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Breaking up the run of happy Luna stories, we have a shipping Luna story! I hope you all like S1 interpretations of the ruler of the night, because this week is going to be very Luna-centric.
My review of Syrinkitty's Common Sky, after the break.
Impressions before reading: Shipping immortal or near-immortal creatures with regular ponies, as is the case with a Luna x Twilight combo, seems to me like something that shouldn't be taken lightly. After all, there are a lot of really uncomfortable (for the characters) questions that need to be addressed when dating someone several millennia your junior, someone who's going to die in a few decades (a relative blink of the eye for you, our hypothetical immortal) in any case. But the additional tags do promise us that things will be "awkward," which is a promising sign under the circumstances, and the author says it's a story more about emotional connection than physical/sexual stuff, which given the premise is probably a good thing.
Also, I can't get over the pre-reader quote on this one: "An eloquent tale of triumph over fear and isolation, 'Common Sky' soars to new heights in the MLP fandom." Somebody's been reading too many dust jackets, methinks.
Lastly, I'll observe that there's an incomplete sequel. I haven't read it, and I'm not planning to review it (per author comments, it never really got going. Doesn't sound like there'd be a lot for me to comment on).
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight goes off into the mountains alone to watch a once-in-a-millennia meteor shower. While camping there, Princess Luna comes across her, and discovers that someone loves her night.
Thoughts after reading: Going back to that happy Luna competition for a moment: the impetus for the whole event was the hyperabundance of "sad Luna" stories which this fandom produced prior to Luna Eclipsed. What is a "sad Luna" story? To quote myself from a previous review: "Luna is very sad, because of the whole Nightmare Moon/banished for a millennium thing, coupled with the fact that nopony notices her night, even now that she's not evil. Then somepony, usually one of the main 6, says something nice about her and/or her night, and she feels better. Then if it's a shipping story, they kiss. The end." Common Sky is the very definition of a "sad Luna" story.
Of course, that by itself doesn't mean it's bad. What it does mean is that this is a story that's been done many, many times before. In all fiction writing, it's important for an author to put some sort of unique or creative spin on their work; if there's nothing new or original about a story, what would be the point of anyone reading it?1 But again, the fact that this story fits a very common mold doesn't automatically mean it can't have original elements, or a novel and unique take on characterization, worldbuilding, writing style, or anything else.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't deliver on any of these fronts. Perhaps the most immediately noticeable problem is the writing: while the story has obviously been through the spellchecker a few times, there are a lot of editing problems. Missing words, sentences which were incompletely split or joined, and the occasional spellcheck error (rage for range, for example) mar the story. The problem was similar to what I've encountered and commented on in previous stories by Pen Stroke: while the issues aren't exactly pervasive, they are frequent, and at times inhibit comprehension.
The writing quality on the piece was not great, even leaving aside the out-and-out errors. Syrinkitty frequently has trouble with redundant or meaningless inclusions, as with "Twilight was greeted by Applejack, who warmly greeted her," or "it was dark inside, and none of the lights were on." Similarly, word choice is repetitive, and the author occasionally appears uncertain what fairly common words mean. I could go on, but my point is that the quality of the writing itself is severely lacking.
The characterization of Luna was interesting, in both a positive and a negative sense. In the story she's presented as being emotionally stunted, but what makes this Luna unique is that she appears to be suffering some pretty significant psychological damage as a result of the whole Nightmare Moon/try to take over the world/millennium in solitude thing. "Emo Luna" was all too common a staple of many fanfics before season two, but here the author clearly has spent a little time thinking about why Luna would be so uncertain, so depressive, and so socially inept.
On the downside, this version of Luna doesn't mesh well with the romantic storyline. Her crippling need for validation may explain why she latches on to Twilight as soon as she realizes that Twi doesn't hate her, but it doesn't feel romantic. Instead, it comes across as pathetic, and really quite pitiable: Luna literally doesn't realize that Twilight isn't the only pony in Equestria who will tolerate her presence, so she decides they're emotionally bound to one another. For her part, Twilight is so naive that she doesn't recognize how unhealthy Luna's actions are, which may be in character, but means that the idea that Luna must be soul mates with her on the basis of mutual toleration never really gets challenged. Maybe I'm being overly cynical, but it's not like the author even tried to sell this as "true love:" the story is one of an emotionally dependent psychotic (I'm not using any of those words hyperbolically, if it isn't clear) becoming infatuated with the first individual to give her any positive individual attention in centuries. That's more sad and uncomfortable than it is sweet and heartwarming.
Every emotional event throughout the story is ridiculously overwrought. To a certain degree, this didn't bother me; Luna at least is emotionally unstable enough that I was totally able to buy her going into histrionics over relatively minor (to anyone but her) revelations. But even if it wasn't entirely unwarranted from a characterization standpoint, it quickly became fatiguing to read: at one point, I was unable to help but picture Luna doing her best William Shatner impersonation, the writing was so over-dramatic ("Somepony... likes... my night...!" (all punctuation Syrinkitty's)). On a related note, there are some truly terrible cliches scattered throughout this story. I have yet to read the story, never mind the fanfic, where a character sheds a single tear and it doesn't come off as just plain silly.
I'm looking over the notes I took on this story, and there's a lot that I haven't even touched on. Applejack's accent is written nigh-incomprehensibly (in some sentences, there are almost as many apostrophes as there are words), the nature of the night sky is poorly dealt with (apparently Equestria is part of an entire universe identical to ours, rather than being possessed a "heavenly spheres" setup, yet Luna has no trouble brightening the entire Andromeda galaxy or moving literal stars around to suit her artistic desires), some aspects of Twilight's temperament are directly contradicted by canon, etc. What I'm trying to say is, this story has a lot of problems.
Star rating: ★☆☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
One of the difficulties with writing a story based around a well-worn premise is that it will invariably be compared to other similar stories. While this is far from the worst sad Luna story out there, it suffers for the comparison; people who want to read a fic with this basic premise have a number of superior alternatives. But even were that not the case, this just isn't a particularly well-written or fulfilling story.
Recommendation: There's nothing here that hasn't been done, and better, before. The writing is poor, the editing spotty, the characterization an ill fit for the plot... I'm afraid I can't recommend this story.
Next time: Eso Si Que Es, by WTFHIW
1I'm well aware that, in both original fiction and fanfiction, wholly unoriginal stories regularly become astoundingly popular. I don't think this invalidates my point, but rather shows that humanity as a group is neither possessed of perfect knowledge, nor invariably guided by rational self-interest. Shocking conclusions, I know.