Twilight Sparkle And the Very Confusing ApocalypsePretty Good

Stories for Next Week:
The Stars Never Change by Overload
Can I Fly? by Evowizard25
It's Not the Wings by Tallinu
Fallout Equestria: Day of Cabbages and Turnips by Nyerguds
The Instruments of Our Surrender by Cold in Gardez
Chaos Theory by Lucky Seven
Goodbye: A Letter from a Not-so-dead Man by TheKissoftheVoid
Fuck! by ocalhoun
"You Do Know She Wrestles Bears, Right?" by -TGM-
Night Shift - Sacred and Wild by Mystic Mind

Recent Review Map:

Paul's Thursday Reviews CLIX
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Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXV
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Comments ( 6 )

Congrats on the numbers for the year! That's a solid year head and shoulders above most!

Good news on your eyes continuing with the recovering as well.

Author Interviewer

My vision is finally on the level that I can read and write without difficulty

Yay! :D That's so good to hear.

Fallout Equestria: Day of Cabbages and Turnips sounds like an amazing story I need to read right now, but it's the threequel to a long long fic D:

I haven't read any of these, but I'm surprised you haven't read anything by Doccular42 before. I've read three of his stories, and I liked 2 of those. The third wasn't bad, just not really understandable on its own.

Thanks! Though if I'm honest, I credit a lot of those numbers to my editing work this year, of which I did a lot.

Now if I can just get this halo effect to go away, I'll be set.


Indeed, this is my first Doccular42 story. Alas, they're now at the bottom of my Known Authors list and my "two stories added to collective RiL per week" quota has been filled up until August (and is likely to go even further soon). There's no way I'll be reading another within the next year without outside intervention.

Thank you Paul, your review of The Last Days Of The Kingdom of Equestria was very generous. I agree with just about everything you said. Gwendolyn the griffon could have used more development. And I have considered expanding this story. But I suspect it will stay as is, and the additional world building I did for it a song unsung.

You do all your readers a great service with your reviews, and I appreciate all your hard work.

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