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Sorry for the non-post on Friday, guys. See, I was going to be out of town through the weekend, so I wrote up the review in advance... and then forgot to set it to post. So, it was done! You just didn't get to see it.
Anyway, I got home Sunday afternoon and figured that at that point, it'd make more sense to just call it a loss and schedule it for the usual time on Monday. So here's your slightly delayed review of MisterClacky's A Colt's Best Friend.
Impressions before reading: The fact that one of the additional tags on this story is "D'awww" doesn't inspire a lot of confidence going in; that's just behind "manly tears" on the list of warning signs that a story will be dealing in uninspired cliches and/or contrived angst, rather than actual emotion. That said, the story isn't tagged sad, so maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After young Applejack leaves for Manehattan, Big Mac (nee Little Mac) is left alone on the farm with Granny Smith and an infant Applebloom. Then, he finds someone else who's been abandoned--a puppy.
Thoughts after reading: Unfortunately, my fear going in turned out to be pretty well justified. From the opening paragraph, this story relies heavily on naked emotional appeals, rather than plot or character building, to establish an emotional tone. It seems crass to me to use dead parents as a backdrop to establish tone, though perhaps I'm simply expecting too much development from a story that's only a few thousand words long. Be that as it may, there's an unselfconscious insincerity which pervades this story, both in its sadder moments and in the more slice-of-life bits. I've heard others describe similar stories as having the effect of the author standing over their shoulder saying, "Okay, now be sad! That's it, now feel better!" In truth, that's not too far of the vibe I got throughout this piece.
As for the overall story, it's constructed very poorly. Best Friend essentially breaks down into three distinct sections: Mac's sorrow and feelings of abandonment at the start, some semi-comic slice-of-life hijinks in the middle, and a "heartwarming" reunion and denouement to wrap it up. These three sections are not well integrated with one another, however, and although there's a consistent plotline throughout, the changing emotional center and writing structure make it feel almost as if one is reading three separate micro-fics.
Word choice is decent, but tends towards the overblown. "A solitary tear clung to his quivering chin, each tremor threatening to send it plummeting to the rich soil below," is a representative example of the adjective-heavy style which the author uses throughout the story. The injudicious use of these flourishes unfortunately contributes to the feeling of melodrama in the story's sad sections, and tends to be a poor fit in the livelier bits. With that said, actual word use is quite good; if nothing else, the author refrains from mangling words by actually misusing them.
Star rating: ★☆☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
The review and rating as written seem to me a bit harsh, compared to how I feel about the story itself. It's not awful by any stretch... just disjointed and trite. Of course, "disjointed and trite" is hardly a ringing endorsement itself, but there you have it. This is a type of story of which many, many examples exist in any fandom: it does little with its characters, and tries to demand an emotional reaction without earning any particular investment from its readers. Sadly, it doesn't stand out from that crowd.
Recommendation: That type of story does, however, seem to have a lot of draw. At a guess, I'd say folks who liked My Little Dashie will probably enjoy this one, too. Although the setting is completely different, and the tone and structure have little in common, both treat their characters (and the reader) in similar ways. In general, however, I would say this is not a story that rises above "typical fanfiction" in any way save perhaps editing quality.
Next time: Sword, Hammer, Stallion, by RedSquirrel456