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I discovered this afternoon that large segments of the documents and images saved on my computer no longer exist. Not a big deal in and of itself--everything important is backed up on thumb drives--but more than slightly annoying. I haven't figured out what happened yet, but just in case, we're doing the whole "change all your passwords" thing that I hate. Anyway, if you get an e-mail from me about free c-a1is or something, it's probably not legit.
On what I sincerely hope to be a far less frustration-filled note, click below the break
Impressions before reading: The first thing I noticed was the half-dozen sequels linked to this story; either the author is really fond of this character/continuity, he's got fans begging for more and is happy to please, or both. The plot sounds like it could easily be a crowd-pleaser, though that says more about appeal than quality. That part will have to wait until... now.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Princess Luna's student, Quizzical Greystone, is about as socially inept as they come. So when Twilight requests a research assistant in Ponyville, Luna sees a chance to help her learn the Magic of Friendship™.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When I say of this story that it's extremely episode-like, I don't mean that in the most literal possible way. This would run rather more than 22 minutes if translated to the screen, for example. But what I do mean is that it is very much of a tone with the show, and that it borrows heavily from both FiM's style construction, in multiple ways. In places, this is both to the benefit of the story, and to its detriment.
On the downside, this means that several major plot elements are dealt with in a perfunctory manner more fitting to a fast-paced, only somewhat continuity-possessing TV show such as MLP is (or as it was two years ago, when this was published) than to a novella-length story. In this story, Sweetie Belle acquires plot-critical magical superpowers from a starting point of "basic casting ability" based essentially on a single conversation and casual observation. Many other plot points or major events are treated with similar cursoriness.
On the other hand, this is the rare story that calls itself a SoL/comedy and actually delivers on both counts simultaneously. After a bit of a slow start (much like the show's intros often are, JMac's introductory chapter is underwhelming but thankfully short), Quizzical finds a nice balance of unassuming sweetness and character-based humor which meld into a final product which is pleasantly amusing without losing its everyday vibe. Moreover, the characters are pitch-perfect, and a lot of smiles are wrought from Twilight, Pinkie, and the rest simply being themselves (when Quizzical and Pinkie Pie observe Twilight at a party and Quiz asks if that's what dancing looks like, Pinkie quips, "'Nope. No, not at all. Almost the exact opposite, really. But who cares? Twilight is having a lot of fun.'”). The original characters are just as well-written, including one non-pony who steals every scene he's in.
However, the wonderful dialogue and solid writing are betrayed by the persistent telliness which mars the fic's major developments. From the very first chapter to the last, characters regularly state their or others' feelings, and the development thereof, as matters of fact. As many have observed, there are places where adhering slavishly to the "show, don't tell" maxim is a mistake. But when it comes to the feelings and attitudes which drive the conflict in your story, direct statement is rarely the correct answer.
Although it does fall into some of the pitfalls which await show-style stories, this is generally speaking a well-written, entertaining story which captures some of the same appeal of the show.
Recommendation: Readers who enjoy SoL stories will definitely find this to be an above-average example, and fans of character-based comedy will want to check this out. Those put off by key story elements being stated rather than integrated into the story somehow will most likely find this pushes their buttons, though.
Next time: The Celestia Code, by iisaw