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Tarbtano


I came, I saw, I got turned into a Brony. Tumblr link http://xeno-the-sharp-tongue.tumblr.com/

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Oct
22nd
2019

Fanfiction Review: Princess Celestia: The Changeling Queen by Vren55 · 9:08pm Oct 22nd, 2019

It’s very rare I find a story I outright go, “Yes, yes I absolutely adore this and would recommend them 100%”. And getting into the pony fandom around 2011 into 2012 and then 2013, there were several stories I read before I got into trying my own hand at it. It Takes a Village, about Spike having to adjust after a growth spurt makes him mature into a house sized drake and Ponyville pitching in to help, and The Third Generation, which just about seemed to be the only G4 fan content I found that didn’t treat G3 with contempt as the third generation’s Ponyville is warped into Equestria; and The Elements of Harmony and the Savior of Worlds, an excellent tale that codified the idea of making G1 the ancient history to G4 with an all-grown-up Megan returning across a reopened Rainbow Bridge. There are many others I read, including some real notable ones like the various Conversion Bureau tales, Past Sins, POV, and the Luna’verse. Some have aged great, some not so much.

But there is only one I regret reading. More specifically in hindsight, I regret NOT finishing it. I’ve recently fixed that and I have something to say.

*Picks up megaphone*

*tosses away megaphone*

Some worry about this fandom dying out now that the show has concluded. A show that concluded giving us enormous amounts of canon material to expand upon for story writing. Here is my counterargument (among others). If someone can make something great with barebones canon material to draw from, we're gonna be just fine. If you want to read a story from the first phase of generation 4 that I feel has aged great, doesn’t have aggravating tropes, earns its conflict, characters, and resolution, read this story.

My review will be including some spoilers, but only from the first half of the story as I don’t want to give too much away. Hit the music!

The story picks up during the Canterlot Wedding and, aside from a few events in the ancient past we don’t find out until later, basically everything up till now is identical to canon; so the story is extremely easy to figure out. All too often I find the core of certain AUs overcomplicate themselves so much they might as well have been an original property. Throwing in outside influence and series needs to be handled with care. Small additions that fit the world around it without sticking out and don’t affect major events are fine; but all too often things that stick out like a sore thumb can overpower a setting. Not so here.

And that factors in to help make the split from canon more noticeable and impactful.

The love magic blast from the to-be-wed couple fires off and while it does expel Chrysalis and her hive, everyone realizes Princess Celestia is nowhere to be found. And there is a dazed and confused Changeling queen both claiming and not claiming to be her trying to calm and understandably frantic Mane 6 and Royal Couple. After a short conflict in which the queen harmlessly dispatches the Mane 6 in gentle, friendly ways (like sticking Pinkie to a wall with a large amount of cotton candy), the exhausted queen saves Twilight from a potentially lethal accident before collapsing. They take her to a dungeon, worried and confused, and here is the first good feather in the cap.

No one is needlessly antagonistic.

Every single conflict and acts of malice in the story aside from a diehard racist is given a good reason to exist.

Here the heroes are extremely confused and cautious, but they aren’t treating the unconscious changeling queen with any notable contempt or even chance brutality. These are heroes and heroines, not folks who'd start torturing or attacking someone they don't know, if at all. They are worried and know she could be a potential enemy, but aren’t literally or figuratively kicking her while she’s down even if she might be their only way to get Celestia back.

And once she recovers and awakens, their reaction is to… get Luna and calmly question her to figure out what the blue blazes is going on. The worst it gets is, out of desperation and fear, Luna and Twilight do a mental probing to see if she’s telling the truth. And the truth floors all of them, and you can guess what it is based off the title.

The Princess Celestia who’ve we’ve seen through seasons 1 and 2, who mentored Twilight, raised Cadance, helped get the Mane 6 together, and was defeated by a turbo-charged Chrysalis is an exiled Changeling Queen. In fact other than the few recorded instances 1,000 years ago, she has been one this whole time. Born under the name Alternia, she was involved in a conflict with her own family at roughly the same time as the Nightmare Moon incident. A chance teleportation to safety brought the mortally wounded Alternia to the Everfree castle as Nightmare Moon was banished. But what history didn’t record was that the actual Celestia herself was critically injured as well and had to retreat into a effectively a magic coma to heal over time, a process that could take centuries and would leave the ponies without a leader nor agent to move the sun and moon safely.

So Celestia and Alternia struck a bargain. Alternia didn’t want to die and Celestia couldn’t let her beloved ponies and other races perish without someone to guide them or move the celestials. And if Alternia imitated Celestia, she’d have the love and adoration of a whole nation. While not as potent individually as personal romantic love (at least derived from an alicorn of love) or make her as strong as a fully capable alicorn, it would be more than enough to keep her healthy and give her the strength to move the sun and moon. Alternia accepts the pitch on will she can get revenge on her own attackers with such power but, lacking time to try and get her changeling accomplice up to speed on critical information, Celestia has to resort to stuffing her memories into an understandably shocked Alternia’s head.

This lead to another great bit in the story. I utterly adore Alternia’s character as we see a marked difference between how she was in the past vs. how she is now. Having a distorted identity, lack of consent, and in agony from the mental fusion; she’s understandably furious with Celestia and swears vengeance at first. But, as Celestia starts fading away to pass into a magical realm to recover, the changeling’s better nature shines through. Already a good egg, she swears to protect the populace and help Luna when she returns, regardless of how she felt about Celestia’s violation of persona.

And with time, while understandably conflicted, she’s let go of her past gripes with the alicorn. Still hurt and wanting repayment, but forgiveness shown through. Alternia matured over the millennia into the ideal ruler she is presented as in season 1.

That is another brilliant move by the author Vren55. When using a species that could impersonate another character, it would be extremely easy to use this to justify someone acting out of character. Vren55’s scenario is basically every tyrannical “Solar Empire with good PR” handed on a silver platter, only for the author to slap the platter away and go against it. Alternia and remarkably the original Celestia are not demonized despite it being easy to make Alternia’s kindness just an act or the original Celestia a villainous witch imposing herself and responsibilities on a woobie-fied Alternia. Neither happen. They’re not perfect but both are good characters dealing with bad situations and their better nature comes out every time it can.

And when the heroes confront Alternia and talk it out, this is where my second big perk for the story crops up.

None of the heroes acts out of character and the reveal is treated realistically. Bar none, the worst way in my mind to set up a conflict in a fan work is to have it be perpetuated because someone acts drastically out of character. It’s frequently done to villainize an otherwise benevolent figure and unless that change is precisely the point of the story it near always falls flat on its face for me, and even in that exception, it will be a big uphill battle to get in my good graces.

Here the reveal of Alternia as Celestia is a fantastically done set of chapters. Finding out your ruler and mentor had been a changeling, especially after you were all attacked by them just recently, would be shocking. But that shock can only last so long, especially once it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt the “Celestia” they all knew (sans Luna in the ancient past) had been Alternia this whole time and the persona and benevolence was never an act; the change isn’t impossible to come to terms with it. Alternia was just working and interacting effectively with a mask on and while there is some strain over her not being honest with the heroes they are smart enough to understand that she had a very good reason. This is still the leader who they all looked up to, that maintained their nation in a successful peace time, raised Cadance since she was a filly, whom Shining Armor had served under for years, mentored Twilight Sparkle, and spent the night of the Gala eating donuts with them at a shop. She just happens to be a changeling.

While jarring at first, it’s not impossible or even especially hard to accept. And everyone comes around to it.

Though it does lead to one of the funnier scenes in the story in which we find out the only two beings in Canterlot who were already aware Celestia was actually a changeling. Philomena, who’d been with her constantly for centuries, and, of all ponies, Prince Blueblood. His case was accidental, where he’d been caught in a burning building as a colt and ‘Celestia’ came to rescue him. In her panic, she didn’t notice parts of her disguise briefly got disrupted by the fire and after years of reading up on old folk tales, he correctly deduced she was a changeling but had just shrugged it off for much the same reasons the Mane 6 did.

By the way, the story has probably one of the better versions of Blueblood I’ve seen, from his now comical phobia of Rarity to managing to still be a snob but a useful snob as a nobility still thoroughly loyal to Alternia and in on the secret.

The story, logically, expands on changeling lore and world-building considerably, which is necessary as this came out well before we knew much of anything. I’ve noticed earlier fanon tales of changelings either have it where Chrysalis is the sole queen of the sole hive, which is what canon seemed to go with in time, or that multiple hives exist with lines of succession. This story follows the latter and it’s revealed through character interaction and flashbacks that Alternia’s sister is none other than Chrysalis and they weren’t alone. In the bygone era Chrysalis, Alternia, and two other sisters were budding queens under their mother. Eventually, the other two sisters left with blessings to start their own hives and right about when it came time for their siblings to follow suit, misjudgements and secret ploys led to a power struggle. Alternia lost said struggle in which Chrysalis killed their mother when she tried to intervene.

However this is where the story really hits its best stride. While it could have very easily been a cut-and-dried “evil sister vs. good sister” conflict, instead our author takes us on a different route by complicating the issue. Yes, Chrysalis can work just fine as a straight up monster but in this particular storyline it works better to show she has a different side. For example, one OC tactfully used in the tale is a castle maid who is outed as a changeling and is none-other-than the exiled daughter of Chrysalis herself. Only it’s shown this changeling, Cyndra, is completely harmless, is a good worker, and doesn’t want to hurt anyone.

Not only is she used as a good example of a good character to add plot and tension with, as Alternia naturally wants to be sweet on her unknowing niece but cannot reveal herself for valid reasons; but she reinforces an implication Chrysalis is not beyond an event horizon when its shown the folly Cyndra is guilty for should have necessitated a far worse punishment according to changeling customs and Chrysalis’ exile of her was a bid to keep her safe.

Chrysalis is very guilty of her sins and is held too them. Her follies, while shown to have some justification in why she attacked Canterlot ranging from personal revenge to a resource crisis, are held to her and complicate everything on top of her generally disagreeable personality. And her sins come back to haunt her and her family not only in her actions enflaming already racist, radical elements in Equestria to action; but have also inspired the ire of family members for both outing their secretive race as well as potentially inciting a war.

And this all comes back to Alternia. Now she must juggle multiple potential disasters ranging from a changeling civil war, a paranoid and bloodthirsty populace who hates changelings while being ruled by one secretly, and confronting old wounds and old demons.

There is only one way to avoid it all, one that will be anything but easy. She has to make peace between the changelings and equestrians. Something she must do as the leader of Equestria. Meaning she’ll have to confront Chrysalis and all of her long lost sisters with the constant danger of being outed for whom she is.

The only critique I can give negatively is sometimes I do wish more was done with the alicorns and mane 6. They are present and they, especially Luna, do get their moments with strong characterization. Luna has her big moments often tied to the realization the ‘sister’ had been bonding with, who welcomed her back despite hidden reservations, and she’d been living with was not her birth sister. Couple this with the guilt of knowing she had hurt her actual sister so badly the real Celestia went into a healing coma she still has not recovered from and it makes for good moments. I just wish there was more of them and some more personal moments of the Mane 6 sticking up for Alternia aside from some nice scenes for Twilight giving Alternia some much needed happiness by still sticking up for her as the ever faithful student, changes involving changelings be damned.

Familial pressures, worldbuilding used to explain oddities in the canon, consistent rules for its setting, secrets needing to be maintained, everyone trying to mentally dissect each other, and outside elements constantly threatening to burst through with the heroines and heroes not being idiots and working to counter them. That is what you can expect from “Princess Celestia: The Changeling Queen”.

Fantastic world building, characters acting like themselves, being long enough to keep you entrapped without taking weeks to read through, and getting right to the plot without padding while also not rushing. What more could you want?

How about a great sequel with an original conflict and a collection of side stories still being expanded to this day? Vren’s got you covered. With another great cover by Plainoasis.

Seriously go read it. Go read it, now. My biggest regret in fanfiction is not finishing this half a decade ago. In fact… I’m starting to get some ideas. The good changeling queencess already has experience with portals...

Report Tarbtano · 549 views · #fanfiction
Comments ( 13 )

I love the way this fic worked, and I am supprised you hadn't read it (at least in it's entirety) Can't wait to see what ideas it gave you.

On one hand, the Pros seems valid enough to be worth a read. On the other, personally don't care for the "X is a Changeling" genre. The struggle of me with these types of stories.

I'll put it on the list.

The only critique I can give negatively is sometimes I do wish more was done with the alicorns and mane 6.

i mean, it's alternia's story, so it'd be hella odd to focus on them more
unrelated sidenote, i've read this story and its sequel at least 4 times total
they're that damn good

Okay, i'm going to Nit-pick here.
"Nobody is a jobber" is not a plus, the abcense of a negative is not a positive for a work of fiction. The Begining of the End and The Ending of the End aren't good because they avoided the snapshot redemption craze of previous seasons, It's just a bad writing trend that was avoided. You might as well be saying any story that dosen't end in a dues ex machina should get credit for not doing that.
...What? I said it was nitpicking.

Beyond that the only thing you say here that has me worried is the amount of focus put on world building, an aspect of storytelling that almost always drags something down. Good worldbuilding occurs naturally as part of a story and only does as much as it needs before letting the characters and plot take back over, putting so much focus on it in this review, to the point of listing it second on your list, honestly worries me. Especially considering the fandom it's from.

Thanks for the review Tarbtano. Now I really need to get on “the bridge”..... I’m so glad you enjoyed this work which I wrote..... oh god I started writing that story 7 years ago. XD

5143851
Glad you enjoyed it. I personally feel it could use a rewrite but I’m always glad that ppl still like it even now.

5143863
cool *nods head*

5143920
To each their own! But yes the x is a Changeling genre is hard to get right and the fandom is a bit saturated with them now

5143986 oh god someone who actually enjoys the sequel XD.

5144007
You’re not wrong there. Imma be honest here, the review points out a lot of things I’m proud with this story but there are a number of things I’m not proud of that weren’t mentioned that I will mention because well.... I’m a sucker.

I started writing this in 2012 and so my worldbuilding was okay.... how I did exposition.... oh god it was bad. I’ve got a lot of people who love the worldbuilding and character depth for the story but other reviewers have frequently pointed out I had extremely Telly storytelling and yeah I did :P so be warned

5144016
firstly, the sequel is just as good as the original, if not better
secondly you really should read The Bridge. though, you should get ready for a lot of reading, as by the later chapters it gets long(though it never really feels like it to me).
also, i've a recommendation for both you and Tarbtano: Metroid:Equis. i'd have to say that story, PC:TCQ and The Bridge are my top 3 fimfic faves

5144007
Oh I'm aware "not fucking up" isn't really a pro, but I feel it deserves some kind of mention as fanfiction is very subject to the "Most of it's hot garbage" clause. And the "____ is a changling" is an archetype story that is pretty readily messed up I felt it was noteworthy how this tale dodged most of the problems I see accompanying those kind of storylines. Sort of an assurance to any reader of 'don't worry, they didn't do this thing' gig as the point of this post is to rave about something I liked and hopefully encourage others to read it.

As for worldbuilding, reason I gave it praise was because it does happen gradually with time (though by author admission it is a bit on the talky side at times) and the content within it I rather liked. For instance rather than directly state it, one piece of changeling lore is unearthed when Twilight goes legend combing and find a historic Zebra-Changeling interaction that was written off as a folktale (as in this canon Changelings were kinda cryptozoological up until the wedding, common folk not sure 100% if they were real) and later on she brings it up to Zecora to ask if she knows anything. Zecora gives her feedback and a new snippet comes out that is brought up later. Other times we might learn a changeling law because one of them seems to be behaving oddly or valuing something in particular in high regard; but the reasoning isn't readily obvious to the uninformed.

5144025
I’m starting The Bridge but it will take a while. Luckily Tarb gave me some summaries

Not sure if I’ve read Metroid Equius yet but I’ll check it out.

As for the sequel.... a lot of ppl If you recal gave me flack for it even though my actual writing was much better. I’m actually publishing a third entry in the verse soon, and finishing it completely before I publish it. Luckily I’m now at climax

I literally have this story open in another tab, because it's always in my recommends when I'm looking at my own story. I clicked over just to make sure it was the same story you're talking about.

Funnily enough, It Takes A Village is one of the first stories I prefer for. I really need to reread that one.

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