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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 CLXXXIII · 7:35pm Nov 14th, 2019

Not much time to talk today, folks. I’ve got a 1,000 watt power supply and an RTX 2080 Ti coming in and a cousin visiting to help me understand everything I need to do to make them functional with my computer. Even if the power supply (the most likely candidate) doesn’t make it today, we’re still gonna take a look at my computer’s guts so he can give me a quick lesson in electronic anatomy.

Got a wide quality range this week. I take you now to the reviews!

Stories for This Week:

Inner Glory by Erindor
Magic on the Rocks by Violet CLM
The Majestic Tale of a Noble Hunter by Carapace
Why Celestia is a Big Dum Dum by Aqua Drops
Holder's Boulder by Horse Voice
A Party For...Divorce? by lord_steak
Bus Stop by HazamaBrony
The Orchard by ForgottenDreams
[untitled] by Glimglam
The Sesquiannual Meeting of the League of Evildoing Villains Intending Terrible Yields by Show Stopper

Total Word Count: 275,136

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 3
Pretty Good: 1
Worth It: 4
Needs Work: 1
None: 1

Inner Glory

226,182 Words
By Erindor

Something has appeared in the Everfree. Twilight and Luna both investigate, only to find the altar of an ancient being commonly known as The Devil. The Devil’s reputation is one of contracts: you will be offered something you desire in return for a price, which you will meet or surrender your soul. Surely, neither of them would be so foolish as to make such a pact… one would hope.

This is a long and complex story with a great many things happening at once, such that the basic summary above doesn’t come close to glancing at the horizon of “doing it justice”. Here’s the gist: a millennium ago, Celestia broke the world into two parts: one of light and one of dark. In the light world, or “reality”, there is literally no pain. Ponies do not bleed, do not suffer injury, think no bad thoughts, have no concept of violence, and if they die they merely “blink”, disappearing in a painless instant. But in order to have this perfect utopia where literally nothing ever goes wrong for any reason whatsoever, all the pain and hate and cruelty and death reside in the other world, which knows nothing but these things. The majority of this story revolves around Twilight and her friends having to enter this dark alternate reality to stop someone from trying to bring the two realities back together. The catch is that, just as the dark world is a reflection of “reality”, so too are there twin copies of all the creatures in “reality” in the dark world, meaning there is a corrupt Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and so on.

Aaand that’s about as much as I can or should say, both to save time and prevent unnecessary spoilers.

The core element of this story is that it is deep, approaching a wide range of philosophical concepts from the purpose of pain to the morality (or lack thereof) of mercy. The sheer number of topics Erindor approaches are too many to recount here. This might make the story seem like a gem of philosophical theory. To me, it’s more like the story is sabotaging itself. There are a lot of big ideas represented here, and these philosophical ideas need more gravitas and focus if the audience is to properly absorb it all. Instead, each idea comes, gets its argument and counter arguments, forms a conclusion, and we’re off to the next one, leaving the reader no time to think on what they’ve supposedly just learned. Thus said lesson is forgotten almost as soon as it’s been picked up, lost in the rush to grasp the next mind-puzzler. I think Erindor would have been far greater served to stick to just two or three primary themes – or even just one – throughout the entire story, which the audience would have had a far easier time taking in.

On the plus side, there’s still a lot going on besides the philosophy. Battles fought, prisons to escape, duels to be won, ancient foes to outwit, and old rivalries to reconcile. While the philosophy appears to be Erindor’s primary motivation, they don’t neglect that most readers want to see a story and works to give them that. In particular, the near-continuous character growth of all involved is a great aspect; even if the readers can’t properly absorb what the author’s philosophizing to us about, the characters in-story certainly can and do. About my only complaint here is that we didn’t get to see the reasons behind Rarity’s, Rainbow’s, or Applejack’s ‘final development’, if you will, although I can understand Erindor’s desire to move on (and the audience’s desire to not go through another long-winded philosophical debate for each character’s personal struggle).

There are two glaring issues. The first is an overabundance of typos and missed punctuation or code. These kinds of things are to be expected for a story of any real length, but it happens so often with this one that I sometimes wonder if Erindor bothered to go back to proof at all. The worst of this comes from Thael’s speech, which is always in italics. There’s nothing wrong with this on its own, but Erindor frequently fails to remember to alternate between italics and normal text when switching from Thael’s dialogue to narrative or vice-versa. This leads to several instances where Thael is speaking wait why is he describing things in third person I’m confused oh the author forgot to stop the italics again.

The second is Erindor’s overreliance on dialogue. Some scenes are nothing but constant talking with minimal narrative input, creating a droning conversation where you can’t tell who is speaking half the time nor how they’re speaking it. This gets particularly bad when you add three or four more characters to the room and have someone speak up without any narrative to tell us who it was, leading to a lot of confusion when you realize that was supposed to be Applejack speaking rather than Twilight continuing her point after an interruption from a third pony who might have been Luna because that’s who Twilight was talking to but you really don’t know.

To make things worse, sometimes the characters will talk in long, unrealistic monologues, usually while trying to make a philosophical point. If you think that you’re going to sit in a room with the likes of “No, that’s not right, and here’s why.” Twilight Sparkle, “This is so boring, can we please move on?” Rainbow Dash, or “I haven’t said anything in ten seconds and I’m about to explode!” Pinkie Pie and talk for five straight minutes on a subject with zero interruption, I’ve got some beachfront property to sell you.

And then there is the emotional impact… or lack of it. Erindor’s dialogue-heavy, narrative-light writing style has zero sense of gravitas or impact. Things just happen, without time taken to consider their weight upon the psyches of the characters. There is no attempt to build atmosphere for most scenes, the story being strictly limited to “this is the setting, these events happened, have a crap-ton of dialogue, on to the next”. This has the effect of making many scenes that should be exciting, even riveting, downright dull. And since the entire story runs like this, that means that the only emotional weight you’ll ever get comes from the events themselves.

All of this is balanced out by the stakes of the situation, the regular character and relationship growth, and a steady stream of worldbuilding. Things are not just deep in this story, but deadly serious, with characters making big mistakes and paying big prices for them. Friends become enemies become frienemies, villains turn out to not be so bad after all, and creatures once thought cruel monsters will turn out to be surprisingly reasonable once you get to know them. The story-wide themes are that there is no plain black and white, nobody is truly good or evil, and every action has meaningful consequences. These are good lessons that are effectively hammered home with every chapter beneath the steady stream of everything else that is going on.

In the end, Inner Glory is a mixed bag. Erindor’s ambition is great but, as an ambitious man myself, I note that ambition can only go so far without a requisite skill and experience. The concept and work behind this story is undeniably impressive, but the writing is not nearly strong enough to support it. I’m putting this on the middle ground because, again, there are a lot of great elements behind the plot. Yet it can’t go any higher than that without some proofing and a better awareness of the way the writing affects the readers.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Working the Pie Rock Farm stinks. Nopony wants to buy rocks. It would be different if the Pies would look into building materials or something practical, but no, they just sell rocks, because that’s traditional. Traditional means no innovation, a constant fretting over when the next meal will come, and days spent at the market wishing somepony would buy a damn rock. Limestone can’t stand it, yet she does it anyway for Marble’s sake, because making Marble happy is the only thing important to her.

But things are about to change, starting with an emaciated unicorn desperate for a job…

This is the tale of how the Great and Powerful Trixie turned the Pie Family upside down in all the right ways. Here Violet CLM depicts a Trixie who is struggling and, in general, is still the Trixie we all know and love (or hate, for some of you), and yet she’s also a more down-to-earth, responsible, caring, and friendly pony. Trixie’s characterization here is so very good, and easy to enjoy.

But while Trixie tries to take center stage as often as she can (because Trixie), this is a story from Limestone’s perspective, and is very much about her and her family. Violet CLM creates in Limestone and Marble real characters with far more depth than the show ever gave us. Limestone is practical, down-to-earth, honest, and resourceful. Marble is cheery, charismatic, and a dreamer. Igneous and Cloudy don’t get near as much attention, but that’s okay as they’re largely peripheral to the ongoing story. Much of the story centers around Limestone trying to innovate and make the farm successful while watching Trixie and Marble court one another, wanting to be the protective older sibling but afraid to overstep.

If all this seems a little off from what we’ve seen of Marble and Limestone in-show… there’s a reason for that. One of the greatest things about this story is the effort Violet CLM puts into keeping these events canon, taking careful steps to include as much as possible up to Hearthbreakers. Bearing in mind that this was written long before Trixie’s return to the limelight in No Second Prances, I’d say they did an excellent job. The events of this story are not only believable in terms of reality, I don’t see any reason they couldn’t have happened within the background of the show itself, at least up to the end of Season 5. That’s quite the achievement.

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Interesting characters with pleasant slice-of-life goodness and an excellent flow with canon. Although the ending is a foregone conclusion (because again, canon), it remains interesting in terms of how the inevitable ending is going to come about. This story may be the best I’ve yet read by this author.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Death and the DazzlingsWHYRTY?
The Parable of the Dead LizardsPretty Good
The Years of Ar and SWorth It

Incognito is determined to be a proper, good changeling hunter, especially now that he’s moved to Ponyville with his parents. His favorite targets are the Cutie Mark Crusaders, but none more so than the tastiest of prey: Sweetie Belle. That filly is delicious and he’ll stop at nothing to best her in a hunt! Now if only Pinkie hadn’t outed the changelings’ natural weakness, which is – believe it or not – boops.

This story was every bit as adorable as I hoped it would be, and then some. From the moment I first saw the cover art, I had the feeling Sweetie was older than we know her in show, and while the narrative still refers to the CMC as “little fillies” their behavior definitely suggests some growing up as been going on. This makes their teasing of Incognito seem like more than mere children at play, especially in the case of Sweetie Belle. What a delight, then, when the end of the story proves my theory sound.

The icing on the cake is the realization that, yes, boops are a legit weakness for changelings in this AU. It’s an adorable concept that works wonderfully and makes Incognito’s every defeat highly entertaining. His constant threats of ‘revenge’ and desire to establish his place at the top of the food chain is only made better by his consistent failure to do so.

I can’t think of anything to complain about. The story is fun, just the right length to keep the concept from getting stale, and comes with an ending that will make the romance fans grin like a Pinkie Pie at a confectionary. Absolutely give this a try.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Filly Twilight is mad at Celestia, and Celestia always told her that if she’s upset about something she should write to Celestia about it, so that’s exactly what she does!

This one caught my attention because it was Celestia who was the target of filly Twilight’s anger, and that never happens in these sorts of stories. As much as everyone loves to believe in the idea of filly Twilight being a perfect goody-four-shoes, it would be ridiculous to think that she never got into trouble or got upset with Celestia, so I was curious to see where this was going.

Unfortunately, Aqua Drops ruins the whole thing by completely rewriting Equestrian history for dumb reasons. This concept writes itself and has no need whatsoever for nonsensical, canonbreaking shenanigans such as this. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who will enjoy the idea of Luna being banished to the moon while filly Twilight watched because she kicked Celestia in the flank, but there’s nothing funny to me about it. At best, it puts the author’s maturity level at around that of filly Twilight herself as depicted in this story (which is to say, nonexistent).

But again, I’m sure plenty of people will find this hilarious, so by all means, go in and enjoy the OOC behavior and nonsense.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Maud awakens in the middle of the night to find her kid sister Marble seemingly possessed and in the act of destroying a Pie Family heirloom: the diary of Holder Cobblestone. Once Marble is back to her regular self, Maud decides to repair the book she damaged. This gradually leads Maud to determine that something terrible may be breaking free on the farm. And it’s coming from Holder’s Boulder.

Horse Voice labelled this as a horror, and I supposed that fits contextually. But it lacks any of the atmosphere or style of a horror. It is neither a collection of jump scares nor a grinding psychological thriller. At no point is anything in the story actually frightening. I would compare it, at best, to the alarm of an adventure, and then only in a solitary scene at the end. The rest of it feels more… I don’t want to say “slice-of-life”, but I can’t think of a better term. It’s absolutely not slice-of-life, especially considering the majority of the story involves Maud piecing together the book and trying to solve the mystery of Holder’s Boulder. Ultimately, I can’t tell if Horse Voice labelled this a horror because they intended it to be one or because they couldn’t think of a better tag.

The story is certainly good in a general sense, I just feel like a victim of false – or perhaps misdirected – advertising. The description doesn’t help, as it leads one to think Marble will be the central character to the piece, and she feels largely peripheral. I feel almost as though the author was going for the realistic “the protagonist can’t see everything” idea, but might have gone too far with it.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m simply not reading the material the way it’s meant to be read (if you don’t understand what I mean by that, you’re probably not a writer). I’m conflicted. At the very least, I can say that I think I get what Horse Voice was trying to do but don’t think they got there. Perhaps the story would have been more effective if told from a different angle?

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Biblical MonstersWHYRTY?
Wild FireWHYRTY?
Celestia Hates Us AllPretty Good
The Savage WayPretty Good

Golden Harvest is getting a divorce. She and her brother go to Pinkie Pie, the best party planner in Equestria, to celebrate this event. But Pinkie is horrified by the prospect. How could anypony celebrate the death of true love? Now she faces a moral dilemma, not sure how to plan for such an event… or even if she should take the job.

This is easily one of the better Pinkie Pie stories I’ve read in a while. It catches her traditional whimsical personality, but manages to merge that seamlessly with the serious nature of the ongoing situation. The story is one part playful and two parts serious, and that the author manages to make that work is impressive.

An interesting lesson for the real world, excellent Pinkie Pie characterization, and all within the wrappings of some solid writing. I could probably ask for more, but I have no idea what said ‘more’ would be. I’m looking forward to the next one by this author.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Bus Stop

3,748 Words
By HazamaBrony

After a week of aimless travel, Rainbow Dash pauses to rest at a bus stop. While waiting, a random human shows up to wait for the bus.

A few things to accept right off the bat: one, that there are actual buses in Equestria, the gasoline-powered kind; two, that a random human is in Equestria by, somehow, not taking the usual means; three, that this human arrived in Equestria with an important mission and yet nopony has helped him achieve his apparently important mission. Yeah, it’s odd. You largely have to accept this one at face value.

If you can get past these quirks (and that may be a big if for some of you), then we end up with a curious story about a Rainbow who doesn’t know what she’s doing or how to solve her problem. It takes a while for the problem to be revealed, but I like that much more than if HazamaBrony had started us off with a massive exposition dump. In the end I suppose I would define this one as a Rainbow Dash character study.

It largely achieves its ends, although it does so while leaving massive question marks over pretty much everything around it. Which I suppose is fine; the human’s mission and what may result from it, plus the events prior to Rainbow being here, are all secondary or maybe even tertiary to the central topic, which is Rainbow’s personal recovery from her slump (to avoid putting too fine a point on it (and spoilers)).

Not a bad story, but very unusual. I imagine it’ll be hit or miss depending upon who is reading it.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
UnwellPretty Good

All that and not a single Fluttertree joke. For shame, author.

Fluttershy pays Applejack a visit and is introduced to a new brand of tea. When she asks AJ what the tea is, she is promptly taken to… the orchard.

This was… B-movie, at best. The concept makes no sense whatsoever, running on the idea that the Apples sacrifice a pony every harvest season to some mysterious, unseen dryad queen. So how is it nopony noticed how ponies have been disappearing since the town was founded? Worse, the author wants us to believe Princess Twilight Sparkle was a past victim and somehow expects us to not ask why all of Equestria hasn’t been in an uproar over missing royalty. The idea that this could be kept a secret for so long is, frankly, preposterous.

Then, of course, there’s the idea of Applejack doing this. Man, the Elements really screwed up picking her, didn’t they? Makes you wonder why they work at all in her presence.

Then there’s the grammar, or should I say, lack of it. With the very first sentence, it’s clear that this author doesn’t know much about the subject. The problem persists endlessly, with myriad run-ons, comma splices, fractions, and so on. The narrative voice is no better; there’s even a spot early on where the author speaks to the reader directly with phrases like “The truth I’m afraid to say is” [sic], completely breaking from the narrative style of the rest of the story.

I’ve seen a similar concept used before, and effectively. This story does not use it effectively. It writes the characters as blatantly OOC, pays no mind to its own plotholes, is poorly written, and is generally a mess. This author could use some pre-readers, editors, and/or proofers.

Bookshelf: None

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


1,656 Words
By Glimglam

In this curious story, we meet a pony with no name and no self-identity. Or so the pony claims; obviously they have a name, else they wouldn’t have things like a bank account, which they clearly do. Which leads to the idea that this is not a pony with no name but, rather, a deeply depressed pony with extreme self-esteem issues. A Wallflower Blush, only exponentially worse.

The alternative, of course, is that GlimGlam didn’t fully consider the implications of everything that happens in this story.

Either way, it is a heavily atmospheric piece, but also an endless stream of extrapolation. It’s rare to see those two come together in a way that isn’t outright bad, so kudos there, author. One has to wonder as to where this story is meant to go; is the unnamed protagonist preparing to commit suicide? Is this story a metaphor for suicidal thoughts? Or perhaps just depression? I have no idea. I feel the nebulousness is intentional, though.

The effectiveness of this one will likely be dependent upon the individual reader. It’s up to them to decide for themselves whether this was a poorly planned piece with all sorts of plotholes, a character’s introspection and self-deprecation, or a deep metaphor for something ominous. I’ll keep my opinion on which one to myself and let you come to your own conclusions.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Love CountdownPretty Good
MachinaPretty Good

In this brief little story, Show Stopper introduces us to the true villains of Equestria: Derpy, Sugar Belle, Grubber, and Grogar, who are all meeting at the… yeah, no.

I love that their first order of business is changing the name of the meeting. And the result that follows.

Anyway, this is a silly piece in which four “power behind the throne”-type villains meet to discuss their most recent attempts at conquering and/or destroying Equestria. Not much more to it than that. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect. I think the best part of this is that it acts less like a bunch of egoists arguing and butting heads and more like four friends/rivals having a casual discussion. The normalcy only accentuates the weirdness.

A fun piece, although I honestly would have liked it to have been a little longer. There are consequences and far more things to discuss. Especially considering the lengths the characters had to go to just to get to the meeting place, I would think they’d want to stick around for a while just to avoid having to do it all again. And there are so many possibilities… Oh well, I’m glad at least for what we got.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Stories for Next Week:

Please Don't Fly by Lord_Bale
A Walk in the Woods by Chicago Ted
Not Exactly a Shining Moment by Darkentrophy
Riding Herd by Steel Resolve
Study Date by Nordryd
Can Ya Fix Her? by LightningSword
The Restless Corpse of Sunset Shimmer by boardgamebrony
Mortem: The Last Necromancer by SecretAgentPlotTwist
When the Elements are Gone by Quicksear
Tea by Equimorto

Recent Review Map:

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Comments ( 10 )

Oooh, nice to see Magic on the Rocks getting such praise :pinkiehappy: I’ve generally been craving tragedies ever since I wrote one of my own, and that was one of the best I’d come across. I’d be tempted to reread it, if there weren’t so many to get to first. Perhaps later.

Holder’s Bolder was... yeah, I think I can agree with that one being in kind of an odd place. Bits definitely seemed horrific to me (I think—it’s been a while), but by the end the part that stuck with me the most was a quiet, heartwarming moment with Maud and Marble, rather than any creepy or unsettling moments.

Hope the computer stuff goes okay :twilightsmile:

Seems I read the first chapter of Inner Glory back when it was published, but never continued. Possibly the formatting issues you mention are what put me off. Sounds like it would be worth another punt.

Author Interviewer

The catch is that, just as the dark world is a reflection of “reality”, so too are there twin copies of all the creatures in “reality” in the dark world, meaning there is a corrupt Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and so on.

Oh my god, are they palette-negative R63 OCs with super-edgy names? Because I have written this story. XD

Only one I've read is the divorce one, and while I thought it was good, I was significantly less enamored of it than you were. It's possible the story's been edited since i saw it, but my impression was that it was a nigh endless stream of LUS and tell, and there's not really a resolution to what's an interesting conflict. Pinkie just suddenly decides she's okay with it, and without really seeing her reason her way through that and reconcile her own feelings to her changing attitude, it's going to feel more like a deus ex machina than real character growth. It just seemed like the climax was awfully rushed to me. I thought it was an odd choice to tell most of it in what's apparently an omniscient narrator, except for the one scene that uses Mrs. Cake's POV. For her part, she seemed to hammer on Pinkie enough to do this job, that I never got a sense of whether Pinkie had a change of heart or is just giving in. It's close to having a real arc for Pinkie, but it stops just short of completing it.

It does fall on the side where I'd recommend it to others, but not vociferously.

Thanks for the thoughts!

Horror stories are funny things, are they not? What's scary to one person may be boring or even silly to another. That's why it's always been a "ghetto" genre. But I knew what I was getting into when I decided to focus on it.


I'm very gratified to hear this, because if that part had been improperly handled, it would have really hurt the theme I was going for. Maud surprised me even as I wrote her there, and the writers in the audience will know what I mean. :raritywink:

Great to see Magic on the Rocks here, one of the best Limestone POVs I've ever read!

They weren't palette-negative, but they did have... eh, I guess you could call them edgy names? If you consider "Spectral Slash" or "Lustrous Revolt" or "Temperament" edgy.

Inner Glory sounds like it’d be right up my alley. Definitely checking that one out.

Author Interviewer

"Temperament" is just a bad pony name. <.<

I'm sure 'bad Rarity' will appreciate that.

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