Friday, October 23, 2015

Fandom Classics Part 131: Canterlot Cantata

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

We've got some reviewers hitting milestones, lately!  City of Doors is going to get to 500 review posts today, most with three to six fics in them, while PresentPerfect just hit 2600 total fics reviewed.  Me?  Well, you can see the number of Fandom Classics up at the top of the post.  But when you add in another 150-ish 6-star reviews, plus probably 350 or so fics in the mini-reviews, and... well, okay, I'm nowhere near the raw numbers of those two.  Still, the only way to catch up is to review, right?  So here comes one more!  Head below the break for my take on Ringcaat's Canterlot Cantata.

Impressions before reading:  It looks like this is going to be three different stories, more or less, each a "what if?" take on A Canterlot Wedding.  While I sometimes enjoy these kinds of stories, I've found I usually tire of them within a few variations on their theme.  So in that regard, I'm glad there are only three "takes" here (and that they all seem to be relatively meaty); hopefully that bodes well!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A look at what would have happened if:

1) Twilight had talked to Spike before confronting "Cadence" at the rehearsal,
2) Twilight had talked to Luna about her concerns, or
3) Chrysalis hadn't revealed herself to Twilight before the wedding.

Thoughts after reading:  I was afraid, as I was making my way through the first chapter (the three chapters corresponding to the three "what-if"s in the summary), that this story would end up being a 36k-word "take that" against the show; that this fic would end up being an extended refutation of its own source material.  There are a lot of stories that are born, essentially, from the author's desire to show how the show "should" have gone, and while they can sometimes be interesting, I find that they're almost always too strident and didactic to really enjoy.

Cantata, thankfully, isn't so much about "fixing" A Canterlot Wedding as it is about exploring other ways events could have unraveled.  Although Ringcaat does occasionally take some gentle passes at the way characters act in the episode (and, in chapters two and three, at the way they acted in previous chapters!), this piece is, at its core, fairly free of judgement as regards its characters' choices.

My biggest problem with the story, then, wasn't in its premise; rather, I was bothered by the tone.  Specifically, it goes some very dark places (especially at the end of chapter three), but the lead-in to these is more often than not goofy, show-tone shenanigans.  Some of those shenanigans were quite funny, while others felt forced (or both; Spike misunderstanding what a "bachelor" is in a different way every chapter was extremely shoehorned, but made me grin regardless), but the point is that they made the story's dips into drama, or even out-and-out tragedy, feel abrupt and jarring.  Moreover, the fact that the comedy tends to be clumped near the start, while the downer bits are saved for the later parts of the story (this observation applies to both the individual chapters, and the story as a whole) means that the final note one is left on is generally a bitter one, in a story that doesn't really support those elements.

Moreover, there are a few really tasteless moments in this fic.  The end of chapter three especially stood out to me, but unfortunately I can't think of any way to suggest the problem without spoiling said chapter.  Suffice to say, Rarity manages to have one of the most offensive scenes (and characterizations) that I've recently read.  Thankfully, such moments are extremely rare--and the Rarity one is the only truly blatant one.

The writing is solid, but tends toward summary in many places, as in this passage, where Twilight kidnaps her brother (for reasons that make sense in context):
Twilight had prepared a thin but strong magical baggie―soundproof and nearly spellproof. Shining Armor had barely woken up before Twilight forced it over him and sealed the end. Twilight levitated the struggling bag and hopped back onto Rainbow's back. Rainbow didn't find it easy flying with a passenger, but she was able to make it out the window and back to the treeline, Twilight locked in concentration all the way. 
Their escape did not go unnoticed, however. A guard watching from above sounded an alarm, and Princess Luna, on the high watchtower, sounded a louder alarm. A dozen guards were already on the move before Rainbow was able to set down.
The narration also is awfully heavy on exclamation points, but beyond that there's little to complain about.  The writing style is direct and clear, which is a good match for the story(/stories) being told.

I mentioned earlier that the humor didn't mesh with the darker bits, and that's true... but the humorous portions were often quite enjoyable in their own right.  Ringcaat shows a knack for building on and exaggerating minor characters (Luna, especially, is an endearing take on how the princess from the Nightmare Night episode might have managed to begin toning herself down, a few months on).  A few bits of humor feel a bit too gag-like for me to fully enjoy in the context of the narrative, but far more often, the author works humorous solutions and dialogue into the story cleanly.

Star rating:

There's some pleasant humor and fun ideas here, coupled with a lot of rapid summing-up and some very poorly-fitting moments.

Recommendation:  If the idea of a "what if" set of stories appeals to you inherently, this is probably worth looking at.  If you're sensitive to inconsistent tone, though, you might find that the fic leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

Next time:  A Night (to Try) to Remember, by zaptiftun

1 comment:

  1. Now I'm really curious what happened with Rarity at the end of chapter three...just not enough to actually read through the fic. I got burned out on this kind of fic when they were an incredibly oversaturated genre right after ACW. I know you said it's better than those angry fix-fics, but along with the flaws you pointed out in the actual thing, it doesn't sound interesting enough for me. Good review though.