• Member Since 25th Feb, 2013
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Titanium Dragon


TD writes and reviews pony fanfiction, and has a serious RariJack addiction. Send help and/or ponies.

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May
8th
2020

Read It Later Reviews #88 – Sharing the Night, Counting Crows, Proof of Concept, Applejack’s Hearts and Hooves Day Hullabaloo, Of Orchards and Obituaries · 3:48am May 8th

Seems like a good day for some reviews!

Today’s stories:

Sharing the Night by Cast-Iron Caryatid
Counting Crows by VashTheStampede
Proof of Concept by Estee
Applejack’s Hearts and Hooves Day Hullabaloo by Tumbleweed
Of Orchards and Obituaries by Tumbleweed


Sharing the Night
by Cast-Iron Caryatid

Adventure, Romance, Drama
234,498 words

Twilight becomes alicorn of the stars. This is sort of a problem, because Luna kind of already was alicorn of the stars. Oops!

Why I added it: It is one of the more famous stories I haven’t read yet.

Review
Sharing the Night is an epic Adventure/Romance story. Originally started back during season 2, Twilight ends up ascending to alicorn status as the alicorn of the stars, accidentally taking the stars from Luna in the process. This wounds Luna deeply – the stars had been her only company for her thousand years on the Moon, and Twilight was Luna’s only real friend in modern times. Twilight herself is unsure of how to deal with it – in truth, becoming an immortal alicorn like Celestia was a dream come true, but at the same time, the way she wounded Luna hurts.

So begins an epic tale involving the world before Discord, the origins of Equestria, giant dragons, dead gods, and Twilight and Luna trying to repair their bond – and, perhaps, forge something even stronger.

The trouble with a 235,000 word long story is that it is 47 5,000 word short stories long. That’s a lot of material to write, and a lot of material to make consistent and to pace out properly.

It’s hard in the best of times to make something that long work, but a story that was published over the source of six years, piecemeal?

Sadly, this story’s very long development time seems to have had a pretty negative effect on it, as the story ends up derailing itself pretty thoroughly about halfway through, though it only becomes obvious that it jumped the rails around two thirds of the way through.

The first half of the story is relatively slowly paced, but sets up a cosmology and a rather epic feel. As the story passes the halfway point, plot developments begin to occur faster and faster, and get wilder and wilder – and while the first one was reasonably exciting, the fact that they start piling up just makes it increasingly hard to invest in the developments, which don’t always feel like they follow from what has happened before. This is accompanied by Twilight Sparkle’s own behavior becoming increasingly erratic, as her nature as the alicorn of the stars makes her increasingly deteriorate mentally, which feels out of character but is literally a core part of the story so it can’t be – and yet, it still doesn’t feel very satisfying to read. Celestia’s own behavior and personality seems to shift over the course of the story, and I’m not quite sure if I buy the shift, especially as it seems to reverse itself… and then, not.

It doesn’t help that the core romantic plot of this – between Twilight and Luna – feels scattered. The first half of the story gradually develops it, but only very slowly, while the ultimate resolution to the romantic subplot feels kind of arbitrary. Celestia’s own behavior towards it seemed to be brewing towards a conflict that never ultimately ends up going anywhere with regards to Twilight and Luna, who remain totally ignorant of Celestia’s inner conflict, and instead goes to a really weird place.

This is all accompanied by the action, which had been getting increasingly epic and felt like it was reaching a crescendo, ramping up suddenly like someone attached it to a rocket, with the action and the complexity of the plot rising ridiculously fast. Twilight’s friends – who had been rather neglected for a good chunk of the story – end up being reincorporated and complicate the plot even more. And new characters – including an OC – end up cropping up and further mixing things up.

The result is that what had seemed like a promising story ends up turning into a jumbled mess by the end of it. While it tried to (mostly) resolve itself, the resolution felt frenetic and the new bond between Luna and Twilight didn’t feel particularly plausible given Luna’s own (frankly correct) worries about the situation. The story also ends up deliberately complicating itself at the end to create sequel hooks, as well as failing to really resolve anything about what Twilight did to her friends.

Recommendation: Not Recommended.


Counting Crows
by VashTheStampede

Romance, Slice of Life
2,979 words

In her longest and most thought-out and effort-filled setup yet, Rainbow Dash has the perfect prank set up for her friend Rarity. However, once the prank is in its execution, Rainbow Dash realizes perhaps the pony she was pranking wasn't Rarity just for one night, but herself for all these weeks of setup.

Why I added it: Paul Asaran said it was worth a look, and I am a shameless shipper. Plus, Mister Davey’s creepy Rarity shrine art has always amused me.

Review
Sadly, this story didn’t really do it for me. It was a very basic thing – Rainbow Dash sets up an elaborate creepy love shrine to Rarity as a prank, Rainbow Dash invites Rarity over to watch something with her (and makes her sit in the creepy love shrine), Rainbow Dash realizes that she likes Rarity being snuggled up with her in the middle of the movie…

While I am fond of the idea of “Rainbow Dash pulls a prank on someone and then realizes that she likes them”, as it sets up a nice bit of immediate conflict, this didn’t really feel like it landed all that well. I was expecting this to be a lot funnier than it actually was; instead, the story actually felt a bit morose, as Rainbow Dash went straight to “Oh, I screwed up” and while “Oh, I screwed up” can be a powerful emotion, it didn’t really feel like it had enough space to land here for me emotionally. It didn’t feel like there was enough foreshadowing of the underlying attraction, and I was expecting a bigger reaction out of both of the characters.

Recommendation: Not Recommended.


Proof of Concept
by Estee
Slice of Life
9,498 words

As rationales go, you shouldn't allow first-year Gifted School students to have a project fair for the same reason you don't test dynamite by kicking it into the nearest wall. But since everypony else has moved on, the current school staff decided to show Celestia just how they were going to repeat the same old mistake. Because while this day may host ideas waiting for their time to come, that time is not now.

No matter how much anypony wants it to be.

Why I added it: Estee is a good writer.

Review
Celestia, in her role as The Ruler of Equestria, has many duties, carries many burdens. One of those – and this is a voluntary one – is administering the School for Gifted Unicorns. Many brilliant minds come out of that school (along with many magical explosions). For, you see, magic is dangerous – and one of the major jobs of the staff is to try and corral students down productive paths and avoid them engaging in experiments which tend to have, shall we say, deleterious effects on themselves and the local environment.

Well, MOST of the staff anyway. But every century or so, memory (and the burn marks) fade, and old staff moves on, so someone new decides that it would be a good idea to try and teach students to be creative, and decides to have a Project Fair, where students try to come up with new works of magic.

This is that story.

Or is it?

The reality is that this story isn’t actually about the surface level at all; that’s a setup for what the story is really about – something that I saw coming from early on, because while the story of Celestia going around stopping a bunch of students from blowing themselves up at their project fair with their new magic seems cute, it also is kind of pointless. As such, I knew that there had to be another layer, and if you pay close attention, you see what is really going on.

As such, I liked it; the refrain of the story sets you up for the conclusion, where a single word suggests the rest of the story. Of course, the rest of the story isn’t there; it’s told by implication.

Thus, this feels more like the start of a story than a complete thing, and in some ways, it is; more of a prologue than a stand-alone piece, as it is dependent on context and knowledge of future events for the payoff.

But on the other hand, stuff like this is one of the things that fanfiction can do – set us up for something and then give us a pithy conclusion that is heaped with implication, as we know what is coming.

That being said, this does take over 9,000 words to get there, and not everyone is up for such things. If you are familiar with Estee’s writing, though, and don’t mind the somewhat meandering style of it, and the sort of semi-asides that serve not the immediate plot but general character of, well, characters, you’ll probably like this. If you’ve never read an Estee story before, this isn’t the one I’d start with, but it is definitely a reasonable piece.

Recommendation: Worth Reading.


Applejack’s Hearts and Hooves Day Hullabaloo
by Tumbleweed

Romance, Comedy, Applejack, Rarity
4,849 words

When Applejack forgets to get Rarity a present for Hearts and Hooves Day, she figures it can't be THAT hard to get something at the last minute.

Applejack is very, very wrong.

Why I added it: Tumbleweed is a good writer, and I am a shameless RariJack shipper.

Review
While this story is a sequel to I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (a story I’d highly recommend, incidentally), this is a stand-alone work that doesn’t require knowledge of the other story beyond establishing the idea that Rarity and Applejack are a thing.

This is a fun little piece. Applejack is a pony of habit, and has always had a schedule. When to plant, when to harvest, when to make cider, all of the important things.

All of the important farmer things.

The girlfriend things?

Those, she’s new to.

This is a fun framing device for the story, as the story uses Applejack’s certainty about how long it will take to do various things she’s familiar with sharply contrasted with the many, many ways in which her waiting until the very last minute has made everything go wrong. Indeed, this story has an excellent structure overall – it exploits the common structure of “pony goes to see their friends for help with their problems”, but then subverts it and avoids the common trap of having them have to go through all their friends. It uses a refrain to tie together the various sections of the story, with each of them starting out the same way before everything goes wrong, which is very fun, as we get to see things increasingly deteriorate as Applejack’s plans fall through time and time again.

The solid structure is backed up by strong dialogue. Discord’s brief appearance in the piece is a particular highlight. The other ponies who show up on screen all are solidly voiced as well, and we get to see their little insecurities and desires and personalities in the brief glimpses we see of them, reinforcing the idea that they are their own people while furthering the plot of the piece.

As a whole, this is a simple story, but it does a good job of making the audience smile and want to see how Applejack makes it work (or doesn’t). There’s nothing in here that hits the ball out of the park, but the solid structure and writing all combine to make it an enjoyable read.

Recommendation: Worth Reading.


Of Orchards and Obituaries
by Tumbleweed

Romance, Comedy, Sad
4,660 words

Tragedy hurts more when you know it's coming.

Why I added it: Tumbleweed is a good writer, and I am a shameless RariJack shipper.

Review
This is one of those stories that’s kind of tough to review because it isn’t about what you’d think it is about, but it also kind of is.

What this story is mostly is a glimpse inside Rarity and Applejack’s relationship, in all the proper silly pony ways, even when characters are upset.

I have to admit when I first read this story, it suckered me in the first chapter. But I have to say that as a whole, the piece is a bit flat – while it has like three tags, it really ends up reading mostly like a slice of life piece. It doesn’t have a conventional plot structure, and the high point of the piece is really in the first chapter. It doesn’t really have a climax – it has a hook and then a resolution. There’s some funny lines and some back and forth in it, some angst and some drama, and stuff happens, but in the end, it sort of gets resolved without really dragging me into another major emotional or comedic or whatever peak. And while that is realistic – and the art of the anticlimax is certainly a thing that Tumbleweed has embraced in a few of his stories – it wasn’t particularly gripping in its second half, even if it did amuse me a bit.

If you’re a fan of slice of life stuff and RariJack, and have enjoyed other stuff by Tumbleweed, this might be worth a read. But I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone else.

Recommendation: Not recommended.


Summary
Sharing the Night by Cast-Iron Caryatid
Not Recommended

Counting Crows by VashTheStampede
Not Recommended

Proof of Concept by Estee
Worth Reading

Applejack’s Hearts and Hooves Day Hullabaloo by Tumbleweed
Worth Reading

Of Orchards and Obituaries by Tumbleweed
Not Recommended

It’s nice doing these again. It feels productive.

I actually have another full review set ready to go, so expect that in a day or two.

Until then!

Number of stories still listed as Read It Sooner: 240

Number of stories still listed as Read It Later: 689

Number of stories listed as Read It Eventually: 2299

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Comments ( 7 )
PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I am mystified by the word "Hubabaloo". c.c Is it supposed to be "Hullabaloo"? Is this some oblique play on words?

Chris #2 · May 8th · · ·

I don't have anything in particular to say about the stories you reviewed this time, but I just thought I'd mention that it's nice seeing you doing reviews again.

I'm a bit sad that you didn't find Sharing the Night worth recommending - I loved it - but I can't really disagree with any of the points you made. It's a fair review.
Guess I just found it easy to forgive its shortcomings.

5258262
It's me typing something out instead of copy-pasting it initially, and then copy-pasting it despite my own misgivings repeatedly. It was indeed Hullabaloo. I someone intermingled it with the similar Hubbubalo and ended up with some strange amalgamation.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

5258279
Thanks! I'm glad to be doing it again. It's nice to read stories and think about them. I'd been doing much less of it during my absence, I'm afraid.

5258374
Some people are more forgiving of some issues than others, which is one of the major reasons for disparities between people's love of some works - a lot of works have flaws of various sorts, and the degree to which they bother people (and whether or not the person feels that other things out weigh the flaws) makes a big difference in how much people like them.

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