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If you aren't currently following City of Doors, you really should be. But if you aren't and refuse to repent, you should at least be aware that he's recently called my attention to two new-to-me fanfic reviewers: Louder Yay (aka Loganberry) and RazgrizS57, both of whom have got a nice collection of reviews under their belts, and more on the way (no pressure, guys). Oh, and did I mention they've both reviewed one of my stories along the way? That's probably totally coincidental to my mentioning them here.
In case that doesn't sate your need for reviews, get one more below the break with my thoughts about Tundara's The Longest Night.
Impressions before reading: I've got a well-documented soft spot for emotional alicorns, so I have high hopes going in. But "emotional" can turn into "transparently artificial" really quickly, and the realm of ponyfiction is littered with stories that sailed past the Cape of Touching Sentiment and out into the open waters of the Cloying Ocean. Stories of this sort are high-risk, high-reward, in my experience--time to see if I get lucky!
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After banishing her sister to the moon, Celestia wishes on a star that she could see Luna again... with unexpected results.
Thoughts after reading: Sometimes it's hard to tell why a story succeeds or fails. Other times, it's easy. And sometimes, as is the case here, it's easy to tell why, but takes some effort to explain.
The line(s) I would quote as evidence of what's wrong with The Longest Night is this: "'Forgive us, sister, for being so blind,' Celestia sighed, privately wishing that she could cry so she'd have tears to wipe away. ¶ It was an almost unknown fact that an Alicorn could shed tears in sadness but once in a hundred years." Now, the problems here are pretty clear, but defining them is a little harder. There are the "obvious" issues--it's a very tell-y passage, and it strains credulity (both issues which are endemic to the fic)--but that's not always a bad thing. I could see that second line could go into a fairytale-style story and fitting perfectly, for example. The problem is that that storytelling style isn't used here; this is a story which frequently falls back on the textual style of a fairytale while using the structure and plot of, for lack of a better word, a "feels fic."
Those two don't play well together, because the latter is built on directly manipulating reader emotions ("inducing" might be a kinder word, at least for the better examples), while the former can be emotional, but also maintains emotional distance. As a result, The Longest Night often seems like its trying to be lachrymose, but feels distinctly aloof in its presentation.
Another problem is that the story fills itself with implausible flourishes, but doesn't use them to good effect. Rather than building a larger world out of such touches, or simply tossing them in as comedic asides, this fic occasionally makes half-hearted attempts to justify its coincidences and improbable turns (see centenary alicorn tears above), but largely lets them stand, creating an atmosphere of strained credulity.
In the end, this is a story in which stuff happens, and it's clear how the reader is supposed to feel about it. But what's lacking is a good reason for the reader to feel anything. Couple that with worldbuilding which ranges from unnecessary to bizarrely implausible (the presentation of how supposedly bitterly-divided armies reconcile after a lengthy conflict is... questionable), and the end result is problematic.
Oh, and the Ye Olde Englishe in it is so-so, if that's the sort of thing that bugs you. That's probably worth mentioning.
Recommendation: I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who wasn't specifically looking for some post-banishment Celestia-Luna reconciliation.
Next time: A Dream of Dawn, by Starsong