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In case you aren't in the habit of obsessively checking every few days, I suppose I should mention that I added four new stories to the upcoming Fandom Classics list over the weekend (you can get to the list from the "Fandom Classics by Star Rating" link at the top of the page). Once I knock another four or five stories off, I'll update it again! As always, you can e-mail me with any suggestions, and I'll continue to draw on previous recommendations as well.
For now though, click below the break for my review of Skywriter's Princess Celestia Hates Tea.
Impressions before reading: Okay, first thing's first: this story's been on my to-be-reviewed list for two months, but then those finks at the Royal Canterlot Library swooped in and beat me to the punch. Granted, they weren't specifically doing a review, but still; if I ever find out who those opportunistic story-grubbers are, I'll... oh, wait.
Joking around aside, I did (re)read this story when one of the other RCL-ers proposed it and, as the "unanimous approval" line in that feature suggests, I liked it a lot. Just for future reference, and on an unrelated note: there may be some overlap between my reviews and their/our recommendations going forward, but those reviews and recommendations are culled from different sources based different critera. Such overlap will be (like this) coincidental, not deliberate.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Princess Celestia confesses in private that she hates tea. There are consequences.
Thoughts after reading: A lot of comedy is based around introducing a singular piece of absurdity into an otherwise serious situation, the humor deriving from characters trying to react rationally to an irrational event, or making assumptions which are totally logical save for one glaring leap of specious thinking. So when I say that this story is absolutely hilarious, what I mean is this:
The characterizations in this story are spot-on. The voicing is perfect. The plot is totally sensible and internally consistent, and the events which drive the story make perfect sense. All of this is true, as long as you accept that the lives of every pony in Equestria are fundamentally defined by the absolute knowledge that Princess Celestia likes tea.
That is your singular bit of illogic, from which ever more massive absurdity is sprung as the fic progresses. And really, that's what makes this story work so well: every crazy reaction, every crazier plan, everything derives from the idea that Celestia's beverage preference is the single most important thing in the history of things. The contrast between how silly an idea that is, and how deathly seriously everyone takes it, never fails to entertain.
And along the way, Skywriter manages to wring some genuine insights into his characters. Celestia isn't just a put-upon punching bag in this fic; she's a fully-realized character, and her fate is both comical and just a bit poignant as a result. And by emphasizing one tiny, seemingly inconsequential aspect of who Celestia is, the author is able to make several observations about the power of inertia and the nature of celebrity which are thoughtful without detracting from the story's entertainment value. Indeed, one of the best things I can think to say about a comedy is that it makes you stop and think even as you're laughing, and Princess Celestia Hates Tea manages to be at once unswervingly funny, and genuinely thoughtful.
Star rating: ★★★★★ (what does this mean?)
This story has everything I love to see in a comedy fic, and it executes it all brilliantly.
Recommendation: I recommend this story to anyone who likes well-written, intelligent comedy. And really, who doesn't like that?
Next time: Whom the Princesses Would Destroy, by GhostOfHeraclitus