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I can't say I cared for the Timber Wolves in Spike at Your Service--I'm not enough of an artistic connoisseur to express what about their appearance sat so poorly with me, but they looked very... computer-generated. I know the entire show is done in flash, but visually, they just didn't jive with the rest of what we've seen, I thought.
On the plus side, Rainbow Dash writing self-insert Wonderbolt fanfics is now canon, which is something that I've always privately supposed.
Below, my review of Drakmire's For Those We Left Behind.
Impressions before reading: I actually read this before it was published, and offered the author a few bits of advice, so this story isn't new to me by any stretch. I thought at the time that it was very powerful, moreso for the very low-key, understated way it dealt with the central tragedy.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When Twlight's mother passes away, Twilight realizes that she barely even knew her.
Thoughts after reading: One of the best things a story can do is inspire a bit of introspection. This story does precisely that.
Superficially, of course, this is a story about Twilight dealing with the loss of her mother, and it works quite well on that level. But the questions which are asked of the reader go deeper. Much more than being a story about something, this is a story about what wasn't: a meaningful relationship between Twilight and her mom. There's no grand declaration at the end, no blame assigned, no sides chosen. Instead, room is left for the reader to interpret how (or even if) Twilight and her mother failed one another--a welcome bit of open-endedness, given the subject matter.
The author adopts a very minimalist style for this story, limiting the narration mostly to succinct but functional descriptions of character actions and events, and letting the dialogue do the talking. As with the story itself, the dialogue is more often notable for what's left unsaid than what's actually stated. Drakmire does an excellent job representing the awkwardness of conversation in the wake of a death; a conversation near the middle of the story where Twilight's curtness, bordering on rudeness, and her conversational partner's inability to think of something more useful to say than "I'm sorry," over and over, was as strikingly realistic as it was (intentionally) uncomfortable.
The pacing is fairly episodic, skipping from scene to scene with little in the way of transition. This, combined with the above-mentioned minimalist writing, give the entire story a hollow, empty feeling--one very appropriate to the story being told. Twilight's needing to speak at the funeral loosely ties these scenes together, and this does inadvertently weaken the ending: although her speech may be perfectly natural and appropriate, it hardly feels like a climax. Rather, it's another in a string of scenes which show how Twilight is coping in the wake of a family tragedy, one for which she was even more unprepared than she realized.
Star rating: ★★★★☆ (what does this mean?)
I don't have a lot more to say about this one. I didn't when I first read it. In fact, my exact words to the author were "Frankly, I didn't have much to say; you had a story to tell, and for the most part I think you did an excellent job telling it." That right before I handed him a dozen or so paragraphs worth of suggestions, but bah. The point is, this story is remarkably effective for what it is: an unflinching look at a squandered opportunities, put forever beyond correction.
Recommendation: This is one of the most emotionally honest pieces of ponyfiction I've come across, and anyone interested in as much should definitely give this a look.
Next time: Shipping and Handling, by Pegasus Rescue Brigade