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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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Jan
9th
2020

Paul's Thursday Reviews CXC · 10:27pm January 9th

As I look at the ongoing work I have on my plate regarding what I am writing and what I want to write, I’ve come to realize that I need to make some choices. Tough ones. I decided long ago that it was time for me to work less on MLP stories and more on original fiction, and I’ve already taken steps with that in mind. The hard part now is deciding which of my long-running babies to discontinue. Series like No Heroes and Trixie vs. Equestria had a range of sequels that I want to make a reality, but which would take a large chunk out of my already limited writing time.

No Heroes has an advantage; it’s at what I think we can all agree is a generally good stopping point. If I didn’t write anything else in it, I don’t think the few people who’ve been through it all would complain. So that’s as good as done.

Harder is Trixie vs. Equestria. I had plans. BIG plans, to the tune of at least another seven stories. But that’s just too much. I can’t produce all of that if I want to really shift gears. So I’ve decided that, once I finish Order of Shadows (which will itself take a long time), I’ll be calling it quits. I hate to do it, but the only alternative would be to take those stories and make them into an original fiction variant. Which, someday, I might do. I doubt it, though.

With all this in mind, I think I’ll be starting another round of Concepts and Creations blogs, these detailing the lost stories I wanted to write for No Heroes and Trixie vs. Equestria, as well as the tie-in Fluer-verse stories.This should occupy my weekends for a few months.

Meanwhile, the original fiction conversion of Guppy Love is under way, I’m back to working on Bulletproof Heart: Famous Last Words (Chapter 9’s rough draft just finished yesterday), and have started on the third one shot of an ongoing trilogy. Progress continues.

Oh, right. Break week next week. I’ll still be posting a review, but we won’t be seeing one of these.

Now. To business. Reviews!

Stories for This Week:

Archmage by Loyal
Left Behind by Shrink Laureate
The Text Argues With the Text by David Silver
Princess Luna and the Cotton Candy Sugar Rush by TheSlorg
Flutterschmooze by Opium4TmassS
If Great Things To Small Ones Could Compare by Cynewulf
An Offer She Can't Excuse by psychicscubadiver
You Can Lead a Horse to Logic by FanOfMostEverything
Obiter Dicta by GhostOfHeraclitus
Claw and Ordure by AugieDog

Total Word Count: 275,543

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 2
Pretty Good: 3
Worth It: 5
Needs Work: 0
None: 0


Archmage

207,469 Words
By Loyal

Aaand we start this week off with another classic, this time by the late Loyal. Written way back in 2012, this story centers on the idea that the princesses have a Royal Archmage who is their primary advisor, assists with the raising of the sun and moon, and acts as Equestria’s final word on all things magic. The Archmage is, essentially, the single most powerful pony in the world next to the princesses themselves. Tradition has it that the current Archmage will choose their successor upon their death. Well, current Archmage Nocturnal Glow is dying, and how could he name anypony other than Twilight Sparkle?

The story moves in sub-arcs, which range from Twilight learning various types of new magic, going on an adventure near Saddle Arabia, claiming her own student, and (as these things go) ascension. There are some peculiarities involved, such as how even though the individual story arcs have some strong progression they fail to make an overall arc for the entirety of the story. Which is realistic, but makes for an underwhelming last few chapters. Loyal, perhaps recognizing this, tried to recover at the end by instilling over-the-top melodrama in the next-to-last chapter… most of which I skimmed. It’s the low point of the entire story for its predictability and endless paragraphs of ramming the intended misery of the characters down our throats.

Despite the lacklustre conclusion, the majority of the story is every bit as strong as can be expected from Loyal. Twilight has to deal with scheming, corrupt nobles from afar, the betrayal of ponies she thought her friends, managing forgiveness for said friends, and enduring a daring adventure in a strange land filled with terrible threats. Not all the issues are external, either; learning Night magic forces Twilight to face herself and proves ridiculously dangerous all on its own, just for example. The highlight of the story to me were the political fight against one Regal and the journey to the lost library.

A few peculiarities do pop up, such as how unrealistically fast the relationship between Twilight and Luna blossoms (I skimmed the sex scenes,which provided nothing to the story itself) or the uncharacteristic, if not downright nonsensical behavior of Rarity in certain arcs. The former I put down as typical and tried to take in stride. The latter can be based on how limited our understanding of Rarity was at the time of writing, and thus I didn’t take it too seriously.

I came away with a mixed opinion of the story. When it’s going strong, it’s a treat to read. When it’s going poorly, it’s a bit eye-rolling. But the good certainly outweighs the bad, culminating in a curious slice-of-life/adventure romp with particular attention paid to magical worldbuilding. Considering when it was written, both in terms of the show and Loyal’s all-too-short literary career, I am impressed.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Calling RarityPretty Good


Fluttershy and Twilight have gone to the Smokey Mountains for a Friendship Mission. And Rainbow Dash isn’t going. This is more of a milestone than most ponies realize, but Rainbow Dash? She’s very aware of it.

In this subdued tale, we get to watch as the ever-loyal Rainbow Dash mopes about the Cutie Map, the one thing that will let her somewhat track Fluttershy’s progress, for several days. It’s a story about loyalty and friendship, and a well-told one at that. It’s also the poster-child for why you shouldn’t use images for your line breaks.

Every scene in this story is excellently crafted to reveal so much while saying so little. It requires the reader be observant, but those who are will be richly rewarded. The flashbacks are a wealth of information that make the present events all the more effective, be it Rarity’s and Applejack’s sibling troubles or Spike’s experience with being left behind. My one and only complaint is that Pinkie Pie never showed up. Which, given that it’s Pinkie Pie, I can’t imagine her not doing. Eh, maybe Shrink couldn’t find a way to connect her to ongoing events.

With or without Pinkie, this is a solid story from beginning to end. Every moment feels appropriate and valuable. It is, in many ways, a shining example of Rainbow Dash characterization and awareness.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The FishbowlWHYRTY?
ColdWorth It


The Text Argues With the Text

1,592 Words
David Silver failed to provide cover art.

The Text is an omnipotent being that likes to place humans in Equestria and tell stories about it. Today they’ve picked a human who is deathly afraid of horses. Problem is, The Text can’t decide what kind of story this human is going to have.

This was a very strange piece. Which is what I expected, so it’s all good. There’s a lot of uncertainty though, in particular the nature of The Text. Is it one entity with multiple warring personalities? Or is it many separate entities that go by a singular title? We just don’t know. Either way, much of the story revolves around two different variants of The Text arguing about what to do with the poor human, who is stuck in an empty void having to listen to their argument while fully aware of what they intend to do with him.

Sucks to be the human.

Is this a meta-statement about the differences between authors and the value those differences have? Or maybe it’s just a kooky story written for the sake of fun. I have no idea. I’d be interested in getting the opinions of others. The fact that I’ve heard a similar argument before – I imagine many of us have – only adds to the curiosity of it all.

An interesting, if confusing, story. Definitely worth checking out for yourself.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Gazing to the Ocean of the SkyNeeds Work


Alternative Title: All Work And No Play Makes Luna A Dull Mare

Princess Luna has been bored for a long while. Her life is all work and a dour glare at even the mention of the word “play”. When Twilight is finally coronated, it means that Luna no longer has to spend time tutoring her in her new role, and so she finally has an opportunity to relax. To this end, she goes to Pinkie Pie for help in having some modern fun! And then Pinkie introduces her to a confection that didn’t exist prior to Luna’s exile. There’s no way this can go wrong.

This story is about what happens when a very bored princess ingests twenty servings of cotton candy at once. The results are as silly as you’d expect and includes a wide range of victims, not least of which includes Luna herself. The only real catch to this story is that two-thirds of it is setup for the titular sugar rush. That’s an incredibly long time to make readers wait.

I’ve never been into the whole ‘silly Luna’ concept, but it has its charms. This story takes good advantage of them, as does Celestia. If you want to watch Luna being a very silly pony in public with no self-imposed restrictions whatsoever, this will be the story for you.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
AllurePretty Good
Half Minute HorsesPretty Good
If Only In My DreamsPretty Good
Surface DeepNeeds Work


In late September of 2012, Hasbro hosted a “Meet the Characters” event in Los Angeles to promote the coming release of My Little Pony’s fourth generation. It didn’t go as well as planned.

A good story for fans of conspiracy theories, this paints Hasbro as being a modern day Vault Tec, at least in terms of an unwillingness to let the public know anything about anything that’s really happening within its business. It is written as the final report of a confidential internal investigation after one actress, the one in the Fluttershy full-body costume, seems to go nuts. Most of the report ends up being the witness account of the security officer assigned to the event, which includes the death of a fellow, a lot of foul-smelling black ichor, and the apparent psychological breakdown of the actress who, it turns out, had never gotten into her suit in the first place. Hasbro, in true “evil corporation with a secret to hide” style, writes a blatantly false conclusion, provides zero evidence for said conclusion, and dismisses the entire incident as the result of some convenient, drug-induced mass hysteria. Oh, and they also openly admit to destroying evidence.

As much as I like the overall concept, I feel Opium4TMassS approached it from the wrong direction. The report is detached and neutral, with zero emotional input. Even the officer’s witness report is dry, which makes sense as it would have been written by an impassive agent of Hasbro whose entire job as investigator would have been to reduce the impact of the overall report. To really make this work as something worth fearing, they’d have written it as the transcript of an audio recording and worked to really instill the security officer’s anxiety and alarm in the dialogue.

Alternatively, they could have allowed the witness’s account to be written in a manner that actually emphasized his emotional state, although then it wouldn’t have fit quite so well as an ‘official’ report by an uncaring, stoic business entity.

This story reminds me, if only vaguely, of an SCP, although I honestly doubt the Foundation would have let it pass. It doesn’t really have the disconnect of an SCP or formal report, but neither does it have the connectivity of an effective story, putting it somewhere in the middle ground. This could, perhaps, be the result of Opium4TMassS’s inexperience with the format.

Still, it’s a good try, and the concept is certainly creepy in a Weird sort of way. Horror fans will find it decent. Conspiracy theory-fans will likely be intrigued. I’m more than willing to put it on the middle ground and let you guys decide its overall quality for yourselves.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Liquid EuphoriaWorth It
Killer of SixNeeds Work


Dusk Shine has a chance to relax during a storm, but that chance is interrupted when a soaked-through Butterscotch comes knocking on his door. Not that he mids. Butterscotch can be a pretty relaxing presence.

This is a pleasant R63 story in which Dusk Shine tries to figure out why his friend Butterscotch is so nervous. It’s a subtle romance, just two ponies talking while one tries to figure the other out. I really like Cynewulf’s approach to this, keeping things realistic from beginning to end. It’s not about two ponies being in love so much as it is about two ponies looking into future possibilities.

This was excellent all-around. Good descriptions when needed, strong use of both Show and Tell, a steady pace that never lingers too long, a length just right to keep the topic from growing stale, and great characterizations. I loved how the narrative works to maintain Dusk Shine’s inquisitive nature, love of mysteries, and little tangents. To top it all off, it’s a R63 told seriously, as opposed to the vast majority I’ve seen that use the concept almost entirely for humor and awkwardness.

Actually, I can see some people being annoyed by the R63 element of it. This story would work just as well with Twilight and Fluttershy as it would with Dusk and Scotch, so there’s no reason to make this switch other than author preference. I don’t have a problem with this, but I know some will be looking for a justification of the switcheroo that doesn’t exist.

But ignoring that one thing, this is an excellent low key romance.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The Night is PassingPretty Good


Chrysalis has a brilliant plan for mutual cooperation between the Changelings and Equestria. All she needs is Celestia’s approval and they can get to work forging a proper bond with absolutely no negative effects on Equestria, Celestia, or her ponies. It’s a total win/win! She just can’t understand why in her own name Celestia would object to these perfectly reasonable offers made by an obviously superior mind that has no ulterior motives whatsoever.

Written almost entirely in the form of letters from Chrysalis to Celestia, this is a humor gold mine. Chrysalis’s complete failure to understand Equestrian culture and Celestia in general makes every letter more amusing than the last. Then you get to the ending, the other horseshoe drops (do changelings even need horseshoes?), and you can almost feel sorry for the poor tyrant. Almost. While you’re laughing at her misfortune.

This is my kind of humor. Definitely give it a read if you’re looking to have some fun at the big bug horse’s expense.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Turns out, Rarity and Twilight weren’t the first ponies to notice Applejack’s quirky behavior in Applejack’s “Day” Off. That honor goes to Apple Bloom and Big McIntosh. But when they are unable to convince Applejack that a problem exists, Apple Bloom decides it’s time to get the Crusaders involved.

A little more of a “Behind the Scenes” viewing than a story, this one puts together the theory that Rarity and Rainbow Dash were put up to helping Applejack out in the episode, as opposed to it all occurring naturally. There’s not much more to it. It’s some lighthearted fun, mostly at a completely unaware Applejack’s expense. If that sounds like something entertaining to you, there’s no reason not to give this a go.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Fruit of the ProblemPretty Good
Mandatory FunPretty Good
Wizards, Fools, and FoalsPretty Good


And so we return to one of the greatest AUs of the fandom, the Civil Serviceverse. For those of you unaware (you poor, poor souls), this is a universe staring Celestia’s Cabinet Secretary Dotted Line as he works tirelessly to take the chaotic, the criminal, the ridiculous, the magical, the contradictory, and downright ridiculous nature of Equestrian politics and turn it into something that might resemble a sane and functional government if squinted at sideways with a telescope used backwards from a nonexistent place of relative safety. For this, he relies on his perfect recollection and comprehension of all Equestrian laws no matter how old or vague, an insatiable work ethic, and a very big thermos of soul-saving tea.

This is a collection of short stories in the Civil Serviceverse, nearly all with Dotted as the protagonist. They touch upon such widespread topics as helping Luna find a place in the Equestrian government, selling the coronation of Twilight Sparkle to the Noble Council, a clear and realistic description of exactly how elections function, Filly Twilight changing proverbs to fit her personal perspective, and why exactly a changeling was at the wedding of Cranky Doodle and Matilda. And that’s just a small piece. Every story is filled with a boundless supply of wit and humor, the narrative is effortlessly entertaining without sacrificing the seriousness that is needed at all the right moments.

Simply put, I love this universe and all the stories that come out of it. GhostOfHeraclitus’s capacity for humor is enviable at the very least, but I’ll forgive them since there are few writers that can make me smile as much as they can. Nothing saddens me quite as much as the awareness that I have exhausted their FIMFiction library.

You have no reason not to read this. Indeed, this story and every story in the Civil Servieverse should be required reading for all MLP fans. Not taking the time to indulge in this is a crime. Well, it should be. I’m sure if it is, Dotted could instantly cite from memory the law making it so, as well as the fifteen bylines, amendments, and articles completely unrelated to one another that provide loopholes around it.

Bookshelf: Why haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
A Canterlot CarolWHYRTY?
Whom the Princesses Would Destroy...WHYRTY?
Twilight Sparkle Makes a Cup of TeaPretty Good


Claw and Ordure

9,228 Words
By AugieDog
Requested by Shrink Laureate

When the Abyssinian Ambassador comes calling to collect on a relic given to the court of Princess Platinum for safe keeping, it’s up to the Equestrian Facilities Court to determine what should happen to said relic. Since the Facilities Court hasn’t existed in nearly a millennium, there’s only one pony in all of Equestria licensed to adjudicate the case: Flash Magnus. And since the Facilities Court requires an equal representation of each of the pony tribes, and Applejack and Rarity coincidentally are in Canterlot right now, he convinces them to join the court just this once. Things get a little crazy from there.

This is a highly entertaining story. It combines typical pegasus bravado and impatience with an unusual scenario, judicial law, Rarity’s multi-talented abilities, and Applejack’s sheer superior earth pony-ness. If that doesn’t make sense to you now, I guarantee it will in context. I’m particularly amused at how Flash can’t seem to stop thinking about how pretty all the mares around him are, even in the face of potentially imminent doom; one must wonder if friskiness is an inherent pegasus trait.

This one is funny, creative, and fast-paced. From Rarity and Applejack’s compulsory good-natured bickering to direct proof that sapience doesn’t negate feline stereotypes, I enjoyed this from beginning to end.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Clover HoneyPretty Good
ForeignerPretty Good
The Birth of HarmonyNeeds Work


Stories for Next Week:

The One Week Year by HapHazred
Flank-ology by Fire Gazer the Alchemist
Starlight Jailbreak by bottled_up
The Meaning of Admiration by Konseiga
Let Us Out by Billy G Gruff
A Simpler Time by DJLowrider
Closing Time by Just A Random Pegasus
Alicorn Genesis by Jordan179
An Alicorn's Fate by Smexy Sombra
Silly Stories of the Student Six by Level Dasher


Recent Review Map:

Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXXXV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXXXVI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXXXVII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXXXVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXXXIX
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Paul's Thursday Reviews CXCI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXCII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXCIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXCIV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXCV

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Comments ( 15 )

Always nice to get a Paul review. Even if it is one of my more throwaway fluff pieces. :derpytongue2:

"Iron hoof, I tell you! IRON HOOF!!"

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Civil Service always good :D

And yeah, I seem to recall the similarities to SCP stuff being why I had positive thoughts toward that series of horror pieces.

Thanks for the nice review. I see I hit exactly the note I was aiming for.

Wow, I've read 4 of these. That has to be some kind of record.

"Left Behind" was pretty good. I'd have enjoyed it a lot more if it could have decided what point of view to use.

"Princess Luna and the Cotton Candy Sugar Rush," "An Offer She Can't Excuse," and "Claw and Ordure" were all nice bits of fun.

Thanks for doing the reviews, and dang I wish there were more Serviceverse fics.

Almost poetic that Cotton Candy came about because I was bored and just wanted something to write. That's about as good a review as I could have hoped for.

You'd leave a huge hole here with your absence, Paul. Ergo you can never really leave. :pinkiesad2:

5183591
You're welcome! And that makes two of us, at least.

5183701
Meh, no intention of leaving. The chains are too heavy to remove, and I've grown rather fond of them. I'll just be... shifting my productivity priorities.

5183775
Huh. Totes missed that. Does this mean that, at least until this weekend, I am the Ultimate-est Ultimate Answer?

Since you seem to have liked all of Ghost of Heraclitus' Civil Service stories, I might suggest Skywriter's story 'A Princess By Any Other Name', which is a crossover with the Cadence of Cloudsdale cycle.

5184338
Going by my usual scheduling rules, I wouldn't be reading a Skywriter fic for a very long time simply due to a lack of it. But if I treat this as a request, then I'll get to it sooner (though still not for many months), so that's what I'll do.

Very sad that Trixie vs. Equestria will never evolve past what it ended on. Really love that story, but I understand why. It ends on a hopeful note at least. I was just longing to see more interaction between Luna and Trixie, what steps they would take next, how Trixie would grow as she tried to learn and help undo the necessary damage she caused to save Equestria. So many beautiful potentials.

But yeah, seven books? That would have taken a very long time, and it would be better served towards something you might be able to publish and get your name out on. Good luck with the transition and I look forward to seeing what you come up with in the future. :pinkiehappy:

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