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Before we go any further, I want to call y'alls' (I believe that to be the proper way to pluralize the possessive version of "y'all"--please don't ask me to explain the efficacy of pluralizing the possessive version of "y'all") attention to this picture right here, on the grounds that it's the best thing ever. I can confirm; this is what it's actually like over here at Ponyfic Review Headquarters. Well, that's what it's like in the shared office we stick the peons in, anyway; I've got my own executive suite, and I can tell you, it's posh. Soundproofed so that I don't have to hear the noise the little people/ponies make as they sort their reviews, done up in velvet trim, the shelves lined with specially commissioned illuminated copies of all the stories on my reading list... hey, all those fanfic review dollars have to go somewhere, you know? Better to me than to those shlubs!
But enough about the hoi polloi; on to important stuff, like my reviews! My thoughts on PaulAsaran's Tyrant, below.
Impressions before reading: Back-to-back AUs! This one appears to be a "What if Twilight hadn't traded her power to Tirek to save her friends" premise--one I've seen a couple of times before, and which has bothered me a bit each time in Twilight-characterization terms, but that's nothing that a good story couldn't explain or justify. I believe this is the first story by this author that I've read, but I've read a number of his fanfic reviews, and based on that I'm expecting technical competence at the very least. I admit to being a bit concerned about the line "This story is a reaction piece against the Tyrant Sparkle trope" from the description, though; I'll be honest, I didn't even know "Tyrant Sparkle" was a thing until I googled it up (turns out there are a bunch; I guess they just don't get popular enough to get recommended to me), but regardless, these kind of reactionary fics rarely work well (outside of parody, at least). But then again, if the reaction in question is "Twilight Sparkle isn't a tyrant"... well, that seems pretty benign and easy to swallow for a story premise, doesn't it?
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After a decade of civil war, the new would-be Elements of Harmony have finally brought their bloody rebellion to the foot of Twilight Sparkle's throne. What they find there, however, isn't what they expected.
Thoughts after reading: Well, I was right: the writing on this was quite good, editing and construction-wise. But the story itself was a bit of a disappointment.
The AU starter premise--Twilight let Tirek kill her friends rather than turn over her quad-alicorn powers--is one I was willing to at least provisionally accept; it is the basis of the entire story, after all. But Tyrant requires the reader to accept that a lot of seemingly improbable decisions leading up to the confrontation which is the focus of the fic. One must believe that Twilight would, on one hand, refuse to take any aggressive action against violent revolutionaries, up to and including letting innocents be slaughtered in the name of maintaining her nonviolence toward ponies... yet, on the other hand, refuses to abdicate, surrender, or even simply leave the capital, knowing that she's the cause of this revolution. It also requires that one accept that ponies as a group would engage in a violent civil war on the premise that Twilight is a murderous tyrant--explicitly on this singular premise--despite all evidence to the contrary, for years. To put it lightly, one is asked to swallow a lot, with little to nothing in the way of explanation or justification.
In the abstract, though, it's not hard to understand why that explanation is absent. This isn't a story about an AU civil war, it's a story about Twilight berating those who misrepresent the ideals her friends represented in life. Twilight's dissection is interesting on its own, and the open ending was, I think, the right way to go with this story; a more definitive resolution would have made for a stronger arc, but would have taken the emphasis off of Twilight's arguments, and that's the real point here.
A bit disappointingly, though, those arguments are almost entirely one-sided. The grievances of the rebels are shallow revenge and anger, and are almost totally nonsensical in the context the fic provides. As Twilight puts it, "There is no logical explanation for how you all came to the conclusion that I am evil, dictatorial or corrupt"... and she's not wrong. As a result, this story feels rather hollow, in the same way that debating the pros and cons of robbing convenience stores would: there's not a legitimate case to be made for one side. As a result, the open ending is only a partial success. It does invite the reader to wonder what the rebels decide to do, at the end. But it doesn't end up asking much of the reader.
I think my review ended up a little harsher than I intended. To me, this is on the upper edge of one-star: a story that's got some appeal, but held back by one or more significant flaws. In this case, the premise is very difficult to swallow, and the payoff for doing so is essentially a character conundrum, rather than that and a moral one.
Recommendation: In the end, I think that line from the description that worried me was prescient, and not in a negative way. This story is a reaction to Tyrant Sparkle, and would probably be enjoyed by people who specifically want to see a story about everyone treating Twi like an evil dictator despite her not being that. Outside of that context, though, it doesn't have a lot more to offer beyond technical prowess.
Next time: I’d Do Her, by Fire Gazer the Alchemist