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There's a blog reader who's in China for the summer (where blogspot.com addresses are blocked--thanks, Great Firewall!), so I agreed to e-mail him my reviews so he can keep up with them while he's there. On Monday, he asked me if I was okay and, after a few moments of confusion, I realized that I'd been replying to the wrong e-mail thread for the past week--and thus, I'd been sending my reviews to the wrong person.
But what really blows my mind is, I sent this other person three reviews over the course of a week, and he never commented on it. I mean, wouldn't you wonder what was going on if you were him? I would!
Anyway, Jake Heritagu's Silent Ponyville 3 (and side stories), reviewed below the break.
Impressions before reading: I'd been holding off on reviewing this one because I wanted to wait for the author to write the alternate endings which I assumed were coming--which were present in the first two Silent Ponyville stories--and which I thought ended up being a nice touch for both. But it's been half a year since the story finished, and while the Mr. Heritagu may well come back to provide a few at some point, I'm going to go ahead and stop delaying. As far as the story itself goes: I'm always up for some princess-analyzing, and while it's not clear to me from the description whether we're going to get Celestia in a mind delve or just Twilight, my interest has at least been successfully piqued. Off to a good start!
NOTE: This review may contain spoilers for Silent Ponyville and Silent Ponyville 2. If that's the sort of thing that's going to bug you, you can read those stories via the link up top (they're all listed on the same page), or read my reviews (here) and decide if you mind having them spoiled for you.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When Celestia comes to visit Ponyville for Dash and Fluttershy's wedding, she senses something wrong with the town. After warning Twilight to prepare herself for "something," she disappears, and when Twilight wakes up the next morning, a mysterious fog shrouds the town...
Thoughts after reading: As a reminder, I'm taking the first two stories as givens for purposes of this review; what I'll be focusing on here is how SP3 differs from what's come before, for better or for worse.
Unfortunately, this story brings back one of my major issues with the original story: for most of the fic, it's not at all clear what's happening, nor why. Since the setup explicitly does not involve a mind delve, the reader goes through much of the story without knowing where Twilight is or what she's doing. Okay, it's obvious enough that she's not in the "real world," but most of the details are left until fairly late in the fic. Given the groundwork laid in the first two stories, this is less of an issue than it was in the first fic, but it's still a notable contrast to the welcome clarity of purpose and intent of SP2--a clarity accomplished, I'd add, with no loss of suspense (since there's still explicit threat in the dream-world, and the exact nature of what must be accomplished there is only vaguely known).
The (true) ending is also a bit of a letdown, in that it very abruptly introduces two major dramatic revelations, but they come into play too late in the story to have the emotional impact they deserve. I understand that the author was aiming for a bittersweet conclusion, but because the revelations weren't set up by the story, they didn't serve that purpose particularly well. And, as in the previous fics, there were some significant editing problems, and a fair number of transparent game elements (the latter actually get worse in this fic; near the beginning of the story, Twilight creates a "magic backpack" she can use to hold
However, what redeems this fic is that the author retains his knack for sussing out genuinely disturbing visuals while maintaining a tone which, while certainly not show-style, is at least reconcilable with the characters involved. Twilight may get a little violent a little fast for me, but for the most part SP3 does a nice job of making her feel like Twilight, even as she's bearing witness to horrors and engaging in a few herself.
★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Although it leaves readers in the dark rather too long, the eventually-revealed explanations for where Twilight is and what she's doing are interesting, and there's some great scene-building along the way. But a lot of the problems with the first two stories are still present here.
Recommendation: I don't recommend this independent of the first Silent Ponyvilles, but if you've read and enjoyed them, this has many of the same strengths--and weaknesses--you've come to expect. For those readers, this is definitely worth continuing on to.
After that: There are no alternate endings this time--at least, as of this review, there aren't. However, Darkness Scoots (which I was unable to review when I did the initial review, but which has since been posted to FiMFic) is set between SP2 and 3, and manages to do some interesting things with Scootaloo despite being hampered with a classic case of over-the-top, midnight-black OC. If editing issues on the same level as Mr. Heritagu's stories doesn't bother you, this is worth a look for those with an interest in expanding the history of the SP world and a high tolerance for wiser-than-thou grizzled vets. There's also Silent Ponyville: Reunion, which was incomplete last time I did an SP review... and still is, though it's now up to 28 chapters and apparently is going strong.
Next time: Icarus, by Tamar