Monday, June 22, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 88

Less talking, more reviews!  Hurry, fic links and recs below!  Get them while supplies last!

We Who With Songs Beguile, by Loganberry

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Mazarine, the bluejay from Fluttershy's bird chorus, vents.

A few thoughts: This story is ultimately just a retread of the show from a novel perspective, but it's still pleasant, funny, and and moves along at a breezy but not breakneck pace. What I really enjoyed, though, is that Loganberry has an exasperated, annoyed narrator who isn't just a joyless curmudgeon. Too many stories saddle the reader with a "snarky" protagonist, and Mazarine is perennially annoyed and frustrated... but also has likes, interests, and an actual personality.  Plus, there are some nice touches ("thank Yolk," "everybird," etc.) around the edges. The voice does vacillate a bit, never quite settling between "world-weary" to "actively angry," and at times that changeability put me off, however.  

(EDIT: I forgot to post a Recommendation!  Luckily, the author himself stepped up to the plate: "[This story] would probably appeal most to people who wanted a truly fresh perspective on events they'd already seen -- and who like a little light world-building along the way."  Fits my opinion on the matter pretty well; let's go with that!)

Equestria: A History Revealed, by Hoofry_Poneigher

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  An "academic essay" by Loose Change--Canterlot student, conspiracy theorist, and Worst Researcher Ever--exposing the true history of Equestria.

A few thoughts:  I absolutely love the premise of this being an in-universe assignment/crazy pony tract, and the best moments of the story invariably are based around that conceit (the last chapter is a bibliography which is highly worth referring to; I kept it open in a second tab while reading, and would recommend doing so; example entries from the first chapter include "3. Clever, Clover the. My Life in a Few Words. 5th ed. Vol. 10. Canterlot: Canterlot, 1804. Print. The Pre-Equestrian Collection," "6. Berries, Sour. A Filly’s POP-UP Guide to Equestrian Animals. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Manehattan: DIC, 2004. Print," and "7. Honey Bunches of Oats. N.d. Back of Cereal Box.").  I found the theories themselves a bit dull and repetitive after a while, however; not in terms of content per se, but over 100,000 words of "everyone good is secretly evil" is a lot of expounding on a single basic theme; I think I'd have been happier with a shorter, more focused take on this idea than the sprawling totality of Equestrian history that I got.

Recommendation:  Anyone who likes in-universe writing, conspiracy theories (and the mocking of show fans'), or academic humor should definitely take a look at this, even if only to read the first few chapters and get a sense for the way it's constructed.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Applejack works on her taxes.

A few thoughts:  This is one of those stories that just kind of is.  It's not particularly funny/sad/insert emotion here, its single SoL tag accurately representing the banality of the subject.  But usually, SoL stories still have a moral, or at least a point.  This one doesn't, exactly; at the end, Applejack gets some of her friends to help her, but the story isn't about AJ failing, or even particularly struggling, on her own.  This ends up basically being "a few days in the life of a pony," with "doing taxes" as the only unifying theme.  That said, it's well-written and has strong characterizations, plus has some nice worldbuilding touches, so it's not like there's nothing going on, here.  Just nothing resembling a purpose.

Recommendation:  Fans of true SoL stories may enjoy this, but those looking for any sort of direction in their stories will probably find it dull.


  1. Thanks very much for the review! Rather annoyingly, I don't really have anything to take issue with you about. I think you're the first reviewer to have said they were put off by voice-vacillation, but in truth I'm mildly surprised that you are the first. I thought I got Mazarine's voice down quite well, but it doesn't really shock me that you felt I didn't nail it in terms of consistency.

    Oh, and: should I read anything into the lack of a "Recommendation" section? I don't remember you omitting that in previous mini-reviews, whether you liked a story or not.

    1. Hey, the comment section is working again!

      Logan! The joke was that in your case, Mazarine's voice should vacillate, because she's a bird! And birds... with the chirping... and the cooing... and such.... Huh. That pun was stupid. Never mind. I still like your telling of a story from a very background-y background character's point of view though! People don't do that much. Props to you.

      Also I'm guessing Chris just forgot to give a recommendation in his rush to get out of town. Maybe he'll add one when he gets back. Until then, why not add a recommendation of your own? You wrote it after all. What kind of people do you think would enjoy it?

    2. Thanks for that! I actually really like the story myself, voice included, but authors aren't exactly neutral judges. :P I didn't have much choice about the POV, though, since it was written for the "Outside Insight" contest -- which explicitly prohibited pony-POV stories!

      I'm not bothered about the recommendation thing, but I guess if I were writing it I'd just say that it would probably appeal most to people who wanted a truly fresh perspective on events they'd already seen -- and who like a little light world-building along the way -- but who don't have the patience for longer fics. Or something. :P

    3. Haha! Indeed. I, too, like or dislike things I've written disproportionate amounts. I think it's because writers know what they were actually going for, so they hold it to different standard than those who are coming at it not knowing what to expect. One might even say, if they had an appropriately introspective window to gaze out of, that writers are actually the least biased of all, in that regard.... Also I like my characters a lot.

      That sounds like an interesting idea for a contest as well. Glad it gave you a chance to try something a little different. I think it's good when contest do stuff like that. Gives the participants a bit of a challenge. Makes 'em more fun. And good recommendation! It is one if ever I saw one, and I have, so I should know. Chris would be so proud if he were here.

    4. Woops! Sorry about the missing recommendation; let's get something up there for ya...

    5. Thanks! And glad to be of service.

  2. Testing. Testing....