Friday, May 29, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 85

Do you ever talk back to commercials?  Because lately, I've gotten in the habit of responding to any commercial that opens with "Hi, I'm _____" (side note: there are a lot of commercials that open with "Hi, I'm _____") with a mumbled, "Hi, _____," and then imagining what kind of support group meeting the commercial-person and I might feasibly end up attending together.  I have to believe that there are better uses for my brain cells, but sometimes you just need to do something asinine while you're supposed to be working, you know?  Anyway, two short reviews of long(er) stories, below the break.

Aethia, by Malckeor

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Three ponies search for treasure in the bloody homeland of the griffons, far from Equestria's peace and (relative) security.  Unfortunately for them, there be dragons...

A few thoughts:  I had the chance to read the beginning of this a while back, and it's improved by leaps and bounds since then.  This story definitely earns its dark/gore tags, working its way pretty quickly through a bloody gambit from "dark humor" to "violent drama."  Normally, that's not my cup of tea, and indeed I did find this a bit outside of my tastes, but Malckeor also works a lot of draconic racial tidbits into the story which I enjoyed, and has a knack for voicing; despite a significant all-OC cast, character dialogue was well-differentiated throughout, and exchanges between ponies and griffons were regular highlights of the fic.  Focus is a bit of an issue; although one character's backstory, told in spurts through flashback, ties everything together, the story does seem to flit between emphasizing that pony's journey, and the broader adventure-cum-survival-tale which includes but doesn't necessarily focus on her.

Recommendation:  Readers looking for something on the more violent end of the fanfic spectrum which isn't just edgy for the sake of edginess should definitely give this a look, as should fans of draconic race-building.  Readers looking for something even slightly show-tone will want to steer away, however.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  The second book in the Iron Hearts series, wherein the girls (with varying degrees of reluctance) travel to the Chaos legions' base on a mission to get the humans to leave Equestria.  Of course, asking a bunch of murderous psychotics with unbelievable destructive capabilities to get lost isn't the sort of quest that comes without complications, and that's without even mentioning the Tau...

A few thoughts:  I reviewed the first book in the story here; it being a necessary prelude to this story, I'm basing my review upon having read that story, and the assumption that anyone considering Ferrous Dominus will have read it as well.  I'm also going to take my comments on that story as a given, as usual, and focus on things that are better, worse, or just different between that story and this.  Anyway, this story starts to move away from the humor-via-ethical-contrasts (there's still quite a bit, but the characters do have to adapt eventually) and builds in a bit more scheming, plotting, and of course, warfare.  The latter is still excellently written, even if some of the 40k-specific stuff is lost on me, but I found myself disappointed by the grand plans, at least as regarded two of the major players: Celestia and Serith (a human psyker (mage)).  After the end of book one, it seemed that Celestia had some inkling of what was coming, and that this could develop into a major plot point.  Here, her role is entirely reactionary and ineffectual, which made a disappointing contrast to expectations (and on the subject of princesses: although her sister has a more interesting role, I have to note that Luna's Ye Olde English is pretty awful).  Serith, meanwhile, makes an interesting antagonist at first, but his motives remain opaque right through to the end.  Moreover, it seems not to be a case of "to be revealed," but rather that he doesn't have any definite motivations which the fic plans to expand on.  Hopefully I'm wrong on that front, but trying to figure out what he wants or values from the first two books alone is an exercise in futility.

Recommendation:  If you haven't read book 1, then this is definitely not the place to start.  If you read book 1 and enjoyed it, though, this follows immediately through on the end of that story, and despite my complaints, I found it to be a slightly more serious but still very darkly-humored action romp.


  1. See? Referring to my comment in the last post, from how Chris describes it, that Aethia story sounds like the good type of darker story. It's set in the pony world, but with its own lore and plot enough that it separates it from the cartoon-y show's theme. The title confuses me though. I don't know what Aethia means, and when I looked it up on Google, the only thing for the first three pages was an awesome looking little bird. It's like a... like a miniature pelican-quail thing. I don't know how that relates to dragons and treasure hunting, but if it does then I approve.

    Also, speaking of treasure hunting in the griffon kingdom, was anyone else impressed by how varied and interesting they made the griffons in the last episode of the show? The Lost Treasure of Griffon Valley Mountain, or whatever? I was. I'm glad to see that background animals of all sorts get as much attention as the background ponies of Ponyville do.

    1. The episode impressed me in general. It completely threw all my expectations out the window. Well, except the expectation of Gilda. I think we all saw that one coming.

    2. The redemption of Gilda might just be the longest story arc in the entire show. I'm glad they tied up that loose end. Also, oddly enough, it makes Gilda look like a lot less of a jerk when you learn that her behavior way back in season 1 would have been completely normal where she was from. Go figure.

    3. She clearly wasn't like that when she was young, though. Maybe she lived in Equestria when she was a kid and her family moved back to Griffonstone afterwards? As far as we know, she and Dash didn't go to school together after Junior Speedsters.

      Man, growing up in a place like Griffonstone must've sucked.

    4. I watched the episode again and did notice that it was flight camp, and not a school or anything, so maybe it was just a summer camp type thing that her family sent her to for a while, but she lived in Griffonstone all along, and she was acting different because she was little and nervous about being the only griffon there.

      And I don't know about growing up in Griffonstone being all that bad. Sure it was rundown, and you couldn't rely on anyone to help you without paying them, and friends weren't really a thing, but those aren't necessarily bad properties; just not pony properties. Living in Griffonstone would make you tough and resourceful! And it would teach you important life lessons about the literal value of work. Plus, just from observation, I would guess that most Griffons are more introverted to begin with, so the no friends and no singing in public and all that is probably how they like it. It's how I would like it. Also even though they act grumpy all the time, they still seem to have a sense of pride about their culture going on, what with Gilda hinting that ponies are delusional by saying that they have a hero complex, and always saying "we" when talking about griffons, as in, "We don't care about that," and, "That's how we like it." I feel like their type of camaraderie and principles would make them better adventurers than ponies, overall.

      I think, were I to be placed in the pony world, I might actually prefer Griffonstone over Ponyville. Ponyville has too many hidden political agendas and Twilight Sparkles for my taste.

    5. Hi there. Sorry to interrupt this in-depth discussion about the new(est) episode, but it is I, the guy who wrote that bloody little Aethia story, and I wanted to address your confusion regarding the title, SeeVee.

      Let me pre-face the disappointing name-origin reveal by saying that Aethia's first chapter actually went up back in September, short after I'd completed an alternate ending to ShortSkirts&Explosion's 'Background Pony.' This was well before Lost Treasure of Griffonstone aired, as you know, and I'd always wondered about the griffons' homeland ever since seeing that "Yonder to griffons" label on the east side of an early official map of Equestria. So I decided to take a crack at building up the griffon homelands as I'd imagined it, with lore, mythology and all that stuff to back it up. This 'Aethia' story is meant to be a prologue of sorts, you see, with a story of a more 'epic' length following sometime soon™.

      Anyway, regarding this name of the griffon homeland I'd come up with: first, I thought of 'Equestria', and one of the first words to come to my mind when thinking of flying hunting creatures was 'aether,' as I'd imagined they'd use the skies when hunting; after all, the last place anyone looks is above. So I combined 'Equestria' and 'aether' to form 'Aethia', the name of the griffons' continent.

      Pretty much goes without saying that I try not to waste too much time and energy on developing original names. Heh. At the end of the day, what is a name other than a super-specific label?

      And yes, I was thinking exactly what you'd voiced, SeeVee, when developing this far-east story in my brain. I mulled over having Rainbow Dash as the main character once or twice (mostly due to the silly words of an old friend who used to edit for me; he didn't know the difference between there, their, and they're. Should indicate how well that went), but I'd wanted to take my main character in un-Rainbow Dash-like directions, and I'd felt that I'd be limiting myself in regards to what sorts of themes and stuff I'd wanted to explore throughout the 'epic'-length story if I were to have one of the Mane Six in a lead role for this little prologue.


      As for the Lost Treasure of Griffonstone and the revelation of the 'true' griffon kingdom, while I was resisting the urge to utter a self-deprecating curse or two throughout my viewing of the episode as all of my lore plans seemingly went up in flames, I brainstormed ways around it and still plan on writing my big epic fic within the world of Aethia as I'd originally intended, with no ret-cons or omissions of my ideas, nor with the presence of an 'alternate universe' tag. I'm really excited for it, but first I want to forge a few more silly-insane-comedy-central narratives involving the show characters. I'm excited for that, too, because I enjoy the hell out of writing conceptually insane things; I had a strange creative surge during my last year of college, where I'd decided to think up the stupidest concepts imaginable and see what happened when I'd executed said concepts. I remember I wrote one story about how the universe was formed due to an accident that took place during a soccer match being played between members of the Greek pantheon. It's fun to be silly and insane. On that note, I'll give you three seconds to guess who my favorite pony is.

      Writing excites me, as do thoughts on my writings, because that leads to improvement. Improvement leads to me loving life more. It's like a big circle of fun that can only go up. Yes.

      Anyway, thank you fellas for your juicy replies on this review for my story. It makes me feel happy. And thank you, Chris, for the review in the first place! I appreciate it more than you could ever know! LOVE AND TURKEYDATION!!! :)

    6. Thanks, Malckeor! It's always satisfying to get an answer to a question from the source. I guess it was just a fun coincidence that the name of the griffon kingdom happen to be the name of an actual bird as well. Who knows? Maybe you can work that in somewhere later. Make it seem like you had it planned aaaaaall along.

      And I know how it feels to have the lore of a story you're writing get vetoed by canon from the show. Personally I think it's always good to stay true to what you had planned. If fanfiction writers gave up on all their stories every time the show disproved them, then a lot of interesting ideas would never get to exist. I guess that's another good reason to keep fanfics away from the main plot of the show. It makes it a lot easier to avoid sudden new episode contradictions that way.

      Good luck with whatever you're working on now!

    7. Anytime! And thank you!

  2. I feel like I should mention that I do stupid stuff like talking to commercials too. I like to think of it as keeping my brain's engine running more than wasting brain cells though. My brain's in a bad enough state as it is. lf l let it shut off then it might never start up again for all I know.