To read the story, click the image or follow this link
I was thinking about fashion, recently. I'm pretty fashion-blind, but even I can date a show or movie to within a decade or two based solely on the hairstyles of the female characters. And yet, if you asked me to describe modern female hairstyles using the same kind of adjectives I could apply to 70's hair or 80's hair, I'd be at a total loss. I mean, I flipped on the TV just now and went channel surfing to see what I could come up with, and I've got nothing. Looks like I may have to wait twenty years or so before I can tell what modern hair looks like.
Anyhoo, my review of Blue Print's The Assumption of Applejack -or- Appletheosis, below the break.
Impressions before reading: Okay, this time I made sure I was reading the right fic. Anyway, looks like this is pre-Twilicorn, so I'm curious to see what the author came up with as the reason for AJ's out-of-the-blue ascension. I'm also curious to see what kind of comedy this is; I could see it being a ridiculous romp with this premise, or being more understated.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: One day, Applejack suddenly finds herself with wings and a horn. At first she tries to continue on like nothing's changed, but it isn't long before fearful supplicants, worshipful admirers, and the demands of goddesshood make their pressures known.
Thoughts after reading: The answers to my pre-reading wonderings, first off, were "eh," and "understated," respectively. Neither of these were bad things; the lack of concrete explanation for Applejack's ascension is acceptable because it's not really a focus of the fic, and the comedy aspects were relatively mild but usually enjoyable (my favorite line: when Applejack explains her theory that earth ponies aren't defined by a single feature like pegasi (wings) and unicorns (horns) are, Pinkie responds, "Oooh! I kinda like that! It's life affirming and only a teensy bit racist."), and flowed nicely into the story.
My problems with the story, however, began at the writing level. Although otherwise well-edited, this fic suffers a very noticeable dearth of commas. Also, accents are not only overwritten, but inconsistently done. At times, the latter fact almost seems a mercy--having the story render various characters' "what"s as "wut"s every time instead of only half the time would have been hard(er) to bear--but the variable rendering only draws attention to how excessive some of the choices on that front are.
Pacing is also an issue, with a lengthy portion in the middle of the story being an extended flashback. While this serves a narrative purpose, it (and a dramatic chase which spanned multiple chapters before it) take up so much narrative space that they begin to overshadow the earlier and later portions of the fic--and those portions are where much of the humor and lighter elements reside. The effect is to make the story feel less well-balanced tonally than I think it really is.
My other major issue is with how AJ comes off in this story. Specifically, she's portrayed as a petty jerk with anger issues, which is... not particularly close to how I think most people interpret her character. To be fair, I don't think that's how the author intended to portray her, but two issues made her appear that way. First, a lot of crucial story elements are seemingly skipped over; AJ feeling like Luna is disrespecting her is a crucial element of the story, because AJ becomes immediately aggressive and combative with Luna nearly as soon as they meet, this is mostly an informed attribute. Moreover, many of her actions and reactions lack a strong emotional grounding. There are a lot of very good reasons for Applejack to lash out or be on a hair-trigger in this story--the unexpected rise to goddesshood will do that--but these feelings are only fleetingly explored, and never in relation to her attitude. As such, when she cackles gleefully over another pony's being driven insane, castigates a young filly who's making a genuine effort to help her, or coldly informs Luna that she must remain silent while in her home (in response to Luna trying to begin telling her what the princesses do), it doesn't feel like the fearful, relatable acts of someone in over their head, but the actions of a controlling bully.
If you can get past that portrayal, though, there are some interesting things done with the secondary characters. In particular, a glimpse of Celestia's pre-Equestria attitude and behavior casts an interesting light on her "current" character. Also, there is a ton of worldbuilding, and while some falls flat (I was particularly unenthused with an explanation for Lyra's human obsession, both because it was clumsily worked in and because of how surprisingly dark the story became as a result of it), a lot of it was interesting and fun. The author does do a nice job of showing the changes in Applejack in bits and pieces, rather than resorting to lengthy infodumps, and this nicely mirrors the progression of her finding out for herself what she can do.
★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
This story got off to a strong start, and while some of the worldbuilding elements kept me interested until the end, I increasingly found Applejack to be unlikeable, and several important events seemed to exist only as abstractions which could be inferred from the way characters acted, but were never shown, discussed, or given any weight at all.
Recommendation: Anyone who's a big Applejack fan might enjoy this, provided they were naturally inclined to see her in a sympathetic light. Past that, this has plenty of nice touches for fans of lore, but is unlikely to appeal to readers looking for strong characterization or pacing.
Next time: Melt, by Ambion