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Read my review of Vimbert the Unimpressive's Distorted Perspective, below the break.
...What? Let's see you write pithy intros three times a week. Today, we're going in cold!
Impressions before reading: Despite him being a well-known and, by all accounts, well-regarded author, I don't think I've ever read anything of Vimbert's. Well, I guess this is the time to rectify that! I've always found Twilight/Celestia shipping to be a dicey prospect at best (many--probably most--such stories I find profoundly creepy), but the comedy tag on the story ameliorates that concern somewhat.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: While Twilight and her friends search for the Elements of Harmony so that Discord can be re-interred in stone, Celestia tries to stall the newly-freed god of Chaos. However, she quickly falls victim to Discord's mind- and body-altering powers.
Thoughts after reading: It's convenient that this story follows up so closely on Hiccups, since they both suffer from the same essential problem: trying and failing to meld show-tone and adult situations. In this case, Distorted Perspective is structurally an alternate-perspective story; specifically, the story of the season two opener, Return of Harmony, told from Celestia's perspective. However, the tone of the story veers far enough into sexual humor and grotesquerie that the not-infrequent connections to the episode end up being to the detriment of the story. The G-rated comedy doesn't mesh well with the X-rated.
There's more to this story than jokes, dick- or otherwise, though; wrapped up in this is a surprisingly touching look at Celestia's relationship with Twilight, and with mortal ponies generally. While these more dramatic elements were well-handled in and of themselves, I was of two minds as to how they worked in the larger story. On one hand, the transition from lewd to tender felt abrupt and jarring to me--not words that I generally associate with quality writing. On the other, though, the fact that it was jarring was part of what made it so effective. "Celestia angsts about the cost of immortality" is a theme which is repeated without variation in literally thousands fanfics (okay, I haven't actually counted, but if someone set the line at ±1999, I'd put good money on the over), but the presentation here differentiates itself, in no small part because the context in which that conversation happens is so dramatically unexpected.
In addition to being an author, Vimbert's done quite a bit of reviewing, so I was assuming his story would be immaculately edited. I always seem to assume this about reviewers, and I'm not sure why--it's certainly not a standard I live up to myself (try as I might). In any case, my assumptions of perfection were banished by a tense slip in the very first paragraph ("I had no idea how he had even escaped, let alone stole the Elements of Harmony from beneath my nose"), but for the most part the story was reasonably well-edited.
I think it's worth noting that most of the jokes here, sexual and otherwise, were pretty funny. The interplay between the guards, in particular, is a highlight, and more than once I smiled as I was reading. There were also a fair number of blank-faced "huh"s in there, but whatever its other issues, the comic elements of the fic were largely successful. On the other hand, I felt that most of the (sometimes-double, sometimes just plain) entendres were on the dry side, where a little bit more ridiculousness and exaggeration would have fit with the comic posturing surrounding them. In some places though, especially towards the end, this was clearly intentional--and there, it was perfectly effective for what was intended.
Star rating: ★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
I don't say this often, but I think I'd have liked this story more if it were a bit more generic--if the only nods it gave to continuity with the show were at the beginning and end, to establish its premise. Nonetheless, this story did have some excellent moments, both serious and comic.
Recommendation: This one might appeal more to readers who like main six shipping--not because this is a shipping story (it isn't, really), but because it seems to me like the sort of conceptual hurdles behind getting Dash and Rarity (or whomever) to kiss are pretty much the same ones to get past in seeing this as an "off-camera" take on RoH. For them, and for others who can clear those jumps, this offers an intriguing mix of laughter and thoughtfulness.
Next time: Friendship is Optimal, by Iceman