Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fandom Classics Part 5: Arddun Lleuad

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

Sorry for the missed update on Monday, guys.  I spent my weekend getting prepped for the first day of school on Tuesday, and since my task hierarchy places "job" second only to family, ponyfic reviewing got the shaft this time.  If it's any consolation, there's something I've been working on for a while now which is achingly close to completion (read: still probably, like, a month away).  More to look forward to, if you look forward to me doing stuff.  But for now, click down below the break for a smaller installment of my stuff, to wit: my review of Pride's Arddun Lleuad.

Impressions before reading:  So... this is a human in Equestria fic that ships said human with Luna.  I've got to admit, that premise is not inspiring a lot of confidence right off the bat.  Still, I've heard good things about this story going in, and if the story description's promise that it "attempts to combat the intense stigma of giving a human and a pony a meaningful, romantic relationship" reeks of protesting too much, it also suggests that the author has given some thought as to what the pitfalls of dropping a human and a pony into a "meaningful, romantic relationship" might be.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  One day, Chester Llewellyn finds himself mysteriously transported to another world; a world full of monsters out of myth and legend, mind-altering magics... and talking ponies.

Thoughts after reading:  I know I've mentioned before that I'm not much for "shipping" as a genre.  I don't mind shipping in stories--at least, not inherently--but stories which are centrally about shipping two characters together tend to do things that don't work for me as a reader.  Things like have someone become completely, utterly infatuated with someone they've never even met, and have the story imply that this is not infatuation, but genuine, unreserved love.  Things like having two characters who've met only hours ago proclaim their undying love for one another with complete sincerity.  Things like suggesting that family, friends, and life ambitions become irrelevant at best, and unwelcome distractions at worst, as soon as one's True Love has been discovered.  These things are present here, and in many, many other primarily romantic works, and I can't help but find them creepy and unrealistic.

Now, to be fair, Arddun Lleuad does at least have the courtesy to try and justify those instances when the Romance train jumps the Logic and Realism tracks, albeit those justifications can basically be summed up as "it's magic!"  But even if I were to accept that, okay, Luna and Chester are now soul mates, I can't get over how much of the story (the last half or so, anyway) is those two sitting around, fawning over each other.  In fact, large segments of this story read very much like Twilight*, in that they revolve around two characters chastely admiring one another, with an occasional hand brushing through hair/mane.  I'm obviously missing something, if the popularity of Stephanie Meyers' books is any indication, but the appeal here is lost on me.

It was pretty disappointing for me, too, because I was rather interested in the story's initial direction.  Chester plops down in the middle of the Everfree, without any idea where he is, nor what to expect from the world around him.  Pride does an excellent job of painting the forest as a strange, alien landscape, and of showing Chester's precarious mental state (as a result of both magic and stressful circumstance) as he tries to figure out how to survive.  Even his first encounters with ponykind have a welcome air of confused awe.  This sense of alien-ness gets abandoned pretty quickly thereafter, however.

Sadly, the plot turns in the last half of the story are left almost entirely unexplained.  For that matter, plenty of the story's early elements lack any complete or coherent resolution.  There are three reasons for this: first, much of it appears to be sequel bait for a second story, Chwe Goleadau, which I understand was released in rough-draft form before the author left the fandom.  Second, there are some apparent editing issues on a concept level (the actual writing is marred only by irregular typos and the occasional spellcheck error--"aside" for "across" and the like); "Mittens" comes completely out of left field in the epilogue, but the author's notes show how its addition could have been set up, and how it could have coherently tied in to the last chapter--information sadly lacking from the actual story.

But third, and I think most importantly: this is a romance novel(la).  The setting which I liked so much at the beginning and which subsequently falls by the wayside, the ill-explained and occasionally seemingly motive-less machinations which spin the central "conflict" (I hesitate to call it such, because Chester seems to positively jump at the plot-mandated solution with few or no qualms every time), the massive amount of verbiage spent on cuddling... it's because this story is, first and foremost, a story about Chester and Luna being slavishly, dogmatically in love with one another.  Anything else is subsidiary to this fact, and may be dropped or forgotten without preamble at any time.  The dense, descriptive-heavy writing ("purple prose" would not be an inaccurate charge to levy against some of it, especially during said cuddling sessions; that said, the style's entirely appropriate to the story being told) invite the reader to linger over passages and to savor the deceptively trifling acts they describe, but in the end, this story mostly is just that: a few lovingly-described YA-suitable scenes of "Romance," onto which some story elements have been grafted, with varying degrees of success.

Star rating:  ☆ (what does this mean?)

This is, in many ways, very much a "season one" fanfic: a product of a time when there simply weren't very many good fanfics, and quality writing pared with some interesting ideas was a rare treat.  Sadly, unlike some other season one fanfics, this one hasn't aged particularly well.

Recommendation:  Fans of chaste romance who are willing to overlook numerous plot contrivances and a general sense of story incoherence will find that the romantic elements are very well-written, for what they are.  Those without a specific interest in "for what they are" might find the first few chapters to be of some interest, but are unlikely to be impressed if they venture much deeper into the story.

Next time:  The Glass Blower, by Cold in Gardez

*Yes, I've read Twilight; no, this comparison isn't supposed to be a damning insult (though I admit I hardly intend it as a compliment, either)


  1. I can finally strike this story from my queue after having it sit there for a little over a year! I'd heard it mentioned quite a bit and finally added it after a Blast from the Past post on EqD, but it really doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy, so thanks for saving me the time. Now I can focus on other stories that've been sitting in my queue for a year! I know, I'm a terrible person

  2. Yeah, the description and premise didn't inspire much hope in me either. I don't like to pre-judge without reading, but sometimes you can't help but not. Though I admit, hearing from an actual reviewer that my heavily biased knee-jerk assumptions were right is rare. Every time I've heard other people mention the story, it's always been in a positive context, so I've always assumed that it's one of those "better than it looks" sort of stories that I was just being unfair to.

    I guess sometimes, things are exactly what they look like.

  3. I was given a heads-up by someone that this bit of bad news was on the way, and thus here I am. I fully expected this and dispute nothing about it. I wanted to write up a nice, far longer post about how I had expected this sort of review and did indeed agree with all points, but I just don't have the time.

    It's a damn fair review. Arddun had a multitude of problems; it was slated for a colossal rewrite and a merging with its sequel. The main focus of that rewrite was retuning the relationship and dragging it out for far longer. If anything, if you want to see just how much wrong I saw with the story, bob your pretty little head over to I wrote it, fully aware of Arddun's faults (original script was far longer, but it was a parody and length is the bane of laughter) and Lios did a phenomenal reading with this and I can't help but cry with laughter every time.

    I'm glad that I can stop living in fear of this review's emerging. There's some pretty strong positives in here for me, actually, amazing as that might be - anything /not/ mentioned I'm taking as not being a colossal sticking point that further ruined the experience, which is a hell of a lot more useful to me than you would think. I'm also a bit surprised with just how well I've taken this. An intelligent, one-star review would have devastated me, a long time ago. Perhaps I've grown so familiar with the faults and flaws of my writing that I've become desensitized to negative outlooks on it. But there's a chance, a so-very-slim-one, that it's something in my character and that's a possibility I'm happy to entertain.

    Just as I was the Big Mac of my wife's story (, Luna is my wife in Arddun and I can only imagine that once the bond was made that it overran the story from there. (one thing, Chris. Your review of Tomorrow made my significant other weep, in a good way, and I never thanked you, so there you go - thank you kindly).

    Best get back to it, now that I've got this somewhat off my chest.

    1. I totally forgot about that dramatic reading! I think that may've been how I first heard about Arddun Lleuad, though I didn't make the connection later on

      Your wife wrote a wonderful story. I actually wanted to do a comic adaptation at one point

    2. Okay, first off, that parody is hilarious. I'd not heard it before, and it just made my day.

      Second, I'm glad that my review didn't ruin your day--I hate it when I do that. There are indeed a whole bunch of things which weren't "colossal sticking points" in your story, and a few more that I thought were rather well done. Granted, one star isn't much of an endorsement, but I wouldn't by any stretch call Arddun Lleuad a truly, irredeemably terrible story--I've seen a few of those, and there's simply no point of comparison between this and them.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, and thank you for sharing your wife's reaction to my review. She made me cry too, so I suppose it's only fair that I returned the favor, as it were.

    3. Ah that reading. It's the only place I've heard of Arddun Lleuad Until it popped up on that Blast From the Past EQD post. I listened to that reading like a bajillion times, and it cracks me right the hell up every time. I never read the original though, and I can't say I'm planning to after seeing this review, but hey.

      Hey Chris look! Your reviews are so good they bring people to tears. Achievement unlocked!

  4. Chris, your reference to the Twilight franchise reminds me how this fandom changed my perspective on something a while back. It made me realize that I don’t have to be a part of the bandwagon hate that gets slung around on the internet so often! Forming my own opinion independently, imagine that… At the time though, it was quite the revelation. I was never commenting on YouTube videos, calling people idiots or anything like that, but I do admit to having let out a few groans here and there over bowl-cut Biebers, and sparkly vampires. Little did I know that I’d be reading novel-length fan fiction about a character named “Twilight Sparkle” a few short months later, but that’s not essential to my point. For a lot of people, having something to mock and belittle provides a form of catharsis, especially when they’re ignorant to the finer details of that something. I’m glad to say that I’ve moved away from this group to some extent.

    After accepting the magic of friendship into my life (ha), I’ve seen the other side of a much hated fandom and realized that all that all that pessimism I’d built up was making me feel genuinely irritable. It wasn’t ever at the forefront of my mind, mind you, but I can remember scowling at my computer over the most trivial of things. Sure, Twilight isn’t a revolutionary piece of fiction, but it doesn’t have to be for some people to enjoy it (a certain sad Philly Cheesesteak comes to mind). Criticizing something because it seems excessively popular is pointless; it is far more beneficial to analyze a piece of work and give it legitimate a critique based on that analysis. Besides, the internet would be a much better place if people directed their criticism towards something that is actually terrible: Rainbow Dash x Rarity shipping, it’s, like, literally the worst thing evar.


  5. I'm trying to come up with ideas for a shipping story that you'll appreciate now, having laid out your issues with them in this post.

    Arddun Lleuad I've never heard anything but praise for until now. It's supposed to be the best HiE story ever. Maybe that's changed, I dunno. I am looking forward to reading it now, because despite our differences when it comes to shipping, I'm also severely against interspecies relationships, and I want this story to do its worst. :V

    1. Best HiE story ever? Ha! No. That's The Best of All Possible Worlds by McPoodle. No contest.

    2. Here I thought it was Brony Hero of Equestria, but McPoodle's fic has Voltaire. I'm very tempted to check it out for that alone

    3. Brony Hero of Equestria is up there, no doubt. Even though I'm a sucker for over the top parody though, I can't let legitimately thoughtful quality writing go unacknowledged, and BoAPW has that in spades.

    4. The best non-crossover HIEs are A Voice Among the Strangers, Why am I Pinkie Pie?, Through the Eyes of Another Pony, Article 2, and Project Sunflower.

    5. And the best story ever is "The Aliens Who Knew, Like, Everything"--a story about a race of aliens who took over the Earth by annoying everybody by telling them what was the best X, for all values of X, until everyone else left.

    6. Bad Horse is the best at butts.
      Also mockery.

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  7. Your comment about "season 1 fanfics" makes me wonder why you've set yourself the task of reviewing season 1 fanfics, instead of just reviewing stories you think are likely to be good.

    You could look at the stories most-often talked about when people complain about EqD rejecting good stories, like "My Roommate is a Vampire", "Quizzical", "Oh, to be Old Again", or "Best of All Possible Worlds" (mentioned above).

    1. Please. When My Little Mommies is rejected for basic writing issues almost noone notices and My Little Sharknado makes it on for lulz you just stop caring.

    2. I find your choice of examples interesting. "Quizzical" was good, and I haven't read "To be Old Again", but I couldn't stand "My Roommate is a Vampire" or "Best of All Possible Worlds".

      "MRV" is one giant cliché. It has no egregious errors, but the writing isn't interesting and the characters are unconvincing. It's heavy-handed. I made it to the introduction of werewolves before giving up and jumping to the conclusion, which wasn't great either.

      "BAPW" has an interesting premise, but it's slow, and the plot is all over the place. As of the 20th chapter, when I gave up, Voltaire has spent a ridiculous amount of time judging ponies and politics without doing anything, while some foal is talking to humans in their realm. I think.

      I am genuinely baffled by their thumbs-up counts. So I guess I'm asking you what do you see in these fics. I'm especially curious because I like most of the fics that you like.

    3. "Friendship is Optimal" and "Lines and Webs" are much better examples of things that should be in EQD but aren't.

      Also, I see "My Little Sharknado" in EQD in the same light as those random late-night gif posts.