Monday, April 9, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 56: Moonlight Over Midnight

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

And now, the conclusion of the Out in the Cold story set!  My previous reviews of the associated stories are here and here, for those of you who need to catch up/refresh your memory.  As before, a reminder: significant spoilers for the previous stories are included in this review, so you may want to check them out first.  For everyone else, EsperDerek's Moonlight Over Midnight, behind the break.

Impressions before reading:  Every EsperDerek story I've read so far has been better than the one previous, so I've got high hopes for this one.  Of course, any story about the improbably-foaled child of Twilight and Trixie has a pretty shaky premise to work from, but I'm hoping this story will transcend the dubious setup provided by its predecessors.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Midnight has always been proud of her mothers, but she's concealed her identity as the daughter of Trixie and Twilight (and Luna) since arriving in Canterlot as a university student in order to better fit in.  Now, an unexpected development threatens to reveal her identity to everyone she's met and befriended in the past year, and Midnight doesn't know what to do.

Thoughts after reading:  As I've mentioned before when reviewing some of the sequels to Out in the Cold, I think it's not entirely fair to judge a story based on backstory set by its predecessor.  When you read a continuation like this, you need to take the preceding story as given, and that will naturally affect one's ultimate judgement.  That said, when a story goes out of its way to spotlight a problem, the subject needs to be addressed.

The central conflict in Moonlight Over Midnight is Midnight's fear, stemming from the upcoming public presentation of herself as Luna's "daughter," that she won't be able to blend in like she has in her first year away from home at university.  This has the unfortunate (and with a little effort, probably mostly avoidable) effect of constantly highlighting what is unquestionably the weakest point in the Cold series: the "magical three-way" which resulted in Midnight's birth.  A story about Midnight obviously can't completely avoid the subject, but dragging it front and center shines a bright light on the shakiest (and least tasteful) portion of the story's foundations.

Characterization was much weaker in this story than in Dreams of Midnight, or even Cold's later chapters.  Midnight is presented as a fairly normal teen, albeit one who apparently has an unhealthy interest in her parents' love life (if my folks had talked and acted around me the way Trixie and Twilight talk and act around her when I was a college freshman, I'd have died of embarrassment.  Heck, it would make me incredibly uncomfortable even today).  She's bookish and worried about socializing, but still manages to keep up good grades; basically, she's what you'd expect Twilight's kid to be like.  Her friends, however, are one-dimensional and bland, while Trixie, Twilight, and even the princesses to a lesser degree all are highly overwrought and over-emotional.  The flashbacks which dot this story tend inextricably toward the maudlin.

On the plus side, the editing on this story is quite good.  Sadly, the writing leaves something to be desired.  EsperDerek drastically overuses meaningless modifiers.  "Makeup and final fittings had pretty much killed most of the day... plus there was that inconvenient fact that Midnight had to pretty much keep herself in hiding," to highlight one example, but the story is full of a littles, a bits, and of course, pretty muchs.  This is a fault I don't remember noticing in his other stories, though whether because it wasn't present (at least, not in such quantity), or because it was overshadowed by more glaring problems which were absent from this story, I don't know.

Although I think there's probably a decent story to be mined from "Luna's secret daughter is afraid of what will happen once her identity is revealed," this story simply didn't deliver it.  Part of that is attributable to the fact that the preceding stories didn't really set up this narrative: Luna's role in Midnight's birth was always obscured, of course, but the fact that she was Twilight and Trixie's daughter wasn't.  And in this continuity, both are incredibly famous throughout Equestria in their own right, and their daughter is by proxy.  The reasons why Midnight isn't already famous and why her friends don't know about her parents are addressed, but not convincingly.

But even without having to try to shoehorn the plot in, the presentation wasn't impressive.  Without spoiling the ending, the way Midnight's friends act at the end is silly and unrealistic, especially since the logic they use to justify their actions is directly at odds with what they were doing mere paragraphs prior.  And the role of Grandma Midnight, Trixie's mother and the protagonist's namesake, in the larger narrative was never clear.  Other than providing an excuse for another flashback and a chance for a couple of characters to interact, it seemed to be unrelated to the larger story.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

Although it wasn't offensively bad, this story did take most of the worst narrative and characterization elements from the previous stories in this continuity.  I'm afraid I was left disappointed by this continuation.

Recommendation:  I would only recommend this story to people who really, really like Midnight.  Neither the other characters nor the story itself offer anything that demands reading.

Next time:  It's a Dangerous Business, Going Out Your Door, by Jetfire


  1. I can't help but think that all the 'third mother' stuff could have been saved from absurdity if they'd just used a label to identify 'virtual' parentage. Hell, I'd even settle for Godmother, as much as I hate the term and it's implications.

    The concept was, in the end, so horribly stretched that it does tend to intrinsically mar any reference to it.

    On the upside, I do find some healthy respect for authors who are writing fics that don't lean too heavily on in-jokes and show references, which I remember this being very light on. So I'll give a few bonus points for that and simply say that my time didn't feel wasted, which manages to put this above some number of other fics I won't be sadistic enough to mention.

  2. Huh. I was expecting this to be much more highly rated, like the last installment Esper wrote.

    I think that Midnight, from what I can tell, is a fun enough character. She's just handicapped badly by her origins, and from the sounds of it, this time around the central conflict was lacking.

  3. Can't wait seven hours... So excited!

  4. *their daughter

    you used there instead :(