Carrot Top's going to Manehattan! And even after all these years, she's still nonplussed by Pinkie's random bursts of exuberance. For pity's sake, she says to herself, I'm going halfway across the country, and I STILL can't escape Twilight's friends. So, what's she going to Manehattan for?
...Oh. Apparently, she went to Manehattan to do some shopping at the open-air market? And to check out the local fruits and vegetables, specifically? Because if there's one thing that's easier to get in the big city than in an agrarian village, it's produce. Well, that or she's here to visit Written Script's brother (opposite color schemes obviously means they're related!), and he needs some tomatoes so that he can make her his famous spaghetti sauce.
Also, Lyra's in Manehattan for some reason, so it'd be rude not to meet up with her before going home on the red-eye Friendship Express back to Ponyville.
Okay, now off of the show and on to fanfiction. My short-form thoughts on a few stories I recently read, below the break!
The Alicorn Curse, by chillbook1
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight's noticed recently that, despite now being much more powerful than she was before her ascension, she's become a lot less effective when it comes to heroics. It turns out that there's a reason for that.
A few thoughts: This story belongs to the school of Random/Comedy which uses the former tag as carte blanche to ignore (rather than subvert or destroy for effect) characterization for the sake of the latter. There are a few concepts here that might have had merit if explored in a way which either built upon Twilight and/or Celestia's personalities, or which turned them around to some specific end, but here it's just Twilight doing silly/angry things to advance the plot. There's also the fact that this story has a tendency to pull plot advancement from nowhere, which leads to jerky, uneven pacing, and an ending that doesn't so much "conclude" as it does "stop."
Recommendation: For readers who are interested in a bit of hijinxing and goofy explanations, this will provide both. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who puts much emphasis on characterization or pacing.
Grogar: A Hearth's Warming Horror Story, by Jade Ring
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When the CMC, Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon, and Button Mash have (/are forced to go to) a slumber party on Hearth's Warming Eve, they hear the story of the monstrous ruler of Tambelon who steals away bitter and angry foals, never to be seen again. Grogar is coming to Ponyville.
A few thoughts: The individual elements of this story are simply excellent. The humor is sweet and silly, Grogar's methods and descriptors are suitably horrific while still leaving plenty to the imagination, all the "creeping dread" elements are spot-on, and the writing quality is impressively high overall. Sadly, I didn't enjoy this story as much as I wanted to, because it felt to me like two separate stories that were actively fighting against each other. Grogar starts off with plenty of (highly amusing) character-based humor and a sense of Christmassy lightheartedness, but rather than just using that to set up the titular goat's arrival, the story ends up going back to that "goofy children" angle over and over again. This starts to feel really out when the (semi)metaphorical body count starts racking up, yet the characters go back to quipping in the very next scene. As a result, I found my appreciation for both the humor and horror aspects rather dulled.
Recommendation: If you aren't going to be bothered by, say, Sweetie and Button engaging in some comic shipping banter right after watching a bunch of their friends get dragged away to a fate worse than death, then you should absolutely check this out. I have exactly one negative thing to say about this story, and while it's (to me) a big one, everything else here is very much worth recommending.
The Yak War: Before and After, by LordBrony2040
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight Sparkle decides that if the Yaks want a war, they'll get one. Turns out, a population composed of one third aerial and one third magical individuals can win a war against a bunch of yaks pretty easily.
A few thoughts: This is mostly what you'd expect from the title/description: Twilight saying the things the author wanted her to say instead of those that the script/her personality called for, along with a heaping dose of "Equestria is awesome" and some very telly writing. The second half (the "and after") is rather better than I was expecting, though, working in a number of dark/comic observations about Equestria's relationships with other animals, and the fate of the Yaks generally, that landed solidly. I mean, it is weird how many intelligent animals seem "to be held in cramped conditions and have the resources their bodies produced harvest for the good of Equestria," isn't it?
Recommendation: If you're looking for something with a malicious streak of humor, the second half of this story delivers a couple barbs, and is short enough for the joke not to wear thin. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who gets annoyed by the smug assurance of military superiority in their fiction, though (remember when a whole bunch of "Equestria is the most badass country evar" stories came through the feature box a year or two ago? Ugh).