Friday, February 14, 2014

Mini-Reviews Round 29

Short reviews of various stories I've recently read; you all know the drill.  As always, they're a bit less comprehensive than my longer reviews, but hopefully they'll still give you an idea of what you might or mightn't want to read in the world of ponyfic this weekend.  Have at it below the break!

Trixcord, by RTStevens

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After Trixie comes a little to close to the lapidified Discord, he uses her presence to break from his prison.  But upon regaining his freedom, he finds his powers are completely spent and, needing a place to hide and grow strong, decides to use the pony who unwittingly aided in his escape as a temporary vessel.

A few thoughts:  This story is a major offender when it comes to over-explaining; at least a quarter of its length could probably have been cut by taking the unnecessary verbiage out of sentences like "When they arrived, they found that the play must have ended a while ago due to the building's lights being off and the lack of any pony entering or leaving."  Leaving aside anything else that might be done to it, everything in that sentence after "a while ago" serves no useful purpose, at least not in this story.  There are also some significant characterization flaws: Discord is distressingly boring through the first few chapters (though he livens up later on; perhaps the author became more comfortable writing him, or perhaps RTStevens was just hampered by Discord's relative powerlessness in the early going), and Celestia's dialogue is full of problems--I actually laughed when she dramatically intoned "Darn you, Discord."

But despite these problems, I never quite gave up on this story.  There's a good balance of adventure and humor here, with neither feeling out of place relative to the other, and Trixie remains refreshingly antagonistic throughout.  The ending was a letdown, introducing a major, world-changing, rife-with-implications change and then barely examining the consequences beyond the surface, but up to that point I was very happy with the direction the story was going.

Recommendation:  This story was written pre-S3, so those who are going to get bent out of shape about dated visions of Discord (and Trixie, for that matter) needn't bother.  In truth, there are a lot of problems with this story, but if you're looking for an adventure/comedy with an interesting hook and arc, and aren't too concerned about other aspects of its construction, then you could certainly do worse.

Ponies Are Like Cats, by Archmage Ludicrous

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight goes to Rarity for romantic advice, and receives the titular maxim.

A few thoughts:  Although you'd think it would be a major part of the story, that feline/equine comparison doesn't come into play until near the end of this story.  When it's introduced, it's disappointingly brief, a tired truism wrapped in a slightly unorthodox package.  One could argue that Rarity having a questionable, unoriginal view of romance says something about her character, and it's true that it does... but without any further development, this "revelation" didn't carry much weight."

Recommendation:  Honestly, this is more of a scene than a story, and readers looking for a bit of Rarity/Twilight conversation will probably find that this is enjoyable enough on its own merits.  But as a story, it doesn't hold up, using most of its <2000 words to little effect and delivering what punch it has as a hasty tack-on.

The Reign of Princess Dinky the Cute, by Rodinga

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Dinky shows a supernatural ability to persuade ponies to do whatever she wants by sheer force of cuteness, and only Vinyl Scratch and Octavia are immune.  Now, it's up to them to bring everypony back to their senses.

A few thoughts:  This is, as you can probably guess from the title and description, a fairly silly story.  To its credit, the story doesn't forget that, even as it works in a few more serious moments surrounding Celestia and Luna--it retains its essential humor throughout.  It's true that that humor is sometimes too widely-spaced, resulting in extended stretches being held up, essentially, by a single one-note joke, but rarely is the result actually boring.  And although this story has some major comma issues--enough that it really broke up the flow of the writing in places--it's otherwise fairly well-edited.

Recommendation:  This would be a good one for folks looking for a goofy but not random story which plays its absurd premise fairly straight--and for anyone who gets grumpy when whiny brats get doted over for no obvious reason.  Not that I would know anything about that.

The Wrong Fork, by PoweredByTea

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  An upper-class pony is expected to know the intricacies of table manners--including which fork to use for which course.  Rarity, obviously, knows precisely which fork to use, and when to use it.

But does Celestia?

A few thoughts:  Despite barely breaking 1000 words, this story manages to work a surprising amount of meaning and thought into a few seconds and a single, mostly inconsequential action.  Some of Rarity's internal monologuing rings a little false (specifically, she has a tendency to over-narrate), but the larger dynamics are well-considered and feel genuine.

Recommendation:  For fans of short stories with a bit of introspection, this is a gem.  It doesn't have much punch or weight, though, and readers seeking that would be better off finding some meatier fare.


  1. Ah, yes. Even on the internet, my name gets mangled. Poo.

    NEVER would have thought that Chris would review one of my stories. I feel exposed.

    One of my earliest fics and it shows. Still, I had a ton of fun writing it and it made me get so involved in the fandom that I quit another to devote all my fanboy time to pony. I will always look back on it fondly.

    1. You can only blame yourself for having a name with multiple spellings... clearly, this is all your fault.

      It's always neat to compare an author's earliest works to their later ones--I think I'll have to look up one of your more recent stories to see how you've grown!