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This weekend is the final regular-season bout for our fantasy football league before the playoffs begin. I'm 9-4 on the season, but I'll need to either win my last game to take my division's crown (and its automatic playoff berth), or if I lose, have two other games go right in order to take the wildcard spot.
...Meanwhile, another division is preparing to send a team that will quite possibly finish the season 6-7-1 to the postseason. If I don't make the playoffs and a team with a losing record does, I will bitch about it all week.
But for now, let's put aside talk of fantasy football, and instead talk about that other thing we do around here that involves assigning semi-arbitrary numbers to something with only a tenuous real-world basis: fanfiction reviews! My thoughts on applecinnamonspice's Fire Spores, below the break.
Impressions before reading: This looks like a pretty typical "cute" fic, in a lot of ways; a premise which lends itself to heartwarming (or, possibly, cloying) affirmation, a solo SoL tag, and the Spike-Twilight character combo all suggest as much. I have a bit of a soft spot for that kind of sweetness, so even if this doesn't turn out to be a great fic, I'm hoping it will still be a personally enjoyable one. Hey, is it so awful for me to want to enjoy my fanfic-reading experience?
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Spike falls ill, and as the girls scramble to find and prepare a cure, Twilight comes to realize just how much he means to her.
Thoughts after reading: As it turns out, my pre-reading expectations were pretty spot-on. This is a classic "Spike is unappreciated" story, but it's at least the good kind of "Spike is unappreciated" story.
To be clear on what that means: there are a lot of stories in this fandom about the girls generally, and Twilight specifically, realizing that they take Spike for granted. I categorize these generally as "the good kind" and "the bad kind." "The bad kind" are those with a generally vindictive tone, where Spike's tribulations are treated by the narration as if they were stations of a passion play, and which ends in Twilight abasing herself as she realizes that she's nothing without her scaly power behind the tiara. Or, alternately, in Spike gloatingly declaring that, for all that the girls needed him, he never needed them, leaving them in despair as he goes on to live a wonderful life all by himself. In case it's not obvious why these are "the bad kind:" these stories destroy their characters and usually project the author's own petty grievances onto Spike's show role, all in the service of a "story" that's ultimately nothing more than a fix-fic.
But on the other hand, you can approach the theme "Spike is unappreciated" in the manner of Fire Spores, which recognizes that Spike, while something of an afterthought, is still an important part of the girls' social structure--and recognizes that the girls are basically friendship-oriented ponies, when you come down to it. The second-best thing about this story is that it gives Twilight a perfectly good reason to be mad at Spike, doesn't overplay that anger any more than the show itself might, and then doesn't try to exact revenge upon anyone over it.
(The best thing about the fic, incidentally, is Twilight's line, "I think you know by now that Star Swirl’s Complete History should go after Here’s Some More Star Swirl History." Darn near choked on my drink, I did)
But, having praised the story that far, I have to observe that it's still an awfully pat, predictable story. The beats of the work are telegraphed to the point where actually reading the story is mostly a formality, and the need to get all of the main six involved in the recovery effort leads to some stretches when it comes to roles. Beyond that, the dialogue and narration alike tend strongly toward the melodramatic (“You hear that, kid?” Rainbow said to Spike’s sleeping form, still curled up against Rarity, “You got every pony here worrying about you, especially Twilight. You—you need to get better, alright?” Spike rolled over and moaned agonizingly, one claw clutching his stomach as his face contorted in pain. “Aw geez…” Rainbow muttered under her breath, turning away to wipe her eyes on the back of her hoof). This story may not abuse its premise, but it's still overwrought.
★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Despite nominally dealing with a near-death experience, this is a surprisingly low-key story--perhaps because there's never the slightest question of how the story will end (and not just in terms of "will Spike live"). It falls into the "fine for what it is" category to me: likely to be enjoyed by its target audience, and largely inoffensive but less interesting to other readers.
Recommendation: If you're one of the "Spike doesn't get enough respect" crew of readers, this is definitely a good choice for you. More broadly, readers who don't mind their stories on the heavy-handed side, and who are looking for something specifically about Spike and Twilight's relationship, could enjoy this. Other readers probably won't hate it, but shouldn't feel any need to seek it out specifically.
Next time: Evil Belle, by Akumokagetsu