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Sorry for the lack of post on Friday, guys. I was out of town for a few days, forgot to set something to post before I left, and didn't get back until Saturday night. By way of apology, have the review you would've gotten three days ago if I'd been on my game! My thoughts on GrassAndClouds2's Scootaling, below the break.
Impressions before reading: I've read a goodly number of "[pony] is secretly a changeling" stories--as has anyone who's not relatively new to MLP fanfiction, I suspect. That's hardly the author's fault, but when it comes to well-trodden ground, it's important that a story bring something new or original to bat. The summary isn't giving me any hint what, if any, "new or original" element(s) I might find here, which is a bit worrying, but on the other hand, there's no real warning signs going in. Color me trepidatious but hopeful.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Scootaloo is a changeling, and none of her friends know it. And while she may not like keeping secrets from her friends, she was worried enough about how they'd react before Chrysalis's army attacked Canterlot last month.
Thoughts after reading: Having now read the story, if you asked me what was unique about this story, I'd say it's that there's absolutely no fear or hostility that Scootaloo has to overcome. While I'm sure there's some story out there which has done the same thing (or something similar), the point is that this isn't just a "secretly a changeling" story, without anything to distinguish it from a dozen other fanfics just like it.
Instead, the biggest problem here is that there's no conflict worth mentioning. Scootaloo is afraid to "come out" to her friends (and to Ponyville), then she does... and nothing happens. And not in a "humorous deconstruction" way; all the ponies react with curiosity, mild incredulity quickly replaced by acceptance, or the like. Scoots, meanwhile, displays "generic reluctance" more than actual fear, shame, or any other emotion which would have given the story a bit of punch. There's almost no drama here, and while that's refreshing in a way--overselling drama is at least as bad as underselling it--it means that the story doesn't create much reader investment: when everything's guaranteed to play out smoothly, it's not very compelling.
That problem is exacerbated by the writing style. While Scootaling is perfectly well-written from a technical standpoint, the writing is very dry. Additionally, Scootaloo has a tendency to needlessly narrate her attitude, and several visual gags which don't translate cleanly to a textual medium add to the sense of dullness.
On the other hand, there are some nice bits of pastoral pleasure to be had throughout the fic. From the CMC's attempts at catapult-building at the start to the foals' varied theories on changeling dietary habits and beyond, there are a lot of fun tidbits here. Some of these aren't very well explored--in particular, a subplot with Diamond Tiara ought by all rights to have injected drama both into Scoots's concerns about going public, and into her eventual reveal, but the former is underplayed while the latter sees that subplot completely forgotten--but they do give the story a pleasant readability throughout. Even when there seems to be little forward impetus, this is a fic that never actively drives the reader away.
★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
This story is rather too "slice of life" for its own good, but in the end there's something to be said for that; it's kind of pleasing to imagine that the events of this story would, in fact, be total non-events, just as they're shown to be. That said, it still doesn't make for a very strong story, and when there's nothing else in the story to provide any plot-relevant conflict, it's hard to recommend this story too enthusiastically.
Recommendation: Readers looking for a decidedly low-stakes, un-dramatic take on "secretly a changeling" should give this a try, but readers who aren't specifically interested in the same will probably find this acceptable but underwhelming.
Next time: Stardust, by Arad