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I've finally finished reading the sequel to My Little Alicorn, so here's a review of it! As usual, be aware that this post may contain spoilers for the original story. If that's going to bother you, I recommend you either read Alicorn first, or read my review of it and decide whether it's something you're willing to risk spoilers for the sake of.
Also, the picture above has nothing to do with anything; the sequel just doesn't have any unique cover art associated with it, and Carrot Top-Dib riding Fluttershai-hulud is awesome. Anyway, InsertAuthorHere's Bringing Up Blueblood, below the break.
Impressions before reading: Well, I enjoyed the first story, which is a pretty good sign going in. Although in commercial fiction it's a truism that sequels are more often than not inferior to the original (yes, I know there are plenty of counter-examples; it's a truism, not an immutable law), I've found the opposite to generally be true in fanfiction. I suspect the difference is often just practice; most fanfic authors are relatively inexperienced writers, after all, and a little practice in the form of a previous story can hardly help but improve one's skills.
As always, I'm taking the review of My Little Alicorn as a given going in; this review is primarily going to focus on the ways in which Bringing Up Blueblood differs from it, for better or for worse.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After the conclusion of My Little Alicorn, Prince Blueblood was transformed into a young colt while behaving in a way that would make Snidely Whiplash proud. Although the princesses have the ability to turn him back, Celestia decides that he should remain a colt and enroll in a local Kindergarten as part of a scheme to rehabilitate him. Unfortunately for Blueblood, there are plenty of ponies who would rather see him suffer than make amends...
Thoughts after reading: Since I spent a fair chunk of Alicorn's review commenting on Luna's characterization, I figure I should address it vis-a-vis the sequel. Much like Alicorn, Blueblood's Luna is cruel, vindictive, and often petty. Unlike in Alicorn, however, this ends up working pretty well for the story.
The biggest reason why Luna's portrayal comes off so much better is because in this story, she is unambiguously the antagonist. That's not to say she's cartoonishly malicious, or even particularly/unreasonably cruel from start to finish--more on that in the next paragraph--but she spends most of the fic explicitly trying to ruin Blueblood's only chance at redemption, and Blueblood is unambiguously the protagonist of this story. That's a much more natural fit for her characterization, frankly. More to the point, there's no attempt to establish any sort of equivalency between Blueblood's past (mis)deeds and the acts of his tormentors, Luna or others. They're simply presented as what they are; vengeful, sometimes spiteful acts by ponies who justifiably have axes to grind. The fact that this story doesn't go out of its way to enforce character interpretations is a welcome improvement on the first story.
Another nice alteration is that the secondary characters in Blueblood tend to be far less one-dimensional than in the first story. As an example: Blueblood himself, in Alicorn, was even more aggressively idiotic than in his one canon appearance. Several other nobles existed only as one-note jokes despite having significant page time, for that matter. While that wasn't particularly problematic (the characterizations weren't particularly out of place in that fic), they did tend to create relatively shallow scenes. In this story, on the other hand, Blueblood's schoolyard friends, Cadance, Shining Armour, and the bevy of other characters who wander in and out of the sprawling story all have distinct personalities, even as they fill the same light-comic roles which could be passably executed by the literary equivalent of a cardboard cutout. Cadance could easily have been reduced to her initial joke (obliviously stating the situation in jest), but the fact that much more is done with her gives the story greater staying power--a must in a 150k-word behemoth.
Speaking of the length, one thing I was disappointed to see was that Blueblood, in marked contrast to its predecessor, has several continuity issues, both in terms of tone and out-and-out errors. These kinds of problems are common in multi-chapter fanfics, simply because they're generally published chapter-by-chapter rather than treated as a whole, but the relative lack of them in Alicorn had me hoping that they would not pop up here. Still, there are several plot elements that are forgotten along the way in the story, and a few flat-out mistakes (by way of example, the only one I can find in my notes that isn't spoiler-y: early on, Bluebood is told by his schoolyard friends that the teachers have offered cupcakes to anyone who can pull a ribbon from a tree. In subsequent chapters, the reward is stated to be pudding. Pretty minor, I know, but like I said: it's the only low-spoiler one I have).
This story has, on the whole, much lower stakes than Alicorn. Instead of dealing with ancient irreversible curses and the fate of Equestria, Blueblood focuses almost entirely (outside of the sequel bait at the end, anyway) on its protagonist and the situation surrounding him. I found I preferred the less-weighty premise, but I suspect some readers may find the tale dull by comparison. That said, the storytelling itself is definitely not at fault; the simple but shrewd humor of the first story is present throughout the narration here as well, keeping the proceedings light without ever overburdening the story with desperate attempts at comedy.
Star rating: ★★★★☆ (what does this mean?)
As I suspected (aren't I smart!), this sequel shows definite improvement from the original story. Characterizations, which weren't weak to begin with, are stronger, and the tendency to try to forcibly direct the reader's sympathies have been mostly excised here.
Recommendation: Fans of My Little Alicorn will definitely want to continue on to Bringing Up Blueblood. Those who were put off by Luna's seeming free passes in that story will also want to keep reading; although her characterization is similar, this story is a clear step up on that front--for all the characters.
Next time: A Colt's Best Friend, by Mister Clacky