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Not being a farmer, I don't usually pay too much mind to ruminations about drought or excessive rain (farmers, for those of you who don't know any, will complain about either with equal gusto And if conditions are somehow perfect, they will switch to dourly commenting on how low crop prices are sure to be with everyone's else's fields coming in so well. There is no pleasing these people). However, the lack of water seems to be affecting the quality of this year's sweet corn, and as far as I'm concerned grilled sweet corn is one of life's simple pleasures. This is no good.
Below the break, my review of DJLowrider's Raiders of the Cutie Mark.
Impressions before reading: I admit that, despite liking the original three Indiana Jones movies (even Temple of Doom; what can I say, I'll forgive a lot if Harrison Ford is involved), I've been lukewarm to the idea of either direct or spiritual crossovers between that and MLP (of which there have been scads, though most were written following the premier of the Daring-Do episode). That said, I'm willing to give a story about the CMC going on an epic quest a chance.
Also, it bugs me that there's an unnecessary apostrophe in the cover art, but I'm guessing that's not the author's fault.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Following up on a lead from one of Twilight Sparkle's books, the CMC set off to find the Holy Oat Pail, said to grant to those who eat from it their heart's desire.
Thoughts after reading: To begin with, I'll point out that the ties connecting this story to anything Indiana Jones are tenuous at best. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but anyone looking for a ponified version of Raiders of the Lost Arc based on the title and picture will be disappointed. Rather, this is a story about Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo going crusading for their cutie marks, and the ties to Indy (such as the aforementioned Holy
As far as the story concept went, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It took a simple, slice-of-life conceit, which had little in the way of unexpected twists and turns (I suspect most readers will have a pretty clear idea where the story's going by the end of the first chapter), but the pleasure to be had from this fic was never going to hinge on concealing its "surprise" in any case. Instead, it focuses on just following the CMC around on yet another of their half-baked quests, guided by their enthusiasm and some not-so-subtle external prodding. There's nothing earth-shattering about it, but it's definitely the kind of premise that could easily be spun into a pleasant bit of light reading.
Sadly, the execution didn't always match the quality of the concept. Although the piece was near-flawless technically, pacing was a weak point throughout the story. Digressions to fill in each of the ponies' early childhoods relied too much on factual recitation rather than actual storytelling, and gave the first few chapters a dull, ploddy feel. Dialogue was decent on the whole, but word choices didn't really reflect the characters speaking--take out the apostrophes from Apple Bloom's speech, for example, and it would be difficult to tell most of her lines from Scootaloo's or Sweetie Belle's. And then, there's the matter of the ending--or rather, the endings.
DJLowrider wrote two conclusions to the story; without going into too much detail, let's call them the plot-advancement ending and the status-quo ending. Either one by itself would have been okay, but I feel that publishing both was a mistake. Reading them back-to-back highlights the problems with each--problems which would have been less obvious had only one been published, and presented as the ending. The status-quo version is just that: it brings everything around so that all the characters end the story in pretty much the same position as they started. While I think it's both more amusing and better fits the characters than the plot-advancement ending (problems, again, which would have stuck out less had the plot-advancement version been the only one I'd read), it does feel unsatisfying when there's another arc that isn't afraid to move away from the show's setup. I don't know that I have a strong preference between the two personally, but reading both makes for a weaker ending than reading either alone.
The CMC have to solve several very basic clues in this story, one of which revolves around knowing the acronym ROYGBV. Now, back in my day there was an I in there, and though I was aware that sometime in the last ten or fifteen years many schools began moving to teaching a six-color spectrum, I didn't really know why. Curious, I did a little poking around, and it turns out that Issac Newton was the one who established red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet as the "colors of the rainbow" in modern conception. Initially, he only listed five colors (red, yellow, green, blue, violet), but being a devoted numerologist, he was convinced that a rainbow was supposed to have seven colors. So essentially, he stared at a prism until he convinced himself that he saw two more distinct colors in there: orange and indigo.
That last paragraph has nothing to do with the story or any criticisms thereof, by the way. I just thought it was interesting.
The one thing which I did like better about the status-quo ending was the lack of musical links. While giving Sweetie Belle the voice of a thirty year old soprano is certainly amusing, it doesn't really add anything to the story, and for many readers (myself included) it ends up being a distraction. Besides, is there really any risk that readers won't know the tune to Danny Boy? The link presentation in an earlier segment, where a musical link is included in an author's note after the chapter, just seems like an all-around better choice to me.
Star rating: ★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Although there's a solid idea for a show-feel story here, there are a number of structural problems which prevent it from excelling. Still, as far as light-tone CMC fanfics go, this isn't by any stretch a bad one--just underwhelming.
Recommendation: One of the reasons I include that relatively long "thoughts after reading" bit in each review is so that potential readers can get an idea not only of what did or didn't work for me in a story, but why they did or didn't work, and whether or not those are opinions they're likely to share. I'm sure plenty of readers will find the multiple endings, music links, and uneven pacing less problematic than I did, and for them I suspect this will prove a very satisfying read. For other readers, this will probably prove an adequate but unexceptional story.
Next time: Progress, by Andrew Joshua Talon (aka: the Luna Vs. series)