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You read that title right! All these years later, we've still got the (very) rare 6-star review trickling in. Will there ever be another? Well, EqD hasn't actually had ratings for years, and... um, if you look at the list of incomplete 6-star fics, you'll see that there's not much there beyond deadfics and, at a glance, at least three or four misfiled complete stories that I've already reviewed. Still, who knows? Maybe The Sweetie Chronicles will eventually finish, and I'll have the dubious joy of reviewing a million-word fanfic which can only be properly appreciated by someone who's read several million more words' worth of fanfic! That... that'll be a fun day.
But that day is not today! No, today is the day I review Miyajima's Binky Pie. Check it out, below the break.
Impressions before reading: Cards on the table: I never really got into Discworld. Yes, I like Pratchett as a writer, but his early Discworld books aren't all that great, relatively speaking, and I don't really like the idea of not starting something at the beginning (that said, I did read Wee Free Men despite it not being particularly near the "start" of anything in particular, and it was good fun). That being the case, my big concern going in is one common to a lot of crossover fics: that it won't be accessable to someone without a strong grounding in the material being crossed over with. Nevertheless, this is a story that's been on my radar for nearly half a decade, because Pinkie goofing around with Discworld's Death seems inherently funny to me, so I'm hoping for good things.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Pinkie Pie takes a part-time job helping another world's Death transition souls away from their bodies, and on to whatever comes next. But when they inadvertently switch roles, things get problematic quickly.
Thoughts after reading: Let's start with the bad news: my concerns vis-a-vis the crossover aspect were, at least partially, realized. Specifically, this is a story where it's easy to follow the beats of the plot, and where the role and general disposition of characters is never really inobvious, but also one full of moments where it's really, really obvious when you're missing something. Depending on what you do or don't know about Discworld, many of the characters from that setting will be wholly unfamiliar, and will regularly reference or act upon things which cannot be intuited from the text as presented. Heck, this even extends to the name of the city itself: someone coming in with no background in the series could easily get confused in the early going by thinking that a place with a name like "Ankh-Morpork" must be a pig-filled city in Equestria (a land which never met a punny name it didn't like) and not be disabused of that notion until far enough in to cause considerable confusion. A lot of the elements of the crossover are simply assumed familiar to the reader, and it's always clear exactly when you've missed something.
On the other hand, the reason it's clear when you missed something is because the story also makes it really easy to guess the general shape of those lacunas, enough so that I doubt even someone with zero Pratchett grounding couldn't get through this work without much confusion. I don't know that they'd enjoy the reading experience, but at the very least they'd have a good sense for what the stuff they missed must have been. Writing a comprehensible-to-all crossover may not be everything, but it's more than many such fics manage.
And while we're on the subject of Discworld, let's talk about the writing style. It is, in a word, lovely. Miyajima captures the tone of a Pratchett comedy without trying to perfectly mimic his construction, and the result is a familiarly funny/sweet telling which doesn't feel robotically tied to the specific style of its source material. In particular, Miyajima shows a knack for taking comic asides and expanding them seamlessly into the larger plot. Take this passage, for example:
In most stories, that would be a funny interjection to the action. Here, it's initially presented as such, but then is immediately followed by an equally-funny passage bringing it back around to the matter at hand, becoming an important plot point itself--and more importantly, doing so in a textually smooth, amusing way.
It has been said by many wise men, that ‘Knowledge is Power’*. It has been said by certain other wise men, that ‘Power is Equal to Force over Distance, Divided by Time’. Equally, it is commonly known that knowledge resides, in a permanent, fixed form, in books. If knowledge is power, and power is a force applied over a distance over a set unit of time, then knowledge bound in paper and ink must contain vast amounts of untapped potential energy. That’s just science.
In fact, my only issue with the presentation is the footnotes, which are quite a pain to read on both e-reader and when read directly from FiMFic (footnotes appear a the bottom of scenes, rather than of chapters or paragraphs, and scrolling down to find where the scene ends can be frustrating). But with that said, the alternative is to miss some of the funniest lines in the story; the footnote up above gives us, "*Such men usually had a lot of knowledge and very little actual power. Men in power tended to follow a different equation; ‘Power is Power.’" Surely, that's worth a little hassle to find, no?
The plot itself is rather rambly; the first three chapters are all spent setting up the premise in ways which don't invariably pay off, and several detours to see various denizens of Discworld are rather transparently made for the sake of getting the cameo in, rather than for purposes of advancing or otherwise enhancing the story. This is true to a lesser degree on the Ponyville side, where such detours generally at least either serve to show Death's (or rather, Bill Door's, since that's his name--I've been using Death instead so as not to confuse readers who wouldn't recognize the name "Bill Door," but he's not actually Death in this part of the story, so I can't rightly call him that, and oh god this parenthetical is completely out of control) adjustment to mortal life, or to expand upon various ponies in interesting and/or entertaining ways. The romantic subplot felt rather forced to me, but it was played low-key enough not to bother even a non-shipper like myself, and certainly added to the theme of "(re)discovering mortality." In any case, the ramblyness isn't necessarily a bad thing; it is, though, a very notable feature of the story.
But what I absolutely must praise about the overall idea here is how it combines the cynical humor of one source material with the sincerity of the other, and lets them openly clash. Pinkie here is defined by being thrust into a world where the assassin's guild isn't just a thing, but one of the most prominent fixtures in Ankh-Morpork, and having to deal with becoming a part of that world while remaining her ineffable self. How she deals with that is... well, that's what the story's about, but suffice to say, the awareness with which this dichotomy was approached was greatly enjoyable to see unfold, and its resolution was a wonderful combination of dramatic and sweet.
★★★★☆ (what does this mean?)
The big question I struggled with when trying to decide on a rating was accessability. How accessable is this story? In the end, I decided that the answer was "enough." Will you miss things if you haven't read at least a few of the stories its "other" setting is borrowed from? Absolutely. But will you still be able to enjoy the fic on its own merits without getting lost? I think so. And with that in mind, there's a lot of wonderful humor here wrapped around a ball of genuine warmth. That's something worth recognizing.
Recommendation: For fans of Pratchett, this is a no-brainer recommendation. For others, it's still worth looking into if you don't mind watching references go over your head, and enjoy well-executed comedic writing which neither cheapens nor overwhelms a surprisingly serious theme.
Next time: The Brightest and the Best, by Pineta