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By the time you read this, I'll be far from home, in the heart of the American southwest. Why do I only visit the desert in the middle of summer? I'm like the anti-snowbird, heading south for the hot season and going north come winter. Clever, clever me.
Below, my review of uSea's Ditzy Doo and the Blustery Day.
Impressions before reading: I commented on this story when it was first posted: "I have nothing to say, save this: that was absolutely, spectacularly amazing." In retrospect, "amazingly spectacular" would have flowed better, but the point is I liked it a lot, and I'm really hoping that it's as good as I remember it being.
Zero-ish spoiler summary:
Thoughts after reading: The story's post has links to both fimfiction and google doc copies, the latter containing a redirect to the former. Both the author and I recommend reading this on fimfiction, as it has fewer spacing issues and overall better formatting (as regards this particular story, anyway. My general preference is still for stories in gdocs, but I'm flexible).
The technical side of this story is pretty solid; the only consistent problem is the lack of commas setting off names. "'Good morning Applejack,' said Ditzy" and the like are the norm throughout. I don't know why so many authors seem to be unfamiliar with this rule, but it's one of the most common problems I see in fanfiction. That aside, the editing was pretty good.
That comment about the commas is pretty much the only negative thing I have to say about this story. As an homage to children's stories in general and A.A. Milne's most famous works in particular, Ditzy Doo and the Blustery Day is thoroughly deserving of any superlative I could think to toss at it. Perhaps its most noted feature are its illustrations and the way it occasionally plays with its text, and these are certainly worth mentioning: the simple but colorful drawings are an excellent stylistic match for the story being told. But the writing is equally well done.
uSea uses simple, direct narration to mimic the just-so quality which many readers, children and adults alike, find so pleasing in classic English bedtime stories. Ditzy Doo is a tangled, meandering tale of the titular mare going about a very unusual day, but the narrative turns that lack of focus into a strength by tying it to the meta-story. The writing style does an excellent job of capturing the simplistic, repetitive nature of children's lit without ever becoming boring itself. All told, there's very little in the writing or structure that doesn't accomplish exactly what it is meant to.
The characters throughout are wonderfully realized; most are ponies cast in the role of characters from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories (Carrot Top as Rabbit, Pinkie as Tigger, etc.), and I was shocked by how well each pony was executed while recognizably "playing the part," so to speak, of another character. Pinkie was an especial highlight for me; her bouncy exuberance and cheery willfulness, coupled with the completely sincere narration and dialogue, made her a pleasure to read. Even if a reader had somehow managed to live their life without any familiarity with Pooh and company, the story needs no explanation lying outside of familiarity with their show in order to be enjoyed.
That last sentence is a key element to Ditzy Doo's success: this story is totally capable of standing alone. Yes, it leans heavily on Milne's best-known stories, and its writing style is clearly borrowed from that of he and other children's authors of the same time (Arthur Ransom, Beatrix Potter, et al). But even those who didn't grow up listening to Old Peter's Russian Tales or The Wind in the Willows being read to them before bed each night will have no difficulty in enjoying this tale on its own merits.
Star rating: ★★★★★ (what does this mean?)
This was one of those rare stories where I had a great silly grin plastered across my face from start to finish. Other than some minor punctuation issues, I really can't think of anything bad to say about this. It's a nostalgia trip, sure, but it's more than that: it's a pleasure to read in its own right.
Recommendation: Everyone should read this story. I suppose some readers might find the writing style affectatious, but the quality of execution is undeniable.
Next time: Blueblood Returns, by Geldon