...Okay, still with me? Well, let's start with the bracket:
Now with a shiny new bracket; click for full size! Also, check the original post if you need a reminder what each team/story pairing is based on.
To recap: My Little Denarians beat out Dangerous Business in a back-and-forth series, and will now face Fallout: Equestria (which knocked off a Background Pony team that never looked terribly comfortable) in the Battle of the Stories With a Billion Companion Fics. Biblical Monsters was, as was mentioned before, swept by My Little Dashie, which will now take on the surprisingly feisty Past Sins (fresh off an energetic display against Life and Times of a Winning Pony) in the Battle of Stories With a Grossly Disparate Reception From Critics Than From General Readers.
Over in the East, Diaries of a Madman finally put away a Dresden Fillies team that rode a hot goalie as far as it could, but still couldn't put up enough offense to win a series full of 1-0 and 2-1 games. Friendship is Optimal, meanwhile, needed all seven to put away Cupcakes, but will be moving on to face DoaM. And finally, The Celestia Code did everyone who knows better than to root for New York teams a favor and put away 120 Days of Blueblood in a thrilling game seven, but they don't get a more tasteful matchup next: Fall of Equestria outplayed Austraeoh in convincing fashion, and will come into the matchup with Code as the clear-cut favorite. There's probably a tasteless joke to be made here, but I'm going to take the high road and leave you to make it for yourself.
Plenty of exciting matchups in round two; here's to some more great hockey! Now, with that accounting complete, let's move on to our more regular business: fanfic reviews. A few short-form musings, below the break.
Six Best Friends Play Diplomacy, by DagaYemar
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight and the girls play a ponified version of "the board game that ruins friendships."
A few thoughts: I was a little disappointed that the focus here was clearly on writing a Diplomacy-based fanfic, sometimes at the expense of characterization or pacing. That said, the juxtaposition of seeing the main six discovering the pure dickishness which the game not only thrives on, but actually requires in order to be any fun at all, made for some great moments. Still, the fun little bits of interplay or plotting often seem to get short shrift amid highly detailed accountings of moves and game-mechanic-intensive strategies.
Recommendation: This would be an excellent choice for someone interested in the game itself--the author even helpfully includes maps of army positions after each turn. Those looking for a heavier narrative focus won't find it here, though.
For want of a book, by Hoopy McGee
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After a young Twilight Sparkle casually dismisses the value of fiction, Princess Celestia sends her on an errand to the Royal Library--an errand which proves a bit more surreal than Twilight anticipated.
A few thoughts: There's a bit of an odd disconnect between the seeming moral of the story and Twilight's experience, which almost ends up suggesting that fiction actually doesn't have inherent value (or rather, that its value derives not from essential truths, but from whatever non-fictional roots that story has). Despite that, I still enjoyed reading this; Twilight's journey is odd, but never in a "lolrandom" way, and the nature of her adventure fits the tone of both the moral and the writing (which, while a bit rough around the edges, still has the easy readability which I associate with the author) quite well.
Recommendation: Despite what the adventure tag often suggests, this is a very homey fic, in tone and style. Readers looking for a gentle tale of Twilight's younger years may want to try this on for size.
Election Day, by Alaborn
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Celestia appoints Discord her Minister of Elections, then turns him loose to announce the results of the latest vote.
A few thoughts: The intersection of Equestria's seeming monarchy-ish structure and modern western values as regards governance can be tricky territory to traverse; unfortunately, this story fell afoul of that disconnect, for me. The joke here is mostly that Equestria's elected body doesn't function as well as the Princess wants, so she has no problem making a mockery of the idea of letting anyone other than herself have any say in the country's governance. It's not that the problems Discord cites (in his maliciously mocking way; although his character vacillates a bit, his sarcastic streak still highlights the story) aren't real; it's that the solution is so uncompromisingly totalitarian that it sapped the fic's humor for me.
Recommendation: I might just be oversensitive; this is a short and silly comedy, and was almost certainly never meant to hold up well to close inspection. If you're just looking to see some sleezeballs get knocked down a peg, this fic delivers, but if you're going to think (too much) about it, it's probably not the story for you.