Don't be those people.
Anyway, mini-reviews below the break!
Daring Don't, by Flynt Coal
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Dash wins a chance to go on an expedition with her literary idol, Daring Do... only to find out that the real Daring Do doesn't have much in common with the adventurous, quick-witted mare from the books.
A few thoughts: So, there was supposed to be a Fandom Classics review today... but when I started setting up the blog post and pulled up the story's FiMFic page to link to, I noticed the viewcount and said, "wait a minute... why are there only 400 story views?" Turns out I was supposed to be reading Daring DONE!, but had mixed up my fics. So, uh, oops. We'll let Don't lead the mini-review instead, and DONE! will come on Monday, once I've actually read it.
The story itself has some quite funny bits to it--it's at its best when it brings some gentle parody elements to FiM, Indiana Jones, or fandom-ing generally (I laughed aloud at an early play on the classic "red travel line on the map"). Unfortunately, the story itself is almost painfully predictable. Every character fills a very archetypal story role, each played without variation, and each telegraphed miles in advance. Add to that some pretty serious punctuation problems (commas appear to be placed at random throughout--surprisingly, non-punctuation editing is decent, though), and I was underwhelmed.
Recommendation: Folks looking for a very "by the numbers" take on the summary above will find that this does exactly what they expect it to do, and has some stylistically appropriate humor along the way. Folks seeking anything beyond the obvious, in terms of characters or plotting, will not find it here.
Until the Moon Rises, by AdrianVesper
Zero-ish spoiler summary: A genie is found by Twilight, and waits and wonders what she'll wish for...
A few thoughts: I wanted to like this more than I did. Which isn't to say I didn't like it--but I wanted to love it, and I didn't, really.
The one thing I felt was missing was a sense of originality (or at least, Equestrian-ness) from the genie, and the crux decision Twilight faces. He's very much in the mold of a typical (by modern Western standards) wish-granter, bound by the expected set of rules and giving out wishes prone to going awry if phrased poorly, and the climax is one that is equally typical (by modern Western standards). With that said, it's not like there's insufficient originality or pony in this fic: Twilight and Spike are the other two major characters, and Vesper nails both of their personalities as they muddle through the day over which this fic takes place. The genie's narration is well-rendered, and there's nothing to complain about here on a technical front. Really, I don't have anything bad to say about this fic.
Recommendation: This is a well-written take on the nature of literal vs. sadistic wish-granting, and I recommend it to people who like stories about "playing within the rules."
Pilgrimage, by Pascoite
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Apple Bloom takes an annual trip with her sister--one that means very different things to her and Applejack.
A few thoughts: Much like the last one, I enjoyed this... but there was something which pulled me back from "this is incredible" to just "this is pretty good." In this case, it was a sense of contrivance.
Not emotional contrivance; that's one of the fastest ways to ruin a story for me. In fact, the emotional impetuses which drive AB and AJ are the best parts of this story; Pascoite has a knack for addressing high emotions without becoming excessively maudlin, and if the dialogue is occasionally hyper-dramatic, then it must also be said that (in my experience) that hyper-drama is far from unrealistic.
No, what bothered me was that the setting which surrounded all of that sometimes seemed contrived to be maximally resonant, to the extent that I found it unbelievable. This sort of thing always bugs me, because I feel like an emotional climax should be able to stand on its own--piling on isn't just excessive, it's excessive without purpose. When the drama of a scene stops relying on how the characters think and feel and instead hinges on stuff like the reader assuming that Apple Bloom's ribbon (which she's worn everywhere for years) can't get wet without being ruined, it pulls me out of the story.
Recommendation: That said, I want to re-emphasize that the feelings and actions which drive this story feel invariably genuine, and that is by far the most important thing in a story like this. Readers looking for a sweet and emotionally honest look at how we show our love will want to give this a look.
The Never-Was and Wouldn't-Be, by Obselescensce
Zero-ish spoiler summary: As all of Equestria prepares to be subsumed into the mega-consciousness which is Harmony, Twilight stops to talk with Discord--and to voice her private doubts.
A few thoughts: Let me just throw this out: the idea of "Harmony" as presented in this story is one I find terrifying, and the fact that everyone on the planet is more-or-less on board with combining into one super-awareness rubs me the wrong way. Unlike with the just-reviewed Friendship is Optimal, there's not even the excuse here that a super-intelligence is actively manipulating everyone.
Given my attitude on that count, I found this story an uncomfortably depressing take on Equestria--without giving away the ending, it appears that the only fates possible are the enaction of Harmony (whether delayed or not), or something only marginally less horrific.
Recommendation: The story's perfectly well written, and those who don't have the same visceral reaction to Harmony which I do might well enjoy the Discord's scheming. But personally, I found the premise too off-putting to really enjoy.