• Member Since 16th May, 2013
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Technical Writer from the U.S.A.'s Deep South. Writes horsewords, and reviews both independently and for Seattle's Angels. New reviews posted every Thursday! Writing Motto: "Go Big or Go Home!"

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  • 6 days
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXI

    My preliminary editing of the original fiction version of Guppy Love is all but finished! Soon I will have the entire story stored in GDocs and ready for prereading, which means it’s about time I started really looking for prereaders. I intend to ask the prereaders of the MLP version to come back to evaluate the changes, but I’d like to get a few others to offer a fresh perspective. I’m

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    16 comments · 271 views
  • 1 week
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCX

    Howdy, folks. I’m afraid I don’t have much to report this week. Well, other than the very real possibility of maintaining 2,000 words/day of writing this month. Feels like I haven’t pulled something like that off in ages. Pays that I’m finally cutting down on the video games again. It comes in phases.

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    4 comments · 310 views
  • 2 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCIX

    The past week has been one of highs and lows. The brief crash has led to me being two days behind on my reading schedule. The good news is that I’ve got a Vacation Week coming up in a couple weeks that I can use to easily make up the lost time. The bad news is that my current major reading project was scheduled to be finished the day before its review gets published, so I’ve no choice but to

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    7 comments · 351 views
  • 3 weeks
    Charity Stream!

    I usually save these kinds of things for my main review blog, but this one's time sensitive, so: my old friend Cerulean Voice is hosting a charity stream! Head here to get the details.

    0 comments · 76 views

Paul's Thursday Reviews CCVII · 8:23pm May 28th

Welcome back, folks. Today I have a question for all of you.

My cousin recently – as in the past few months – started his own YouTube channel, focused entirely on managing money and getting ahead in life financially. He’s only producing a video a week, but seems to enjoy it. He thinks that I, who already have a virtual presence here and who loves what he does, would be good at doing the same kind of thing. Of course, a big presence on FIMfiction is a microscopic presence on YouTube, but it’s more of a start than he had. And in truth, I’m still way ahead of him.

I’m wondering if he isn’t right. I’ve long stated that my end goal has been to start my own independent blog. What if instead of creating my own site for review blogging, I started a YouTube review channel? Would people have any interest at all in that? This likely wouldn’t happen until I was in my own house rather than an apartment or I had my review slate cut down significantly (a few months for the former, maybe another year for the latter), and it would have more than just FIMFiction reviews. Indeed, if the site did well I could see myself making multiple video groups involving reviews of MLP fanfiction, reviews of original stories, and reviews of other, miscellaneous things like movies and video games. I could even have a fourth list dedicated to video-ifying the reviews created before the YouTube channel existed.

Point is, there’s a lot of potential material for what I do. I just don’t know if there’s enough interest to warrant doing it in the first place.

So what do you guys think? Would a PaulAsaran Review Channel on YouTube mean anything to you, or should I stick to plain ol’ horsewords?

And now we need to get to the reviews. This is a big one, folks, as it’s the second one to feature nothing but 70k+ stories. This one was also a lot harder on me, because I made a mistake in the overarching schedule and didn’t allot myself enough time to read it all normally. Had to read on my break and vacation. The horror! Heck, three of them didn’t get reviewed until yesterday, and I’m never that close to prime time with these things. But hey, it’s here, so let’s see what’s come of it, shall we?


Stories for This Week:

Flash Fog by Kwakerjak
Converted by Shaded Changeling
Scale by Trixe
The Colour You Bleed by Kegisak
Sophistication and Betrayal by Drefsab
Sunset Shimmer is MAD about EVERYTHING by Justice3442
To Serve In Hell by CoffeeMinion
The Freeport Venture by Chengar Qordath
The Mark of Eran by Tofazz
Evening Flames by Nicknack

Total Word Count: 1,490,290

Rating System

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

Flash Fog

127,920 Words
By Kwakerjak

[...]if the data ends up supporting your idea as well as it appears to, it shows that you have a really intuitive grasp of how unpredictable magic works. In fact, if Discord ever shows his face around here again, it might be a better idea to put you in charge.”

“Okay, now you’re just being silly.”

And here you have the entire reason this story exists.

But seriously. Flash Fog, released between Seasons 2 and 3, reveals that Fluttershy took a correspondence course to become a fog specialist. She did this only because she found she could use the credentials to write off some of her tax burden. One day, a Cloudsdale factory producing advanced, construction-grade fog suffers a major accident. Now this fog, exceptionally dangerous to pegasi but not safe for unicorns and earth ponies either, is on a course for Ponyville. Being the only certified fog specialist available in the region, the Department of Weather dumps the responsibility of dealing with the disaster in Fluttershy’s hooves. She is far from okay with this.

This story is a curious one, with winding threads of plot that try to meet at the end with a peculiar conclusion. We’ve got Fluttershy struggling to take control of both the situation and her fears, with all her friends trying to encourage her. We’ve got Lyra and Bon Bon vehemently arguing over the nature of humans and, in particular, human involvement with the fog. The Cutie Mark Crusaders are determined to get their cutie marks via human-catching. And OC Pencil Pusher, a Department of Weather bureaucrat, is fighting tooth and hoof to get past the red tape both for Fluttershy and maybe, if he’s lucky, getting a date with her. Oh, and Rarity, Rainbow dash, Twilight,and Spike all getting involved in a game of “who does and doesn’t have a crush on Pencil Pusher”. Simply put,there’s a lot going on with this story.

If I had to pin down any one theme for this story, it’s that bureaucracies exist to prevent solutions. Without Pencil Pusher, a humble but capable expert at everything red tape (it’s literally his special talent), Fluttershy’s efforts never would have gotten off the ground. It’s a subject Kwakerjak makes great use of, putting forward the faces of personalities those of us in government of big business all know and loathe. I rather enjoyed that bit.

For those of you scared of or annoyed by the whole Pencil Pusher romance thing, don’t be. It’s really a case of Rarity taking her trashy romance novels too literally and wearing shipping goggles. It’s not that every mare is crushing on Pencil Pusher, it’s that every mare thinks every other mare is crushing on Pencil Pusher. This story is by no means a romance, and only uses the topic as a bit of side-humor that gets settled with great efficiency thanks to everyone’s favorite Apple Horse (because who else?).

The CMC are the questionable bit to me. Kwakerjak devotes a lot of time to having these three building a human trap and ignoring the situation developing all around them. The climax of their story is indeed interesting and important, but I don’t know that the author needed to devote that much space to explaining how they got there in the first place. I suppose it works as a humorous side-element to the overarching plot, but then we’ve got Pencil Pusher’s inept boss, Rarity’s shipping goggles, and Lyra and Bon-Bon’s human-centric arguments all contributing to that element.

Speaking of the latter, this is the first story I’ve seen in which Bon-Bon is totally in agreement with Lyra’s claims of humans being real. It was an interesting switch, especially considering the age of the story. I liked that aspect, even if the whole thing felt a bit over-the-top.

But the most important aspect in all of this is Fluttershy and her growth. Despite the copious distractions, this was handled well. We get to watch as our favorite shy pony gradually, with each new decision and disaster, develops into a capable leader and decision-maker. She really shines in this story, from her initial terror at having to be responsible for so much to an end where she can take command of whatever life throws at her. I dare say that by the conclusion I was proud of her.

The ending was… I’m not sure. It feels extremely anticlimactic. We’re in the middle of everything going on and we’ve got one victory but still have a number of issues and the fog problem isn’t over yet and oh wait it’s the epilogue which summarizes the conclusion. Wait, what? There was so much more to do! The conclusion of the Lyra/Bon-Bon argument, the fate of Pencil Pusher’s incompetent boss, the corrupt journalist’s investigation, the CMC facing their sisters’ wrath, heck, the conclusion of the disaster the entire story is supposed to be about! All of it gets swept under the rug of summary as if, somehow, the author thinks we don’t want to see them directly. It’s almost like Kwakerjak was tired of writing the story and decided to end it early.

Even so, I came away generally pleased. There’s great character growth, a strong balance between humor and seriousness (though it leans precariously towards humor-over-plot at times), and most of the individual plot threads weave together nicely at the end, even if that end is in the form of a summarizing epilogue. If nothing else, the story is endearing, with strong character awareness and a pacing that never gets too slow or dull.

I’m glad I gave this one a go. I can see no reason not to recommend it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:

Shade used to be a dragon. Now he’s a changeling. And he’s stuck in the invasion against Canterlot after having only been a changeling for a few hours. Yeah, he has no idea what’s going on.

I’ve always been my headcanon that changeling pods can be used to forcibly convert ponies to changelings. It’s a horrific concept that entertains my fondness for dark tales. This story takes it a step further by having Chrysalis convert a dragon to a changeling.

But when I say ‘dragon’, it’s a nebulous thing to specify. We all like to think we know what a dragon is, but I’m not sure Shaded Changeling has the same idea. At no point are the dragons in this story given any sense of scale, but there’s significant indications that there isn’t a single one larger than, say, Ember. Which is odd and distracting, because we know that there are massive, building-sized dragons out there, but as far as this story is concerned you’d think they don’t exist. Are these some sort of hybrid variety that never gets big?

This is a small but important piece to the overarching story, and its mishandling is indicative of how Shaded Changeling works the majority of the tale. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The story starts off fairly interesting. We’ve got a random dragon turned into a changeling and thrust into the chaos of the Canterlot Invasion. Realizing he wants no part in this, he ends up rescuing a foal before getting launched into the Everfree with said foal by the Love Bomb™. We then get to watch as our confused ex-dragon ex-warrior tries to figure out his new body, regain his memories, and bring a filly home. This all works great and flows nicely in general.

Then we’re seeing random flashbacks of ancient battles against centaurs and Discord for no real reason, Discord’s talking in his mind and whoop nevermind he’s gone from the story forever and now there’s a changeling general with a pathetically petty revenge motive and let’s introduce four new changeling queens and unnecessary flashbacks to a past that don’t matter and let’s make Shade an incredibly skilled warrior and mage out of nowhere and let’s add a second filly and some time in prison and some time in a hospital and let’s make friends with all the Mane 6 and…

Point is, the story spirals out of control. Shaded Changeling had a good, effective story idea and then let the plot threads splash all over the room. Many don’t go anywhere, like the Discord bit and the completely pointless flashback to a battle that our protagonist has no relation to as it happened before he was even born. The story had so much going for it, but then the author had to epic-ify it, and I get the impression they didn’t think that idea through. It got especially eye-rolling when Shade defied the laws of physics by continuing to be a badass despite such significant injuries as broken legs and ribs and suffering magical exhaustion. Repeatedly. What am I supposed to be reading, DragonBall Z?

A lot of the decisions seem to have been made for one of two reasons: either to keep the story going beyond its due date, or to make it “super l33t awesomely epic!!1!”. I am not entertained.

All of this is a shame, because I am seeing plenty of evidence that Shaded Changeling has the talent to make a smooth, well-contained story, and an interesting one at that. They certainly make some mistakes – that fake out death in the next-to-last chapter was notably amateur – but there’s a definite sense of setting, mood, transitioning, and short-term flow. When Shaded Changeling isn’t misstepping with attempts at cool-ifying things (Rays in the final battle? Really?), their scene-to-scene material is great. You could probably pick any random moment in this story and think you’re seeing something worthwhile, but try putting it all together as a single entity and it falls apart like a house of cards.

Not helping matters is how the author struggles with grammar, particularly punctuation and capitalization. I’m not sure if Shaded Changeling understands how periods and commas work. There are also random words with the first letter capitalized for no apparent reason. Repetition is also a significant problem, not to mention a direct narrative style that fails to be engrossing.

But again, the storytelling talent exists. I can see it through the layers of issues. Shaded Changeling needs some practice and some strong editors/pre-readers. If they can keep their stories from being so anime-esque over-the-top, narrow the overarching plot focus, and refine their writing, we could get some great things from this author down the line.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


70,557 Words
By Trixe

Actually, this was written by shortskirtsandexplosions, but I finished reading it while he was still doing his April Fools gimmick, and I see no reason to correct the epic stupidity.

In this peculiar story, skirts once again demonstrates a relentless need for epicness. Miraculously, he manages to pull this off without making it a 1,000,000-word marathon. The story stars Daring Do as she travels east across a myriad of nonsensical landscapes solving strange puzzles and battling mighty foes for some nebulous, unknowable purpose.

The story runs much like the beginning of Austraeoh, in that it involved a single, silent protagonist exploring epic vistas. Unlike Austraeoh, it never moves beyond that phase. Daring says maybe three words in the entire story, allowing the narrative alone to tell of all that happens around her. Told in a series of arcs, most two chapters long, the story alternates between two regular phases: scenery porn and solving puzzles or battling great foes. More often than not, the puzzles and the fighting are happening simultaneously. If it’s not battling powerful enemies while puzzle solving, it’s dealing with some sort of environmental hazard, such as flooding passages or climbing up impossibly tall towers. While puzzle solving.

The scenery porn sometimes feels a little longer than necessary, particularly in the early chapters. When the epicness hits though, it’s easy to forgive. Giant machines of death, living jungles, boiling steam traps, skirts pulls no punches, with every new threat or puzzle just as creative and challenging as the last. If you’re into watching a pony be awesome… Well, we all know skirts excels at that kind of thing.

Along the way, we have the mystery of it all. Where is Daring going? What drives her to journey east with such steadfast determination? Why does she never seem to need to eat or drink (amusingly, the story pointed this out in the same chapter that I first noticed it)? Is she in a dream, or suffering a massive hallucination? Has she been cursed? What’s with the books? Why is it all her minor injuries seem to disappear as soon as the threat has passed?

Tons of questions. Unlike a lot of skirts’ stories, this one gives us answers. Some, at least. The ending doesn’t resolve all our curiosities, but it is an unquestionably satisfying conclusion.

skirts continues to demonstrate a talent for epics and a willingness to deliver on them. If you’re looking for vast, richly described vistas, action-packed pony-vs-nature showdowns, a baffling mystery, or just really like Daring Do, this is the story for you. It may also serve as an alternative to some of this author’s more massive works, giving you the same grandness without the daunting word count.

Bookshelf: Why haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Hello, SednaWHYRTY?
Background PonyPretty Good
Because Ponies Are the Size of Cats and They Love to CuddlePretty Good
Everypony Cuddles, SometimesPretty Good

Equestria is holding a summit with its neighbors, most notably it’s largest and most powerful rival, Aloa. Blueblood has little concern about this, even knowing that he’s supposed to be one of Equestria’s major delegates. His concern grows significantly, though, after a group of Aloan soldiers kidnaps him. Things are about to get a lot more dangerous for our spoiled princling, and he’ll have to either grow up quick or lose his head.

“Blueblood reforms” stories are a dime a dozen. We all know what they’re about and, generally speaking, how they go about it. An author thus has to bring their A-game if they want to write one of these and make it stick. What drew me to this one is the lack of any Mane 6-related character tags, suggesting that for once Blueblood would be doing this without the help of some previously established presence. I’ve read a few of these stories before, but never one without a member of the Mane 6 – usually Rarity – being there to act as a positive influence.

In Kegisak’s rendition, Blueblood’s transformation is a painful one, with immediate effects. Most notable of these is the removal of his horn (as the cover art makes clear), which one might argue is symbolic in its own right. We get to watch as he struggles and fails horribly to make his own way after escaping his kidnappers, getting repeatedly slapped (or sometimes outright bucked) in the face by his own ignorance. It’s only after Blueblood gets ‘taken in’, so to speak, by the unicorn White Brook that things turn around.

I feel like Kegisak did a lot of things well here. Blueblood’s changes don’t come about because someone nice hangs around him long enough to influence him. Rather, this time we get to see the old Blueblood ripped apart to his most basic elements and put back together again as a wholly new individual. It’s very effective and I have nothing but praise for the method chosen.

It comes with a few pleasant side-elements, as well. We’ve got Blueblood’s mother going all Mama Bear on the matter (although I regret we didn’t see more of good ol’ Rowan Oak). There’s Celestia outright preparing for war over her missing nephew after exhausting diplomatic methods. There’s Luna being sneaky and helping in ways her sister won’t try — or, perhaps because of her position, can’t. There’s worldbuilding and history, particularly in relation to Aloa where most of the story is set. There’s even charming seaponies, who came out of nowhere but are a very happy inclusion. Kinda sad we didn’t get to hear anything about that in the epilogue. Still, it’s quite the thorough package we’re getting out of this story considering it’s length.

Ah, but there are a few issues. There’s the villain, who is single-minded and, at least in terms of character, not interesting at all. Oh, he makes for a great constantly looming threat and challenge, but outside of being the obligatory villain of the piece he’s not much to look at. Also odd is exactly how he is defeated, which I found preposterous given everything the story had given us regarding Blueblood’s development up to that point.

There’s also some directorial/stylistic issues. The most notable of these is how Kegisak fails to provide any formatting indication of thoughts VS narrative. On the rare occasion that Blueblood’s direct thoughts are shown, they are in the same format as the narrative and dialogue, which creates an extreme clash. These moments threw me out of the story every time.

Even so, I am pleased with this story. It’s a great piece of Blueblood redemption material, coupled with (mostly) interesting characters, a look at the world outside Equestria, and a curious perspective of the different approaches Celestia and Luna take to solving problems. I can think of no reason not to recommend it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The Secrets of Bitmore TheaterPretty Good

Once “you” were in the army, helping out with some top secret navy experiments. Yeah, an army guy helping the navy. Who knew? Then things went wrong, and you found yourself in Equestria and barely clinging to life. How lucky that you were discovered by a white unicorn named Rarity.

Looking at the title and the cover art, I was hoping this would be another “Rarity isn’t what she seems” type of story, like All About Rarity or The Secret Life of Rarity. In this, I was disappointed. Yet not all is lost, as what I discovered was certainly interesting in its own right. It is essentially a Second Person story about “you’re” long romance with Rarity. Normally, I’d be rolling my eyes at the very idea. I still do. I love Rarity as much if not more so than the next guy or gal, but I have zero interest in reading about myself being her beau. There’s a line between fantasy and reality, and I’ve never been one to let it blur.

Even so, Drefsab does a lot of things right with this. For one, while the romance between “you” and Rarity is the overarching point of the story, it isn’t the only one. We’ve got an old friend of Rarity’s appearing after years of separation to try and ruin her. We’ve got a violent, obsessed stalker to deal with. There’s a love triangle with Fluttershy muddling things up. There’s Rarity’s ongoing business needs. The author gave us tangential, if related, elements, and that’s easily the best thing they could have done for the story. One of the most important things an author can do for a longer story such as this is make sure there are subplots to enliven things. For a romance this is especially valid, for it allows people who aren’t as invested in romance in general to find something else that keeps them reading.

Better yet, Drefsab doesn’t neglect the different plots, managing to finish practically all of them. There are few things so annoying as incomplete tangents. Adding on to this is that Drefsab also managed to keep the number of tangents to a reasonable size; enough to make things more interesting, but not so many that they overwhelm the primary plot of the story. That’s a trap I see a lot of authors fall into *coughGreenhack* and it’s great to see it avoided here.

I also must give credit to Drefsab’s character awareness. Despite this having been written way back in 2012, Rarity is so well understood by the author that even today she is instantly recognizable. Her flaws, her interests, her dramatics, her approach to solving problems, they are all perfectly in-character, which is a wonderful feat considering the story’s age. The other players are also nicely done, be it Applejack or Twilight or (and perhaps especially) Fluttershy. The only thing that might make you stumble is that the names of some uncommon characters (like Rarity’s parents) are wrong. Given I don’t think they had official names at the time of writing, we can let this slide.

Then there’s the fact that Drefsab didn’t limit the story to known, canon characters. OCs are all over the place, from villains to friends, and they are given more than enough attention to appear as prominent, valuable individuals to the plot. The standout, of course, is Cashmere, who is always a character regardless of whether she’s acting as the villain or the friend at the given moment. Whether she’s a likeable individual will be up to individual interpretation, but the author wins regardless by creating a character that is far more complicated and nuanced than she appears at first.

There are, of course, some stumbles. For example, Drefsab seems to think that every couple, especially the married ones, all behave in exactly the same way. Be it Rarity’s parents, “you’re” boss and his wife, or the couple with a vineyard up on a mountain. If they’re a couple, they will behave in one. Way. Only. Rarity and “you” are not immune to this treatment.

There’s also the almost complete neglect of poor Spike, who you would think would have a bigger role in a story in which he’s losing his crush forever to an ugly human. But no, as soon as you’re up to living with Rarity he completely disappears from the story. Heck, he doesn’t even get to appear at the wedding! While I perfectly understand that Drefsab had enough tangential plotlines going on for one story, I feel that Spike deserved more than to be brushed aside like this.

There’s also the overpristine nature of romance. Oh, yes, “you” and Rarity have a fight or two, some of them serious, but the vast majority of the scenes relating to the relationship imagines a ‘perfect’ pair. This is made all the more annoying by how the two protagonists regularly and consistently compliment one another in repetitive ways and talk about how special and important and in love they are and blah blah blah, gag me. Look, I’m a romantic. I always will be. But I’m also a writer. There’s a time and a place for this kind of thing, and that time and place is not “every other day of the week for no reason other than we can.” Save these kinds of moments for when they matter, author. Doing it this much deadens the emotional value of it.

This goes double for the sex. Seriously, “you” and Rarity go at it like rabbits. In Drefsab’s defence, they’re clearly in that exciting phase of the relationship where they can’t get enough of one another, and the sex scenes are very tame. Clop this is not, and that’s good. The problem is that these scenes don’t add anything to the story. There’s no problems being solved, there’s no higher meaning involved. It’s just “you” and Rarity having sex because they’re feeling frisky. If that’s all this is, just allude to it and move on. Are we doing this because it’s Second Person narration and the sex is supposed to be some sort of shallow reward to the reader? Because if so I am even less impressed by what the author assumes about the audience. Luckily, Drefsab does start skipping past these scenes in the later half of the story, but it doesn’t make the first few times any less annoying.

Now we get to what I feel is the biggest topic of Sophistication and Betrayal, one I’ve been alluding to from the beginning. I’ve long established my disapproval of Second Person narration in stories, the primary complaint being that “you” will never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, be the reader. That being said, Second Person does have its purpose and value when used in certain ways, such as making the “you” character be a mystery of identity. Or, as is more commonly the case, letting the reader fantasize about being in a specific scenario, even if the author can’t adequately connect the reader and “you”. Things like, say, being in a romantic relationship with Fashion Horse. I’m willing to acknowledge that this is the entire reason behind the story and the choice of narrative style.

But it strikes me that Sophistication and Betrayal is a case study of the pitfalls to the style itself. The inherent necessity of Second Person narration is anonymity. “You” can never be named, or else it isn’t really “you” anymore. And the number of specifics that might identify “you” as an individual have to be kept at a bare minimum in order for the illusion to remain as strong as it can be. This can be tricky when we’re dealing with 2,500-word short stories that achieve a quick scene or two. Imagine having to do it for ~370,000 words!

Drefsab doesn’t. As the story goes on for longer and longer, the author was forced to add more personal information in. It was necessary in order to make “you” a rounded character with a personality that Rarity could actually have a relationship with. Before you know it, “you” have a specified family back on Earth, with a working single mother and some siblings. The gap between you and “you” gets wider.

Now you’ve got a temper and a protective streak. Even wider.

Now you’re making decisions on how to address a potential three-way relationship with Fluttershy. Wider still.

Now you have specific reactions to your work crew’s foul-mouthed back-and-forth shit-talking, and also to the more proper behavior of the new unicorn worker. That gap’s getting pretty wide.

Every decision “you” make, every change in the events that affect “you”, brings “you” farther and farther away from who you are as the reader. It gets to the point where you have to wonder if there’s any point in pretending anymore. This isn’t you, it’s a character Drefsab created from whole cloth who reacts to things in entirely different ways than you would. Might as well give him a proper name and start writing the story in third person.

I’m not saying this to dump on Second Person narration. I’m proposing that the longer a story is, the less viable Second Person is as a narrative option. For a character as fundamentally important to the overarching plot as “you” are in a story this big, it becomes impossible to write a good story without making them into a proper character unto themself. Drefsab, whether consciously or not, recognized this and turned “you” into an individual, which simultaneously ruined the whole point of Second Person narration: that the protagonist is the reader. It was absolutely the best decision for the story as a whole, but it begs the question: should Drefsab have chosen Second Person as the narrative style in the first place? With that in mind, does Second Person have a place in longer stories at all?

I’m not here to present an answer. I only want to make you aware that the question exists. And it’s in highlighting the question that I am most appreciative of Sophistication and Betrayal. Because it is a good story. It has its issues, but Drefsab manages to work through them and keep things interesting enough that I’m more than willing to recommend it. That this happened in a story using Second Person narration is impressive in its own right.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
How the Foundation Ruined Nightmare NightWHYRTY?

When Princess Twilight mentions offhand that she has a new student in Starlight Glimmer, Sunset Shimmer offers to help teach her. This would be a lot easier if anything in Equestria made the slightest bit of sense, Starlight wasn’t regularly slipping into acts of wanton destruction, and Sunset wasn’t the worst case of anger management in existence.

To be clear,  this story is borderline crackfic; crazy and at times downright stupid, but it has a clear, linear plot and does make sense within its own setting, so it’s not actually crackfic. You just have to go in knowing what’s coming. Which is a retelling of the Season 6 premier, only with Sunset present and the craziness cranked up to eleven ...hundred.

We’ve got epic lasers, Celestia and Luna hiding in broom closets, raging storms turning into falling glaciers, Pinkie freaking out because of baby facehuggers, Sunset wanting Shining Armor to put an OP baby in her, and enough all-caps screaming to fool thousands of ignorant, starry-eyed, amateur authors into thinking it’s actually a good idea. Characters will behave OOC, blatant mistakes of the canon episode will be highlighted and mocked, and maybe – just maybe – a lesson or two will be learned.

If you can roll with it, it’s a lot of fun. I would compare it best to Bucking Nonsense’s Who Is This Lord TirekYou Speak Of?, only less sane. I give credit to the author for somehow managing to fit in poignant moments amidst the crazy and providing us with a largely satisfying conclusion, nonsensical final cameos aside.

Normally, these kind of stories aren’t my ‘thing’. But every once in a while, someone manages to blend just the right amount of whacky with just the right amount of logic to make it work, and I think this qualifies. That it ends up not being an exact retelling of the Season 6 premiere only makes it better.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The One Where Pinkie Gets EvenPretty Good
Forward AlwaysWorth It
The SweetieMash ChroniclesWorth It

To Serve In Hell

101,424 Words
By CoffeeMinion
Requested by CoffeeMinion

This story is set in the Nightmare Timeline seen in The Cutie Re-Mark: the Rainboom never happened, Nightmare Moon defeated Celestia, and Equestria exists under the spectre of Eternal Night. We begin immediately after Princess Twilight escapes back through the timestream. A furious Nightmare Moon, thinking Twilight merely fled into the wilderness, musters her forces to give chase, giving Rarity and Rainbow Dash a much-needed opportunity to relax and see to their own needs. At least, it would, if the overseer (really more like an inquisitor) Sassy Saddles hadn’t just found evidence that Rarity may be guilty of treason.

You may be hoping for an epic adventure in which Rarity and Rainbow Dash flee into the night seeking a means of defeating the Nightmare once and for all. Instead, CoffeeMinion focuses this one on political intrigue and wheels within wheels. We have Sassy Saddles’ continuous efforts to prove Rarity’s guilt and uncovering more and more treason with her every encounter. We have Rainbow Dash feeling like a failure of a friend even as she struggles to save the one pony who she might get a second chance with. And most importantly, we’ve got a Rarity stumbling in the dark from lead to lead, trying to piece together the frayed, fragile threads of disparate and antagonized frenemies in a desperate bid both to not literally lose her head and maybe, if she has any luck at all, forge a real yet slim chance of ending the nightmare Equestria has found itself in. Oh, and let’s not forget the psychopathic Cheese Sandwich shadowing her every move with promises of hope while simultaneously slaughtering ponies with impunity.

What? Spoilers? Sure, it might be… if CoffeeMinion hadn’t slapped his name tag on top of the story. Really, it’s pretty obvious who the ‘shadowy figure’ really is more or less from the very first meeting. If you don’t know it’s Cheese, you’re either not paying attention or need to really develop your reading comprehension skills.

I’m pretty sure CoffeeMinion wasn’t trying to hide these things anyway, despite Cheese’s dramatic (to grossly understate the matter) reveal. Other things are also pretty clear early on. For instance, the identity of the Guardian of Tartarus, who I identified almost immediately, or that of the mysterious third party’s leader that was clearly trying to run things in the background.

Or maybe it isn’t obvious to most people. It could be that CoffeeMinion and I merely think a lot alike in these matters. It’s because of this I’m not spoiling those other identities; Cheese’s name is, again, slapped atop the description, so it’s as obvious as can be, but I can see others maybe not getting the rest despite the clues being practically thrown in their face. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s to not trust in readers to see even the most blatant of hints.

Point is, in a lot of ways this story is predictable, at least in terms of the different players and their roles. This might normally be considered a bad thing, but it’s easily balanced out by certain things that are wholly unpredictable: the consequences of all that is happening. Let’s be clear, this isn’t a happy-go-lucky story in which a bunch of friends get together over grim circumstances and use magical rainbows to end the day and we’re all living happily ever after. Characters will die in this story, sometimes in terrible ways. Some of those deaths shocked me (particularly the decapitation, which left me in a sickened state for a while – not due to the what, but the who). Others might live but will suffer horrible tortures.

And then we get that ending. I suppose some would call it ‘bittersweet’. Personally, I couldn’t find any ‘sweet’ in it, only ‘bitter’. I did not leave the story happy, not even remotely. However, that is almost certainly a result of my character biases and how some ponies (my ponies, specifically) got the short, pointy, poisoned end of the stick. There’s still some ‘sweet’ in there for other characters and for Equestria on the whole, even if I have grave doubts regarding the new ruler’s ability to keep things that way.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of the story is how complete its setting feels. CoffeeMinion went through great pains to fully flesh out the Nightmareverse and give us a window – if only briefly – into what has been going on there. How was Celestia defeated? Where did the thestrals we see in the show come from? What happened to Canterlot? Where’s Twilight Sparkle? This story is set at the same time as Season 6’s finale, so what happened to the coming of Discord or Sombra or Chrysalis or Tirek? Why didn’t Fluttershy, Applejack, or Pinkie Pie appear in this timeline? How are ponies growing food in a world of eternal night?

Yes, these questions and more are answered. Sometimes vaguely, sometimes clearly, but they are answered, and in ways that make the reveals feel natural instead of as distracting tangents to the central story. I am thoroughly impressed by CoffeeMinion’s attention to detail in this regard. Even better, many of these concepts and solutions are brought up in ways that only grant a small look at the possibilities, leaving huge openings for potential exploration of the universe that each have their own unique capacity for fascination and storytelling. In the end, there’s really only one major question that got left out, and that involves a certain small lizard who is mysteriously absent from the side of a certain perky purple protagonist. An oversight, or a subtle statement? I suppose only CoffeeMinion knows.

I could keep going, but I don’t want this review to go on forever, so let’s summarize a few things. To Serve In Hell is a story with powerful worldbuilding, character growth, and relationship development coupled together with a grim and gritty Equestria and continuously evolving stakes. The title is meaningful in so many ways, from the personal struggles of our characters to the final results of the long conflict. It capitalizes on the setting rather than the star: in a world where Nightmare Moon is the biggest constant threat, we get shockingly few appearances of her. The villain in this story is the world itself and what it has done to our beloved characters, and the end result is a deeper and more effective story.

This story is bloody, constantly twisting in new directions, and endlessly fascinating. As unhappy as I am with the conclusion (for entirely biased and subjective reasons), I can’t deny that CoffeMinion has created an excellent, epic tale for us, and I absolutely recommend it. Fans of worldbuilding, or darker stories, or political intrigue, or mysteries, or simply Rarity and/or Rainbow Dash? Dive in.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
A Dinky Little ProblemPretty Good
Baby Limestone Rides to WarPretty Good
Heavy RockPretty Good
Results May VaryPretty Good
Love, Or Something Like ItWorth It

A Moment in the Sun showed us a reimagining of Sunset Shimmer’s downfall, this time with her leaving Celestia and Canterlot behind on hoof rather than by mirror. This story begins months later, with Sunset hopping aboard a ship to the island nation of Freeport. Why Freeport? No particular reason other than it’s “not Equestria”. She had no idea that this decision was going to have a significant impact on her future.

This was an interesting read. Here we have a Sunset who misses her home and her teacher, but is filled with a stubborn teenage pride that refuses to let her acknowledge even the possibility that her running away was a mistake. That accompanied by her arrogance is a recipe for disaster. Before long we’re dealing with Equestrian spies, Freeport changeling ‘fixers’, ruthless pirates, dark magic, and hostage negotiations in mausoleums. Sunset goes through a lot in this story.

She is, appropriately, the star of the show with her continuous character growth. She begins learning from her mistakes and, by the end of the story, is a much more ‘aware’ pony. I say ‘aware’, but not ‘mature’. She remains the arrogant, self-centered, easily-riled teenager from beginning to end, though to her credit she does learn to stop letting her anger rule her decisions. It’s especially telling that by the end of the story she’s still wholeheartedly convinced that her destiny is to be an alicorn ruling by Celestia’s side.

Even more so is her arrogance towards a certain changeling. There’s a scene very late in the story when Sunset faces down a potential ally and tells him point-blank “tell me everything about that deal, and if you leave anything out I’m canceling our agreement.” She says a lot of ridiculous, if not outright dumb, things in this story, but that one really demonstrated her arrogance. This is a character who is a professional sneak, who has demonstrated time and again his superior capacity for crafting a convincing lie through his teeth, and she just assumes that she can detect his deception off the bat. It’s total nonsense, and yet it doesn’t even occur to her that she has no way to prove or disprove anything he might answer with. She’ll simply know, because she’s Sunset Shimmer. And this is practically the end of the story! While Sunset has clearly grown in many ways, she’s got a long way to go.

This was a curious decision on the author’s part, but one I strongly approve of. Sunset is flawed, she remains flawed, and this gives Chengar a lot of room to continue things.

Sunset isn’t the only interesting character. We’ve got Puzzle, whose loyalties seem to only go one direction, and Kukri, a child who develops a fascination with all things ‘Sunset’. The stealer of every scene for me, however, was Strumming, the Equestrian spy who was always immensely entertaining to watch. Sunset constantly views her with extreme negativity, but to me she was the most fun character in the story. And given the end results, I have every reason to hope and expect to see more of her in the future.

In a sense, this is largely the classic story of a selfish teenager running away from home and getting in way over her head. Yet it is handled wonderfully, with ever-increasing stakes and a very real central character. Watching Sunset face new challenges she’s woefully unprepared for and somehow still coming out on top is a treat every time. I can’t say that this Sunset is the most likeable of protagonists, but she is certainly a relatable one, and I look forward to future stories that may help her grow to be a proper, responsible mare. It’s only a shame she decided to do it in what may be the least intelligent way. Stupid teenager emotions.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
A Moment in the SunWHYRTY?

In A Faded Touch of Blue, we met the Saddle Arabian pegasus Moxie as she unhappily prepared to go through with her arranged wedding to Athaal Ghazath. She’d rebelled once, fleeing to Canterlot in the hopes of experiencing more of the world before her freedom was lost forever to a misogynistic culture. There she met Trixie Lulamoon, and the repercussions of that wild night had a profound impact on her.

Now Moxie is happily married to Athaal, who turns out to be quite the loving and doting husband with very liberal views for a Saddle Arabian noble. More than that, she’s pregnant with their first child. Their happiness is hindered, however, when it is found that Moxie has a fatal illness, one that once nearly wiped out Saddle Arabia. The sickness will kill her soon, and their only hope is to find a rare ingredient across dangerous enemy territory. Athaal will do anything to save his wife and child… even if it means defying the nation he has been loyal to his entire life.

This ended up being an unexpected, powerful story about a couple and their few allies struggling against the Saddle Arabian wilds. From giant lizard creatures to the harsh elements to traitorous comrades, they have a lot to deal with. This is only made harder when Trixie Lulamoon gets thrown into the mix, her brash manner glaring against the misogynistic culture of the Saddle Arabians.

Two things stand out to me. The first is how good Tofazz is at endearing characters to us. By only three or four chapters in, I was deeply committed to the fate of Moxie and Athaal, as well as the priest Rishad and the bodyguard Saif. I felt like I had known them for ages. It’s a feature worthy of praise, and it continues strong all the way to the end of the story.

The second thing is how thoroughly the author manages to create a new culture based on middle eastern systems. The emphasis on respect to others, the constant drive to lower mares to a subordinate state, the backwards and draconian methods for dealing with dissent. It’s a large and difficult world, but one fully realized through Tofazz’s careful reconstruction.

There are other great highlights aside from the worldbuilding and character relatability. We’ve got struggling romances outside our two protagonists, a constant sense of adventure and struggle, cultural clashes, and (perhaps most surprising) the origin story of a certain Equestrian villain.There’s a lot involved with this story, especially considering its length. That it all happens without sacrificing the flow of the story with needless tangents is impressive.

So the story? Spot on. Zero complaints, even if the ending is bittersweet at best and tragic at worst.

Where this struggles is in its writing. The story needs editing badly, with a constant stream of incorrect or missing words and misstated phrases. The sentence structure could also use a bit of streamlining. More than once I had to stop and re-read a line two or three times to understand what the author really meant. Needless to say, these things were damaging to my immersion.

Even so, the story is so good that I strongly recommend you try it anyway. I wish there was a sequel to this; the ending left me longing to know what happens next, particularly for Saif. My only warning is that this is not a gentle story: characters will die. Some of them will hurt more than others. Frankly, this only makes the story stronger, because it emphasizes that the stakes are real.

There’s no reason not to read this. You may want to read the prior story first, but that shouldn’t be a problem considering it’s also a high quality piece.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
A Faded Touch of BlueWHYRTY?

Evening Flames

100,533 Words
By Nicknack
Sequel to Summer Days

Gilda just had a duel with a guard in Farrington. Her future is unclear, but she doesn’t expect to be permitted to stay in the city any longer. Then again, her (ex?) boyfriend Captain Iron Bulwark might have something to say about that.

This one continues right where its predecessor left off, and focuses heavily on the recovery of all the pertinent players from the disaster that was Gilda’s duel with Starfall. Themed heavily on healing, we get to watch racist views relaxing, friendships mending, and relationships renewed. There’s also crime wars, assassin games, and threats of unspeakable violence, but y’know, what’s a few speed bumps on the road to harmony?

The inherent problem with this story is the same that exists with the last story: it shouldn’t be its own piece. The stories are written in such a way that if you didn’t read the prior story immediately before this one, you will get lost quickly. Since everything is told in first person, it can take a moment to recognize whose perspective each scene is in, and if you’ve gone months without reading the prior story you will be completely lost as to why any given character is important. Names and relationships have to be completely relearned from scratch, and important aspects of the relationship are lost entirely.

When you’re writing a series of stories where you literally have to read back-to-back-to-back to grasp the bare basics of each, there’s no point in writing them as separate stories.

Ignoring that one issue, and going strictly by what I recall of parts two and one after 17 months and 25 months respectively, I can say with certainty that the three together make for a great story. No, really, this is some top-notch stuff. It’s got a wide range of topics all converging into a single conclusion with finesse while acting as a delightful character study of Gilda on many levels. The writing is pretty good, especially considering the First Person narration switching from character to character all the time, and the ongoing events are always interesting. Had I the opportunity with my schedule to read it as the single piece it’s clearly meant to be, this would probably have earned my highest rating.

But I didn’t, and I know I’m forgetting a ton of information from the previous entries that are undoubtedly important to what we’re seeing. As such, I can’t in good conscience give this my highest rating because I don’t know what I’m missing.

For what it is, though, I am most pleased. I look forward to reading the side story/sequel that comes after.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Dusk-Lit WaltzWHYRTY?
Taking Care of AnimalsWHYRTY?
Heart of Gold, Feathers of SteelPretty Good
Summer DaysPretty Good
Happily Ever AfterWorth It

Stories for Next Week:

The Featherblade Legacy by Mysterious Stranger
Tracks in the Sand by DwarvishPony
Royaltea by Hasty Revision
TCB: Humans are always alone by GrayOnBlue
Like I'm Gonna Lose You by WyngsTriumphant
To See You Again by Starlight Shadow
One Fine Day by MalWinters
Hope by Portmeirion
Man and Magistrate by TheMessenger
A Day for Spike and Twilight by Jetfire2012

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Comments ( 32 )

So what do you guys think? Would a PaulAsaran Review Channel on YouTube mean anything to you, or should I stick to plain ol’ horsewords?

I'd say go for it, if you like the idea and it's feasible to try it out. Review channels produce some of my favorite YouTube content these days, so I certainly wouldn't object to getting more if the format works out for you.

Making a review video is more complicated than a blog, you'll need to be very good at dictation and make sure you have a way to keep people engaged with the review as you read it. You should do some test videos before you commit to it.

Oh man, I super second that verdict on To Serve In Hell. It’s all around just plain good.

The world of Freeport Venture is also ridiculously cool as you get further into it, and there is a lot of growth in the characters as you go. Probably one of my more favorite worlds on this site. You do kinda have to use the group’s timeline, though, cause it’s a massive list of stories from a bunch of authors and would be crazy confusing out of order.

Eh, I'm not sure about the youtube channel for you. Mostly because editing videos would take up time that could be spent reviewing more stories, or just writing.

Georg #5 · May 28th · · ·

Your cousin is going straight up against Dave Ramsey, so I wish him well. Anything to help people keep from being stupid with their money (like we did for many years) is welcome.

To be clear, this story is borderline crackfic; crazy and at times downright stupid

I wouldn't even be that generous and I don't think Justice would be either. Most of their output is absolutely crackfic, crazy, and incredibly stupid.

But like... in an "extremely good Adult Swim show" or "MadTV-era Comedy Central when it was actually funny and good".
Stupid? Yes, very. But if you can locate your sides after a Justice story... you're not reading it right.
Also somehow the characters manage to be fairly in-character? Like if it was pitched as an Adult Swim show I could definitely see Sunset + S6 opener going exactly that way.

So what do you guys think? Would a PaulAsaran Review Channel on YouTube mean anything to you, or should I stick to plain ol’ horsewords?

It depends what you want to do! Personally I far prefer reading reviews to watching/listening, simply because I read fast and video reviews are therefore much more time-consuming. But I'm almost certain this is a minority view, including in this fandom. I'd guess you'd have plenty of people interested.

Author Interviewer

A review channel? I mean, it'd be different (though Super Trampoline does video reviews...), but I prefer to read reviews so I can listen to music. :/

Would people have any interest at all in that?

Damn straight we would.

Thank you for your review! I have been very much looking forward to reading your detailed thoughts about Hell. As you suggested, I took great (and sometimes quite literal) pains with it; seeing it connect with someone so strongly is an inimitable feeling.

Perhaps the most edifying part of your review for me was your thoughts about the worldbuilding. I often feared that I wouldn’t be able to worldbuild effectively given the highly localized and sometimes downright claustrophobic setting—pretty much everything happens in or around Canterlot and the Castle of the Two Sisters. But I did want to convey that this was the Equestria we knew, albeit twisted by Celestia’s failure to find a nonviolent “Plan B” after losing Sunset. That is also what drove me to address where many of the prime-verse’s major players were, even though it risked ballooning the dramatis personae. Any extra details about how ponies lived their lives, and the machinations of forces elsewhere on the continent, owed much to feedback & questions from readers and editors.

I also love your thought about the antagonist being the world itself. To me, it was always Cheese Sandwich. (Sidebar: as a card-carrying member of the Time! Action! Glory! Challenge group, I felt it would do him a disservice not to tag him, despite how it blunts the reveal for future readers.) But I’m glad if the world has breath enough in it to stand on its own as a villain. This timeline is very much an anomaly (as we’re often reminded), and not the kind of place that our little ponies were meant to inhabit.

And I’m glad that you asked about Spike. I’m not going to answer your question directly, though I will say that I often feel there’s more story to be told in the Hellverse, and it would surely be interesting to check in with characters like Sunset or Applejack who were pushed to the side of Hell 1 due to storytelling constraints. :trollestia:

Glad you enjoyed Freeport Venture so much, and hopefully you like how the story continued in subsequent stories.

It’s almost like Kwakerjak was tired of writing the story and decided to end it early.

Ah, good old burn out. I think every writer gets to that point where they just want to end a story so they can move on to another one. Or just take a break from writing in general.

This is just my personal opinion, of course, but I have no interest in watching video reviews. I don't know why, but they just don't appeal to me, and I've never bothered with them.

That second-person fic reminds me of a piece of advice I always give out about gimmick stories: they need to survive because of the gimmick, not in spite of it. If they do the latter, then they have failed in employing that gimmick.

"To Serve in Hell" is one of the few long stories I've been an editor for. I enjoyed it a lot, and for the unresolved questions you note, there is a planned sequel. Someday.

Hmm, as someone that watches review/educational channels often, it is complicated. I know you have the content to make it there, but keeping the viewer engaged it very important, sometimes more than the content itself. There are a lot of YouTube channels out there that will be doing the same stuff as you do, so the main thing is to be entertaining while you do it. YouTube is basically the 21st-century television, if people get bored throughout your video, they will find a better one much live if you didn't like a TV program you'd swap channels. If you think you're ok with that challenge I think you should go for it, it can be highly rewarding.

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Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I'm still not sure of this idea, but getting outside opinions helps a lot. As I said, if I do decide to do this, it won't be but for months at least and over a year at most, so there's plenty of time for me to whiff-whaff and doubt and second guess the whole thing.

My cousin sought out this blog when I told him about it (I didn't even need to give him a link), and he loved your comment. He wanted to add that he has zero expectations of dethroning Ramsey.

See, this is what's annoying about the Freeport AU. I would like to read the stories in order, but arranging it to be so would make it take longer for me to get to the individual stories and would be murder on my RiL system. My methods just aren't designed to handle this kind of thing. :fluttershyouch:

The characters were only in character when the author wanted them to be. A lot of the characters were extreme caricatures of themselves, therefor OOC. Sunset, Starlight, and Celestia in particular.

Not how that works but okay boomer

Well, you did an excellent job all around. Wait, no, semi-excellent. You did kill off one of the best characters in MLP, after all, so I have to take away subjectivity points for that. In that regard I was very much not happy with you, sir!

Regardless of that one thing, all-around excellent. I look forward to any continuations that may be coming. Frankly, I'm most curious as to how the new government is going to survive, because it all looks so very flimsy to me.

I certainly hope so! Perhaps you could suggest which one to read next? I'm not clear on what the order of reading should be.

Amusing, considering I'm a millennial.

Huh. I suppose it could be. In that case, I suppose "millennial" would be, too.

5271134 5271131 Hey, our future is in the hands of millennials... Oh, darn. We're (censored).

It also has nothing to do with anything here, so...

I had to think for a while about why review videos don't appeal to me, and someone else here said it, that they also have to be entertaining. If I'm reading a review, I have to pay attention to it. If I'm watching one, then frankly, the video is not going to be interesting enough to hold my attention. Usually it's a talking head or a static graphic, so if you're going to put together some dynamic stuff to go on screen, that really ups the effort to produce, but that's what's going to keep my eyes on the screen. If the visual is boring, then I'm going to multitask and look for something else to do as I listen, and then I'm only halfway paying attention to what the person is saying. This is also why I don't listen to many fic readings. Some of them do invest in interesting visuals, but other than that, I only listen to them if they're my own stories or a story I particularly liked, where I'm interested enough to see what the VAs did with it to pay attention.

Interesting how people think using that phrase just automatically makes them correct.

I can actually answer that one if you don’t mind. The reading order of all of Freeport can be found at this forum post in the group.

But if you’re looking to fast-track it, the most important (and in this order) are:
More Equal than Others
Blood and Iron
Blood Debts
City of Giants only if you want Puzzle character stuff/ a fascinating adventure.
Northern Venture
Tears in the Rain for Puzzle
Old Wounds for Sunset

If you want to know what the heck is up with Blood and Iron, then read Come and See, but you by no means need to to enjoy the rest. Also, I’ve yet to read Breaker of Chains, so no idea on it.

Many thanks, this will come in handy! Luckily for me, the one I picked as my next read is indeed the next one on the list.

It does, indeed. Thanks!

Thank you for the review. This is the first time I've seen one of your notifications within the 1-2 week window that it takes for Fimfic to recycle the database space, so I haven't been ignoring these, I'm just not super active on this site anymore.

I completely agree that the whole thing didn't need a hard division on the two halves; I went overboard trying to break down the story into easily re-toolable parts while trying to chase perfection. That didn't even matter, since I didn't know how to actually end the thing, and it kind of burns crazily down to an non-impactful ending.

Text on a page gets read in your own natural reading voice, and at your own speed of reading. On top of constructing a narrative, delivering vocal lines is its own skill—I'll call it Voice Acting 101—that a ton of YouTubers don't realize when constructing their video essays. That takes a few extra layers of effort, knowledge, and skill to pull off beyond being able to type out your points. Admittedly, a video review _can_ be more gripping, just more of them fail in the presentation layer compared to having to read standalone text.

TLDR: I agree with you. And if anyone ever did a video review of my works, I'd probably want to be buried alive before listening to it.

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