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A heads-up for those of you with some interest in getting into reviewing: The Royal Guard group on FiMFiction is in desperate need of new reviewers, and are looking for people who know how words work to help them keep going. If you're interested, Prak has a blogpost with more information. Something to consider if you like having fanfic opinions, but aren't quite crazy enough to start doing your own blogposts!
Speaking of blogposts, check below the break for my review of Konseiga's Forever Faithful.
Impressions before reading: The description on this one is nicely ominous, which I think bodes well for the story proper. But it's also a bit oddly worded; hopefully, that's not indicative of anything.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After Twilight dies, her friends are wracked with grief--as is Princess Celestia. But the princess's grief turns to confusion, then horror, when she begins receiving letters from a pony she knows is dead...
Thoughts after reading: The first thousand or so words of this story are an absolute chore to wade through. There are a great many "funeral stories" on FiMFiction--in any fandom--and this is a pretty representative example of the kinds of pitfalls such stories are most likely to fall victim to. Generic "sadness" in place of personal, relatable reactions from the mourners; transparently artificial dialogue; needlessly rushing through events (an especial peeve of mine--I've never yet been to the funeral that lasted under 90 seconds, but they're remarkably common in fiction!); even the startlingly perfunctory way Twi dies (you'll need to read the description to find out; that particular detail doesn't seem to have made it into the story proper) all add up to an almost unbearably insincere beginning.
Now, some allowance should be made for the fact that all of that isn't an end to itself, but is setup for the horror story which follows. That's fair, so far as it goes, but the fact remains that something like one third of this fic, and the first third, no less, is cloyingly unpleasant to read. It's not even a matter of hooking the reader early (though it's true that the primary hook doesn't emerge until after the angst is out of the way); leading off with something generic, artificial, and transparent in its attempts to emotionally grab the reader is just not a good strategy for engaging readers.
Once past that, there's definitely an interesting idea to the remainder of the fic, but it's undermined by two things. First is simple length: a couple thousand words just isn't enough time to explore the emotional impact of the letters Celestia begins receiving, and the result is that the story has almost no emotional impact, relying instead on situational horror for its umph. Second, and in some ways tied to the first, is the total passivity of everypony. As the situation becomes increasingly extreme, Celestia continues to hold court, elects not to take any direct action, and generally seems to ignore the dark/horrific events unfolding. If this had been a story about how Twilight's death left Celestia (and everypony else) too emotionally scarred to cope with a crisis, that might be palatable. But this is clearly a story about the letters and what they say/imply, not about how the princess deals with her student's death. And in that context, her inaction diminishes both the terror and the believably of the story.
Forever Faithful is definitely better than its opening suggests. That said, this is more of an interesting idea than it is an enjoyable story.
Recommendation: For readers looking for something to quickly skim--who are just interested in that hook, and not particularly in the execution--this might be worth a look. I wouldn't recommend it more broadly, however.
Next time: Inner Demons, by SaphireLibra3