Wednesday, January 23, 2013

6-Star Reviews Part 128: Bringing Up Blueblood

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

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


  1. I will confess that this story frustrated me to such an extent that I was unable to finish reading it. Fundamentally, I simply couldn't accept the premise; it was never really made clear to me why, exactly, Blueblood deserved a chance at redemption for actions that would have been punishable in a far harsher way had he been any other individual. It seemed as though the only reason he was given this chance was because he was lucky enough to be born with high rank and so had daily interaction with Celestia when he was a small child. This had some unfortunate implications and made the entire notion that he should be offered this redemption grossly unfair. Thus, I found myself sympathizing with Luna's point of view. Why shouldn't she sabotage his attempt to get back into Celestia's good graces when he didn't deserve that chance anyway?

    The implication that I took away from this story was that Celestia's actions indirectly favored the nobility and ponies of high social standing. After all, I have a hard time believing that she would have provided this opportunity to any random pony who hadn't had the chance to interact with her on a regular basis while growing up. Since these interactions only happened due to an accident of birth, I would have hoped she would have made at least some effort to act more fairly.

    1. "After all, I have a hard time believing that she would have provided this opportunity to any random pony who hadn't had the chance to interact with her on a regular basis while growing up."

      Um...she couldn't. The only reason Blueblood's stuck as a colt is because of the circumstances around his curse, none of which are easily repeatable. If the spell had just been used on him otherwise, he would have reverted back to normal in two hours, and despite last week's episode trying to speak to the contrary, that's not enough time to reform anyone.

      Just speaking as the guy who wrote it, yes, Celestia would make the same offer if some other villain had been caught in the same situation. But she can't easily repeat the process, nor would either she or Luna be willing to casually throw a spell written by a psychopath around. Luna only used it initially because she thought it wore itself out on anypony and didn't know anything about Kuchen.

    2. I'd gotten the impression from the argument between Celestia and Luna in Ch. 4 that Celestia's primary motivation was sentiment, provided by her experience with Blueblood when he was growing up. It was that, combined with their decision to keep it a secret, that made me think she was treating this as a special case, an exception she wouldn't have offered to most others. If that's mistaken, it really puts a different light on the whole thing. I'll be the first to admit that I'm prone to misinterpreting things that should be obvious.

      Regardless, I'd like to thank you for the response. I enjoyed My Little Alicorn and read through the first five chapters of Bringing Up Blueblood while it was first coming out. I understand that there's another story in the works and I think I'll give Bringing Up Blueblood another try.

  2. "Behaving in a way that would make Snidely Whiplash proud!?"

    (ノ °益°)ノ 彡 ┻━┻

    No, I'm not serious.

  3. Wow...I'm amazed you scored it this highly.

    I agree with the continuity issues. A lot of it was just the disorganized mess my brain and life was when I was writing this. Right as I started, I lost my job. The story's updates ran through about six months of me growing ever more desperate, falling into depression, a few close calls with not-so-nice thoughts, etc. So...yeah, I ended up not focusing as much as I should have and made mistakes here and there.

    That pudding one though...that seems to be the one everyone brings up. I swear, when I die, my grave is going to say:


    Anyway, I'm glad you liked this one. Thanks for the kind review.

  4. Still not seeing a post for Friday. Did I miss something?