The Pleasant Commentator and Review Group! 1,221 members · 156 stories
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Kestrel
Group Contributor

Alright, so after attending Crystal Fair nearly a month ago and meeting a character by the name of Grand_Moff_Pony, I gave him a promise to read his stories and promptly let life get in the way of that. So now that it's been submitted to the submissions folder, I finally have an excuse to do it as a priority :rainbowwild:

So today, we've got ourselves a oneshot of about six thousand words.

Plot

Let's dive into this piece, shall we?

Before even reading this story, I already had a good idea of what it was about from just seeing the cover art and the description, which are both important to attracting the reader. I know that this story is about Fleur De Lis and that she's going to have to make some sort of tough choice. That, and the title itself fits in well with the description. Now, let's get right down to the plot... of the story.

Right from the beginning, we're given good perspective on Fleur's life. And boy is it... stifling, for lack of a better word. She's been held to some pretty high standards over the years, and it's taking its toll on the mare. So much so that she starts to feel she isn't really able to be herself. By looking into a mirror, she sees the her that her world wants her to be, contrasted against the pony that she wants to be.

The core of the story revolves around Fleur and a secret romance, scattered among memories, letters, and secret late-night meetings. This secret love affair is spoken through ciphers and secrets, and it makes the romance all the more enticing. Forbidden romance, though somewhat cliche, it is masterfully done, and works like a charm. This really comes to a head in the second part of the story though.

One little point of grievance, though not really a great deal, is that there was a bit of a contrived device to teleport our lovers far away, but it was also shown that they had train tickets. It could have been fine with just the tickets, but it's not that big a deal.

As much as I'd really like to discuss the plot at length, I have to hold back for sake of spoilers, the impact of the story is much greater going into it blind. All I can say is that there is a very large emotional payoff of reading the story.

Altogether, the plot is very enjoyable, well paced, and believable.

Mechanics

As an editor, I'm sure I can find something wrong with the mechanics of this piece...

It was really hard, but I managed to find some really nitpicky errors

Grammar/Formatting: Impeccable. There's really hardly a single mistake in here. I found a whopping three capitalization errors. So, not exactly damning. Proper use of dialogue quotations, italics for thoughts, and the rare, but correct usage of internalized dialogue from a made up voice, such as a voice telling you what to do inside your head. Well done, indeed. The writer and editors certainly did a bang-up job of this one. This editor is pleased. :moustache:

Dialogue/Narration: This is one of those rare stories where an abundance of narration is good. Many people prefer dialogue, as people usually believe that it drives the story, but the first half of the story only has scant dialogue at best, hinging instead on its absolutely brilliant narration. When Fleur is looking through her little trove of memories, the narration is far more appropriate to the scene than dialogue would be. To be honest, it kind of reminded me of the scene in Disney/Pixar's Up, during the speechless montage of Carl and Ellie.

The second half of the story is where the dialogue really kicks in. And it's quite good. The simplicity of the dialogue between the high class Fleur and her lover Cipher (who'da thunk?) is a refreshing breath of fresh air from the more refined and dare I say, hoity-toity dialogue of the first half.

Problem?

World Building: Fairly standard. You've heard about one gigantic mansion estate and all the splendor of royalty/nobility/the obscenely wealthy, you've heard them all. But that doesn't mean that Grand_Moff_Pony didn't do a spectacular job of it. He went into good detail regarding the setting around the characters in the mansion, particularly of the abundance of servants and staff to help prepare a wedding. It gave me a pretty good idea of the size of the event.

Pacing: There's really not much I can say about the pacing except for that it was great. The first part was appropriately slow while the second half picked up steam.

Point of View: Third-Person Limited view gives us the intimate details of Fleur, but thankfully doesn't go into full-on first person, as I believe it would have detracted from the story. It could probably be done, but after having read it as it is, I don't think it would go over as well.

Show/Tell: Throughout all parts of the story, showing and telling found a very happy balance, even during the memory scene, which can be tricky to not tell too much and not show enough. Well done.

Character Development

Even though we only get a great deal of development on one character in the story, being Fleur, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't amazing. Reading the story, I can feel for her. Her life's been tough despite enjoying what wealth can buy. She feels horribly alone and directed like a puppet on a string. A simile used multiple times in the story. Even so far as to threaten tying the string about somepony else and pulling them into her struggle.

While she remains static through most of the fic, the final few paragraphs turn Fleur's character on its head, and it just breaks my heart.

One final note on the character development. I might have been reading into it too much, but I absolutely loved this quote.

She sighed and moved to her vanity to ease her hooves for a moment. Fleur ran the edge of a hoof across the edge of the white and gray marble surface, frowning a bit when she hit the one scratch she never could fully polish out.

To me, this quote speaks out as a metaphor for Fleur's character as a whole. She's been groomed to be a high-classed lady and has had her life dictated to her for a long time coming now. Fleur is the mirror, and she still has that one scratch on it that just can't be removed, no matter how her society and culture tries to buff it out. It is her cipher. The secret that she carries with her. I'm not certain if it was intentional, but I'd like to believe it was. It's just a great line that really sticks in my mind.

Originality

Put simply, I've seen stories like this before. As I said before, a forbidden love is cliche. Not bad, but cliche. It's been done before. However, I found the use of ciphers coming from Cipher's (still kind of on the fence on the name to be honest) knowledge of military intelligence, as his position trained him for to be quite refreshing. It greatly improves the mood of the piece. Their relationship is a secret, and the ciphers help to hide their true intentions.

Impact

This story was great and it left me with a lasting impression. I'll remember this story for quite a while whenever I see Fleur De Lis. I think most people would look at Fleur and think of her relationship in the show with Fancy Pants, but this story gives a great alternative bit of thought to what's really going on. It's something that this fandom is really good about doing, and I'm glad to see stories like this still around :twilightsmile: Though one thing that also stuck in my mind was that this story really needs a tragedy tag, because that's what this is, plain and simple.

Conclusion

In closing, this story was a great use of my time, and I'm glad that I was the one who got to review it. Ciphers is a nice, small story that anyone could get through quickly and have a good time with. Any errors are easily glossed over because the story is of great quality. Grand_Moff_Pony, you've gotten one more like and favorite.

Scores

Plot: Great, I loved the way the story went, though I had one minor grumble about a possible plot device. 19/20
Mechanics: Seriously, I found three errors in a six thousand word story. But since I have to be nitpicky as an editor... 19/20
Characterization: The characterization of the piece absolutely shined. I loved it to pieces. 20/20
Originality: It's nothing that hasn't been done before, but the spin on it kept the idea fresh and fun. 18/20
Impact: Altogether, it's going to stick in my memory for quite a while. I just do think that it needs that tragedy tag. 19/20

Final Score: 95/100

Masterpiece

Thank you for your submission, Grand_Moff_Pony. It's a great addition to the Pleasant Commentator and Review Group's library.

Thanks for sticking with us, see you all next time! Kestrel, out.

Wow ! To me, you're one of the best revlewer i see in my life. Keep up the amazing work, and take care ! :pinkiehappy:

*Bookmarks for later perusal*

Thank you very much, Kestrel! I'm so glad you enjoyed the story!! :pinkiehappy:

Kestrel
Group Contributor

4807277

I'm honestly looking at getting this put into masterpiece status, but since I'm new to the reviewing scene, I'm not sure what the process is, because I recall reading about a process to put something into the 'hall of fame' as it were.

Though yeah, I'm sorry I took so long to get to it! I remembered seeing this on Equestria Daily. I never thought I'd actually meet the author in real life :twilightsheepish: Anyway, thanks for your piece. It was a great read. I just hope that I can make stuff that good someday.

Kestrel
Group Contributor

4807216

Aww, thanks! :twilightblush: To be honest though, the format of the edit is shamelessly ripped from Jack of Many Trades. But the thought behind what was said is indeed all mine. I'm glad you liked the review. I got to really geek out about this one because it was really good. It's a bit harder to do that with a "Needs Work" entry. Though I do my best to review those properly as well. It's only been my second review so far though.

It's a lot harder to be critical than it is to be singing something's praises, that much I do know.

Good review of a very good story! Thanks.

Kestrel
Group Contributor

4807458

I'm glad you think so! And you did a great job of editing the work. I tip my proverbial hat to you.

Damn, shame on me, this has been in my "high priority I'm not joking read this stuff now!" reading queue for a while. Curse you day for having only 24 hours!:flutterrage:

Ah well, let's fix this despicable situation and read it now.

Inquisitor M
Group Contributor

4807193 I read this for The Royal Guard the other day, based on your recommendation.

I agree with you completely. I expect you'll see it soon! (ish)

Kestrel
Group Contributor

4844648

Yeah, I'm just waiting on the higher ups to approve it.

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