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Sweetie Belle time! The least-written about of the CMC gets her moment in the spotlight with uSea's Singing to the Moon. Also Luna, in case the picture and title didn't make that clear enough already. Not the most intuitive pairing of ponies (no, not that kind of pairing!); will the story, as Tim Gunn would say, "Make it work?" Find out after the break.
Impressions before reading: In the previous review, I briefly discussed the concept of Sad Luna. The description on EqD promises that this story will be Happy Luna. Despite the connotation of the word "happy," Happy Luna is frequently used by this fandom to describe any Luna story that isn't Sad Luna. So really, that doesn't give us a lot to go on, but at least we know what this story isn't!
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When Sweetie Belle sings a song to the moon one cold, bright night, she finds her music attracts an unexpected visitor.
Thoughts after reading: In general, I'm not a big fan of adding music links to stories. The problem is that different people have different musical tastes, and I've encountered several fanfics where, at the moment of greatest drama, I was instructed to open a youtube video which turned out to be some rock/metal band performing, as Hoity-Toity would say, "A piled-on mish-mash of everything but the kitchen sink." Needless to say, I find this to be a singularly effective way for the author to break the mood they've been working so hard to establish.
This story uses the songs it links to not for ambiance, but as part of the story itself. It gives you a youtube video to watch, because that is literally the song that Sweetie's singing. This is at once less mood-breaking and more confusing than the above-cited example of how not to use music links. The fact that the singers in the videos linked to are male makes listening to the video while trying to imagine Sweetie singing jarring, and unintentionally funny (I cannot for the life of me stop picturing Sweetie talking in Bing Crosby's voice). I suppose the purpose might have been to make sure that readers were familiar with the tunes, but the songs used are famous enough to render that unnecessary anyway. I mean, EVERYONE has heard "Fly Me to the Moon" at some point in their lives. I would have much rather seen the lyrics presented without any musical links or (if the author is really concerned about people failing to recognize the songs), with links to instrumental versions of the melodies. That way, at least there's no imposition on the reader's ability to imagine Sweetie's singing voice. Or even just keep the links at the end of the story, but leave them out of the text. That way, readers can go back and see what was being referenced retroactively, without interrupting their reading experience.
Music notwithstanding, this was a simply wonderful story. Those ponies with canon personalities are perfectly in-character, and Luna (this was long before Luna Eclipsed, remember) is depicted in a manner both believable and relatable. Sweetie in particular presented a very realistic depiction of youth, with the way she flitted effortlessly from subject to subject and mood to mood. And the descriptions of sibling relations, I can say from experience, are altogether accurate.
The dialogue is well-written. The narration is vivid but not overwrought. The characters play off each other in ways that are in turns funny and touching...there really isn't anything negative to say about any of this. The ending doesn't beat us over the head with a moral, a la Twilight's letters to Celestia, but there's a definite message to this story.
Since I usually say something about the grammar, I should mention that this piece is flawless in that regard. The reading level (for those of you who aren't familiar with the term, reading levels are used by most US primary and secondary schools to rank books by difficulty, and are calculated based on the obscurity of words used in the story, coupled with complexity of sentence and paragraph structure) is probably late middle school at the highest, but nothing about this story feels childish or oversimplified.
Star rating: ★★★★☆ (what does this mean?)
This story may be short, but it hits all the right notes for me. Somehow, it works humor, warmth, and some thoughtful reflections of siblinghood into a mere nine pages, without ever feeling rushed. The way the songs were handled is really the only thing I would have changed.
Recommendation: I would suggest this story to anyone. My only advice would be not to click the links embedded in the text as you're reading, but that's up to you. I'm aware that some folks love it when an author includes music in their story--if that's you, knock yourself out. This is a brief but wonderful read.
Next time: Memories of Those Friends Who've Gone Before Us, by WTFHIW