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Thanks to those of you who checked out A White Heart's Warming over the past week. It seems to have gotten a very positive reception so far (I'll go ahead and jinx it by saying that it currently has no downvotes--a first for me!), and apparently even made the feature box at some point. Also, any of you who have it on your RiL list can drop by and pick up your thanks once you've read it.
But now, let me take a moment to drop the author hat and put on the reviewer one. My thoughts on Akumokagetsu's Evil Belle, below.
Impressions before reading: Honestly, I'm kindly predisposed toward any Sweetie Belle story which doesn't have robots, leet-speak, or marshmallows anywhere in the description, so at first glance I was ready to be positive. The comments on my last review, though, have me nervous: while I do occasionally surprise the commentariat, it's never a good sign when the immediate reaction to seeing what's up next is "Chris ain't gonna like this."
Zero-ish spoiler summary: With the help of the Alicorn Amulet, Sweetie Belle sets out to wreak terror upon Ponyville... except, it turns out that she's awful at being awful.
Thoughts after reading: Here is a complete list of everything I liked about this story: 1) there were no have robots, leet-speak, or marshmallows anywhere in the fic, and 2) it had a Carrot Top cameo.
To be fair, the list of things that I disliked about the story isn't exactly lengthy (we'll get to the most salient ones in a moment), but the point is that there's very little to recommend here. Most of the "selling points"--things like brick jokes, PG-rated sexual humor, and adorable filly-ness--are executed with the kind of staid, workmanlike effort that brings neither opprobrium nor enthusiasm. These elements are simply there, delivering that which the fic promised without being particularly cringeworthy, enjoyable, or even meriting mention at all. In most regards, this is one of those bits of writing which simply exists, to which no function more noteworthy than existing can reasonably be ascribed.
But there are some bad things in here, too. The writing is questionable at best, filled with strange descriptors (early on, Sweetie is LUS-ed as "The porcelain colored unicorn"), semicolons are abused with impunity, paragraphs are broken into groups of two to six seemingly at random, and misphrasings like "Sweetie stood on her hind legs and taking a bow" are an occasional issue.
Were there any actual story here, it would be worth noting that Sweetie never is given any motive, nor is there any explanation for the Alicorn Amulet's utter failure to work as intended for her, nor is any personality assigned to any pony beyond Belle's desire to be evil. I don't mean that these things should be seriously explored--just that even a goofy comedy (at least, a good one) should provide basic elements of characterization and story structure which reinforce the tone and mood. But this isn't really a story at all; as I said above, it's just there. And trying to read anything more into it than "a series of events correlating to the premise espoused in the description" seems silly.
★☆☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
There's nothing to recommend here. Granted, there's only a medium amount to not recommend, as well. But personally, I have higher aspirations for my free time than to spend it on something which, despite inspiring no particular distaste, brings me no particular pleasure.
Recommendation: This is the kind of story best appreciated by those new to ponyfic, still caught in the glassy-eyed "can't get enough pony" zeitgeist common to new entrants into any fandom. For anyone expecting more than the presence of equines in their reading material, this is one to pass on.
Next time: Post Negative Comments Only, by Estee