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It is surprisingly difficult to get young children with limited English and little cultural background on America to grasp the subtle differences between a chicken and a turkey. In case you were curious. The Thanksgiving lesson was heavy on "not 'bawk bawk,' but 'gobble gobble,'" and other related trivia. Anyway, with the seasonal note out of the way, let's move on! Head down below the break for my review of Wanderer D's What if: Rarity from The Three Sisters met with Chrysalis.
Impressions before reading: I don't like that the story's title doesn't end in a question mark, but I'm not going to get hung up on preferred punctuating. This is the sequel to a story of the author's which I previously reviewed; I didn't find that story particularly exemplary, but I thought it had an interesting key conceit, and it's that conceit which is being built of off for this fic. In other words, What if appears to be based on the best part of the story it's a sequel to, which is a good sign. And in any case, it's not like I thought the original fic was terrible.
(On that note: since this story is a sequel, be aware that the review is likely to contain spoilers for The Three Sisters. If that worries you, I recommend either reading that story first, or reading my review of it to see if you care about having it spoiled. In any case, I'll be treating that story, and the plot elements it introduced, as givens for purposes of this review)
Zero-ish spoiler summary: I'll start by saying that this is probably the best story I've ever read that included an author's note containing the lines, "No editors, no double-checking, it’s as it was written. So pardon the lesser quality XD." Granted, that's not exactly a high bar to clear, but there you go.
What if is, in essence, a chapter two to The Three Sisters' chapter one: it picks up Rarity's thread as a half-pony/half-changeling, now looking a few days past the events of the first story to the titular meeting between her and Chrysalis as the latter tries to stagger home after being blasted only halfway back to the hive by Cadence and Shining Armour. In that context, it's pretty well-conceived; it has an obvious emotional angle in the whole "sister you thought was dead" thing, and offers some chances to contrast changeling and pony beliefs and values that weren't as readily available in the first story.
The first of those two comes through by the end of the fic, but the second is mostly set aside in favor of a lengthy game of "Chrysalis is oblivious." A good chunk of the fic is built around her figuring out that Rarity isn't a normal pony, which... well, when Rarity saying “Your daughters?! I’m an au- I mean, you’re a mother?!” is one of the more subtle clues, that should tell you something. For that reason, I can see this story going over better with less experienced readers; blatant, obvious clues are often desirable when writing for readers with less practice in identifying those clues.
Nevertheless, this is a very obvious fic, in a lot of ways. Besides said mystery (thankfully just for Chrysalis, and not for the reader!), it's very telly in terms of character feelings and emotions, and it involves a lot of dialogue-expositing which is a better fit for the needs of the narrative than for the flow of an actual conversation. My overall impression of this story was that it communicated some solid ideas, but in blatant, ungainly ways.
It's also worth noting that the story ends on a very incomplete note, with a fair bit of its central tension left unresolved at the end. There's a sequel which, from a look at the description, directly addresses this tension... but it's worth being aware before you dive in that the story does conclude with some heavy sequel-bait.
★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
On the whole, I think this story would do a lot better with younger readers than with someone like me. It's got a nice hook, both in terms of the first couple of paragraphs grabbing you (with a bit of character-appropriate gore) and in terms of core concept, and the story is easy to follow and explicit. But that same explicitness, coupled with a pervasive unsubtlety, can definitely make it a less enthralling reading experience for everyone else.
Recommendation: For readers who read The Three Sisters and wanted to find out more about Rarity's family, this is an easy rec. I wouldn't recommend it to most experienced readers, nor would I recommend it to anyone who hasn't read The Three Sisters first.
Next time: Fun With Changelings, by shuckumei