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Just when I was getting back ahead of the posting schedule, this happens. First we have this sucker right here, weighing in at about 60,000 words, and right behind it are several more multichapter fics (not the least of which is Dangerous Business, at nearly 150,000 words). Consider this fair warning: I'm going to do my level best to get through everything in a timely manner, but if I have to choose between skimming a story and writing a mediocre review or postponing, I'm going with option #2.
Hopefully it won't come to that, though. I'll do my best to fit a little extra ficreading into my life for the next week or two. And in any case, I'll make sure to post something at all the usual intervals, even if it's just an apology for delaying.
AugieDog's Half the Day is Night, after the break.
Impressions before reading: Sethisto's quote on the page (remember when he used to do that?) says, "The Author is promising an epic 15 chapter tale! Will he hold true to his word?" Spoiler alert: the answer is yes. Fifteen chapters plus a prologue and an epilogue of S1 Luna. The description and tags promise swashbuckling, adventure, and romance, but don't give me a lot of specifics to go on. Oh well, I guess the best way to find out is to dive in and give it a read.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When Celestia puts Luna in charge of both day and night so that she can take her first true vacation in a thousand years, Luna calls upon Twilight and her friends for assistance. When the group arrive in Canterlot, they quickly become embroiled in a conspiracy which they must unravel before ponies start getting hurt.
Thoughts after reading: Figuring out what tone to set with a story is a tricky thing. Lots of pony fanfics take on grimmer or more mature topics than the show, and while there's nothing wrong with this, a balance needs to be maintained between telling one's story and staying faithful to the characters and the world which that fanfic is based on.
Half the Day is Night struggles at times with that tone. For most of the story, AugieDog maintains an atmosphere very much in keeping with FiM; lighthearted, brushing aside even potential disasters with calm assurance and the knowledge that nopony was hurt, and focused on forgiveness and life lessons. As such, I found several scenes that had a darker tone to them somewhat out of place. The principal one which springs to mind involves a group of three ponies being surrounded and attacked on a dark street; they're threatened in no uncertain terms, and blood is quickly spilled. There was never a question of excessive gore or the like (this is a perfectly PG fic), but the presentation didn't match the tone set in the rest of the story.
The overarching plot behind the Half the Day is very well conceived. Many Luna fics assumed that she was welcomed back with open arms (forelegs?) by the citizenry after the Elements of Harmony freed her, while others supposed that she was treated with the same indifference upon her return which presumably caused her to become Nightmare Moon in the first place. AugieDog instead focuses on the friction and inevitable displacements which the sudden reappearance of another princess might cause, and combines courtly politics with classic mystery writing to great effect.
Of course, there's more going on in a novel-length piece like this than a simple whodunnit. Dozens of sub-plots fill the story. Most of these relate to what each of the main six are doing to assist Luna, and who they're interacting with. For the most part, these shed welcome light on the complex goings-on in the Royal Castle and throughout Canterlot. A few threads are left hanging (for example, there are hints towards the beginning and end of the story of heightened tensions between the Earth Ponies, Pegasai, and Unicorns, but this is never addressed), but all of the major points are resolved by the final chapter.
One side-plot that didn't work for me, however, was a shipping angle between Rarity and a Canterlot stallion. The presentation seemed to waver between "they're just infatuated with each other," which I could buy easily enough under the circumstances, and "they really are falling in love," which would be a much harder sell given the time constraints. Still, as romantic sub-plots go, this one was far from offensive.
The editing throughout the story was excellent. However, the writing suffered a few flaws. The biggest problem was the number of run-on sentences, such as, "Twilight set her horn glowing, tried to look around, but the darkened space was so big, she couldn't see anything other than her friends standing in the puddle of light she was casting and craning their necks as well, the cart full of Rarity's luggage sitting half in shadow," or, "The two princesses started forward in perfect step, Twilight moving to follow, so Applejack did, too, kept pace with her friend, heard the shuffle of the others behind them, Pinkie Pie whispering in a voice that seemed to echo from every wall in the building: 'Are we heading for the buffet?'" Also, as both examples show, the author had a tendency to eschew conjunctions, which in some cases left me uncertain whether actions had occurred simultaneously or sequentially. I feel I should also note here that the entire story is in Courier font, though I admit I'm not quite sure why I feel it's important to note. I don't know much about the impact of font choice myself other than what's hard to read or so bizarre it's distracting, and this was neither. Still, it is unusual. It didn't bother me, but I would be interested to know why this fic was presented in that format.
For the most part, the characters were excellently written. AugieDog handles each of the the main six throughout the course of the story, and with a few early exceptions (in the first few chapters, Dash's lines occasionally sound more like something Applejack would say) everypony's personality and voice were well portrayed. AJ's accent is overdone in the early chapters, but this is scaled down to less silly levels fairly quickly.
I do want to talk a bit about Luna's portrayal specifically though, because I was very impressed by it. Luna in this story is an intriguing mix of strong-willed and uncertain; she's prone to act without consulting others and expects obedience from her subjects, yet she's fundamentally unsure how to take on the mantle of co-ruler of Equestria, or even how to interact with modern ponies (and modern times, more generally). I thought she was a fully realized character, and this depiction of her stands out as one of the better ones I've come across.
Finally, there's the epilogue. I'm of two minds about it: on one hand, it's a very sweet idea (if one doesn't think about it too hard--otherwise, there are some potentially horrifying implications, but given the presentation I think it can be assumed that these aren't intended). On the other, its ties to the rest of the story are tangential at best. In essence, it's answering a question that the previous fifteen chapters never asked. Frankly, I think it would have been better as its own story; that would also have given it room to be fleshed out a bit more, which I think it could use.
Star rating: ★★★☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Although it suffers from inconsistent tone and a few incomplete or unsatisfying sub-plots, there's a lot to like here. An excellent portrayal of Luna (now that I think about it, AugieDog was pretty close to her S2 personality, in spirit if not in TRADITIONAL ROYAL CANTERLOT VOICE), not to mention the other ponies, combine with a main arc that's both exciting and intriguing to make for a story that's very readable despite its length.
Recommendation: Although this is a long story, it's almost never dull or draggy; those who normally skip over larger works based on those grounds might want to give this a look. And for readers who like to try and guess the villain, this is a well-executed (if hardly devious) mystery.
Next time: Kindness's Reward, by Avery Strange