Compassion, by Comet Burst
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Diamond Tiara is dared to go into the Everfree alone, and promptly stumbles into a lone timberwolf... which, to her surprise, doesn't immediately rend her limb from limb.
A few thoughts: This fic does a nice job with atmosphere, which is good, because that's pretty much all there is to it. Although Diamond learns something at the end, her growth as a character doesn't really tie into her narrative arc, which results in an ending that's thoughtful but not terribly impactful. The biggest flaw the story has, though, is DT herself; she narrates the entire story, and sounds exactly nothing like DT, or for that matter any child (from the very first paragraph: "[The canopy] did a spectacular job of blotting out the warm sunlight, each serrated edge of every leaf sticking together like the sandspurs that held onto my legs. I gulped hard as I felt a fell breeze begin to roll across the opening I had found").
Recommendation: This story's great strength is strong descriptions and atmosphere; if that's what you're looking for in a fic, give this a shot. But if you're looking for something with good voicing, this is probably not for you.
Goodbye, by enti0
Zero-ish spoiler summary: A pegasus recruit is absent for morning roll call, and his friend in the unit goes to find him... and to find out why he's gone.
A few thoughts: At only 14 views as I write this, this almost certainly sets the record for least-viewed story I've ever looked at on this blog. It's certainly much better than those 14 views might suggest... but it's very oddly put together. While the editing is great, strange phrasing is the rule of the day, either irregular/improper word use ("Ruminka nodded with brevity") or non-sequiturs. Dirri (the absent recruit)'s dilemma is a solid one, and I appreciate the way the fic keeps a bit of emotional distance rather than trying to mine unearned tears or the like. But even with that bit of distance in mind, this was still a serious story at heart, and the fact that it ended on a bit of dark humor (while in-character) struck me as a poor choice.
Recommendation: Fans of stories that combine character drama with well-proportioned reserve should give this a try, but sticklers for word usage will likely be underwhelmed.
Our Professional Lives, by abandoned2123
Zero-ish spoiler summary: On the day of his retirement, Snails reflects on his life--and, seeking both habit and comfort, goes to get his usual trim from Snips.
A few thoughts: I really wish that the shipping here had either been expanded upon, or excised completely; as-is, it comes to late in the story, and is to ill-defined, to have much impact, instead only distracting from the real focus of the story: Snails' melancholy. That part of the story is nicely developed, though I'd have liked to see more done with some of the worldbuilding that frames it. The mandatory retirement age is an interesting idea which gets some exploration, but what isn't really examined is how Snails got to the place in life where he is now, and that would have grounded his mood better than the day's events alone do. To be fair, though, there is some of this; I just wish there'd been more.
Recommendation: Given the very light, very late nature of the romantic element, this actually isn't a great story for people looking specifically for shipping. However, as a sad story with some interesting worldbuilding elements, this holds up pretty well.
Blooperschnarden, by Filler
Zero-ish spoiler summary: A mare hears a tale, while staying at an inn, of a terribly creature which stalks the night in these parts. A tale which she scoffs at, but which leaves her ill at ease that night...
A few thoughts: This is basically ponified creepypasta. To the author's credit, he recognized that ambiguity and the unknown are more frightening than gore and visceral "thrills," but this still feels like a story that gains nothing, and loses some of its impact, by being set in Equestria. It's also a bit too predictable for me--I'm no connoisseur of creepypasta, but of the few I have read, the best have combined an acute awareness of the dread to come with an unsettling but not mood-breaking twist at the end, which this story lacked. That said, it was well-written, didn't stick around long enough to drag, and basically does what it sets out to do.
Recommendation: If "ponified creepypasta" is a thing that interests you, I'd definitely recommend this. It probably doesn't have much appeal beyond that audience, though.