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For those of you who aren't keeping track of such things, this month's writeoff will have entered the voting phase around the time this post goes up. If you want to do some reading and/or voting and/or reviewing, check out the entries and see what you think! Or, if you're just here for me to tell you what I think, check out my review of Starwind Dood's Life on the Frontier, below the break.
Impressions before reading: On one hand, I've got a soft spot for Carrot Top, and romantic comedy seems to be the genre of romance I'm most amenable to (at least, when it involves actual comedy and not just painfully awkward-to-watch mini-disasters unfolding one after another). On the other hand, potential buffalo/pony shipping always seems kind of creepy to me--isn't Little Strongheart going to grow up to be ten times Braeburn's size?--and the fact that the description sounds more like a stream-of-consciousness trailer than an actual summary/introduction is a little worrying. We'll see if either of those get addressed in the fic.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Carrot Top's job sends her to Appleloosa for a year, and Derpy and a reluctant Dinky tag along. When she gets there, she finds a charming young stallion... one whom a local buffalo has her eye on, as well.
Thoughts after reading: About the nicest thing I can think to say about this story is that most of the things which it fails at, it fails at with a sort of charming earnestness. There's a lot of obvious effort in this story, and there's an undeniable appeal to seeing the product of long labor. Past that appeal, however, there's not a lot here to recommend.
The problems start at the technical level. The writing is exposition-heavy, full of strange word choices, clunky, and frequently is absurdly redundant (Examples of the narration literally telling the reader what they just read, such as "'Sorry, some ponies haven't really gotten over the incident awhile back,' Apple Bumpkin sighed, apologizing for the nature of some of the less friendly ponies in town," are astoundingly common). The dialogue generally feels stiff, though part of this is through problematic voicings, both unavoidable (it's not the author's fault that Little Strongheart doesn't use contractions, but without careful handling it's easy for her to sound robotic and unnatural) and self-inflicted (writing a young character with an over-advanced vocabulary, as Dinky has here, is a task fraught with peril for even the best of authors).
As for the plot... it's mostly an excuse plot, in the sense that it kicks off with little and less explanation for the obvious purpose of providing a conflict, but then it's frequently ignored in favor of digressions into crime-fighting, family-reuniting, acusations-of-going-pony-fighting, and the like. While some of these digressions could make interesting additions to the story, they are mostly introduced out of the blue, resolved in their entirety, and then forgotten or ignored for the rest of the fic. The effect is of a series of vignettes from Carrot Top's year in Appleloosa, but the fic is constructed as an overarching narrative. The fit between these ideas is poor, and the result is a lurching, uneven mess.
Also, I still think pony/buffalo shipping is a little disturbing, just from a size-comparison standpoint. It's also awfully creepy in this case, because it's established in an early chapter that Little Strongheart is underage (at least, by pony standards), which... well, I don't mind a kid with a crush, but the fact that this doesn't seem to bother anyone in the story except to briefly make Carrot Top conscious of her own age didn't sit right with me. That wasn't the only problem with the shipping angle of the story (though most of the rest probably falls under the purview of "if you're a shipper, you can probably swallow this; if not, good luck"), and in many respects the romantic angle of this story hews closely to formula, when it's not being jerked abruptly ahead or discarded for entire chapters in order to bring up, resolve, and discard some side-plot.
This story wasn't actually as unpleasant to read as I probably made it sound, though it's true that I didn't enjoy it. I think the best way to describe it is "exactly what the average person would expect from an MLP fanfic." That's not much of a compliment, but at the very least Starwind Dood succeeded in creating something that was recognizably a ponyfic, and which someone with few expectations and a high tolerance for poor writing could potentially enjoy. That doesn't count for much in the context of me reviewing it here, granted, but it's not nothing.
Recommendation: That said, I still can't think of anyone I'd recommend this to.
Next time: The Assumption of Applejack -or- Appletheosis, by Blue Print