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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
30th
2020

Paul's Thursday Reviews CXCII · 9:52pm January 30th

At long last, we are here. This particular review blog is the product of months of work, culminating in over 1.6 million words. In return for that, I cut down on my Long-Term Schedule significantly. I’m already well into the process of setting up another session to get one of these done, because they seem to be worth it. Grab a snack or something, folks, this is gonna be a long one.

My next short story is currently stuck in a holding pattern while I wait for the artist to get started on the cover art. I was a silly person and neglected to ask how many other commissions are ahead of my own, so I’ve no idea how long it will be. Even so, I’ve already started on my yet another short, which I won’t say much about except that it’ll be another song-inspired one and it will feature Sweetie Belle.

Alright, let’s get to these gargantuan stories, shall we? Reviews.

Stories for This Week:

Moonlight by Grey Sentinel
The Royal Ponyville Orchestra by Distaff Pope
Twilight Falls, Sunset Dawns by DrakeyC
Five Star Service - A Gentleman for Mares Tale by Firesight
The Secret Life of Rarity by BronyWriter
Twilight Sparkle of the Royal Guard by King of Beggars
The Daughter Doo: Honorary Cutie Mark Crusader by Ponky
Empty Horizons by Goldenwing
Diamond in the Rough by Peregrine Caged
Final Solution by Luna-tic Scientist

Total Word Count: 1,627,668

Rating System

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


Moonlight

88,755 Words
By Grey Sentinel

For three years, Equestria has remained under control of the Caribou Empire and its perverted king, Dainn. But while it seems all hope is lost, one pony has resisted, in mind if not in body. Now, at long last, Princess Luna sees an opportunity for escape and takes it. Freed from her chains, she must take the next step: saving Equestria itself.

For those of you new to the fandom or otherwise blissfully ignorant of clop-related material, Fall of Equestria may be one of the most well-known and infamous pornographic franchises in the fandom. It revolves entirely around an anthropomorphic Equestria being conquered by a race of caribou with an extremist culture of rape, sex slavery, and male chauvenism. I, for one, have no serious issue with the overall concept; we all have our kinks, and so long as these things are kept in the realm of fantasy where nobody is actually hurt, I won’t cast stones.

But Fall of Equestria is infamous for a reason. Part of it is this age of hyper-feminism, and I don’t blame those folks at all for being completely offended by the idea behind the series. The other part, and to me the bigger one, is that Fall of Equestria is a bad story. The caribou villains are made into overpowered supersoldiers incapable of losing a fight. They lack any significant form of magic and yet are able to literally brainwash huge swathes of the Equestrian population. Those who prove immune to such things, such as the princesses, make consistently bad decisions that lead to them losing instantly. I could understand and even appreciate the story if the caribou had to actually work for their conquest, but no, they literally just walk in and take over without Equestria ever having a chance. Heck, most of the population doesn’t even try.

In response to the franchise, a great many authors have attempted to write ‘corrections’ in which something or someone saves Equestria from the caribou. This is almost universally some outside force: soldiers from other nations, Spike growing up and becoming a revenge-fueled super dragon, crossovers with other properties where the (usually male) (anti-?)hero of said property kicks caribou ass. These all fundamentally fail in my view, because they assume that Equestria cannot possibly help itself, which only gives credence to the franchise’s primary theme that females are worthless and incapable of doing anything on their own.

Enter Moonlight. It caught my attention for two reasons: first, that the description suggests it isn’t just another clop story centered in the FoE universe, and second, that its premise involved Princess Luna leading a rebellion instead of some male (anti-)hero from another plane of existence. It also looked to have a leg up in writing quality compared to the little bits I’ve seen in the past, at least if the description was anything to go by. All in all, a big difference from the usual fare.

The story remains Mature-rated, but only by virtue that it is set within the Fall of Equestria universe and thus, by setting obligation alone, has to include certain sexual elements. The story doesn’t focus on them, instead only giving them passing mentions to keep the setting in mind. No, the story focuses entirely on Luna and her ongoing work to free her kingdom.

There are a number of things Grey Sentinel did well here. For one, they bothered to take a look at the consequences of caribou rule on other nations. The Zebra engage in a fierce civil war over how to respond to the caribou. The Saddle Arabians lose their primary trading partner and thus begin to starve. The griffons are outright invaded. And so on. I found it strange that Grey Sentinel created a whole new, secretive race called the noctrals (as opposed to thestrals) that the caribou somehow know nothing about, but I suppose it’s not totally unreasonable. What really throws me for a loop is the nations that are missing: where are the minotaur, the buffalo, or the dragons? Heck, I’d have given anything to know what happened to the changelings, who out of all races would have a big reason to be involved with all this. Still, what we get is pretty nice, if a bit shy on cultural investigation.

There’s also an effort to explain some concepts from the universe as a whole, such as where Discord is and why King Dainn’s weapons and magic are so powerful. Other things never come up though, such as where the caribou came from in the first place, how they managed to fundamentally transform the Crystal Heart in shape and utilization, and how they managed to convince assorted ponies to betray Equestria before said Crystal Heart became a factor. For every answer we get, three more questions show up to leave us scratching our heads. Since these problems are among the major issues of the original franchise plot-wise, resolving them would have gone a long way to legitimizing this story.

And Moonlight is not devoid of its own plot issues. In fact, it is teeming with them.

According to the description, Princess Luna has waited three years forming a master plan of escape and fighting for her people. Three years! Surely, this must mean she’s been developing secret communication networks, collecting the right ponies for the right jobs, planning out meeting places, arranging for—she just jumped out a window. Seriously? You mean to tell me that after all that setup, both in time and description, the lump sum of Luna’s scheme was to jump out a window and start running? That’s it? If that was really the whole plan, why’d she wait three years?

How is it Luna creates a veritable city of refugees and rebels, complete with foreign armies marching to its location and droves of freed ponies flocking to its presumed safety, and the caribou never notice? We’ve already been shown in-story that the caribou are perfectly capable of seeking out and destroying/recapturing small rebel groups of escaped slaves, but somehow we’re expected to believe they can’t locate – or even be aware of – a thriving community in their backyard?

Luna’s wing-braces have been removed. Her wings are featherless. Makes sense, they were plucked. Wait, what do you mean her wings are still featherless after a year of being freed? Feathers grow back, Grey Sentinel! If you doubt me on this, I’ve got a few dozen chickens strutting around my parents’ backyard to introduce you to. I’m willing to acknowledge the debate on whether horns grow back (we have in-show evidence pointing both ways), but feathers? And for that matter, why is it the few characters who have functional wings almost never seem to use them?

So we’re at the battle of Canterlot. It’s a vicious fight against a ruthless enemy who will stop at nothing to kill and enslave… Wait, hold on. Are those caribou over there seriously raping the mares they just defeated? There are still healthy enemy soldiers just feet away trying to kill them. Are they literally incapable of doing anything else once they see a female body? If this is the nature of caribou soldiers, I don’t understand how they could defeat a small hamlet, much less an entire nation.

The list goes on. Even while trying to resolve some of the issues in the original franchise (and I emphasize only some), this story creates a whole bunch of new ones. We end up with something that is not superior to its predecessor but, in fact, is on par with it in terms of plotholes and nonsensical conclusions. And speaking of comparisons...

There is no challenge. Like the caribou who conquered Equestria while barely having to do anything, Luna overcomes every hurdle she comes across with so much ease. Grey Sentinel tries at times to suggest there’s a challenge of some sort, but the events don’t reflect that. Whether it be infiltrating a hospital, fighting a small army within a valley, or even fighting King Dainn one-on-one, everything goes smoothly in Luna’s favor. While not every plan goes perfectly, there is always a readily available solution that makes the new problem easily surmountable.

Secret base? Never found. Release a potential spy to deliver a message? Goes off without a hitch. Send dozens of small scouting groups into Equestria for information? Not a one is spotted or suspected. Need to move a giant artillery piece cross-country despite it being ponderously slow? Nobody notices. Saddle Arabian army traveling through Equestria? Nope, nothing to see here. Anything that potentially could go wrong doesn’t.

I’ll grant there is such a thing as narrative immortality: the idea that a central character will never die because they are, in fact, the central character. But Moonlight doesn’t even bother to give the illusion that Luna and the rebellion could lose. It soon becomes apparent that Luna will win this war because the plot is making no attempt to suggest otherwise, and once this awareness kicks in no threat, danger, or setback is concerning anymore. And with no concern – no risk – there is no investment.

The narrative style doesn’t help matters. It tries to act personable at a few moments, but all the most emotional times in the story… aren’t. Whenever any moment of action occurs, Grey Sentinel writes them as facts and makes no attempt to get in Luna’s head. This plays a role in the lack of concern mentioned earlier. It’s as if Luna has no thoughts at all when things are happening. Is she angry? Afraid? Determined? Confused? We have no idea, because all we’re seeing is the actions of her and those around her. But these are not emotionally dull moments! They are the scenes that should be keeping us riveted to our seats and leaning into the screen breathlessly. By keeping these scenes impersonal like this, the author robs the reader of what could be the story’s strongest events. Nowhere is this more apparent than the duel with Dainn, which felt less like a pivotal moment upon which all Equestria hangs and more like the next thing to mark off a checklist.

Moonlight is a good concept, but its execution is as flawed as that of the story it’s looking to fix. Had Grey Sentinel taken more time to delve into the themes, explain the unknowns, fill in the plot holes, and generate a sense of danger and potential failure, this might have made for a more interesting piece. As is, it’s just another fix-fic with a few better ideas than most. I was really looking forward to and hoping to like this one, but it just isn’t there.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Octavia has spent her entire life working to be Equestria’s premier cellist. So when she is invited by none other than Princess Luna to rebuild and lead her long-forgotten personal orchestra, it seems like her hard work has finally paid off. Then the other horseshoe drops: the orchestra is to be based in Ponyville. While convinced that this is all some sort of malicious career sabotage, Octavia is determined to defy her own expectations and make the best orchestra possible. Even if Ponyville is a horrible, evil town hellbent on driving her insane and her crown-appointed housemate is a – shudder – DJ.

I am entertained. This story gives Octavia the perfectionism of Rarity mixed in with the obsessive compulsions of pre-alicornication Twilight, then throws her into a Ponyville which, true-to-show, suffers a disaster roughly once a week… when it’s feeling lazy. Couple that with Discord-induced Nightmare Night shenanigans, a next door neighbor obsessed with all things anthropology, asshole parents, thriving mold monsters capable of polite conversation, Pinkie Pie, arrogant rivals, mass cases of magical exhaustion, and many other things I’m sure I’m forgetting. Octavia might as well get her own personal room in the hospital, because it’s practically her second home.

Needless to say, the story aims towards comedy before anything else, although slice-of-life and romance are both regular contenders. This is a story you read because it’s fun and little else, although obviously the OctaScratch fans will consider this a must-read. Octavia herself is a fun mare to watch, her obsession and tendency to go overboard to the point of literal insanity keeping the story going from beginning to end. It must be nice to live in a world where a little magic and a few medications can straighten your head out and make you sane again. Although with how often Octavia drives herself to be a stammering mental case in this story, it’s a wonder why the doctor hasn’t just written her a permanent prescription to keep at the house for emergencies.

That’s not to say that there isn’t seriousness when it’s due. The best example comes after the Nightmare Night incident, which led to things even this story had to take with a mostly straight face. The aftereffects are indeed dark, ripples of which are felt for a good while even as the rest of the story has moved on. It’s good that Distaff Pope keeps these things in mind as they keep things going. Most authors would have left it alone.

I must also provide copious kudos for managing to keep some of the events of the show going on in the background of the story, including but not limited to Inspiration Manifestation and Twilight’s Kingdom, while also bringing up events from prior episodes like Magic Duel and A Canterlot Wedding. This isn’t as all-inclusive as it could be – I’m rather surprised we didn’t get to hear about Goof-Off or the Flim-Flam Brothers trying to sell miracle tonic – but I’m willing to let that slide as even getting a little bit of the material is praise-worthy. Plus, it’s nebulous at best when Octavia arrived in Ponyville, so it could very well have been practically at the end of Season 4.

The only real issue that comes up to me is in a few quirks of the writing style. We’re supposed to believe, somehow, that every chapter is Octavia literally writing in a journal and describing everything after the fact. We’re also supposed to believe that she spends a few hours every day doing this. In Distaff Pope’s defense, this is pointed out as odd and even ridiculous by characters in-story, most notably Vinyl. The fact the story acknowledges the issue gives it some leeway. But still, I’m somehow expected to believe that Octavia can rewrite entire conversations verbatim hours, sometimes even days after the events transpired. Unless she’s got a photographic memory (and that kind of thing is usually brought up), I’m calling shenanigans. On the plus side, it did serve to emphasize Octavia’s obsessive-compulsive behavior and drive for perfectionism, so to a certain degree it works. Yet the entire concept behind the narrative is just so far-fetched that I can’t help thinking a better approach exists.

A few other issues pop up occasionally. Sometimes Distaff Pope mistakes homophones or some other little detail a proofreader could have helped with. There are a few moments where the author breaks from canon with some weird declarations that make me question if they’re even watching the same show. And I swear every time they referred to Vinyl’s shades as ‘goggles’ my eye twitched. Which was a lot. No wonder my eyes hurt.

Even so, this was a fun story overall and I greatly enjoyed it. It’s lighter fare in general than the other things I’ve read by this author without sacrificing the important bits. If you’re looking for a decent rom-com or are just after some OctaScratch, this should do you just fine.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Your Own Worst EnemyWHYRTY?
The Unbearable Lightness of Being Sweetie BellePretty Good


Sunset Shimmer never really got along with Twilight’s friends in the human world, so she gave up. Now, years later, the portal to Equestria is finally opening again. Sunset returns. Luck and circumstance give her an opportunity to be the princess she always should have been: by switching bodies with Twilight Sparkle.

I’ll be honest, I had my doubts when I started this. But it grew on me quickly, soon becoming a story about a pony’s grief, guilt, and inability to forgive herself. The story alternates between Twilight Sparkle as she tries to find a way to escape her unusual prison and Sunset as she struggles to live Twilight’s life without arousing suspicion or, worse, going insane.That latter issue turns out to be a far larger threat than she anticipated; before the story is over, she’s having hallucinations and struggling to distinguish fantasy from reality.

Of course, a few idiot balls are dropped. Sunset just got free reign to do with Twilight as she will, and her solution for getting rid of the only threat to her newfound position is… to send her to be an apprentice under the royal archmage? Really, that’s supposed to be a permanent solution? I mean, she eventually reads Twilight’s journal, she should at least come to figure out that she’s literally plunked her hated foe in the perfect location for her to devise a means of escape. In Sunset’s defense, it gradually grows clear that her ability to make decisions is severely hindered by her declining mental state, but that’s no excuse for making the decision in the first place.

Or how about Twilight, who upon escaping makes up the most cockamamie, ridiculous plan ever: confront the almighty deranged alicorn princess one-on-one with no backup. She couldn’t have, y’know, just snuck in while Sunset was sleeping and solved the problem then? Ah, but Twilight was suffering from the same magic Sunset was, leading her to behave in uncharacteristic ways like being too confident in her own abilities.

This is one of the things I really like about the story; most of the stupid decisions made do have an underlying explanation if you pay enough attention. Many are even acknowledged by the characters in-story. Not all – there’s no salvaging that “send my enemy to the best place to facilitate her escape” thing.

But the most important element of this story by far is Sunset Shimmer. Her constant battle against herself is the most riveting part of the story and never grows stale. DrakeyC did an excellent job with her here, displaying a strong will confronted by even stronger realities and gradually, tragically breaking from the regular impacts on her psyche. I enjoyed pretty much every scene featuring her. The character development and steady unravelling of her mind was worked wonderfully.

The only thing that bugs me is that we never got to hear the side of Twilight’s friends in the human world. Oh, we got a flashback, but that was from Sunset’s perspective. I can’t really blame the author for not giving us this, the circumstances just weren’t right for it. It still would have been a nice-to-know, though.

Ultimately, I am pleased. The story ends up being a romp of psychological struggles, risky escape attempts, and mutual discovery for Sunset and Twilight, culminating in a vicious climax. DrakeyC once more proves their literary chops with a tale that is interesting from beginning to end.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Cutie Mark Crusader Magicians, Yay!WHYRTY?
Old Memories, New TraditionsPretty Good


Five Stars is a rather unique mare. She is one of the founders of the company Gentlemen for Mares, which trains and loans out human male escorts to lonely mares. At the encouragement of her boss, Five Stars begins writing articles detailing her life and, ultimately, the founding of her company, which are released in tandem by the New York Life and Manehattan Post magazines. The public reaction is far more intense than she ever imagined.

Those who have been reading these reviews long enough will know that one of my interests involves seeking out stories with sexual connotations. That is to say, a good story that features sex. I’m drawn to these stories specifically because writing them without overemphasizing or misusing the sexuality is an apparent challenge for a lot of authors, and finding the good ones can be a treat.

This is one of those treats. The story, told entirely through Five Stars’ articles, at times gets downright pornographic with its content. Yet Firesight manages to succeed where so many authors do not by making the sexual encounters every bit as important to the ongoing story and Five Stars’ development as anything else. Along the way, we watch as our protagonist suffers through failed marriages, crises of morality, near-death events, and an eternal struggle to understand herself as a mare, all while the regular events of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic go on in the background.

I can point out two issues. The first, which is itself questionable as an issue, is that even though these are articles written years after the actual events, we find Five Stars is often able to perfectly repeat what was said in her varied encounters. Which, barring some extremely memorable moments, is impossible for anyone without a photographic memory. However, it is entirely possible that the conversations recorded for posterity are merely approximations of what was said, things written that capture the general intent. I don’t think Firesight ever clarified this, but if so I’d find it an acceptable explanation.

Yet there is no way to justify the interruptions. On several occasions throughout the story, Five Stars will have her writing interrupted by another character as if the two were in the midst of a conversation. So… are we expected to believe that this other character just happened to be hovering over her shoulder and rudely snatched the stylus from her mouth upon seeing something they felt they had to respond to? And what of the times when she’s writing and somebody not in the same room (or in some cases, even in the same city) reacts and she responds as though they’re standing before each other having a conversation? Firesight, if you’re going to pass these chapters off as articles written through correspondence, it would pay to write them as such.

Ignoring those, this is a powerful slice-of-life piece about a mare finding her place in the world. It spreads across the nation of Equestria and beyond, addressing Equestrian social norms and how they compare to human ones, particularly in terms of gender roles. It is also merged well with Firesight’s expanded universe involving the heroics of Firefly (my inability to continue those at the time being one of the reasons I chose to read this). To say Five Stars leads an interesting life would be an understatement, although more for personal drama than anything else.

Equally interesting is the editorial notes that start each chapter, informing the reader of what is happening in the present as each article is released. This part of the story largely serves as a receptacle for Firesight’s understandable distaste for modern woke and cancel culture. Acting as a bit of a side story, they detail the New York Life and Manehattan Post magazines’ ongoing struggle to deal with a wave of brainwashed social justice warriors, self-righteous cultural and religious traditionalists, and violent ANTIFA-style protests (all from both sides of the Earth/Equestria portal). Oh, and a changeling plot or two for good measure. These prove a vicious but much-deserved rebuke against such things. Whether or not you approve of the actions of their real-world counterparts may make or break this story for you, because Firesight is definitely making a political statement there.

Personally, I think they emphasize Firesight’s skill as a writer. Somehow, they managed to combine Five Stars’ life story with the magazines’ ongoing battle for freedom of speech such that the two stories make for a mutually-complementary whole, on top of maintaining a near-continuous stream of highly sexual encounters only suitable for mature audiences yet perfectly utilized to demonstrate Five Stars’ ever-steady mental development into the mare she is today. It’s impressive that the Five Stars writing the articles is distinctly recognizable as a different mare from the one she is describing in the earliest articles, and a big part of the story’s appeal is in finding out how such a big change came to be.

I came away very happy with this one. The sexuality danced on the razor’s edge of appropriateness for the story’s needs but managed to always keep from slipping off the deep end. The characters she meets are all interesting in their own right, from card shark twins to a vicious head mare to a down-on-his-luck Phoenix Wright lookalike. I also feel the need to praise the cameos, which were sporadic enough and realistic enough to not feel like fan wankery and instead served real purpose to the overarching story (especially Cadance). This was an all-around fun ride with great themes of inclusion and healing, delightful characters, strong writing, and an impressive eye for quality in content, flow, and development.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Before the Storm: The Rise of FireflyWHYRTY?


When Rarity was a little filly and before she got her cutie mark, she was relentlessly tormented by a trio of bullies. One day they prepare to take their cruelty to a physical level, and the panicking filly fights back. The end result is three foals dead and Rarity coated in blood. Which… isn’t as bad as she feared.

So begins Rarity’s secret career as Equestria’s most prolific and successful serial killer.

Honestly, the idea was iffy to me from the start. But I was in the mood to read one of this author’s earliest works, and this is the one that caught my eye for its dark premise. To my surprise, BronyWriter does a decent enough job making it work. Most stories of this sort are little more than splatterporn and overall stupidity for the sake of some blood and guts. BronyWriter goes a step above the others by trying to make this into a real story to be taken seriously. Automatically, it gets a nod of approval from me.

Although the story does detail a few of Rarity’s killings, its primary focus tends to be on her efforts to keep her actions a secret from all her friends. We learn about her methods, her shaky morals, the lines she refuses to cross, what she feels guilty about and what she feels justified in. It’s a steady stream of character growth with an underpinning of violent insanity. And from these perspectives, I quite enjoyed it.

There are a handful of problems, though. For starters, to get into this you have to accept the premise as it stands. That will be a tough pill for some readers to swallow and probably narrows the potential audience pool considerably. I mean, dainty, pleasant, adorable Rarity brings ponies (and other creatures) into her basement, tortures them, and decorates the walls with their hides and body parts. This is some extreme shit. I won’t blame anyone for turning away on the premise alone. But again, I feel BronyWriter did as well with the outlandish concept as they could.

But the real issue to me and the thing that may have more critical readers turning their nose up is the writing itself. It’s… extremely simple. Boringly so at times, and leaning on Tell like a crutch. Rarely is there an attempt to get into the characters’ emotional state or to produce the atmosphere of any given moment. For example, in the early murder scenes Rarity claims to get some sort of emotional high out of it all, but you couldn’t tell that from how the scenes are written. BronyWriter describes the supposedly decadent emotions of skinning a still-living pony with all the enthusiasm of an average grocery run. This story’s concept demands an attention to detail, emotional output, atmospheric descriptions, and getting deep into the protagonist’s head. I’m sorry to say that, at least at the time of writing, BronyWriter lacked the literary chops to pull any of that off.

Yet even if the story’s narrative ability is sadly lacking, it still has a surprisingly strong plot. Under the right care and attention, this could have been a masterpiece of MLP dark fandom literature. As it is, it was interesting enough to keep me curious and wanting to know what happens next. Which I still am, so I intend to read the sequels and see the aftermath.

This is a story with a niche audience that may earn upturned noses and disdain from the readers who care about the quality of a story’s writing. Even so, I think it’s good enough to go into one of my higher bookshelves. I encourage the curious to give it a try and form their own conclusions.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
No, I Am Not A Brony, Get Me Outta Equestria!Pretty Good
One WordPretty Good
Broken GladiatorWorth It
This Day is Going to be PerfectWorth It
Twilight Researches HumansWorth It


What if Shining’s entry to the Royal Guard Academy or Celestia’s School of Gifted Unicorns were mutually exclusive options? What if Shining’s mother demanded one while his father wanted to give him the option of choice? And what if the argument between them was decided by a coin toss?

Final question: What if Twilight Velvet won that toss?

All these questions are answered in this AU where Shining is forced by his parents to attend Celestia’s school instead of becoming a Royal Guard, which in turn leads to him hatching Spike and being Celestia’s apprentice. And Twilight? Well, she was inspired by her brother’s love of the Royal Guard and so becomes on herself. Her first mission? To guard the castle kitchens. What starts off as an extreme let down begins a string of events in which Twilight will have to face the fight of her life.

Two parts drama, one part romance, and one part adventure. This is a fun story in which Twilight, still the adorkable bibliophile we all know and love, pursues an entirely different career. Amusingly, it leads to similar results as what happened to Shining Armor, with the caveat that Shining actually learns his sister is dating a princess before the wedding (zing!). Oh, and a violent life-or-death struggle in the depths of a tomb beneath a Zebrican desert that presumably never happened in canon. You know, little things like that.

What is most impressive to me is how this story weaves many different topics together from start to finish, never letting any moment grow stale by hammering the same issue for too long. Twilight’s growing crush on Cadance, her surprise at being sent on a mission overseas, her budding friendship with the old airship captain, the ominous adventure to lift a curse, and the ever-present sense that her place in the world just isn’t right all come together in a seamless flow. Add to that a bit of worldbuilding involving diamond dogs, new forms of magic, and exploration of the nature of dreams. Given the length of the story, which I would consider very short given the sheer number of things going on, it’s pretty stellar work.

Then there’s the interesting aside that apparently the show as we know it still goes on, only with Shining in Twilight’s place. That’s interesting in its own right.

But nothing appealed to me quite so much as the regular references to fate and how everything is as wrong as it is right, like Twilight and Shining just know this isn’t where they were meant to be in life. King of Beggars does a nice job weaving that needle in all the right ways, even making it the seminal challenge for Twilight in the climax.

This AU has a lot of potential, and I am looking forward to seeing where the author takes it with the sequel. 

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Sunset & Sunrise Vs. EvilWorth It


It’s been more than two years since I read The Sisters Doo. That story involved Rainbow Dash, Ditzy Doo and her estranged sister Daring Doo travelling across the oceans to rescue the foalnapped Cake Twins and, on a related note, stopping a bitter alicorn from wreaking havoc on the world. Naturally, I’ve forgotten most of the details, but I do recall that there were a ton of unanswered questions, such as how the heck the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Dinky showed up in the alicorn’s palace on the other side of the world completely out of nowhere.

Enter The Daughter Doo. Occurring simultaneously in time with the previous story, this one has the Crusaders and Dinky decide to team up to rescue the foals themselves, preferably before the adults. This is largely Scootaloo’s idea, driven by a desire to prove herself awesome enough for Rainbow Dash. This decision leads them on an adventure through Tartarus, over the oceans, and into foreign and strange lands. It also strains their friendship nearly to the breaking point.

This is a fun tale, and far more than ‘four fillies go on an adventure’. Each of the girls get their own moments to shine and struggle, with their individual personalities causing more problems than solutions. Apple Bloom’s fierce devotion to her moral compass, Scootaloo’s constant thirst for excitement, Sweetie’s focus on protecting Dinky, and Dinky’s struggle to know her place all have important and ever-shifting effects on the plot. In this area, Ponky excels. Things are ceaselessly interesting as the girls fight foalnappers in submarines, sneak into castles, jump onto moving trains, and try not to be conned by sneaky strangers. If that sounds like a lot for just 70,000 words, that’s because it is. Things move fast in this story, but never in a way that feels too fast. Ponky’s pacing is exceptional.

In the meantime, the girls meet a stream of interesting and unusual individuals. Greedy diamond dogs, a charming thief, and a playful alicorn are just the start. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it worldbuilding, as there is no effort to explore things like culture and history, but the sheer exploration and variety of locations and people are still impressive.

The story has only two problems. The first is the unanswered questions. Now, I’m known for approving of unanswered questions, but only in the right kind of story. This isn’t the right kind of story. We expect answers. Instead, The Daughter Doo creates more questions. The story is easy to follow, but there are times when the only thing we can say to a scene is “wait, what just happened?” A few of those questions are big ones, but Ponky brushes them off in a way that suggests we should be satisfied that the question exists at all. Which doesn’t work in a setting like this.

The second problem is that it doesn’t have anything in the way of a beginning or a climax. Like the other side story Through the Looking Glass, this one’s start doesn’t take place here. As I recall, the Crusaders discuss the possibility of and decide to go on this adventure in The Sisters Doo. Rather than repeat all of those scenes, Ponky instead just assumes you’ve already read The Sisters Doo and don’t need to see any of the background. This will thoroughly confuse anyone who hasn’t read the former or, like me, read it two years ago and have forgotten all the details. The good news is that the girls’ adventure is almost entirely separate from that of the adults with practically zero crossover, so after a chapter there’s no need to know more than the basics, which you’ve already grasped.

But then there’s the climax. Now, to be fair, Ponky goes through great effort to ensure that the girls’ adventure does have its own climax. But even then, that climax explains practically nothing. It’s merely Dinky achieving a big goal and realizing something, albeit nothing one could call concrete. The story then merges with a single scene from The Sisters Doo and… that’s it. It’s over. If you want to know the details of how things turned out, you’d better have read the prior story, because this one’s stopping there.

I absolutely disagree with Ponky’s methodology. With how closely intertwined the two stories are, I feel they should have been released as a single piece. I can understand if Ponky was worried about the audience treading the paths of two different stories. Or three, if Through the Looking Glass had also been included. I suppose I should be impressed; The Daughter Doo was released a good five years after The Sisters Doo, but they work so well side-by-side that the only way to tell is the uptick in writing quality. Given when Ponky wrote the two stories in relation to one another, I really shouldn’t be complaining about how they aren’t in the same story. I suppose that the better way to approach this would be that Ponky should have included the scenes from The Sisters Doo, if from new perspectives, so that The Daughter Doo could get a more fulfilling conclusion.

Oh, and Ponky has no idea what ‘guffaw’ means.

The Daughter Doo is a fun story full of excellent adventure and character growth. Indeed, I’d say it’s easily the best I’ve read by Ponky so far. If it weren’t for the author’s frustrating habit of creating more questions than answers and how the ending doesn’t seem to exist within its own pages, this would have gotten my highest rating.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
If Horses Had GodsPretty Good
MantlesPretty Good
The Sisters DooPretty Good
Through the Looking-glass and What Pinkie Found ThereWorth It


Empty Horizons

185,791 Words
By Goldenwing
Requested by Noc

Twilight and her friends awaken in a dark, ruined Canterlot, rescued by strange ponies. Reality soon comes crashing down: the Changelings won. But that’s not all. Something happened after. Something terrible that ended the world, submerging everyone and everything beneath an endless ocean. The princesses are no more, and the last dregs of ponydom survive in an anarchic world of floating islands scattered across Equestria. Now the Mane Six must find their place in this dangerous world devoid of the tenets of harmony. And Twilight? She seeks an answer to the greatest question of all: what happened?

This was quite the epic tale. Filled with bloodthirsty bounty hunters, greedy nobility, and eccentric elites, it provides something a little different at every turn. The story follows two primary paths: Twilight, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy as they seek answers to why the world was destroyed, and Rarity and Pinkie as they work together to learn about and influence the new world for the better, all while a third party of bounty hunters seek them all. Turns out ‘gifted’, i.e. ponies with cutie marks, are a prized commodity in this new Equestria.

The story combines a great many things, taking advantage of its length to give us everything from drama, adventure, slice-of-life, worldbuilding, character growth, and even moments of horror. I doubt many things are exactly as they seem in this story, and by the end I was doubting even the Mane Six’s allies. Heck, the only characters in this story I have any real faith in are the Mane Six themselves, and even some of them have a shaky moment or two.

And when it’s all done, it’s not done. The greatest question has yet to be answered, fates are left undefined, and whole new problems have arisen. It’s clear that Goldenwing intends for this to be a multi-story epic, and I am 100% behind that… provided they finish it.

Honestly, I’ve got nothing to complain about. This story has everything short of romance, and there are hints that even that may pop up at some point in the coming stories. I’m particularly curious if Rarity ends up with a happily ever after or a beauty and the beast, given her particular situation at the end of the story. I’m also wondering about the elephant in the room, which I can’t speak of for spoiler’s sake other than to say there was something left behind on the Argo that went completely unmentioned in that epilogue. I will be awaiting the sequel’s completion with great anticipation.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Merc the Jerk’s Fool’s Gold was little more than an excuse to have the Mane 6 plus Spike perform a bank heist. It was great fun but left behind a ton of questions. Enter Diamond in the Rough. Which, before I get any further, begs the question: is Peregrine Caged just an alt for Merc, or do we legit have a collaborative world? If it’s the latter, then color me impressed because, as a collaboration, it is very well done.

Anyway, this story is another heist, but with very different stakes. The Mane 6 are headed to a formal gathering hosted by Celestia’s loyal pet, Blueblood, who somehow manages to be even worse in this story than he’s been shown in canon. But they aren’t going for the champaign and fancy dresses; Blueblood is hosting an auction, and they intend to take advantage of it. That means Rainbow Isabella and AppleJack infiltrating the vault holding the relics being auctioned and stealing as much as they can get their hands on. It also means the rest of them getting to Blueblood and trying to find a way to get to some mysterious “List” that Celestia has given him for safe keeping, convinced it is the key they need to bring down the “tyrant”.

I have two problems with this story. First, why would Celestia give her super-secret document detailing all her nefarious plans for the entire country to a whimpering little sod like Blueblood? There have to be a million better choices, but she chose him. This goes way beyond not making sense, and if it turns out in the end to be legitimate rather than some underhanded scheme to trick the Mane 6 I will be disappointed. I’m already disappointed that the great Twilight Sparkle Twila Shields didn’t question it.

Second is what Dash and Jack encounter beneath Blueblood Manor. I won’t go into detail, but it was a ridiculous, over-the-top act that causes more harm than good. There has to be an ulterior motive to doing this stupid thing that is entirely useless on the surface. I mean, you wouldn’t do that unless you intended to see your forces slaughter themselves. Why is nobody asking these questions among the Mane 6?

Okay, that’s out of the way. Everything else?

Loved it. We’ve got action in Jack’s and Dash’s desperate fight in the basement, intrigue with the rest trying to find a way into Blueblood’s good graces, intense scenarios, smatterings of romance with AppleDash and Sparity (with Spike being human, for all you anti-Sparity folks hung up on that), intellectual discourse over poker, and most importantly, questions answered. At last, we know why Celestia is a tyrant in this AU. Honestly, I figured it out on my own early on when Twila said something that struck me as odd, but it was still rewarding to see my suspicions justified.

That said, it does seem odd that they all act like they don’t know this truth until the very end, when said truth is in fact revealed to the readers and we discover that, hey, they all knew all along.

Everyone gets an opportunity to shine in this one. AppleJack and Rainbow Isabella proving they have top-tier survival skills. Rarity showing she knows how to manipulate others, even when sometimes her plans fail spectacularly (although in her defense, that was more due to the target’s woeful lack of class). Fluttershy Chylene holding her own in surprising ways with no awareness help is on the way. Pinkie Diane raising spirits and saving a certain someone when they need it. Spike, providing a wealth of technical knowledge and skills as the “guy in the chair” and being the leader of the team when nobody else is prepared. And of course, Twilight Twila turning what might have been a total disaster into success through quick thinking and sheer skill – even if the method feels a little Dues Ex Twila. Seriously, if you’ve got a favorite, that person will shine somehow.

This was every bit as enjoyable as its predecessor, buoyed by how we now have answers to a lot of the questions said predecessor left in its wake. It’s also the setup for what looks to be an expansive, adventurous world epically running through a great many stories. I hope to Luna that Merc (and whoever else he may get involved with this, again assuming Peregrine isn’t an alt) has the chops to finish it. This is looking to be an all-around excellent series and I have every intention of reading more from it. I think I’ll be following Big Mac next...

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


In Days of Wasp and Spider, sisters Fusion Pulse and Gravity Resonance live in a highly advanced world where Diamond Dogs are the dominant species and all others are merely slaves. Ponies (in this world all alicorns) in particular have it the worst, with magical shackles placed in their heads to deliver upon them immense pleasure for pleasing their Masters and intense agony when doing something that displeases them. So thorough is this control that a Master doesn’t even have to be in the room; merely the thought of doing something a Master might conceivably dislike can start the pain. It’s even possible to fall into a circuitous state of endless torture commonly known as ‘fugue’ when a pony’s personal needs such as the protection of a foal or mate clash with the cold, uncaring whims of the Masters.

In that story, a case of not-exactly-divine intervention led to Fusion Pulse being remedied of her ‘Blessing’. Free of the iron-pawed control of the Masters, she begins forming her own conclusions about the world around her. This eventually leads her to break her sister’s ‘Blessing’ and fight to escape the Masters’ furious efforts to quash their little bout of insubordination. In the end, they succeed in escaping and even faking their deaths, at least for now.

Enter Final Solution. Now free and in hiding, Fusion and Gravity start the next step: revolution. They will liberate all the enslaved races and bring about a new age where there are no more Masters, regardless of species. And they will achieve this at any cost.

If I had to describe this story in one word, it would be easy: escalation. It begins with subtle sneakery, finding and freeing ponies who might be willing to aid their cause. Then it becomes guerilla warfare. Then major tactical battles. With every encounter, the tools used and the upper limit on what both sides are willing to try get worse and worse. It goes up to and even beyond Mutually Assured Destruction, culminating in a total apocalypse and even a battle against the very forces of creation. That’s not an exaggeration.

What I find most staggeringly impressive is just how wide a scope this story achieves in terms of what it accounts for. Luna-tic Scientist wrote this as a sort of origin story for the entire world in which Equestria rests, and I do mean the entire world. With this in mind, the author pulls a ton of worldbuilding off and finds ways to explain so much of the world of the show, including but not limited to: the origin of dragons; why Diamond Dogs hunt gemstones; why Celestia and Luna were the only alicorns for thousands of years; the sudden arrival of the great winter and why that led to the founding of modern Equestria; why the griffons are such an aggressive, rough species; parasprites; Discord’s origins; mutant creatures like the chimaera and cockatrices; why Celestia and Luna can control the sun; why Luna is credited with creating the night sky; Tartarus; why Celestia and Luna are apparently absent for most of known prehistory; and anything else I’m almost certainly forgetting. It’s astounding just how much Luna-tic Scientist was able to fit into this.

A lot of it has to do with a simple trick of suggestion over detail. Don’t get me wrong, this story is very detailed, sometimes to a fault, but only about what the characters are doing in the here and now. A lot of the bigger, modern-implication elements are merely suggested through circumstance and coincidence. For example, while at no point is the Great Winter we know of Equestria’s history outright explained,the implications of the events in this story alone are enough to suggest a logical reasoning behind how and why it happened. This has allowed the author to say much without saying a lot, and it works fantastically.

As the story moves on, I also note a distinct shift in attention. When it begins, all the concern is on keeping Celestia and Luna alive and their actions unnoticed. This gradually shifts to worrying about those they have rescued and brought into their rebellion. Then Celestia and Luna, for lack of a better term, ‘ascend’ and suddenly we’re acting on a national scale of wars where the concern is focused on saving as many lives using as peaceful a method as possible. Then we shift again and we’re acting on a global scale trying to prevent total catastrophe and freedom.

Escalation.

My point is, this story is continuously growing. Expanding. In scope and intent. It’s nothing short of riveting, and I had a lot of trouble not abandoning my schedule outright and reading it continuously.

There are a few small issues, of course. Again, in some scenes Luna-tic Scientist gets so bogged down in the technicalities of what is happening that I started to wish he’d just get to the point. There’s also this frustrating obsession on the author’s part to see every angle, no matter how little it does for the story as a whole. A good example is the mother and son, whom we’ve never met and have zero reason to care about, in an arcology dying when it gets hit by something that makes nuclear weapons look like peashooters. On the other hand (paw?), at the very least we are getting the full picture of everything that is happening, and I can see some readers finding that aspect appealing, so I suppose we can take this issue as subjective.

Also interesting is how this story essentially starts exactly where the last one stopped. It’s so seamless that if the two were released as a single entity I’m not sure readers would have even realized they’d transferred into another story. Granted, I read Days of Wasp and Spider way back in 2015, so my recollection is probably faulty. Even so, I’d recommend readers at least try to read the stories back-to-back, as Final Solution references a lot of things from its predecessor that might be lost on the reader otherwise.

Ultimately, this story is the full package. It’s got action, adventure, danger, character growth, worldbuilding in spades, politics, and a scope that is staggering. It is a must-read for science fiction fans and fans of the original princesses. I’m looking forward to the next story in the series, even if it isn’t labelled as a sequel, and very curious to see how/if Luna-tic Scientist will make an attempt to further meld these events with the show and, if so and most especially, how Discord might be handled.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Days of Wasp and SpiderWHYRTY?
It will all be over soon, PrincessPretty Good
Twisted Little Fire StarterWorth It


Stories for Next Week:
Raising of the Twilight by Bakmah Genesis
The Yo Mama Mandate by FrontSevens
A Fact for Twilight by bookplayer
Seven Year Twitch by Scarheart
Twilight's first fan by Neff
Happily Ever After by Nicknack
For Eelsies by NaiadSagaIotaOar
A Nightmare Before The Night [CYOA] by Selbi
Science Fare by totallynotabrony
The Queen's Secret Crush by Monochromatic


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Comments ( 56 )

I'm glad to see Secret Life getting a good score! I remember being surprised the second time I read it by how little gore there actually was (which was a bit of a shame, since I was in a mood for gore at the time, but whatever). The ending's stuck with me rather vividly, though, as well as a couple other big plot beats, which I think is usually a sign that the story's a solid one. I don't remember much of the sequels at all, but I'd hope they hold up similarly well.

I admit no excuse for Sunset sending Twilight to Rosen Cross, I could have justified that way better. And as you say, we didn't get much of the human world because it wasn't critical to the story.

My focus was indeed on the exploration of Sunset's character and the slow erosion of her sanity, so I'm glad those came across well.

Thank you very much for the review and for reading. :twilightsmile:

Oh, trust me, I am well aware of the flaws. I'd write it so differently now, and I really do want to. That Diamond Dog chapter... Ugh. Hate it. Hate it so much. The story should be twenty thousand words more just because of the "show don't tell" aspect. The other stories (other than A Shadow Hangs Overhead) aren't really better about that, but story-wise, I think the third one is the best of the original trilogy. There's overall a lot of wasted potential in the story. I agree with your assessment that if I'd done it right, it could have been a legit classic in the same vein as (and I hope I'm not pretentious in saying this) Cupcakes or Rainbow Factory.

Although, to be fair, I think I nailed the ending.

Noc
Noc #4 · January 30th · · 2 ·

I’ve seen some readers complain that Empty Horizons (full disclosure: I’m one of its and its sequels’ editors) ends with too many open ends, and I can understand that viewpoint. I can say that the EHverse is a planned trilogy, though, and that the sequel, Sunken Horizons, is already well underway, if you want to keep up with it. (And maybe prod Gold to get off No Man’s Sky and get back to writing. :raritywink:)

Also, I dunno if it’s been mentioned to you, but after I recommended Bulletproof Heart to Gold and he loved it, he decided to take some lessons from it about pacing and character development, specifically about giving characters time to breathe between events and self-reflect a bit more. So if SH is even better, that’s what’s behind it. :twilightsmile:

I’m a fan of Demon Eyes Laharl’s Gentlemen for Mares series/universe and I went into Five Star Service enjoying it at first, but about halfway through I was forced to give it up. The problem isn’t Firesight’s soapboxing about “SJW”s in itself – inserting personal opinions in your writing is one thing; having such palpable disdain for a group that you literally twist them into the opposite of what they stand for is another. People can agree or disagree with them, but the whole point of the pro-SJ/feminist crowd is that people can love and be with (and have consensual sex with) whoever they like without being constrained by societal taboos and prejudices; casting them as opponents of all that is just weird. It’s as if a writer penned a story portraying cultural conservatives as sexual libertines just to stick it to ’em. It ruined the immersion for me.

I am just looking forward to For Eelsies coming up next week :pinkiehappy:

I just don't have the time to read long stories, so i was expecting that I wouldn't have read any of these. As it turns out, I did start one, but that's all. Knowing i won't be able to keep up, I normally don't even start long stories, unless I've been asked to review what's there so far, and as such, I did read chapter 1 of "Empty Horizons." And it was quite good! I was able to help the author break some bad writing habits, though since I didn't continue with it, I don't know if those habits returned in later chapters. That's another reason I may not return to these stories: I kind of don't want to know whether an author has fallen back into habits I thought they had beat.

Also, I was once accused by a commenter named wlam of being a terrible author. His primary evidence was that my average story was under 7k words. I would say that was a ridiculous piece of reasoning on its face, but the skewing of this week's entries to good reviews is not helping!

5194967
Don't worry, with the exception of one, all the stories next week are under 10,000.

5194972
That means it's more likely I've read them. But by wlam's logic, that means they're all bad, too, so... yay?

For the record, Fool's Gold and Diamond in the Rough were both three way, full collaborations between Merc The Jerk, Peregrine Caged, and JaketheGinger. I've worked with Merc on collaborations myself, (Moonshine and Christian Values, both published on my account,) he's an awesome writing partner, and Peregrine edited some of my entries for anthology-style collabs he ran, so no doubt he kept everyone on track!

Nice work on the Five Star Service review! As one of the prereaders of 5SS, a friend and cohort of the man who wrote it and a huge fan of the story myself I'm glad you enjoyed it! I think the Firefly series currently in progress addresses the big issue you brought up with the "article" style of Five Stars' narration and is pretty amazing in its own right.

Into The Storm is my second-favorite story of all-time on fimfiction, ranking just behind Fallout Equestria.

Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Paul! I had actually been expecting at least a couple complaints—I know I have some critiques of the story—and now I don't know how to feel about not really having any feedback to discuss!

I'd been hoping to finish the next act of the trilogy by the time you got around to reading EH, but it seems I've failed in my quest, as it's only about halfway done. Still, I do hope you'll like it once I finally do mark it complete. Bulletproof Heart has been a major influence on me during its writing.

5194965
I'm not sure if I recall this. Were you my EqD pre-reader, maybe? Was the habit excessive use of participle phrases? I might be thinking of another story, but I do recall getting some feedback when I submitted it.

5194975
Guys a troll to be honest, hes caused issue in othe places, but he was easily refuted with evidence found on his own userpage

Thank you for the review, friend.

Oh boy, this is a blog to leave open so I can keep track of these. 6 WHYRTY! And all of them look like something I'd enjoy!

5194967
Save yourself a lot of grief and ignore anything wlam says.

5195042
Oh, I'm not worried about him. I just thought it was funny he'd actually claim you could tell a writer's skill by the length of their stories, when one of the people he cited as the best has made blog posts about the value in writing extremely short stories.

5194861
It was nice to see a story centered around Secret Life's themes without resorting to tons of gore, which is one of the big things going in its favor.

5194881
I have to admit, watching Rarity go all Samurai Warrior on the diamond dogs was pretty ridiculous and one of the low points of the story. And I find myself wondering what happened to her sword; it sorta never came up again after she ditched it in that bush.

I would never want a story of mine compared to Cupcakes or Rainbow Factory. Indeed, it's partially the fact you didn't emulate them by making the story torture porn that it did so well. It's be more flattering to compare your material to, say, Silent Ponyville.

5194905
Oh, I'm already watching Sunken Horizons. It'll go on my RiL as soon as Gold finishes it in 2030.

As far as Gentlemen for Mares go, I don't think Firesight messed up the SJW thing. I'm reasonably sure he was relating those events to the extremists of each group, and I can see all such SJW groups have extremists who would be against the story's ideas, without exception. Extreme feminists, for example, are less about "love in all forms" and more about "you are male and that makes you an evil wife-beating rapist by default and it's so typical of men that when us superior-but-intentionally-marginalized-by-the-fearful-patriarchy women get empowered you'd go to animals to get your tyrannical jollies off". These people exist, and I think they're the types Firesight was specifically targeting.

5194967
I don't know if it's that longer stories are generally better so much as my personal preference for ambitious stories. After all, even if I am trying to provide quality reviews there's no way to truly eliminate reader bias.

5194978
Ah, I see. That makes me hope that I can keep track of everything in the AU, as I note they don't appear to all be linked together in any way other than reader observation.

5194980
I just want to read more Firefly-related stories. Honestly, I hit up 5SS specifically so it could eat up time for the author to get more of that done.

5194983
I recall I did have one or two issues, but they felt subjective so I left them alone. Alas, I can't recall any of them ATM because it's been a couple weeks since I read and they were little more than nitpicks.

Ah, I had no idea you were a BPH fan! In that case, I haven't a foot to stand on it telling you to hurry up with the sequel. The BPH sequel certainly isn't going quickly.

Noc

5195181

The BPH sequel certainly isn't going quickly.

*Sobs a little*

5195198
Hey, how do you think I feel about it? :fluttercry:

Noc

5195199
You can read what you’ve already written! And you know how it’ll end!

I have nothing but fantasies and an unsatisfiable RariJack addiction that I blame on you. :ajsleepy:

I’m just coming off the BoJack Horseman finale so I’m a bit emotionally drained right now.

More srsly though, I recall in the past you’ve mentioned it’ll be a series. How many overall installments do you think it’ll have? Trilogy?

5195202
It was always intended to be a trilogy. And really, the only reason it's taking so long to get out is because the second book's proving to be long itself.

Noc

5195203
That’s an excellent reason for it to take a while. Now and again I fear you might lose inspiration or something, but then you mention in a blog post that you average over a thousand words a day with much of it on FLW, which is both reassuring and exciting.

5195204
Growing bored with big stories is always a serious threat to their completion, which is why I try to avoid only working on one story at a time. ATM FLW is about 1/3 of my writing workload, but I'm getting anxious over its speed and thinking about upping it to half. Especially now that I'm on a challenging chapter I've been looking forward to for... well, ever.

Anyway, rest assured that the project, while still a long time in the coming, is still most certainly in production.

Noc

5195205

about 1.3 of my writing workload

At first I thought you meant 1.3% and for a second some serious questions were forming in my head before I figured it out.

All the best things in life are worth waiting for. It’s why I didn’t grind my teeth too hard when The Last of Us Part II got pushed back from this February to May – it’ll only be even better when it does come out.

5195208
Mistake? What mistake? I don't see any mistake, you're imagining things.

...

Ignore my shifty eyes!

Noc

5195213
Oh, you mean the “its” that should be “its”? :moustache:

5195216
...

...

Nooooooooooo. :pinkiecrazy:

Noc

5195220
Now you know what Gold pays me for. :twilightsmile:

... Wait, he doesn't pay me. I should call the labor board.

Thank you very much for the favorable review of Five Star Service! :pinkiehappy: I got excited when I saw you pick up the story for review, remembering the nice one you gave on Rise of Firefly. I do invite you back to the latter, as the second story has already reached novel length and the first very major denouement. If you're waiting until it's complete before reading, I regret it's going to be a while.

On a side note, I did finally take one piece of advice you offered on the original story and moved the bonus material to a series of appendices at the end. You had said that they were interrupting the flow of the story, and I finally agreed they were.

Let's see... I guess I'll comment on a few things you said in the review:

I can point out two issues. The first, which is itself questionable as an issue, is that even though these are articles written years after the actual events, we find Five Stars is often able to perfectly repeat what was said in her varied encounters. Which, barring some extremely memorable moments, is impossible for anyone without a photographic memory. However, it is entirely possible that the conversations recorded for posterity are merely approximations of what was said, things written that capture the general intent. I don’t think Firesight ever clarified this, but if so I’d find it an acceptable explanation.

No, I never did clarify it. I think my assumption was that for the most part, she's reciting from memory, paraphrasing and approximating, but it should be noted that when you're talking about intense or memorable moments of life--which she focuses on in her writings--then you do tend to recall more details. Whether they're accurate is another question, but when you're talking about things like her first times, whether they're with Cayenne, Miral or Shaun, yes, she's going to remember more.

Also, she is (usually) running this stuff past the other characters involved to get their input and to make sure she isn't revealing things they don't want to, so you can imagine that drafts are being exchanged and comments made on them; they make corrections or additions to what she wrote. And in the case of The Attorney, two characters that were there *do* have total memory recall through magic if they desire it. And The Attorney himself, as a certain game series makes clear, has a very good memory as well.

Yet there is no way to justify the interruptions. On several occasions throughout the story, Five Stars will have her writing interrupted by another character as if the two were in the midst of a conversation. So… are we expected to believe that this other character just happened to be hovering over her shoulder and rudely snatched the stylus from her mouth upon seeing something they felt they had to respond to? And what of the times when she’s writing and somebody not in the same room (or in some cases, even in the same city) reacts and she responds as though they’re standing before each other having a conversation? Firesight, if you’re going to pass these chapters off as articles written through correspondence, it would pay to write them as such.

Hmmm... that's not really how I envisioned it. I saw it happening in one of two ways:

1) Draft copies of the articles are being exchanged between characters (remember that there's 1-2 weeks and sometimes more between articles in story time) and occasionally those comments result. Platinum's asides are a good example. She makes a comment in the margin (or electronic equivalent) about something Five Stars said, and then Five Stars decides to include it and answer it directly in the article since it's interesting or makes a salient point.

2) There's someone reading over her shoulder (by invitation) who makes a comment, and she invites them to add their own observations, passing them the tablet to do so. There's no snatching of stylus, as it were.

Now, I admit I could have and perhaps should have explained how this was actually happening at some point. I may retcon the story to do that; have Five Stars explain how the asides are actually getting into the story. If I do so, I'll let you know when it's ready so you can inspect it.

It is also merged well with Firesight’s expanded universe involving the heroics of Firefly (my inability to continue those at the time being one of the reasons I chose to read this).

Thanks! That was actually something another reviewer dinged me on. I try to tie all my stories together at least loosely, even if the verses are different.

Equally interesting is the editorial notes that start each chapter, informing the reader of what is happening in the present as each article is released. This part of the story largely serves as a receptacle for Firesight’s understandable distaste for modern woke and cancel culture... These prove a vicious but much-deserved rebuke against such things. Whether or not you approve of the actions of their real-world counterparts may make or break this story for you, because Firesight is definitely making a political statement there.

The editorial notes and the SJW angle were things I can't say I was planning initially but just kind of sprung up as the story went along, and yes, I ended up using this story to make a political statement. It got me in trouble with a couple folks, including one of your commenters, but I make no apology for it. As far as I'm concerned, I said what I needed to say--Five Stars was speaking for me at times--and I'm very gratified that you approved of their use!

The sexuality danced on the razor’s edge of appropriateness for the story’s needs but managed to always keep from slipping off the deep end.

That's always tricky in a story like this, and--full disclosure--I didn't entirely succeed with that originally. :ajsleepy: I ended up having to completely rewrite most of the two Attorney chapters because I blew them badly in my first attempt. Second try was the charm, thankfully, and the key there, unlike other chapters, was to remove all overt sex. It just wasn't the time or place for it.

The characters she meets are all interesting in their own right, from card shark twins to a vicious head mare to a down-on-his-luck Phoenix Wright lookalike.

That's no lookalike. That's the real deal. :twilightsmile: That was how he was and how he looked in the fourth game after he lost his law license for the reasons the story stated, basically out of work and trying to raise an adopted daughter. This takes place between the third and fourth games, which had a time gap of something like eight years, thus allowing for something like this. As for why I brought him in, Five Stars had already appeared in my TwiWright shipfic The Lawyer and The Unicorn, so it seemed fitting to bring him in over here. And readers of both stories were requesting him.

This was an all-around fun ride with great themes of inclusion and healing, delightful characters, strong writing, and an impressive eye for quality in content, flow, and development.

Thank you very much for the praise, and for taking the time to read and review this! It was very much appreciated. Hope to see you back on Firefly later!

5195173
Obviously, but I was thinking more fame levels. Yes, I don't want SLoR to be Cupcakes with Rarity. If I wanted that, the story would be five thousand words. Although, originally, the story was much more graphic, and worse for it, but I toned it down a lot. I wanted the gore to be extreme, but as the non-basement scenes turned out to improve the story, on rewrites, I cut down on the gore a lot and focused more on the other stuff. Even the torture scenes turned less into Cupcakes stuff and more about developing both characters through the odd intimacy between killer and victim.

5195178
Oh, I don't mind, and I certainly don't think you'd inflate a story's merits on its length alone. Whether the plot fits comfortably in that length is of course a different issue, and if you prefer to read longer stories, that's not a problem either, but I don't think you'd agree that there's anything inherently higher quality about longer stories. If anything, it may be that authors tend to hold off writing long stories until they're experienced enough to do them well, though there are plenty of counterexamples, so I don't think it'd be a pronounced effect. It may also be that it's easier to force yourself through a short story that isn't good, since it won't take much of your time, whereas if the first chapter of a 500k epic is terrible, you can nope out hard, and then it doesn't show up in the review list. In short, only the long ones that are good keep your interest enough to finish. That'd obviously depend on the reviewer, though. PP would still review what of it he read and give it a DNF rating. How about you? Do you ever drop a story you're not enjoying, or do you decide that if you started it, then you're going to finish it?

5195324
I am proud to say that I have never started a story and not finished it. Some of them have been torturous experiences. I have, as they say, seen some shit. But I've maintained the rule all this time and have no intention of stopping. The only exception I can think of is for stories that people ask me to review that aren't finished, so I only read them up to a certain stopping point, preferably at the end of an obvious story arc.

I am of the opinion that short and long stories each require very different forms of storytelling. I have a preference for the longer ones in general, but fully acknowledge the challenge of writing shorter ones. The advantage short stories have is that writers can complete them relatively quickly and create several of them as a means of practice, whereas long stories require a level of dedication that most potential authors just don't have and are far more suitable to the ambitious with big themes and messages to tell. Short stories challenge you to say so much with so little, while also forcing you to deliver a fully realized plotline without feeling rushed. Long stories give you much more time to flesh out the story, but this must be tempered with the ability to keep the story interesting the entire time through proper plot flow and character development, to say nothing for maintaining the writer's own interest.

And I'm rambling. Point is, short and long stories are entirely different beasts and have to be judged accordingly.

Ha, I win the word count! I'm sure that counts as a win. (Perhaps not; I try not to think too deeply about how long it took to write all that).

Thank you for your review -- and nice to hear I nearly destroyed your schedule! I shall try harder next time. There's less detail in Final than in Wasp (at least I managed to cut down on the multiply parallel viewpoints!), but probably not so much as you'd notice. There are some potentially extraneous ones, although I don't think I put any in just to pad the story (more a case of 'I want to see that person's point of view'). In the case of the Arcology Prime strike, I thought the high altitude view of the destruction was just too distant and hard to relate to, so you got the experience from the inside. The worm's view of the boot coming down, so to speak.

...and you were correct -- Final and Wasp are one single story. I only split them because at a quarter million words, Wasp was already pretty intimidating to a new reader. Then I go and add nearly a half million more... whoops.

Madness has been fully written but is undergoing a chapter-wise release to allow me to edit on the fly (I've never been able to multitask across different stories). Real Life (in the shape of a Real Horse) also draws me away, but it should be fully posted in about twenty weeks or so. Not quite as big a monster as the other two stories.

5194967
Only writing short stories does not make you a bad writer by any means (just look at Chekhov), but generally speaking longer stories are better than shorter ones. Someone did an analysis on Rotten Tomatoes not too long ago and noted that the longer a movie is, the better reviews it gets, and that 3-hour movies are more likely to get positive ratings than 2-hour movies.

EDIT: here it is.

5195445
That's probably subject to the same things, like I'd bet there's a larger proportion of more experienced filmmakers putting out the longer movies.

5195493
Well yes, depending on this or that. Although you'd be hard-pressed to find a short story with the same level of depth, character writing, and exploration of themes as War and Peace or Les Miserables.

5195503
Now you're getting off topic. Those aren't things a short story is trying to accomplish. The point was whether a short story was inherently lower-quality than a long one. And I think it's pretty self-explanatory that it's not.

5195516
If you judge quality by the prose, or the dialogue, or the moment-to-moment stuff that is independent of length, then sure, short stories and long stories are pretty much the same. But I think that's cutting it short. I'd say that quality + quantity > just quality, assuming the quantity doesn't diminish the quality (i.e. things are too stretched out, too much filler, etc). That is to say, while short stories can be very engaging, long stories have the extra benefit of adding to your engagement exponentially, where that one scene in chapter 20 is amazing because of the added context from chapter 5. Because of that, longer stories can achieve more impressive stuff that, while short stories may not be trying to accomplish, is still indicative of quality, and is the reason why almost all of the "best books ever" are doorstoppers. Basically, anything a short story can do a long story can also do, but not vice versa.

But since we're here I want to ask, what is the short story trying to accomplish? I thought those things I mentioned were necessary for a story to be good.

5195572
Do you really think the best books ever are all doorstoppers? Fame isn't everything. I mean people still read them and consider them the best, not someone like Hawthorne or Dickens who were considered great in their day but rather boring now.

Anyway, this has veered far off from the original point enough that I'm not interested in continuing the discussion.

5195587
I said almost all of them are doorstoppers, not all.

Anyway yeah, fair enough. Take care.

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 6

That's got to be a record, or close to it!

I was behind in saying it, but thanks for reviewing Diamond, amigo. It's cool seeing that you enjoyed it

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