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It's a Festivus miracle: the reviews for the Reviewer's Café 2018 Fanfic Contest are IN! Unfortunately, due to personal issues one reviewer had to drop out, but was generously replaced by FoxLikesPancakes, another veteran reviewer of the Café! So, without further ado, here are the reviews for the submissions: Holly and The Nightmare Knight Knightmare.

Reviews for Holly.

Reviews for The Nightmare Night Knightmare.

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The OC is the key point of this contest, so it’s only natural to start there. But while I thought there were some good aspects to Holly, one big thing stands out to me in it: I’m not sure who’s the main character here. While a lot of it is about Holly indeed, Twilight plays a not-insignificant role and seems to get a lot from her as Holly gets from Twilight. They make a decent duo, but it feels as if they’re both sharing the spotlight with each other.

For the story, I felt as there was a decent bit lacking in this department. The story is just kind of a backstory dump on Holly, with only the ending portions of their interactions really touching on much significance regarding how they work well together. I thought there could have been more done with her learning to be a guide, especially since a lot of her past seems rather irrelevant to that point since it touches mostly on being ostracized and feared. It could have been presented in far less detail, which then would have opened it up to a lot more of her truly learning to be a guide and find her purpose.

When it comes to the technicals, I really enjoyed this story. There’s a good level of description in the world around them, but not too much to the point where it’s just purple prose that exists solely to be pretentious. The descriptions themselves are also well done and vivid, and play into the fact that the story is presented slowly and contemplatively, reflecting the story itself. Overall, good writing.

Subjectively, I thought this story was written well but could’ve focused more on Holly. There is some good potential with her, but little of it is touched on in this. However, the writing is very clean and executed well, something that I truly believe is harder than OCs and story.

The OC: 4/10
Story: 4/10
Technicals: 9/10
Subjective: 7/10
Total: 24/40 = 6/10

OC: 6
Story: 9
Technical: 8
Subjective: 8
Total: 7.75

Hey there! Thanks so much for writing for our contest, it was a pleasure reading your fic and I want to say that your fic was a great read, I personally wouldn’t go very far outside of my comfort zone when it comes to reading if it wasn’t for the Reviewer’s Café and I honestly couldn’t be happier I did this time, your fic was a really wonderful read and even just outside of the review, this fic genuinely put a smile on my face.

Whoah! Okay… I may have left reviewer Milo somewhere, but I think he found me again because it’s time to pick apart this fic! Be scared! (Don’t be scared, reviewer Milo is the biggest push over).

Hey! Dude... Not cool… :( (hurry up dude!)

Let’s start with your OC, Holly. We first meet Holly when she angrily tells a small filly to leave her sacred place, which is a dick move, but quickly retracts that when she draws closer. In all honesty, this wasn’t a great start introducing her. We get this angry, tribal like vibe initially, paying little respect to Twilight’s obvious distress, but then instantly converts into this curious, nurturing type. You have to pick one, because it’s a really jarring kind of personality shift, and Twilight does little on her part to warrant this personality shift. Maybe if she started crying, but she just kind of sits there and rubs her eyes. She tells her to wrack off! Then just goes over and comforts her. Watch your consistency.

The other issue I kind of have with Holly, is the fact that her personality doesn’t really come through. I want to say she is curious, I want to say she is nurturing, but we just never get strong enough evidence. Short stories can often be quite difficult when it comes to characterisation as there isn’t much opportunity to flesh out a character. But basic features can be outlined, even through simple actions. Her appearance is described in brilliant detail, but more action could have definitely served to paint her character far more. It is hard to say how she even acts in her home village, because her story is very general and her reaction feels more of a summary. There was almost a solid personality point in several spots, but we just didn’t get the evidence we needed. We could see her complication, but that was all we were really given.

In all honesty it was the story plot, structure, and narrative style that really shone in this story. I loved the ‘documentation’ style that you have implemented, in a kind of retrospective official statement from Princess Twilight. It was refreshing, unique, interesting, and very well pulled off. I loved your descriptions of things, I could really feel the spring, and Holly’s looming presence. It really was quite stunning and it flowed really evenly into the rest of the story. The issue felt a bit wishy washy and the message you tried to put forth was a bit too abstract in it’s solution. I couldn’t quite fully understand how this change in understanding the problem truly helped Holly, but this was a minor issue.

The technicals were fine, I noticed a bit here and there, but it didn’t take too much away from the fic. It was nothing incredibly spectacular, but it was perfectly readable and fluid and I cannot fault it. Particular love to your pacing, which flowed very nicely, and suited the mood of the fic perfectly.

Now, my subjective opinion on this story. It was creative! It was interesting! And it had a message that albeit was a little abstract and forced, but you had a fantastic atmosphere and feel. Twilight was very well done, I really did like her charactersiation, especially in the beginning in and the end in those retrospective parts. I feel what really shone was the ambience, and I couldn’t get enough of those brilliant flowery descriptions, they were informative, but creating of an excellent whimsical mood. All in all, a very well rounded fic with a few flaws, but with plenty to make it a worth it read!

(Okay you can shut up now)

Dude! You’re so mean!

(Being a busy person does that to you, not that your busy at all!)

Yeah because you hog all the brain space! Alright, I better sign off before cranky here forcefully takes Milo back, I hope you enjoyed my review!


Story: Holly
Author: mushroompone
Genre Tags: Slice of Life

What’s This Story About Anyway?
Twilight, now an immortal being well advanced in her years, recalls a highly vivid memory.

The Plot:
There isn’t much to be said about this one as it’s pretty cut and dry like a standard episode of the show itself. Twilight Sparkle is--presumably due to her princess status--now an immortal being and she spends the entirety of the fic retelling a memory that she had. The story also wants to make it very clear that this is no ordinary memory, pointing out that neither Luna nor Celestia has ever had a memory this clear in all their lives and that neither the pony Twilight encountered nor her tribe had never been seen, heard of, or recorded in historical documents. However, for the sake of storytelling, the ponies had to have existed somehow and this is the best record that they have of them - a singular personal account. Whether the author was toying with the idea of an alternate or parallel pony universe is never made explicitly clear, which I appreciate because it allows me as a reader to mull over the possibility.

In this memory, Twilight as a filly accidentally enters an alternate reality and finds herself in the pony version of Mirkwood. Naturally, she is terrified and begins to cry for help upon which she meets the titular character, Hollow Bone or simply “Holly.” They have a pep talk and in the end Holly gains the self-confidence to properly confront and fit in with her tribe.

The problem I have with this is that isn’t just that Holly has a paradigm shift that turns her mental frown upside down (sorry), but the fact that she might go back to her village having met Twilight with nothing but a personal account to show for it. Her fellow ponies did not experience the same thing that she did and as such it’s unlikely that anyone would be sympathetic towards her change in attitude. Maybe that’s me being nitpicky about how the story could possibly end, but the point of the matter is that the events leading up to the resolution don’t seem like they’ll realistically change anything for Holly.  

It seems like this story, due to it being so short and written in such a short amount of time, had to opt for a simpler story. As a simple story it was written well enough to keep me engaged, but I don’t think it’s anything groundbreaking.
Rating: 6/10

The OC:
There was something about Hollow Bone-- or just ‘Holly’--that put me off and I believe the word “confusing” is the one that I’m looking for. Her character concept in itself is pretty simple, if nothing short of a Mary Sue. She was a pegasus, raised in her tribe as a normal pegasus until insert dramatic queue everyone noticed that she was growing antlers and possessed magical abilities. To put it bluntly, she was a freak of nature and grew up with everyone treating her with fear or like she was no better than the the dirt beneath their hooves.

You would think that this mistreatment would have detrimental effects on Holly’s mental stability and that one pep talk from a purple fuzzball wouldn’t fix everything. You would think that, but no, it seems like filly Twilight talking about the way that water flows down the side of a mountain has given Holly all of the confidence she needed to face years of psychological damage.

Not only that, but Holly is fundamentally confusing to me because of how drastically her demeanour shifts from sombre and damaged to upbeat and confident in herself. I’m not against this shift in personality because it truly does show that the author of this story was trying to create some character development. It happens over such a short span of time though that it makes Holly look like a Mary Sue in comparison.

There was also this line part way through that caught me off guard because of how the vernacular contrasted what we had learned about Hollow Bone thus far:

“Gee, you’re a good listener, you know that?”

Perhaps I’m reading too deep into it, but I don’t imagine someone as forlorn as Holly using the word “gee” to start her sentences. It’s this line combined with the sudden change in personality that makes me wonder if these lines were from Holly or if they were inserted by the author to nudge the story along.

Rating: 5/10

The Technicalities:
Ah, technicalities, the section of the review that looks like I’m being nitpicky but in reality I’m being nitpicky with a purpose. I suppose that you could also call this section “miscellaneous” because there was a certain way that I was asked to format these reviews and because I don’t know where else to throw my final thoughts in regards to “Holly”.

This is also probably a good time to note that there’s nothing wrong with the story at its core. It’s actually pretty decent overall for having been written in a short amount of time for a contest that never really came to fruition. Regardless, I can’t give a story a good score or a handicap just because it was written and submitted within a narrow timeframe. The point of my review is especially in the paragraphs to follow is to point out what went well in this story and what smaller flaws that may have flown under the radar.

Unlike most other fics that I review, “Holly” does really well to develop its setting. It would surprise you the number of fics that I’ve read that forget to try and appeal to the five senses during the writing. Here we’re not just told that Hollow Bone walks gracefully, but that her hoofsteps make gentle “shush” sounds in the grass. The imagery, the emphasis on the bubbling of the river, the sound of wind in the trees, all of that is covered here and it pulls us as readers deeper into the story. We’re not just seeing someone retell a memory, but we get to experience it vicariously as well.

I also like Twilight’s childlike innocence that’s portrayed throughout this fic, though it’s cut short partway through by this line:

and evidently decided not to pursue the topic of death with me today.

It was at this point in the story that I was brutally reminded that this retelling was nothing but that, a retelling of a story. The odd thing is that “Holly” never sticks to either side and can’t seem to decide if it wants to narrate as young Twilight or as old Twilight. It’s this indecision that causes it to fall apart because it takes away from both the beautiful setting and the adorable blissful ignorance of young Twilight.

What I mean is that there’s no reasonable way that young Twilight would have known that Hollow Bone was discussing the possibility of death in this line unless the narration was from the perspective of old Twilight. Yet, the story doesn’t use phrases like “I recall XYZ happening” or “If my memory serves, then XYZ” which implies that this is from the perspective of young Twilight. It’s a massive Catch 22 in other words and it could be fixed by changing or removing lines like the one mentioned prior.

As a reviewer, I am proud to say that “Holly” contained very few grammatical errors with only a few examples of odd sentence structure present. One of the examples I can think of is this sentence here...

I smiled at the compliment, giggled a little with pride.

...where the structure can be fixed by removing some words and adding an “and” to it:

I smiled at the compliment and giggled a little with pride.

Rating: 7/10

Final Verdict and Average Score:
“Holly” is by no means a bad story, but I believe that it could definitely use some touching up here and there to better fit the character that it was written for.

Plot: 6/10
OC: 5/10
Technicals: 7/10
Total Average Score: 6/10

Group Admin

So, the big part of this review: the OC, the thing you made this story about. I thought Fragile Flower was interesting, and while a lot of it was glossed over due to time reasons, I thought it portrayed the start of a long journey well. Radical self-change is not something that just happens because of one isolated incident, and what was glossed over demonstrated that such a process takes time and won’t cause former attitudes and behaviors to go away forever and never return. Greatness is a process, and while something may spark that, it’s not going to immediately go up in flames and cause such radical changes in such a short period of time.

Next up, the story. I thought it was decent and kind of was a better example of “ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances,” though I felt as if using a monster we’ve never seen in the show as the primary antagonist lost a little bit of effectiveness since you had to then explain it to us and make us aware of why it’s scary and powerful as opposed to using, say, Ahuizotl or something that’s already been established as a dangerous being. Then it also makes more staying power with the reader, since now they don’t have to try and put new information into their head for the story; you can call upon information that is already there.

The technicals of this were definitely what I thought were the weakest part. The primary issue is punctuation and capitalization following a quote (if the exposition that comes directly after is part of the same thought and can’t stand on its own as a sentence, what follows is not capitalized and ends with a comma instead of a period of that is applicable). Furthermore, I felt the writing was kind of stiff and very straightforward, almost mechanical at points.

Subjectively, I thought this story had some good aspects to it and had a strong OC, but it was mainly in the execution that it could be improved. However, while a little shaky, I think it had a good OC and story that is something I could’ve expected to see from the show itself.

The OC: 8/10
Story: 6/10
Technicals: 3/10
Subjective: 6/10
Total: 23/40 = 5.75/10

OC: 6
Story: 6
Technicals: 7
Subjective: 7
Total: 6.5

Hey there! Thanks a ton for submitting to our story contest and I truly hope that you enjoyed writing this fic, because I certainly enjoyed reading it! You have so much potential to be a really great fimfiction writer, I always truly do value the people that write stories that have a meaning and a value. It is so important to attempt to say something with your story, and whilst it is achievable, it loses something important. I can see that you have really tried to bring out that essence of moral and discussion, I love it! So, without further ado, let’s crack into this review, shall we?

I like Knightmare, her complication is valid, and it’s evident she looked past her fears. I also like how you tried something different in the overcoming of her fears. You attempted to avoid classic cliché of a character jumping into the heat of action and suddenly conquering their fear. But I also feel like there was a bit of mental gymnastics to still try to make her fear conquering valid. It got a little confusing at the end what she was trying to say and how she had managed to overcome her fears. She’s not a classic heroine, but I feel there are better ways of reaching this conclusion. I also feel like her final ‘coming into the guards’ and becoming a fearless braveheart was a bit wishy washy and felt a bit too overbearing. I would have been happy with her just being a regular person who doesn’t let their fears affect them. She could still rescue her daughter without this over-emphasis on her now courageous aptitudes. It almost hurts your character with how well she ‘adjusted’ to overcoming her fears.

The story itself was done in a fun way, it wasn’t quite your average first person narrative, it had a layer to it, and whilst that is nothing new, I feel it did fit here. A lot of people when trying to break into new perspectives fall into the trap of not taking much thought into why they wanted it there.

But in your case, I feel like it genuinely is appropriate, so kudos! However, where it hurts is the atmosphere. Because your plot moves around so much, it’s hard to get a grasp on ambience you’re going for, there is very little description on the true setting of the place. You’re focussing on characters, so naturally there will be less description, but it still feels a bit lacklustre, a bit unsatisfying. It makes the story feel more like it is out of an episode from the show, and whilst there is nothing wrong with that, stories can paint so much more dimension than that!

I also feel like this villain comes a little bit out of left field. The fact of there being a monster there was expected but the monster him/herself… it’s so… bizzare. I couldn’t take it seriously. Maybe if you used a previously established monster or something, your monster is just a little out of place here, and kinda rapey… that thing weirded me out man.

But the important detail here is it kind of takes me out of the story. It’s sure turns heads, but not in the way you want, it’s so out of place it wrecks my immersion.

The plot had a solid foundation and an interesting premise, it just needed more concise execution. But at least this is something easily fixable! You’re already two steps ahead of the game.
Technicals… technicals technicals technicals…. I really really really hate technicals. It’s super important, but I’m just not great at it. No-one naturally is, humans make mistakes, that is only natural. Proficient fully employed writers make more mistakes and me and my life choices…

Ha! Self-deprecation dig!

But that’s why we have twenty trillion editors and proofers. I don’t let my story go anywhere without at least one. Yours didn’t seem too bad, you catch most, but I still saw a few errors, and I feel like your fic would really benefit from a bit more editing. I know… it’s a real hassle, but it’s so worth it. It’s not even typos and more technical stuff, but pace, flow, sentences, wording. There will always be stuff you just miss.

“Sigh,” I said it aloud.

She said ‘sigh’?

Tirek turned out to be Dainty’s grey Pegasus coltfriend

‘Pegasus’ is being used as an improper noun here, it doesn’t need to be capitalized.

Anyway, i’m not gonna go through the whole thing. It was generally pretty good, but could use a quick spruce.

Now, my subjective opinion: it was a great fic that had a solid baseline. It just had some pitfalls in plot and characterisation that truly made it stand out. I truly recommend working on your prose a bit to try to make your descriptions more elegant. It wasn’t truly special, but you have a lot of potential to make some fantastic works and I am sincerely excited to see what you do next. You are a good writer and whether or not you decide to come back to the cafe (which I implore you to do), you have one new reader; me! Thank you so much for putting your fic up to the firing line and I truly do hope I helped you to improve and grow as a writer as that is my end goal. Good luck with your writing and I can’t wait for the next fic you put out!


Story: The Nightmare Night Knightmare
Author: Wings of Black Glass
Genre Tags: Dark, Drama, Slice of Life

What’s This Story About Anyway?
Fragile Flower, also known as “Knightmare,” recounts the story that caused her to receive her name.

The Plot:
Fragile Flower, a name so conveniently appropriate to her character, has pantophobia and as such she refuses to leave her house on Nightmare Night until she’s persuaded and practically dragged out by her friends. Her friends Tweedledee and Tweedledum go off and take part in some of the festivities while she does the safest thing that she can do: sit on a bench. She’s jumpscared by Luna for which Luna immediately apologises but not before telling Fragile Fluttersh-- I mean, Fragile Flower, about her master plan to end the night on.

Inevitably, our three intrepid heroes stumble upon Luna’s grand finale which ends up going horribly wrong. The idea was that another pony was going to show up and act out a choreographed battle with Luna but a real monster straight out of your strangest hentai shows up instead. The remainder of the encounter unfolds as you’d expect it to: the townsponies being as useless as they are all end up fleeing the scene, leaving Fragile Flower somehow in between the monster and Luna. Fragile’s presence ends up being enough of a distraction to allow Luna’s friend to show up and beat the shit out of the monster, though not before it lashes out at Flower and knocks her unconscious.

Fragile wakes up in a hospital and discovers that one of her legs is now missing because the monster’s fangs apparently had some irreversible venom in it. She’s thanked by Luna and her guard friend and one misheard name later, Fragile Flower becomes known as “Knightmare.”

It’s here where the story ends with a lesson of “learn to face your fears because they only hold you back.”

All in all, the story was alright if not linear and somewhat predictable. See, the problem that I have with narration or openings to stories like this one is that they automatically tell you one thing: that the character narrating the story will live to tell the tale. Narration effectively sacrifices dramatic tension that a scene might have in favour of giving exposition that could be written into the story anyway.
One good thing I can say about the story is that (aside from the whole losing a leg thing) it felt like I was reading the synopsis of an episode from the show. We have a character who needs to learn something, we have a setting or event for said learning opportunity, and it wraps itself up nicely with the bow of “here’s the moral of the story.”

Solid, enjoyable story, but lacking in anything unique. Just “middle of the road” kind of material.

Rating: 5/10

The OC:
She’s a direct copy of Fluttershy but with less friends. I can’t really say much in regards to how her character is first introduced because I would basically be telling you about Fluttershy. So instead of focusing on how she’s introduced and remains for ⅔ of the story, I’m going to go more in depth into how her character changes.

The biggest problem I had with drastic change in Fragile’s character wasn’t how different she was by the end of it, but how calmly she reacts to having lost her leg. You would think that she would have reacted in any way that would have shown distress like anger towards her friends or passing it off as a joke or anything. Instead she treats having lost an entire limb in one of the worst nights of her life (remember, she has multiple phobias and they’re all called by their Latin names in the story) as inconvenient as finding a hair in your food.

She’s Fluttershy but a more convenient version of Fluttershy whose only flaw is that she’s afraid of things. After she wasn’t afraid of things, she became the perfect pony, a mother, and member of the royal guard.

Rating: 3/10

The Technicalities:
The introduction to this story is by far the roughest part of the whole story, like how the pilot episode of any TV series is usually regarded as one of the worst episodes of the series. There are so many grammatical errors in the first third of the fic that, given how many times the title attempted to fight the homonym “night” into it, I honestly thought this was a trollfic to begin with. Thankfully it’s not, but when one of the first sentences is...

The door shook as the figure on the other side banged hard, could be led to believe that this line was taken out of context from a poorly written porn fic.

Some parts have multiple ponies talking at once in the same paragraph, others have vocal actions like sighing written in quotation marks, while still others have character actions weirdly interjected into sentences. I know that character actions can be used to break up sentences, but this fic does it more often than necessary. Strangely enough, this all seems to resolve itself in the latter third of the fic as if the story realised that it needed to sober up and finish its story in a compelling manner.

I don’t know what else to say, really. Luna was OoC which was kind of offputting but the rest of the story was just sort of… there.

Rating: 5/10

Final Verdict and Average Score:
I think I’ve summarised my thoughts pretty well here, so I’m just going to drop the average rating down below.

Plot: 5/10
OC: 3/10
Technicals: 5/10

Total Average Score: 4.5/10

Thank you so much for the reviews!! They were definitely worth the wait :twilightsmile:

Writing for a prompt with time and word limits is quite the challenge! It was nice to see this acknowledged in the reviews. I really appreciate the effort of all the reviewers in putting these together during the holiday season. They are so well-done, and I hung on absolutely every word haha. Some of the things I'm proudest of about my own writing were given high praise, which was a lovely Christmas present!

My well-wishes to Free! Hope they're doing alright

Thanks again!

Princess Amore Dudette
Group Contributor


Yay! congratulations on the scores, everyone who participated! :yay::heart:

I wrote up a response of sorts to the reviews of the Nightmare Night Knightmare.

Even in that massive wall of text I missed a couple of things I wanted to say. Both relating to FoxLikesPancakes. I kind of get the feeling you went into this in a bad mood, saw the rough first section, and then started finding things to complain about. Maybe more like this was something you were told to do rather than chose to do. Also, exactly why is Luna out of character?

I realize I'm pretty much the only one who cares, but I tweaked some stuff in The Nightmare Night Knightmare. It's mostly the same, only some 350-ish words longer. I changed it so Knightmare isn't in the guard anymore and reacts a bit more strongly to her injury, Luna is a little more harsh, Deimos's speech patterns are a little stranger, that sort of thing.

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