Now that we're officially into January, I'm officially sick of snow; any transient appeal it may have had based on aesthetics and/or novelty have been well and truly outweighed by its shoveling requirements and association with a level of cold which was never welcome in the first place. I'm not sick of pony stories yet, though; and if you're not sick of reading my reviews of them, I've got three short ones below the break.
Power Surge, by Kapuchu
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When a training session in self-defense pushes Twilight to her limits, everypony discovers just how extreme those limits are.
A few thoughts: This isn't the kind of story which meshes with my personal tastes very well; mostly, it's combat, and while I have enjoyed some combat-heavy stories (e.g. The Dresden Files) and fanfics (e.g. The Moonstone Cup) these are the exception rather than the rule. So it's not, in and of itself, a condemnation of this fic when I say that I didn't care for it; indeed, the combat is clear, easy to follow, and reasonably creative.
I was bothered, though, by the writing quality throughout. A tense slip in the first paragraph is an inauspicious way to start a story, and this piece is marred by regular issues with general editing and punctuation. Combined with some questionable dialogue and the overly-expository narration, this one had some problems.
Recommendation: Fans of combat-centric stories will find this one a well-constructed example of such, but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who places a premium on technical elements, either of the flatly right/wrong or the more subjective sort.
How to Reach the Moon in Two Easy Steps, by Myworld93
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Young Blueblood really wants to go to the moon. And he's heard the story of Nightmare Moon, who was so evil that she was sent there. There's only one thing to do, in a case like this.
A few thoughts: This is a kind of goofy take on how Blueblood got to be the raging ponce he is in his brief on-screen appearance, but it's structured mostly as an escalation fic--one in which more and more extreme measures are called for. That does mean that the story is very reliant on its finale/punchline, though, and unfortunately, that's a major weak point of this story. The escalation itself is funny enough, if taken with a liberal dose of go-with-the-joke, but an underwhelming payoff is a serious problem in a one-note story like this.
Recommendation: Those who are intrigued or amused by the premise will find they could certainly do worse than this story, but those looking for a punchy ending ought to give it a pass.
In the Bleak Midwinter, by Skywriter
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Princess Cadence of the newly-restored Crystal Empire has just finished some Hearthswarming shopping when she learns that her subjects have never heard of the holiday.
A few thoughts: Skywriter is an author I've found I can pretty much rely on to produce something I'll enjoy, and this story is no exception. It's an impressive blend of dry humor and soul-searching--a delicate balancing act, but one that I always find satisfying. This is a story that had me laughing and reflecting in turn, without either element feeling out of place compared to the other. Also, the author does some interesting things with the culture and collective psyche of the crystal ponies--especially considering the brevity of this fic--which I thought were clever but logical. That said, I do love worldbuilding, and I suspect some people will find all the talk of previous rulers and societal mentality to be off-putting (though certainly not superfluous).
Recommendation: That said, I'd still recommend this to anyone who's not specifically averse to a heavy dose of headcanon. I'd especially recommend it to anyone following the author's Cadence stories, as this is connected to that set, but this story can certainly be read independently.