Monday, November 21, 2016

Mini-Reviews Round 160

It's a two-day week!  I love Thanksgiving for many reasons, but not least among them is the two-day school week.  It's like you go straight from Monday to Friday, with none of those other days in-between.  Truly, this is the way the weekday was always meant to be.

Now head down below the break, and I'll tell you all what fanfictions I've been reading recently, and what I thought of them.

Delusions, by Touch the Sky

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight asks Celestia which type of pony she was before she became an alicorn.  As it turns out, Celestia wasn't a pony at all in her pre-ascension days--or rather, she and Luna were only half-pony...

A few thoughts:  I like the idea of the sisters being mules (that's not a spoiler; it's right in the cover art), but this was ultimately more about the defeat of Discord than it was about race relations.  I think that was something of a missed opportunity; Celestia does say that she doesn't (/didn't) talk about her heritage because of prejudice, and tells us that her parents were looked down on for their union, but these end up more as autobiographical details than any sort of story drivers.  Meanwhile, the story Celestia tells Twilight is interesting in the abstract, but (by its very nature) is extremely telly; given the content, I found that the presentation resulted in it feeling rather dry.  Nevertheless, that content was enough to keep me interested in how the story would come together until the end, and that's far from nothing.

Recommendation:  If you're interested in a story about Celestia and Luna growing up and defeating Discord, this is a unique (or at the very least, new-to-me... and I read a lot of these fanfics!) take on the subject.  If you're primarily interested in seeing something done with "Celestia is/was a mule" specifically, though, you might find this doesn't play to your tastes.

Culling a Bad Branch, by Goat Licker

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Derpy loves her children very much... but they're terrified of her, screaming that she's not their mother and she needs to leave them alone.

A few thoughts:  It's not often that I review stories with a (as I type this) 6:16 upvote:downvote ratio, but I've been assured that that ratio's misleading.  And to some degree, it is: this is a competently constructed story, technically, and isn't somebody's absurdly specific fetish or anything.  But that said, I'd struggle to say much positive about it.  The dark turn toward the end is completely antithetical to modern mores, let alone Equestrian mores as we see them in the show, and nothing is done to get from "these ponies are doing something abhorrent" to "here's why it makes sense/is a logical outcome of observed beliefs."  Nor is this a comedy, nor some sort of parody; the presentation is quite serious, and nothing is really done with this abrupt introduction of, not to put too fine a point on it, evil, into Equestrian society.  That makes the dark turn feel entirely arbitrary, and robs it of any impact it might have save for that inherent to juxtaposing ponies with evil in general.

Recommendation:  Although I may not share the sheer anger of the people who commented on this story, it's still not one that I imagine most readers would want to seek out.

Wayfarer, by The Plebeian

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A series of glimpses of Canterlot and beyond, and the tale they paint.

A few thoughts:  This is a bit similar to Cold in Gardez's Lost Cities, in that its a story told entirely through description--in this case, of a series of paintings.  Unlike Lost Cities, it uses those descriptions to tell a much more personal tale of ponies, rather than that of ancient civilization.  It does a very good job of restricting itself to its chosen conceit throughout, never straying outside of the physical details on the canvases it details, and has some frankly beautiful language.  It's definitely dry and dense, but both of those are by design, and it does a wonderful job of painting its pictures in one's mind's eye.

Recommendation:  This would be an excellent choice for readers who love dense prose and rich descriptions.  But (and yet again, the Lost Cities comparison is apt) it's also undeniably a giant pile of scenery porn, and those who find that dry or affectatious will probably want to skip this fic.


  1. Well, I liked Lost Cities, so Wayfarer sounds up my street.

    1. But you might've mentioned that it was fifty thousand words long.


      But yeah, since I explicitly compared it to a very short fic, it probably should have been noted that this one is novel-length.

  2. I saw Culling a Bad Branch recommended somewhere long ago, and it turns out it's been sitting on my RiL list for a while. I can't now remember why I added it, as it's not a combination of genre tags that usually appeals to me. On top of that, the title and description bring back memories of The Canterlot Conference, still the ponyfic that's disgusted me the most on a conceptual level. I'm quite relieved to be able to un-RiL this one now.

  3. I wrote Culling a Bad Branch as a trollfic, and you've given it more respect than it actually deserves. I still appreciate your thoughts, though.

    1. Well, given the vehemence of the comments, it at least seems to have succeeded as a trollfic. Glad you appreciated the review, that notwithstanding!