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So, how about that Super Bowl, eh? I'm actually writing this blurb before the game, but whatever; I don't have a strong rooting interest either way. However, since I put five bucks into an office square, I do have a rooting interest in one or more quarters ending with the last digits of the scores at Denver 6, Carolina 4, or at 7-7. Well, or three other numbers, but all of them have a five, eight, or both in them, so... pretty much 6-4 or 7-7. And on the topic of sports, here's a review of a fic with a Wonderboltsian bent! My thoughts on Arbarano's Loyalty, below.
Impressions before reading: Well, it's an oldie--circa late 2011--so the fact that this appears to be a "Dash doesn't get into the Wonderbolts" fic makes sense given the time of writing. Beyond that, I'm a little confused by the tag/description (the description suggests that Dash is handling it just fine, with Pinkie mistakenly thinking she needs cheering up; that doesn't scream "sad" to me), but I don't see anything too worrying before diving in.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After reflecting on her failure to make the Wonderbolts on her first attempt, Dash vows to improve, and to make it in next year--and that starts with a little practice. Pinkie, seeing Dash jump off a cloud, comes to the wrong conclusion.
Thoughts after reading: This feels almost like reading two separate stories. The first half is all about Dash dealing with failure, realizing that not making the Wonderbolts (yet) doesn't diminish her as a person (pony), and rededicating herself to her goals. Not exactly untrod ground, even four and a half years ago, but Loyalty does a nice job with it nonetheless.
Then, Pinkie comes along, thinks Dash is committing suicide, and the rest of the fic turns into emotional drama. To say I felt a bit of tonal whiplash would be an understatement.
With that said, the latter part isn't handled terribly poorly either. It's abrupt and unrealistic in its introduction, sure (it's never made entirely clear why Pinkie made the leap from "Dash is probably sad right now" to "Dash is about to kill herself;" seeing a pegasus jump off a cloud doesn't seem like the sort of thing that ought to frighten one), but once you get past that, she and Dash have a short but well thought out dialogue. Dash's reaction in particular felt on-point to me; her incredulity that Pinkie would come to that conclusion mirrored my own, and ended up helping to sell the story.
As far as the writing goes, there is an occasional bit of word repetition ("Pinkie’s voice had returned to normal, but she wasn’t bouncing around nearly as much as she normally would be"), but construction is otherwise a strong point. There's a lot of adjective-heavy descriptors in here, but they don't impede upon readability, nor do they turn into rambling digressions. In all, the writing does a nice job of balancing clarity and comprehensibility with explicitivity (which probably isn't a word, but could be).
★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Did you know there are still people writing "Dash doesn't get into the Wonderbolts" fics? I mean, she's basically already a member of the team, in canon; what do you even do with that premise, at this point? Anyway... this story is two disjointed halves, each of which are individually predictable. But despite that, they're individually well-crafted, and combine to paint a clear picture of Rainbow Dash on what surely isn't one of her best days.
Recommendation: If jarring changes in tone or focus bother you, this is certainly one to avoid. Likewise, if you're looking for something that is (or even that was at the time of writing) fresh and original, this probably isn't the right choice. But if you're looking for a compact but elegant mix of drama and resolution, this will do nicely.
Next time: The Sun & the Rose, by soulpillar