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No time for wittiness, I'm finally getting my SUMMER on! Hurry down below the break for my review of Forthwith's The Brief Reign of Princess Twily--the days may be long, but they sure do hurry past.
Impressions before reading: The dual comedy/SoL tag, picture, and title are all pointing towards "ephemeral fluff piece." While that's not a terrible thing to be, those kind of stories tend not to be ones I'd go out of my way to recommend, because... well, because they're ephemeral fluff. This one does have a very impressive upvote-to-view ratio, though--almost exactly 1:6, as I type this--which I'm hoping means that there's more to this than a glance at the cover reveals.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Hoping to give her mentor a short reprieve from her many duties, young Twilight Sparkle goes looking for a way to give Celestia a break. And, in a book of obscure laws, she finds one.
Thoughts after reading: Ultimately, this is a fluffy little piece. It's the sort of story, I think, that's easy to enjoy, but that doesn't have much going on beneath its surface. It's the sort of story of which one can imagine the broad strokes just from the description; if you've read this far into the review, I'm sure you'd already be able to figure out the story's general outline just based on what I've written and that picture.
Of course, predictability isn't a bad thing, in and of itself. But what I'd have really liked to have seen from this story is a little bit more investment in its premise. For example, a major humor element comes from Twilight being grumpy, tired, and generally not thinking things through or even trying to during her titularly brief turn at handling petitions. Later, Celestia reveals that Twilight's "good [and] obvious" but politically fraught choices as temporary ruler have given her cover to enact some changes which would have ruffled too many feathers had Celestia tried to pass them herself. It's not that those two ideas are mutually exclusive, but the disconnect between Twi making decisions almost at random and Celestia being proud of her keen, moral results isn't brought up, even as a point of humor; the two ideas simply exist uncomfortably alongside one another.
The writing is good technically, and does little to distract from the story. Characterization is likewise mostly unobjectionable, but rarely does it do anything other than "not distract." Shining Armour's role, in particular, feels remarkably empty without being particularly bothersome in its lack of heft; this would have been a much better story had something--literally anything--been done with his thoughts, impressions, or simply his agency, but the lack thereof doesn't prevent him from fitting in and, to an acceptable extent, even feeling like Shining Armour.
But what saved this story, at least for me, was its light-humor grounding. From the physical comedy it begins with to the absurd situation promised by the title, and even to a few references and call-outs (when told that one of her proposals will cost too much, Twilight snaps “I read in a journal there’s a unicorn in Ponyville with an interesting gem-finding spell. Go find her and start digging.” If nothing else, I want to read that story), there's a pleasantly mild, low-key consistency to this story. It never had me laughing out loud, but the reading experience here is a pleasant one, and that's nothing to scoff at.
★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
This isn't the sort of story that one is likely to remember fondly years--or even days--later, either for its depth or its comedy, but it's still enjoyable enough for what it is.
Recommendation: While this isn't a story I'd recommend specifically seeking out, I'd say it's a perfectly good one to stumble upon; a bit of gentle silliness for when you need such.
Next time: Magical Pony Lyrical Twilight, by PurpleProse