It's getting cold, and that can only mean one thing: it's time to get raking! I have two maple trees in my yard, but they're different species, and one starts dropping leaves just about the time the other has finished its pre-winter molt, so raking season for me lasts upward of six weeks. Hey, at least it's better than shoveling snow, right? Anyway, mini-reviews below the break; go find out what I read recently, and what I thought of it!
The One Who Got Away, by Georg
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Gaberdine, an Equestrian civil servant, is awarded a barony by Princess Celestia... but he soon discovers that the "land" he's been awarded is anything but. Still, if he wants to keep his new title, he needs to conduct a complete census of the river which is now his. And as it turns out, there are rather more denizens of his lands than he would have believed.
A few thoughts: I feel like this is a story I loved despite its flaws, seeing as its got a fair number. The first chapter is incredibly perfunctory, using several well-worn cliches to hurry Gaberdine on his way to the plot; the seapony Gaberdine keeps misidentifying as a unicorn can only continue to be misidentified for as long as it is through a monumental application of the power of narrative idiocy, and worse, keeping this "secret" from him for as long as is done serves no useful purpose, plot-wise; the romance in this story, while admittedly played as a mutual attraction more than full-blown True Love, blossoms with almost no basis over the course of only a few days.
And yet... and yet, despite those issues, I did love this story. It's a predictable piece of work in its steps--a classic tale of finding oneself, with the fanfic-standard assist from Chessmaster Celestia--which embraces its familiar plot every step of the way, reveling in the telling of a story everyone knows, and most everyone still enjoys. Along with that, the language is pleasantly evocative in more than a few places (any author who can make seaponies, they of the shoo-be-doo-ing, sound enchanting and sylvan, is doing a great many somethings right), and the mix of hints of politics with plenty of clever work on the setting, both in a worldbuilding sense and in more local terms, combine to create a vibrant space for the story to take place in. In the end, this is an immensely satisfying story; there may not be much in the way of an antagonist, but a story about someone discovering that their life is a good one is always welcome.
Recommendation: For readers looking for a very traditionally-structured story about finding oneself wrapped in some clever design and told with quiet aplomb, this is definitely one to check out.
To Dethrone A Princess, by Codex Ex Equus
Zero-ish spoiler summary: The rebels have trapped Celestia inside her throne room, using an artifact that cuts off her alicorn powers and will stop the other princesses from quickly responding. Celestia is at their mercy... isn't she?
A few thoughts: I thought the idea behind this was funny enough, but there were some sizeable missteps that stopped me from really enjoying it. Beginning what should be a silly comedy by invoking the specter of dead guards sours the mood (that nopony apparently did die doesn't really eliminate the problem), and the conclusion was an odd middle ground, too long to be a quick, punchy sendoff, but not delving into Celestia's longer-term motives or history of dealing with rebellions(/decorations) this way enough to make this feel like more than an isolated event. In between is a fun bit of comedic headcanon, but I still found this didn't do a lot for me. The one thing this story does well, though, is build up to Celestia's reveal; the pacing there, and the size of the gap between when the reader figures out what's about to happen and when it happens, are well-timed.
Recommendation: If you're looking for something short and silly, and don't mind some tonal wandering around the edges, this would be a perfectly fine choice. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for a more memorable fic, though, nor to those bothered by weak conclusions.
The Legend of the Scorpion Queen, by cursedchords
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Once upon a time, a king traveled out to the desert, and brought a scorpion home to live in his garden. And though the scorpion was grateful at first, in time it came to resent the king for taking her from her home. And so, it plotted its revenge.
A few thoughts: This is intended as an in-universe folktale, and although it doesn't borrow heavily from that storytelling style--that said, it does lean on the language of that style, to good effect--it feels very authentic as a piece of invented history, telling the story of how a particular constellation came to be. My big issue with it was that there's absolutely nothing "pony" about it; strip away the hooves and replace the unicorn with a court wizard in an Arabian Nights-esque setting, and this would lose nothing. On the other hand, it's not particularly antithetical to ponies, nor does the story make less sense because it involves ponies, which is what can really irk me.
That all aside, I really appreciated that the author didn't feel the need to force a happy ending, instead opting for a more bittersweet but still uplifting finish; to me, that felt very appropriate both to the story (being about the nature of revenge, as it is) and to the in-universe conceit.
Recommendation: For fans of folktales, this is a must-read. It's probably not a good choice for readers looking for something with a strong Equestrian tone, but I'd still suggest it to readers who enjoy well-told fables generally.