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Recently, a site I regularly visit has been running the same "sponsored ad" every time I got there: "You won't believe these websites really exist!" I haven't clicked the link yet, but I've been thinking... what if OMPR is on there? Wouldn't "this man reads fanfiction, then writes lengthy reviews of their style, structure, and content. And he's been doing it three times a week for four and a half years" be the sort of thing a normal person would react to the existence of with befuddlement and disbelief?
Well, if my site is on there, then all I can say is that they need to up their advertising budget. I don't know who else they're showing that ad to, but I haven't seen a flood of new visitors from them yet. Anyway, add one more to a list of fanfic reviews that's already "weirdly long:" my thoughts on Wanderer D's The Three Sisters, below the break.
Impressions before reading: This story's sequels are regular features near the top of FiMFics all-time highest-rated stories (although the list is volatile, both sequels are among the top ten all-time as I type this). That top-ten list is, at the moment, an eclectic mix in terms of "what Chris thought of them:" it's got one story that's 4-starred, and another that's an RCL inductee, but it's also got some stuff that I'd call "typical feature-bait."
That's all a long-winded way of saying "this story's pretty popular, but it may or may not be good." Never say in 12 words what you can say in 78, right?
Zero-ish spoiler summary: The love-blast which sends Chrysalis and her minions flying away from Canterlot also reveals that Rarity is, herself, a changeling. Locked in a Canterlot prison and faced with demands to tell Twilight and the girls where the "real" Rarity is, she tells the story of how she came to be who--and what--she is today.
Thoughts after reading: The story plays coy, at first, with which of the main six is a changeling, though I'm not entirely sure why. It keeps Rarity's name in abeyance for the first scene, which as far as I can tell serves no purpose except to muddy her last line (making it seem like "don't let my sister see me" is referring to Chrysalis, rather than Sweetie Belle) and to generally make the opening difficult to visualize. Once past that, though, the story smooths out, insofar as "makes sense" is concerned--at least, somewhat.
The larger part of the story switches back and forth between Rarity telling her story, and the story itself, but "the story itself" starts two scenes before Rarity begins telling her story, which seems to me a supremely odd decision. It rather undermines the story-within-a-story idea, leaving it feeling more like an intermittent flashback than anything else. Yet, the conceit is explicitly that this is being told in-character, with ponies interrupting to ask for additional information and the like. The result is that movement between scenes is awkward, with it often not being clear how the reader ought to interpret something (as fact, in-universe narrative, or strict recollection).
The story itself is essentially a vehicle for an interesting bit of headcanon, though the pieces used to explore it are rather lackluster. The titular three sisters are each given a clear personality trait, but little else to define themselves; (young)Rarity's role in the story is entirely reactionary; the diamond dogs take on (with surprisingly murderous tendencies, considering their sole canon appearance) the role of psychopathic baddies; and back in the "present," the story plays through all the typical beats (yes, they were already typical in mid-2012 when this was published) of a "the main six discover that one of them is a changeling" fic. There's nothing wrong with that last bit, of course--at least, not when there's something else of interest to carry the story beyond the level of paint-by-numbers, as is the case here--but combined with the rest, it makes for a story with well-defined but fundamentally uninteresting characters.
Still, there is at least the "something else of interest to carry the story," to whit: the explanation for how a) Rarity is a changeling, but b) she didn't replace the "real" Rarity somewhere along the line. The explanation is an interesting enough one, and answers those questions in a satisfying way. But where it falls short is in being anything other than a simple explanation. It doesn't build on changelings as race, nor does it inform or shed light on Rarity's character. It answers a question, but it never goes past that to tell the reader anything that's more than academically interesting. Essentially, the story ends up being the literary equivalent of solving a problem that didn't exist until you created it; it's an interesting idea, but it doesn't tell us anything outside of the confines of its own creation.
★☆☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Although there's an interesting idea here, that's ultimately all there is--and that interesting idea is more interesting in the abstract than in context. Couple that with a variety of construction issues and the like, and while this might not be a bad story by any stretch, it's hard to recommend it too enthusiastically.
Recommendation: For those who are interested in something in the "X is a changeling" genre that has a bit more to it than just, well, "X is a changeling," this might provide that. Readers looking for strong story assembly or nuanced characters should probably give it a pass, though.
Next time: Arachnophobia, by Dennis the Menace