Monday, March 7, 2016

Mini-Reviews Round 124

So, new episodes of the show confirmed for March 26th!  That's pleasantly sooner than expected, though scheduling the premier over Easter does seem weird.  I mean, I don't know what my plans are for that weekend yet, but there's at least a decent chance I'll be with family (i.e. in no position to watch the new episode right away), and I really doubt I'm the only person who sometimes travels and/or gets busy over holidays.  But hey, I'm sure the master scheduler over at Discovery Family knows what he's doing, so who am I to second-guess?

One thing I am good at second-guessing, though, is fanfiction.  See if any stories I recently read required it, below the break.

Sweet Desires, by David Silver

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A mare makes a deal seemingly too good to be true for a potion that holds the taste of various foods on your tongue, and quickly discovers that it is: that potion also turns you into the thing you're tasting, and the only way to stop the change is to use another dose of potion... and she's changing faster every time!

A few thoughts:  "Weird" is the operative word I'd use to describe this story: it's an odd mix of horror and just basic strangeness (the events, especially the last couple of transformations, lean heavily toward the former, but the excited, exuberant writing style is more in line with the latter), with little narrative beyond the plot's central conceit.  It also feels like an odd story to place in Equestria; doing so requires the protagonist to unconvincingly narrate away any possible way in which magic (and the presence in town of the literal Princess of Magic, no less) could help, when casting the story on Earth would require no plot changes, eliminate that problem, and enhance the mystery and danger of the initial potion acquisition.

Recommendation:  For readers who don't mind a story that's not intrinsically "pony," this is a fine example of using the Random tag to describe weirdness rather than a string of ill-conceived non-sequiturs.  It probably doesn't have a large audience outside of readers looking for that specifically, though.

Lilies of the Field, by Hap

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Lily used to be perfectly happy, but it's impossible to go back to the way things were after a tragedy.

A few thoughts:  This went a bit too far into "enforced sadness" territory for me to really enjoy; Lily manages to suffer not one, but two losses which (in the context of canon) feel awfully improbable.  Then again, I know many readers are more accommodating of things like "actually, a bunch of ponies died when so-and-so attacked," than I tend to be, so that might be more of a personal reaction than a broadly applicable one.  Still, this is a story that relies heavily on the reader being invested in Lily's mood, and I wasn't able to do so.  On the plus side, Hap works in some lovely imagery throughout the story which is explicit and unsubtle, but in a manner appropriate to the story and which reinforces its themes rather than merely repeating them.

UPDATE: It was pointed out to me by the author, after this review was published, that what I'd read was the "old" version; he'd done significant revisions to the piece after I downloaded a copy of it, but before I published this review.  I don't usually make a habit of revisiting stories, but considering that my review was out-of-date before I even published it, a second look seemed to be in order.

Most of my original comments still apply, though the revised version tones down the emotional telliness quite a bit, and streamlines the whole story in such a way that I found it far easier to relate to Lily.  This streamlining also helped the flower-state motif shine by giving it a clearer place of prominence in the story.  Interestingly, even the multiple canon-tied tragedies stick out less in this version, despite not having been appreciably altered; while the events themselves might still seem a bit at loggerheads with the show (more relevant here than in some dark stories, because they're tied too closely to canon to avoid the comparison), the shifting of the focus from "Lily's life" to something closer to an emotional portrait with a tragic events frame makes those issues stick out less.  To summarize: my original comments are still essentially accurate, but the current version is unambiguously a stronger work than the one I read, as I hope this addition makes clear.

Recommendation:  If you can't buy Equestria as a high-fatality world (or at least, Ponyville as a high-fatality town, given how many monster attacks it seems to suffer...) this is probably a poor choice.  If that doesn't bother you, though, this is a thematically-strong character study that does a good job both showing and elaborating on situation-inflicted depression.


  1. "But hey, I'm sure the master scheduler over at Discovery Family knows what he's doing,"

    Tongue, meet cheek.

    I think you forgot the actual summary on that second one. :B

    1. You'd think that, but hey, I'm sure the master poster over at One Man's Pony Ramblings knows what he's doing.

    2. No snark in the comments section, boys. This blog is a snark-free zone!

      Also, fixed.

    3. At least it was easy to figure out what kind of story it was from other context. :)

      Snark-free zone? A bigger lie has never been spoken. :V

  2. Thanks for reviewing my story! I love getting an analytical view of my writing, and knowing someone enjoyed it is even better!