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Against my expectations, it turns out that a fair few of you do have some passing interest in hockey, at least when it's used as a vehicle for fanfic humor(ish-ness). Keep an eye on this bit above the break--I'll irregularly update y'all on who's been eliminated over the next couple of months. Fair warning, though: the bracket I larked up ends up giving best odds to some of the worst stories. But I suppose that's as it should be--you ought to be upset when the Rangers win, after all!
Anyway, click down below the break for my totally non-hockey-related review of Argonmatrix's A Draconequus’ Guide to Immortality.
Impressions before reading: Argonmatrix is an author from whom I haven't read very many stories, but I've been very impressed with those stories I have read. As such, I'm looking forward to this; as overdone as they can be, I like a good "dealing with immortality" story, and I'm hoping that's what this will be.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: At the newly-alicornified Twilight Sparkle's coronation as princess, Twilight finds herself distracted by the question of her lifespan--and what it means for her. And it just so happens there's a draconequus at the celebration who's got plenty of experience living forever.
Thoughts after reading: The writing in this story is exceptional in a lot of ways. There's an easy, natural flow that makes it easy to breeze through the construction in favor of focusing on content (for those so inclined), but that construction has a lot to recommend it beyond simple lack of distraction. ArgonMatrix has a knack for original but natural-sounding metaphors, as well as for gentle plays on the same ("She twisted her body again, looking up at the moon. It looked back at her just as it did every night—just as it would every night for the rest of her life. It was a fixture. A rock—both literally and figuratively—that ponies could always count on to be there"). Beyond that, the vocabulary and phrasing combine fairly simple, highly readable phrasing/vocabulary with a well-balanced mix of dialogue an description to create a broadly pleasing story at the technical level.
The story itself, however, takes a while to get going. To a certain extent, this is appropriate; slice-of-life fiction doesn't necessarily need a heavy, immediate hook. But the gist of Twilight's problem--or rather, what's bothering her--comes in fairly early, and the space between then and when said issue is first explicitly addressed occupies about half the total story. What's in-between isn't irrelevant by any measure, but it does create a pacing problem; the majority of the fic feels like it's part of an overlong introduction.
Once it "gets going," though, the story goes in a pleasant direction. Discord does a nice job of keeping the proceedings from getting too maudlin, while still allowing the author to touch on a fairly serious topic, albeit rather lightly. That lightness proves to be a positive as well; within the context of "Twilight is bothered by the implications of immortality at a party," a heavier hand would have felt out of place. Instead, Guide addresses her concern in an open-ended, slightly flippant way, without turning the whole premise into a joke--and that was exactly the right choice for this story.
Characterization is very strong with all the story's characters. Twilight's self-doubt and tendency to overthink not only come through clearly as character traits, but as actual story drivers. Discord, meanwhile, feels very well-realized (allowing for the fact that this is a pre-S4 story, anyway), mixing his trademark snark and physicality with a genuine, if ill-developed, desire to help. Even the minor characters have a bit of character invested in them.
While ponies like Rarity and Applejack were more than caricatures in actions and development, though, their vocabulary tended toward the opposite. An overuse of character tics (Rarity drops two "darling"s in her first two sentences) may not be the most egregious of flaws, but it does tend to make characters feel shallow--specifically, it makes those tics feel like their defining characteristics, which detracts somewhat from the sense that these ponies are fully-realized.
Although it's paced rather more languidly than it really needs to be, this is still an enjoyably low-stakes but still (a bit) thoughtful look at how a chaos-causing grumblepuff might reassure a newly-beprincessed pony in a moment of doubt.
Recommendation: For fans of immortality stories and strong characterization, this is an easy recommendation. Even readers normally trepidatious of that premise might still want to give this a look, if their primary fear is an overabundance of angst.
Next time: Without a Hive, by Phoenix_Dragon