The author didn't use any cover art, so here's a visual representation of my feelings about authors not using cover art. Also: to read the story, click the image or follow this link.
But now, on to my review of the OMPR-award winning (in the category "Most Improbable Title for a Fic that Chris Actually Dedicated a Fandom Classic Review To," narrowly edging out Brony Hero of Equestria) "Princest is Wincest," It Said, by cleverpun.
Impressions before reading: I admit I was a little leery when I saw this title in a recommendation e-mail, but there are a few things here that reassure me. First, it's written by cleverpun, who I know can write well--and who, as far as I know, doesn't write anything cruder than I'm liable to find appropriate in a non-Mature, non-Sex-tagged story. Second, the recommendation claims that not only does it have plenty of humor, but also that it's got a little more to offer beyond that: it promised that the story would also offer "a bit of history" that is "more serious than you expect." That all sounds good to me; let's give it a go!
Zero-ish spoiler summary: While out one night, Luna discovers the titular bit of graffiti. Unable to parse its meaning, she decides to ask her sister about it.
A few thoughts: To start, let's talk about the style of humor on display. For purposes of examination, here's a quote from early on:
[Night Guard] Razor opened her mouth, intending to loose a devastating counter-insult. Several scathing triumphs of wit formed in her head, and “your mom is old” was quickly shortlisted by multiple neurons to volley at Empty Sky.
She glanced back at the princess, and her mouth slowly, reluctantly clamped shut. She would save it for the barracks, where the other night guards would be able to witness her impressive comeback.Over and over again, cleverpun demonstrates the ability to contrast dry tone with crass content, in a way which doesn't leave the final product feeling overly crude. There are plenty of grandiose descriptions which manage to feel weighty despite their brevity (a rare thing in fanfiction; most of the time, grandiosity is achieved, if at all, through sheer weight of verbiage), which allows the punchlines and reveals to feel... if not quick, then at least quick enough. Coming in at a hair under 5k words, Wincest doesn't seem overlong, which is one of the marks of a good comedy.
There's also a nice contrast between dialogue and narration, with the latter distinct between characters and snappy in contrast to the text surrounding it. The author wisely alternates between longer prose passages and snappy, sometimes nearly tag-less back-and-forth dialogue as the comedic needs of the story dictate, letting the pace ebb and flow in time with the rhythm of the humor.
But, as promised, there's more than just humor on display here. Okay, not a whole lot more; this is a comedy first and foremost, and on the whole the thing is less "deep" than it is "less shallow than you were expecting." Nevertheless, after getting a perfunctory (but appropriate in context) chat about the ineffectiveness of absolute censorship, the story does take a surprisingly personal turn for its two protagonists. When conversation turns to Nightmare Moon... again, "deep" may not be the right word, but there's a certain level of thoughtful sincerity here that gives the story a bit of an emotional center which light comedies sometimes lack.
By contrast, the second chapter/epilogue is... fine. Don't get me wrong; taken on its own merits, there's nothing really wrong with it. But it's a single joke, which is pretty obvious once it gets rolling, and a lot of it is just waiting for the inevitable reveal. In other words, it's a pretty mundane piece of humor, and it it would be a perfectly unobjectionable if one-note scene on its own, it nevertheless feels like a letdown after chapter one.
★★★★☆ (what does this mean?)
That sense of letdown at the end notwithstanding, this is a remarkably enjoyable short story, with just enough to it to make it memorable. In my notes, I highlighted plenty of descriptive passages which were interesting, enlightening in regards to character, history, or both, and didn't put up any roadblocks to the humor (the description of the room in which Celestia and Luna dine together, and the window therein, is a particular highlight in this regard, and that description by itself could practically be its own excellent minific). There's a lot to enjoy here, put together in a package which highlights its own best features.
Recommendation: Don't be scared by the title; this is an excellent choice for fans of both laconic humor and its more pompous cousin, and its risque-ness is purely conceptual. I guess that might make it a disappointment for readers who actually want to read about princest, but... look, the story makes a solid case for me not judging you for that, so I won't. But once you're ready to read an actual story, consider this one.
Next time: ...But the Kitchen Sink, by Dubs Rewatcher