Friday, December 11, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 110

I do not, and probably never will, understand why some people seem to have so much trouble singing a picardy third (ending a song or phrase which is in a minor key on a major chord, e.g. the last "lu-lay" in each verse of the Coventry Carol).  I mean, forgetting it, I understand.  Missing the note, I understand.  But when you know it's there, you can hear other people singing the right note, and you're still coming in on the minor third?  There's some sort of serious mental block I'm dealing with from a certain singer--and he's not the first person I've encountered who couldn't seem to do this.  Seriously, how hard is it to sing an accidental?  You do it all the time in music, but this one particular case seems bafflingly impossible to a select few.

Ah well, he's got a little while to figure it out (before we're reduced to "you're not allowed to sing the last note").  While I ponder that, here are some short reviews for your review-reading pleasure!  As always, get'em below the break.

Tastes Like Heresy, by Bugsydor

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Amber Spice used to be the Royal Chef for the King of Unicornia.  Now, she's about to be banished from the kingdom, and like as not will be eaten by an evil pegasus or something.  This is the story of how she fell from grace.

A few thoughts:  There's a lot of good snark in this story, as Amber pseudo-narrates the story of how she got to where she is on the eve of her banishment.  Some of that got a little too familiar with the reader for my taste; more than once, Amber's casual addressing of "me" proved nothing more than a reminder of the medium.  But there's also a lot of great humor, both tonal and event-based (and a Doon reference!  Which is great, but it does beg the question: who makes a Doon reference in an MLP fanfic?  Bugsydor, apparently, but I digress), with more than a few explosions and other slapstickery to move things along, without detracting from the more dramatic elements.  Meanwhile, the narration has a pleasant mix of history and personality to it which makes for easy, enjoyable reading.  That said, although the tonal balance was good, the story suffers a bit from lack of setting-exploration: a lot more could have been one with the races other than unicorns (or rather, the unicorns' opinions thereof), and the AU element is so muted as to be barely explicit; to say it wasn't fully explored would be an understatement.

Recommendation:  Readers looking for a story that deftly mixes comedy, character-building, and setting flourishes will get a kick out of this fic.  It might not appeal to those put off by a sense of removal from the show (the AU is partly responsible for this, but the story also has plenty of drinking and meat-eating ponies, for example) or a weak in-story excuse for character explicating might find it less enjoyable, though.

Sundowner Season, by Cherax

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rarity travels as far north as a pony can go, bearing heavy news for a stallion she's never met.

A few thoughts:  I would describe this story as "excellent... but anti-pony."  What I mean by that is that, although some of the touches in this story are fitting for Equestria (particularly the titular Sundowners, to which we're introduced at the end of the fic), the characters, voicings, and tone would all be much more at home in a darker, more cynical setting.  Rarity, in particular, has problematic voicing; although her gloom is understandable enough, the cynical, profanity-laced language she uses doesn't feel like a natural outgrowth of her character.  There are also some issues with the design of the diary-format portions of the story; I've always found more than a very minimal amount of crossing for purposes of showing a character's inner thoughts to be stupid affectatious, and this story is full of it.  On the plus side, the story's depiction of an artist's PoV and, separately, of the dolors of ennui, and the ending is surprisingly touching.

Recommendation:  This is a wonderful choice for readers who aren't at all sensitive to the appropriateness of character or setting choice in telling a story, and a terrible choice for readers who are.  Also, PP should read it because there's a minor character named Present Perfect, and while that PP probably has nothing in common with everyone's favorite fanfic author/reviewer/interview poster, it's still always neat when somepony shares your name.

The Great Ponyville Snowball Fight, by 8686

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rainbow Dash and Pinkie ambush Applejack and Twilight with a few snowballs to the snout.  Things escalate until nearly all of Ponyville--plus a few royal visitors--have become engaged in an epic (snow)battle to the (play)death.

A few thoughts:  We're getting close to Christmas, so expect to see a seasonal fic or two in the next few Mini-Review posts, as well.  Anyway, this story gets off to a bit of a slow start; considering how minimal the setup is, it takes a surprisingly long time (relatively speaking) to establish the premise.  Once it gets going, however, it's delightful in every sense of the word; cute, plenty of jokes (including a Great Escape-based crack--this is really my day for great references in fanfic, isn't it?  I suppose this might have "just" been a historical reference, but that'd be good, too), and just enough message/depth to keep it from feeling wholly insubstantial.  Although most of the story is the titular snowball fight, a series of interludes with Derpy give a little bit of a sense of narrative movement to the proceedings, and the ending is syrupy-sweet.

Recommendation:  If you're looking for something that's a pleasant mix of goofy and cute, but which isn't entirely forgettable nor insulting to the reader's intelligence in the way that some "daww" fics are, this would be an excellent choice.


  1. >tfw personalized recommendations

    Well, I'm following Cherax, so it's already on my RIL. And now it's on my RIS. c.c Oh dear.

  2. I would have already told PP about that fic when it was submitted to Equestria Daily. I felt the same way about it that you did: it's a great story, but Rarity's character feels stretched in unjustified ways (the sudden profanity, mostly), and it breaks what would be reasonable for a diary format at times. I also found the other character she meets on the train to be annoying (but that's easily a personal taste thing I wouldn't count against the story), and it's a fairly long part of the story that doesn't accomplish anything. It felt like filler.

    On the whole, though, I'd count it as a good story.