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PaulAsaran


Technical Writer from the U.S.A.'s Deep South. Writes horsewords, and reviews both independently and for Seattle's Angels. New reviews posted every Thursday! Writing Motto: "Go Big or Go Home!"

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Dec
5th
2019

Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXXXV · 10:07pm Dec 5th, 2019

And we're back! Howdy, everybody. I hope you Americans had lots of food and kinship this past Thanksgiving. Me, I’m still eating leftovers. Spent all Saturday and a good chunk of Sunday cooking. It was my first family gathering ever as a major contributor to the culinary experience, producing four different dishes and roughly a third of the overall meal. And y’know? I think I’ll do it again next year. I rather like cooking. Though I’m still nothing compared to my Dad, who even with a bad back and significant knee problems was able to produce an entire meal for a separate big gathering all by himself in the same amount of time. That man is a wonder.

But that’s not the only unusual thing. I spent the early days of that week writing overtime so I could have at least 7k words done before I went to visit my family, thinking I’d have no time to do more. And instead I produced another 6k while visiting. This new short story of mine is humming along nicely. If I keep this up I’ll be done with the rough draft by this time next week. I hope that proves the case; my writing has been moving too slowly for far too long.

And on that note, it’s good to be back in the saddle and releasing reviews. I honestly can’t stand going a week without posting, no matter how necessary it might be for my sanity. So let’s hop to it, shall we?

Reviews.

Stories for This Week:

The Void Rift Crisis by Visiden Visidane
Tʜᴇ Cᴀʟᴀᴍɪᴛʏ by Cloud Hop
A Melody's Soul by Manaphy
Humanity's Greatest Pastime by soulpillar
Wrath of a People by DR-Fluffy
Pinkie Tales: Saddle Arabian Nights Shaladdin by Magpiepony
This Isn't War by QueenMoriarty
Five Letter Word by Enigmatic Otaku
Time and Times by archonix
We Get Diplomatic Immunity, Right? by Pascoite

Total Word Count: 67,962

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 1
Pretty Good: 1
Worth It: 7
Needs Work: 1
None: 0


The Void Rift Crisis

27,292 Words
Visiden Visidane failed to provide cover art.

Set in Visiden Visidane’s Upheaval AU, this story is set before the birth of Celestia and Luna in the the multi-layered universe of the Eternal Herd. An unnamed, unidentified, even undescribed scholar seeks to learn more about the Void Rift Crisis, in which a massive relic known as the Agamanthion threatened to destroy the alicorn race completely.

This story is many things. First and foremost, it is a worldbuilding piece that reveals the nature of the heavenly alicorn world and its many realms. We learn, without being directly told, about the alicorn race, such as how even when they die they will be reborn in time, and how a presumably holy throne chose their first and possibly current ruler. We learn of Celestia’s and Luna’s parents and how they fought to destroy the Agamanthion together. We see the internal politics of the Herd’s many different factions, from the scholars to the warriors to the oft-maligned Seekers (poor souls though they be). Simply put, this is a story that the worldbuilders will adore, for it is seeped in alicorn culture and history.

It is a retelling of a war, possibly the only real war the alicorns have ever fought (although I’m not sure that this was concretely stated). The things the Herd and our favorite princesses’ parents had to contend with would make our dear Element Bearers tremble. Speaking of, this is also an origin story for our princesses. We learn a little about Oceanus, a good thing considering how important he is certain to be in the near future. Learning about Celestia’s mischievous youth was also a delight, for how tiny a part it had in the story.

Most surprising, this is also the story of the origins of Equestria itself.

Visiden Visidane could have taken the long route and given us the entire crisis in vivid detail, but instead chose this more historical perspective from those who lived it. I thoroughly approve. This method is more concise, yet loses nothing in terms of scale, fascination, or detail. I have only a few complaints, the first being how so many characters are introduced but never described, such that at times I couldn’t even tell if the character narrating a given chapter was male or female.

The second issue? I booked this one in the hopes that the vast amount of time it would take to finish it would allow the author to finish Journeys and yet, somehow, it is still not so. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame Visiden Visidane for the slowness (no matter how much I’d like to). But darn it, I was really hoping I could add Journeys to my RiL by this point…

Regardless, this story was a great addition to the Upheaval AU. Visiden Visidane insists it is “best understood” after reading the prior two stories, but I don’t think that’s really true. The story is good enough to stand entirely on its own with no prior knowledge needed. In fact, I would even argue that reading this first would be extremely beneficial, even if it may somewhat spoil some things in the original. Regardless of the order you choose to read it in, you should definitely give this and its predecessors a look.

Bookshelf: Why haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Upheaval: Breaking PointWHYRTY?
Upheaval: ReckoningWHYRTY?


That didn’t quite go where I expected.

When a captured Chrysalis reveals that an unholy horror has been annihilating her lands, Celestia takes her seriously. Once she pinpoints the location of this brutal invader, she decides to visit it personally to… “negotiate”.

This story runs under the wild theory that Celestia is a veritable god known and feared throughout the galaxy. That’s right, the “calamity” in the title isn’t the threat to the changelings, it is Celestia herself. Apparently, Cloud Hop likes writing stories in which Celestia is an undefeatable badass. I have nothing against this.

If you like watching Celestia go to town like a being beyond the scope of reality itself, then this will do it for you.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
I'll Kill You With My Tea CupWorth It


Octavia Melody has been having some difficulties with practice lately. Something just doesn’t feel right when she’s with her bandmates. One day after practice, she visits a pub only to find her housemate Vinyl Scratch already there, as if expecting her.

Manaphy seems to like writing stories that are merely conversations. In this case, it’s Vinyl trying to talk Octavia through her problems with her bandmates and her identity in relation to those Canterlot Elite types.

I’m afraid this one doesn’t work as well as The Uninvited Rainbow. Part of that may be the lack of atmosphere; while we know they’re in a pub, much of the story reads like two ponies in a blank space. There’s also no sense of conflict or stress. Two ponies meet in a pub, have a conversation, the end. I hate to say this, but it just wasn’t very interesting. Neither Octavia nor Vinyl really show much in the way of personality. If they didn’t mention things like Vinyl’s room being a mess or Octavia’s tomboyish youth, you’d think they were the same pony having a conversation with herself.

Now wouldn’t that be a twist?

But there is no twist. There is no hook. There is no climax. There’s just two ponies. Talking. Casually. Without any sense of a lesson learned or a resolution having been made, except that Octavia ‘feels better’. So how is a reader meant to be drawn in?

I suppose this will work for anyone looking for more OctaScratch friendshipping. Other than that, I’m afraid it doesn’t have much going for it.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
An Uninvited RainbowWorth It


Our unnamed protagonist is a human who has the honor of protecting Earth’s secrets from Equestria. As such, he’s helped to create Equestria’s first internet service. The problem is that the Equestrians think that they are connected to Earth’s internet when, in reality, they’re connected to a filtered “FakeNet” that protects their innocent perspectives from humanity’s worst traits. When Princess Twilight Sparkle finds out, she confronts the human, and he does something that he knows could cost him everything: he walks into the server room, leaving his computer open for anypony, including a curious princess, to access.

If you’re paying attention to the tags, you might know where this is going. If you don’t, then you’ll probably realize it about halfway through. Either way, it’s an amusing situation and I don’t blame the guy at all for thinking his reputation, job, and possibly even life are over. Celestia’s reaction at the end is the icing on the cake. soulpillar could easily have taken this on its most serious, darkest path, and this undoubtedly would have been an amazing story for it, but I’m glad that we got this instead. A little lighthearted silliness was a nice change of pace given the subject matter.

And if you really want some thought fuel, imagine this as being in the same AU as soulpillar’s The Sun & The Rose.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The Sun & the RosePretty Good


The ponies will not allow the changelings to get away with nearly conquering Canterlot. Luna leads the charge as the Equestrians steadily bring down the ancient Changeling Empire, and now there is only the Citadel, hidden deep beneath the Badlands. Chrysalis, convinced the ponies intend to destroy her race entirely, performs an act of last resort: she signs a contract with a demon.

This feels like the prelude to something larger, although I doubt DR-Fluffy has any intention of making it more than it is. The story runs only partially how I expected. My anticipation was that Chrysalis would sign a pact with this demon and we’d get to watch the ponies be slaughtered, Luna included. And while a lot of ponies do indeed die, the ending was hardly the total destruction it could have been. No, instead DR-Fluffy ends this on a high note, or as high a note as can be offered in this scenario, which in retrospect isn’t all that high at all. But still higher than I thought it would.

There are two things I like about this story. The first is the idea of a greater conflict for the AU and a lot of potential for growth. This could lead to quite the interesting epic regarding a final fight against a powerful evil, which is better than simply ending Equestria here and now. The second thing I like is how the story makes the catalyst of the story not total hatred but misunderstandings and clashing cultures. The Equestrians want to remove Chrysalis from the throne and install a puppet leader that can gradually reform the changings. The changelings think they’re being exterminated to the last bug. Somehow, despite the Equestrians making repeated offers for the changelings they encounter to surrender, the changelings never seem to grasp the true intention. And to think, all of this could have been avoided had the ponies been less aggressive and the changelings less defensive. It’s a much more interesting and realistic dynamic than just “ponies and changelings hate each other,” and for that I readily approve.

Alas, the writing of the story could use work, particularly in terms of grammar. It is littered with missing or incorrect punctuation and, like Twilight, Soldier of War, I get the impression DR-Fluffy was using the spellchecker without bothering to note whether the checker was spelling the right word. “Since” instead of “sense”, “lost” instead of “loss”, and similar such errors are all over the place. The fact that these problems are still present and possibly more so a year after they were there in Twilight, Soldier of War is not a good sign.

Still, this was a worthwhile read. It’ll be good for anyone who enjoys changelings, large-scale battles, desperate situations, and perhaps a taste of contractual evil at work.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Twilight, Soldier of WarWorth It
PredictableNeeds Work


The description of this story is deceptive, as it leads you to think this is a story where Pinkie Pie is the narrator. Which is not the case at all. It ends up being half-crackfic, half-crossover in which Disney’s Aladdin is retold with ponies playing all the roles. Not all those roles are typical: for instance, Applejack ends up playing Abu and Fluttershy ends up being the flying carpet. And yes, they do speak. As long as you’ve seen or at least know of Aladdin, you know what the story is. The fun is in how the pony characters change things up.

This is, from beginning to end, nothing but silly nonsense. But it’s fun silly nonsense, particularly for anyone who is a fan of the Disney movie. I was surprised that Shining Armor and Cadance played Aladdin and Jasmine respectively instead of some fan-favorite ship, but can’t argue with the results (I love that “Appul” is regarded, without argument from Shaladdin, as the smarter of the two). Rarity was an unexpected but perfect choice to play the Cave of Wonders, though Twilight as the Sultan (and still referred to as a “he”) miffed me. Then there’s Rainbow, who plays multiple minor roles, sometimes in the same scene. And really, given the cover art and just going on who the ponies are, do you need me to tell you who played the Genie?

The one catch to all this silliness is the writing, which slips up a few times with things like missing punctuation, improper capitalization, etc. The strangest grievance comes in the form of what I’m guessing are… acting cues? MagpiePony claims there is a YouTube video of this story, which might mean that the video was created first and the story was adapted from the script. If that’s the case, it looks like some of the voice actor cues were left in place. For example:

She flew straight into a rug, and and before she could get herself free, the clothing line snapped her backwards into the sky again. (yells)

Huh, and I didn’t even catch that double-and until now. So yeah, you see what I mean.

Anyway, the story is fun if you’re willing to cast aside all logic and just go with the flow (someone needs to teach poor Applejack that trick). If you’re into Disney and/or Aladdin and want to engage in some low-thought goofiness, you can’t go wrong here.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


One year after the end of the Crystal War, and Rainbow Dash is no longer the Iron Wing. But the war was good for her, and modern life… isn’t.

This is a story about a Rainbow Dash who found her place in war and, once the war was over, doesn’t know what to do with herself. It’s not about PTSD, it’s about having to grow up and live instead of just following orders. It’s about a pony who, when faced with the prospect of being an adult, nearly capsizes under the weight of such a responsibility. Or maybe, does. Either way, it all feels to me like a metaphor for not wanting to be responsible.

I’m not saying that as a criticism. On the contrary, it’s a very interesting piece, if maybe a little too repetitive for its purposes. I’m sure plenty of people can identify with what Rainbow’s going through, war or no war. The story is an emotional interview and character study, and despite being set in the Crystal War timeline I feel it captures Dash perfectly.

This will appeal to the sadficcionados out there, but also to lovers of Rainbow Dash or those seeking a more somber, heavy story.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Baby PicturesPretty Good


Rainbow loves Soarin. Really, she does. She just wishes he wouldn’t say “sorry” a million times a day for getting her pregnant.

This is a slice of life that seems to be about nothing more than the trials of pregnancy. More specifically, the trials of mood swings due to pregnancy. Poor Soarin has to find some way to not annoy his very pregnant fiancee. Which isn’t easy, considering he’s such a dork and Rainbow was easily agitated before she became pregnant.

It’s a pleasant story. Simple, friendly, even a little fun. There’s not much to it, but I suppose this is an instance there doesn’t need that.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Celestia is old and slow but, it seems, happy. Then, one regular day, she hears a familiar voice calling her. It turns out that it is her. A younger her. Well, not really younger in age, but certainly in appearance. A princess has come to visit. One must wonder why.

This is a curious story in which Princess Celestia decides to go to the human world and visit with her 70-year-old counterpart. What follows is a twisting, turning conversation about a variety of things. It’s a simple, subtle, quiet story involving a little bit of worldbuilding and a little bit of future predicting.

For an unedited piece, it’s pretty good. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t find the ongoing conversation as riveting and emotional as a lot of the commenters seemed to, but I still enjoyed it. It’s a pleasant and relaxed piece, perfect for those of us looking for something less exciting and more thoughtful.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Of the ValleyPretty Good


Berry Punch has discovered something awesome. And a good way to make money. It’s not even illegal! So you may be wondering why she’s in Celestia’s private office and being treated like a complete criminal.

Told in reverse chronological order, this tells the story of Berry Punch’s decision to abuse some new governing powers as a cultural ambassador. I wish I could go beyond that, but I can't because this is a story easily spoiled. A shame, too, because there would be plenty to talk about otherwise. Suffice to say that Berry gets in over her head by trying to do business with exactly the wrong sorts of ponies for reasons that seem purely impulsive.

This is an amusing bit of randomness starring a character I rarely end up reading about. So yeah, by all means, give it a go. You might just get a chuckle out of it. Honestly, Celestia having a judge’s bench in her private office sold this for me right away.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
AmbergrisWHYRTY?
Roam-SpringaWHYRTY?
Curse, Bless Me NowPretty Good
Method ActingPretty Good
Where the Heart IsPretty Good


Stories for Next Week:

There's No Place Like Home by Emperor
Littlepip Goes to the Grocery Store by initforfanfiction
Never Open the Door by Fallblau
Giving It A Shot by Flint Sparks
Oh Brother of Mine by CrackedInkWell
What Cats Know by Daedalus Aegle
That's Your Downfall by bathroomstahl
413 Mulberry Lane : A Report  (With Annotations by Twilight Sparkle) by Starsong
A Window to the Past by FoughtDragon01
Daring Do: The Opera by AlexTFish


Recent Review Map:

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Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXXXIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXC

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Comments ( 15 )
PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Apparently, Cloud Hop likes writing stories in which Celestia is an undefeatable badass. I have nothing against this.

Ah! Me neither! :D

The one catch to all this silliness is the writing, which slips up a few times with things like missing punctuation, improper capitalization, etc. The strangest grievance comes in the form of what I’m guessing are… acting cues? MagpiePony claims there is a YouTube video of this story, which might mean that the video was created first and the story was adapted from the script.

Yeah. I have not actually read-read a single one of these, but I know the writing can use some extra editing. But the audio plays are fantastic, because Mag's great at that, and I highly recommend listening to them if you can.

Visiden Visidane failed to provide cover art.

Fail? I didn’t fail. I meant for you to use that pic. A pony bellyflopping into the void is a good pic for what happened to start the Void Rift Crisis. As Divina Gratia says “everything is as it should be”.

how a presumably holy throne chose their first and possibly current ruler.

This is a vaguely structured phrase. I’m interpreting it as “the Throne picked both Primus Ignis, the First King, AND Sanctus Dominus, the current king”, but it can also be taken as “Primus Ignis, the First King, might also be the current king”. I’m not sure in what you mean.

It is a retelling of a war, possibly the only real war the alicorns have ever fought (although I’m not sure that this was concretely stated).

It is not concretely stated (because it’s not the first war they ever fought, at least if you take the alicorns as a whole). It is the only war that the recent-cycle alicorns have fought.

I have only a few complaints, the first being how so many characters are introduced but never described, such that at times I couldn’t even tell if the character narrating a given chapter was male or female.

Because the story is presented as the recorded words of various interviewees, the only way I would be able to describe them would be if they described themselves, or maybe if they described each other. I thought it would be an awkward thing to include. If it’s any consolation, Gravitas and Magnus Chartophylax are briefly described in Reckoning.

The second issue? I booked this one in the hopes that the vast amount of time it would take to finish it would allow the author to finish Journeys and yet, somehow, it is still not so. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame Visiden Visidane for the slowness (no matter how much I’d like to). But darn it, I was really hoping I could add Journeys to my RiL by this point…

It’s hard for me to get some time to sit down and write these days beyond commenting on YouTube videos and other stories/blogs. The next Pinkie Pie chapter is almost done, though. The thing about Journeys is that it’s six stories under one entry into the series. Each arc is pretty much a separate story by itself and the Applejack and Rainbow Dash ones are done. You can read those, if you like.

Regardless, this story was a great addition to the Upheaval AU. Visiden Visidane insists it is “best understood” after reading the prior two stories, but I don’t think that’s really true.

I only said that because this is a story made up entirely of OCs with a brief mention of Princess Celestia. I assume that any new reader on fimfic is not interested in entirely OC stories, so it would be best if they got into Breaking Point and Reckoning first as those involve the Mane 6 and the show.

Thank you for the review. I was excited when I got the notification that this story was in your for review shelf.

You know, I tried to write a sequel for Wrath of a People, but it was just so awful that I ended up scraping it. Personally, I think the story works better as a standalone anyway.

The fact that these problems are still present and possibly more so a year after they were there in Twilight, Soldier of War is not a good sign.

I REALLY need to go back and edit my stories, these days I can probably catch a lot of my old mistakes, but it's just so hard to find the time... and it's really boring work.
As always, thanks for the review.

I'm glad you got out of the story what I put into it: nothing awe-inspiring, but just a bit of silliness. I'm kind of impressed you continue to go through all those bingo fics, considering what a mixed bag they probably are.

Why do you not embed story cards in the reviews or the lists?

5164996
Oh? Maybe I should try one someday. I tend to avoid readings because I want to critique people on their writing just as much as the story itself, but maybe I'll give a few a go.

5165003

This is a vaguely structured phrase. I’m interpreting it as “the Throne picked both Primus Ignis, the First King, AND Sanctus Dominus, the current king”, but it can also be taken as “Primus Ignis, the First King, might also be the current king”. I’m not sure in what you mean.

Yeah, I could have phrased that better. I meant the former.

Because the story is presented as the recorded words of various interviewees, the only way I would be able to describe them would be if they described themselves, or maybe if they described each other.

An alternative might have been to have the interviewer start each segment with a small description of the speaker, a sort of "this is who I'm talking to and why" thing. Although it would have padded the wordcount a little, and the way you handled it is perfectly realistic. Still, if our interviewer wants his work to stand the test of time, it might be beneficial to inform the great great great grandfoals who these people are in the grand scheme of things.

Each arc is pretty much a separate story by itself and the Applejack and Rainbow Dash ones are done. You can read those, if you like.

I've really no room to judge. My Order of Shadows uses the exact same format, is still two or three stories away from being complete, and I haven't touched it in years. That said, reviewing the individual arcs does sound like a worthy idea. Maybe I'll do that.

5165092
Oh, I understand. I loath the editing process. If you never go back to edit them, I'd understand. Heck, I think most people would.

5165101
I'm only going through the bingo fics that were specifically requested of me, really. I don't mind, some of them have been really good reading.

5165210
I devised my current format long before embedding was a thing that FIMFiction could do (I think; it might have been that I just wasn't aware of it at the time). It is a good format, informative and pleasant to look at. Embedding would be easier, and I've adopted my user page "Reading Progress" section to use that, but I see no reason to change something that works so well visually and isn't much work in the first place.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

5165220
Readings, especially those with high production value, tend to improve stories one might otherwise ding for writing flaws, which I why I've always marked when I was listening to a story instead of running my eyes over it. But they can also be quite rewarding in their own way!

AlexTFish next week, eh? That rare duck, an author I've actually met in person! (He did a wonderfully hammy performance of the Kirin song at UK PonyCon in October. :rainbowlaugh:) Admittedly this comment would work better if I'd actually read the fic that'll be reviewed...

Edited, I think my fic could have had more punch. The last few lines are awkward as hell, at least to my eyes. Glad you enjoyed it!

5164996
Badass celestia is such a cool concept that very few people have managed to pull off well. Cloudhop is one of them, to be sure.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

5165352
So what you're saying is I need to run that Badasslestia contest after all? <.<

Not that it would be a good idea for me to do so...

5165405
Ask not what your fandom can do for you...

‘This isn’t War’ sounds a lot like ’Violet Evergarden’

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