Monday, March 27, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 206: Celestia's Prophet

To read the story, click the image or follow this link.

I'm coming back from a weekend of Barbershop contest, which is mostly great fun... except for the 5 a.m. wakeup times.  Who wants to get up that early?  One of the underreported hazards of having "old people" hobbies is that old people don't sleep in on weekends.  Ah well, it was worth it.  So, is Aegis Shield's Celestia's Prophet worth it, too?  Find out what I think, below the break.

WARNING:  I had to use the spoiler button to talk about elements of this fic.  And, since I have a bad habit of breaking things when I try to use multiple spoiler buttons in a single post, that means that the star rating is unspoilered today.  If you're one of the people who cares about that, be careful with your scrolling!

Impressions before reading:  It's pretty much never a good sign when a story has multiple editing errors in its description (three its/it's mixups, an incorrectly used hyphen, and a random double-spacing between words).  Even if that weren't the case, I'm extremely leery of stories which combine the "Human" tag with a promise of a powerful reality-warping creature.  It might be the oversaturation of Displaced fics (and their broader self-insert cousins), but that rarely presages other than edgy snark masquerading as "characterization."  I'd really like to be wrong about this fic, but I don't have a good feeling going in.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A human creature of unknown origins is held in Canterlot's dungeons.  Although it seems friendly enough, it's contained because Celestia fears the havoc it could wreak if allowed loose.  This creature is capable of creating ponies, monsters, even entire cities simply by imagining them--and the only reason it can even be contained is because it wants to be...

Thoughts after reading:  Although this is a pretty edgy fic (its opening scene includes Celestia's guards mercilessly beating prisoners with stun-batons for daring to make too much noise in Celestia's presence), it isn't for quite the reasons I imagined.  This isn't a self-insert fic, see--though I can't really discuss what it is without spoilers.

What I can say about it, though, is that the writing is just as weak as I feared.  In addition to straightforward editing mistakes of the types presaged by the description, there are a lot of incorrectly and irregularly used words (some with really unfortunate implications; I don't think "virile" is an appropriate word to describe a gawky pre-teen, certainly), and word and phrase repetition is a constant flaw.  Out-and-out redundancy is also regularly seen, with the narration often repeating the same information two or even three times in a single paragraph.  Although it's only a bit over 15,000 words to begin with, this is a story that could have been significantly shorter without losing a single event, plot point, or even description, had it merely been a bit more tightly edited.

Dialogue is a consistent weak point, as well.  Celestia vacillates between voices I can best describe as "stern god-empress" and "fangirl trying to play it cool" seemingly at random (i.e. not connected in any particular way to whom she's speaking with or the circumstances of the conversation), for starters.  But more damning is the transparently narrative-directed conversations which dominate the story.  Some of this can be written off as necessary narrative convenience (there's a reason characters in books don't generally talk exactly like real people, after all), and some can be forgiven as reflecting the human's captivity... but even with those allowances, it's really quite stunning how often characters skip necessary setup or grounding and go straight for the next plot point in their discussions.  There's also a tendency in all characters, but especially Celestia, to explicate their moods and motives in their own dialogue.  Coupled with the narration's tendencies toward repetition, this only exacerbates the redundancy issues mentioned above.

Characterization is also an issue.  Celestia is again a notable victim, going from tacitly endorsing prisoner abuse in the opening to something more closely approaching compassionate in later chapters (to be fair, I get the impression that the first chapter was written with a rather different tone in mind than the rest of the story; she, and the guards generally, are much more consistent after that).  The human goes from being terrified of harming the world with her powers at one point to creating canonical petty villains for its own amusement, and so on.  The human is really is the crux of a few character and voicing issues which I unfortunately can't discuss without spoiling a key story reveal... so I'm going to break out the spoiler tag right now, and talk about it!  If you don't want the middle and ending spoiled, just know that I found the human unbelievable in more ways than one, and that some of the specifics of what it's doing and why are left completely unaddressed by the story, to its detriment.  For a spoilerific version, click below:

So there's that.

Star rating:  ☆☆ (what does this mean?)

I've focused on the negative in this review, because my opinion of the story is largely negative and I don't want to misrepresent that.  But to be fair: after a shaky first chapter, the next few do a nice job of creating a sense of the human's situation and of how the ponies are dealing with it, before the reveal introduces its own host of problems.  So there is a pleasant enough stretch in there, concept-wise.

Recommendation:  That said, I still have trouble thinking of any group of readers to whom I would specifically recommend this.

Next time:  A Pony Walks Into A Bar…, by chief maximus


  1. It's RPF, it has no merit whatsoever. :|

    Now you need to read Machinations in the Dark so you can read Machinations in the Dark of Celestia's Prophet but neither of those is complete, so. :B

  2. Aw damn, the theoretical fic you describe in the spoiler would be an awesome story if done well. Even taking the reveal of this story and using it correctly would be fascinating to me.

  3. Celestia's guards mercilessly beating prisoners with stun-batons for daring to make too much noise in Celestia's presence

    Okay, that's me out.