Monday, February 29, 2016

Mini-Reviews Round 123

If you're not in the habit of checking out the "here are links to the last two weeks worth of reviews" posts I put up on FiMFiction, you might want to make an exception for yesterday's: included at no extra cost are a Russian translation of my story, Going Up, along with fanart of the same!  Really spiffy fanart, too, if I do say so myself.  Check it out here!  And once you're done with that, head below the break for my thought on some recent reading material of the pony-related variety.

Why Don't You Tell Them?, by Titanium Dragon

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Following her ascension to alicornhood, Twilight discovers that ponies believe that Princess Celestia was responsible for giving her wings.  Twilight asks why Celestia doesn't correct them.

A few thoughts:  My main issue with this story is that it's almost impossible to separate Celestia's moral (to the story's credit, it clearly presents it as Celestia's moral, and not an absolute one) from the narrative itself; this story is pretty clearly framed as a thought experiment rather than as a character study.  And that moral is reprehensible--that it is the responsibility of authority to dictate what all persons should or should not know and engage in, through subterfuge and deceit as needed.  This kind of thing can work in stories about Tyrant!Celestia, but as a talking point... 2000 words just doesn't give much space to lay out a scenario wherein that's the least evil choice available.

Recommendation:  This would be a good story for readers looking for something dark, and who can handle a light justification (think "anecdotes" rather than "fully-laid-out arguments").  It will probably sit poorly with those who don't care for Tyrantlestia, however.

Upon the Black Beach of the Styx, by Smoker

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Applejack dies, and Discord comes to stop her before her soul passes to the afterlife.  Applejack, however, isn't having any of that.

A few thoughts:  There's an interesting idea here, but there are two concept-level problems that hold it back.  First, Applejack's reasons for refusing Discord basically amount to her cutting off her nose (snout?) to spite her face.  Which might be reasonably AJ-ish in and of itself, but it casts her in a weak and spiteful light that she puts her personal comfort or sense of malice above her family.  Second, an important plot point is that Discord killed AJ... except that, as the event is described, he didn't.  Not even in an "involuntary manslaughter" sort of way.  When the story hinges on Discord's personal responsibility, that's a major weakness.  Couple that with some very human dialogue and numerous punctuation problems, and this wasn't one I terribly enjoyed.

Recommendation:  Readers who share AJ's desire to see Discord squirm might enjoy this, but it's probably not a story for anyone who is going to get hung up on characterization or voicing.

Thunderstorm and the Four Winds, by Carabas

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rainbow Dash tells Scootaloo an ancient pegasus legend about how the pegasi gained the power to control the weather.

A few thoughts:  The story presents the titular legend through Dash's retelling, which gives the author plenty of chances to play with the disconnect between Dash's voicing and the tale's cadence.  Some of this is extremely well-done, with Dash being self-aware enough to realize that her vernacular doesn't quite fit the story as she heard it--but there are occasional issues going the other direction--that is to say, with the legend's vocabulary infecting Dash's out-of-story dialogue.  This is a relatively minor issue, though, and the tale is an engaging mix of classic folklore style and MLP worldbuilding.

Recommendation:  This is definitely one to read for fans of mythology, and of in-universe history.


  1. I find it hard to read a piece as 'dark' when it is quite as forced as Why Don't You Tell Them. It's like handing the idiot ball to the entire pony race and then trying to act surprised when what comes out is daft.

    I think 'everyone is dumb' is all I got from it; there doesn't seem to be any reasoning to it. I can't help but wonder if this isn't just a case of the author presuming a personal bias on behalf of an entire race because I can't see why else it would play out the way it does.

    1. As for the second story... this guy must be British, I'm sure of it. Both Applejack and Discord talk like some kind of weird hybrid of English and American dialects.

      Applejack does not say 'innit'. British people who disappoint their mothers say that.

      Still, beyond that, we have a pretty good idea. Shame the dialogue and characterisations let it down. And that's all before the word 'Faust' rears its ugly head and I want to burn the place to the ground.

    2. I figured I'd complete the set, but mythology and fairy tales like these aren't generally my thing, as Chris well knows. At least he can make it feel like a fable of some kind, though. Thunderstorm and the Four Winds relies on the frame of Rainbow Dash's narration and I didn't find that frame either interesting or convincingly voiced. A bit of lampshading didn't cover for the fact that the narrative style just doesn't fit.

      As to whether the mythology underneath was any good, I can't say. I got bored and quit.

  2. Warnings of Faust and poor characterization aside, that second story has such a unique concept that I can't help but be interested in reading it.

  3. Thanks for reading my story!

    The story was indeed meant to be a thought exercise, as well as a bit of an explanation for why it might not be common knowledge that ponies can ascend to alicornhood, and what might be going through Princess Celestia's head to keep it a secret.

    I found it interesting that you felt she was Tyrant!Celestia there, because Tyrant Celestia is typically portrayed as evil, while she was motivated throughout by the good of ponies, not the typical motivations of tyrants.