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If any of you were waiting for a fantasy football update (hah!), here it is: my team has the third-most points scored to date in my 12-team league... and a current win-loss record of 4-7, having managed to lose to a now-2-9 team en route to officially being eliminated from the fantasy playoffs.
Usually I just have a bad team. This year, I'm experimenting with a pretty good team that just performs terribly.
Okay, on to stuff someone other than me is interested in. My review of SapphireLibra3's Inner Demons, below the break.
Impressions before reading: Even putting aside the cover art and taking my impressions from the summary, the very first thing I see is "Play this song first!" with a link to a video game tune. Then, the actual story description contains some... questionable writing (including six ellipses, using the phrase "cutie mark" five times in three sentences, and at least one missing comma). This story's making a pretty poor impression off the bat, is what I'm trying to say.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: On her 21st birthday, Twilight discovers that she's fated to become the Queen of Darkness. Meanwhile, the CMC still haven't found their cutie marks after two years of trying, and Applebloom's had just about enough of Scootaloo's ever-questionable crusading ideas.
Thoughts after reading: Sometimes, I can tell just a short way in what kind and quality of a story I'm looking at. I make it a point, though, to read the entire story before writing a review, because every now and then something which I would have quickly dismissed turns out to pay off its opening conceits, or to rapidly improve after a rocky start. More often, though, it turns out that that first impression is, in fact, pretty representative of the story as a whole.
Let's start with where the problem isn't, particularly: the concept. If you boiled this story down to a few paragraphs of the major plot points... well, I'd probably say it wasn't "my kind of story," but it wouldn't send up much in the way of warning flags. This is, conceptually, a pretty solid action/adventure fic which gets a little dark and edgy for me, but not untenably so. Neither is the problem the editing, particularly; although there is the occasional missing comma or its/it's mixup or the like, it's certainly not at the level where it was a significant distraction.
The biggest problem was the writing, and the number of issues on that front were many. Slogging exposition was frequent; vague words and unintended over- or understatement were the norm; strange or irrelevant digressions were constant; word choice in the omniscient narration vacillated between proper and vulgar, and between formal and colloquial; redundancy was a regular "feature." Those were all problems I wasn't particularly shocked to find, insofar as they aren't uncommon issues in fanfiction, or even in fiction generally (some of these issues were taken to almost jaw-dropping extremes, however; take "Twilight was actually the youngest of the six of them. After her was Pinkie Pie by a few months, and Fluttershy who was a whole year older than Pinkie Pie. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy were close to the same age, but Rainbow Dash's birthday was before Fluttershy's. Rarity and Applejack were both the oldest, Rarity being a year older than Rainbow Dash, and Applejack being two. Their current ages from youngest to oldest were: 21, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25," from the very first chapter as a representative sample of the degree to which these kinds of issues were present. Note also that none of this, other than the fact that Twilight is turning 21 today, has any further relevance to the story).
One thing I was a little surprised by was how frequently hedge phrases wormed their way into the narration. By "hedge phrases," I mean words like "probably," "most of the time," "most likely," "presumably," and the like. There are plenty of good places to use these words (and I have a tendency to over-use them in my reviews), but in Inner Demons, they're frequently used not to communicate that a character doesn't know something, but seemingly (see, there's one of those hedge phrases right now!) for the sake of adding extra words. As a result, the story is full of Twilight going to buildings that look like bars, Rarity seeming like she's holding back tears, and the like. These are all in addition to using the words to actually describe character impressions or suppositions, which are frequent themselves. While those are fine for what they are, their frequency coupled with the regular misuses make the problem seem even more prevalent than it is.
Characterization is also a major issue throughout. Some of this is the writing issues seeping into dialogue; whether it's Spike chatting about his calendar tracking Twilight's periods (yes, that's a thing; no, this is not a random comedy), an ancient book of prophesy predicting that the Queen of Darkness will be "a natural" at magic, or Trixie's subdued waifishness (at least, early in the story), ameliorated but not excused by her sob-story about atonement (this fic is pre-S3). Other characters or documents have such inconsistent voices that it's hard to say what's a writing mistake and what's actually poor characterization. The fact that the author felt the need to head many of this story's chapters explaining why his characters were doing what they were doing argues for the latter, though.
There are a lot of problems with this fic. Right up to the very last chapter, it's full of questionable writing decisions, which constantly pull the reader from the story for one reason or another.
Recommendation: Someone who really doesn't care about writing quality whatsoever might find the core concept here to be serviceable. But that's about the best I can say about the Inner Demons reading experience.
Next time: Forever Young, by Hyperexponential