Friday, January 24, 2014

Fandom Classics Part 32: Princess Celestia Gets Mugged

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

If my posts are too widely spaced for your tastes, you might want to check out the Links page, on the bar up above--I've recently added a few new reviewers to the list.  So, go give John Perry, Soge, and Jade Singer some attention, if you can't get enough review-y goodness!  And, of course, go pay attention to all the other reviews I've listed and, while you're at it, let me know if there's anyone I should have on that page but don't.  I am but one man, and a distressingly forgetful one at that, so the odds are that if you don't see a name up there, it's because I either haven't heard it or have, but it slipped my mind.

For now though, we have some genuine Chris reviewsmanship.  Check out my thoughts on BronyWriter's Princess Celestia Gets Mugged, below the break.

Impressions before reading:  "Celestia-in-disguise" is a very common trope in fanfiction, and it's easy to understand why.  Heck, royalty (and/or divinity) going incognito among commoners is everywhere in fiction, period.  So right off the bat, the story concept looks to be a solid one.  Other than that, a glance at the stats shows that this is a very popular story, but that probably speaks more to the power of the premise than anything else.  Hopefully it coincides with high quality, though!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  At the urging of her sister, Celestia takes a much-needed day off.  She decided to disguise herself as a pegasus to avoid attracting attention... and promptly gets herself mugged, then kidnapped.  Naturally, she thinks this is hilarious, and decides to play along.

Thoughts after reading:  Indeed, the base concept here is a good one: this story builds Celestia and Luna's relationship in predictable but believable ways, including giving at least a modicum of thought to how Luna would feel about the whole situation.  Moreover, Celestia's arc feels believable, and the activity surrounding her meshes nicely with the tone of the show.  Even the criminals' fate feels appropriate to the story being told (even if it does feel like a bit of a copout to me, I'll concede that it's a copout totally appropriate to the story).

However, things break down quickly once one gets past the broad strokes.  Although there are some great bits of humor, mostly coming from the dialogue (when one of the kidnappers complains about the tone of their ransom letter, another retorts "'Well, just because we're demanding millions of bits, and threatening to kill her if we don't get our way, doesn't mean we can't be civil about this.'"), a lot of the jokes here are repetitive, undeveloped fandom references, or both--the number of times that Celestia's love of cake is brought up as a point of humor (without expansion) was rather dramatically greater than my tolerance for the same.

Writing is simple, and tends toward the repetitive.  While the former matches the light-comic tone of the work, the latter is somewhat problematic.  Although there's not much in the way of out-and-out errors, BronyWriter does show a tendency to recycle the same word several times within a paragraph, and sometimes within a sentence, when a synonym or pronoun (or both) would have served the flow of the narrative much better.  Luna's faux-archaisms are also fleeting but error-riddled, though I have to grudgingly acknowledge that they're not unbelievably awful, nor really any worse than the show itself.

One of the biggest problems is the characterizations.  I realize that sounds odd, since I spent time just a few paragraphs ago talking about how I liked Celestia's arc.  But while that's true so far as it goes, her role is also a very shallow, undeveloped one.  This is true of all the ponies, but especially the kidnappers, who pass around the so-called "idiot ball" so often that it's hard to feel much sympathy for their plight; they're more comic foils than actual characters.  That might work in another story, but in one like this which is trying to show a little development, it's a significant flaw.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

I was almost tempted to give this a different rating just to satisfy my inner contrarian, after 2/5 seemed to be the common prediction in the comments on the last post.  But even if I was the type to let myself by swayed by something like that (and I'd like to hope I'm not), this was a pretty clear-cut decision for me.  I enjoyed some parts of this story, and I can see the appeal--but there are some notable problems here, which detract from the finished product.

Recommendation:  Anyone looking for cheap laughs (lots of Celestia loves cake, some obviously not-really-sexual entendres, etc.) will probably enjoy this, and there's certainly a good concept here.  But for readers who prefer a bit of nuance in their language or characterizations, I wouldn't recommend this.

Next time:  A Novel Tale, by Blissey1


  1. I hope our predictions don't sway you too much, Chris. The SEC might come after me for messing with the FIMfic ratings derivatives market again.

    That said, for my money, "A Novel Tale" will rate 3/5 for an interesting premise and decent writing but shallow emotion and lack of growth.

  2. I'm fairly certain this story is the reason I'm watching this particular author. :B

  3. My biggest problem when it comes to simply enjoying the story, was that I can't connect Celestia's behaviour with a millennial monarch. I'm absolutely down with her being the light-hearted joker in all situations, but I can't get past the way her choices giver her the emotional depth of a paddling pool.

    What made it difficult on a more structural level was the sheer level of redundancy on display. Not in the way Chris describes (I honestly didn't notice the word choice much, but I may have been distracted by other things), but regarding plot and humour. Whether it was explaining a joke or some already-hinted-at bit of plot, it really screwed with the pacing every time.


  4. Chris, there's an extra "the" in your post. I won't say exactly where, but there's a hint within this sentence

    1. Found it! I'm pleased to report that there are now only 50 "the"s in my review.

      On a related note, ctrl-f-ing "the" really makes you realize what a ubiquitous word it is.

    2. Yeah, it actually gets to me sometimes. I've even edited papers to reduce instances of "the", though never to my satisfaction. Word repetition's something I can't stand, yet constantly do

      Was going to say "but not this time!", but that damned "to"! Damn you, "to"!

  5. Oh! A fic I've read! That's rare for the full-length reviews. A Novel Tale, huh? I really enjoyed that one. It'd be interesting to see what you make of it.

    I predict a 0/5 - "DannyJ likes it; it's shit."

    1. Given that I generally find a synopsis to be a chance to repulse me, never to endear me, I have to admit that I found the one for A Novel Tale actually left me intrigued. I doubt the review will be on Monday (since it's fairly long), so I can beat Chris to it, with luck.

    2. Looks like you called that one. No Monday review.