My favorite quote from the x-files so far: “I thought that you’d be pleased that I opened myself to extreme possibilities.” “Dana… open yourself up to extreme possibilities only when they’re the truth.” Ha! Take that science and skeptical thinking!
In pony-related news, two reviewers have stopped their reviewing recently. Which is sad. However, to sate the big master review list’s lust for blood and tears, Bradel over on FimFiction has decided to try this reviewing shtick several of us have been coasting along with. Only he’s doing actual analysis with numbers and categories. The fool! Quality over quantity is doomed! You’ll only be known for your intelligence, insight, and good taste if you go down that route! By the time this post goes live I should have all 19 stories he has reviewed or boosted linked on the big master list. Tremble and despair! Just don’t, you know, read my reviews right after you read his actual recent reviews. I’m more opening band than headliner.
- Dash’s New Mom by ABagOVicodin
- The Fate of Clover by Kapuchu
- Upheaval: Reckoning by Visiden Visidane
Dropped this one at 18% or so. Only got through two chapters. The writing is just kind of blah. There is no flow to it at all. I’d guess it’s pretty much all passive voice. The part that finally had me give up was a really out of character comment from Scootaloo.I’m not real skilled with character voice myself and it is something I only notice when the extreme edge cases (both good and bad) pop up. This was just such a big fumble that it pulled me out of what little immersion I had managed. Is this something Scootaloo would say to Rainbow Dash when the two of them are hanging out and having lunch together? “I’m sorry, Rainbow. It sounds like your situation is very chaotic…”
I want to end on a slightly higher note. I think the premise of the story is interesting, though it could have used a little more set-up. The moment where Rainbow Dash’s dad puts her academy acceptance letter on the family wall of achievement was actually pretty powerful despite the fact that the wall of achievement was introduced like three pages before it happened.
I tried to like this. I gave it three chances, setting it down and reading something else before coming back to pick up where I left off. At the halfway point I packed it in and set the story down. Just really dull writing. Not bad, just dull. Author needs more practice polishing their prose. Cool ideas though. Even if one made me think of PresentPerfect’s pony mind-cloud.
This was a very good follow-up to the previous Upheaval story. I was right in one way, it does feel like a trilogy. Just that the second one was twice the size of the first and it does feel like books two and three of the series. In some ways anyway. The comparison isn’t precise. This was very much a classic epic fantasy. The scope of things was broadened even more in this one and our heroes went through a lot of trials and struggles and victories. The worldbuilding continued to be interesting. Including a little tidbit at the end that answered a question about the non-pony alicorn analogues. Apparently there is more than one heavenly realm. Got to wonder if the gryphons have one as well. Anyway, the cosmology and world created for this story is quite interesting. It makes a pretty good headcanon for a version of Equestria, but doesn’t fit in with the show all that much. I would say it interfaces with the show, in that it doesn’t contradict but still puts the show in a bubble that is pretty much brushed to the side. Heck, one of the main plot points of this story is that the barrier keeping Equestria a safe idyllic paradise is shattered and the struggles of war start affecting everypony. Still, much like other stories that sort of straddle that line, this one wouldn’t have worked without the foundation of pony. I mean you could have come up with a backstory for everything, but it would have taken a lot more exposition. This sort of fan-fiction uses the source material as a jumping off point and inspiration, but leaves it behind fairly quickly. Still, good epic fantasy stuff.
I’m still unsure how I feel about the primary villain. Well, one of them. Things get twisted around a bit during the course of this story. Black Rose, the primary pony villain. She isn’t quite a plot device or a Mary Sue even though she pretty much always wins and is always on top of things. The author builds up her character enough that she never felt flat, as well as developing a backstory that explains how she is so good at everything she does. On the other hand she never fails at everything and everything that happens turns out to be part of her plans. I would have liked to see at least one failure that she had to recover from. The closest we get is that she is getting worn down by all the effort it’s taking to advance all of her plans.
The other problem I had was how the Elements of Harmony were treated. Basically as just another magic item and/or strength of spirit thing. To the point that one of Black Rose’s plans is to torment each of the mane six to test and strengthen their element. It works, more or less, but it kind of misses what I consider the main point of the Elements. That they are the elements of *Harmony* and that it’s when they work together is when they are strongest. I even though that was one of the things the author was going for, with the mane six getting split up with their duties and struggles and personal problems. Nope, nothing ever really comes from that point. Even the one point of fairly intense conflict, Applejack and Twilight Sparkle both attracted to the same stallion, is pretty much resolved with a single light conversation and then everything is fine. The author didn’t even cover all of the mane six tests by the villain’s forces, which was disappointing. I was hoping to at least get some interesting character studies to see how each element was put to the test, but we don’t really get anything like that. So little things bugged me. Still enjoyed it quite a bit however. I do have a soft spot for epic fantasy stories with lots of interesting magical stuff and worldbuilding. Nothing too amazing, some of it downright cliche, but it all worked together very well.
So, would have been longer but possibly better as original fiction but still works fairly well as a pony fanfic. There might still be a third story after this one. The ending could have been just a ‘stories never really end’ sort of thing or a actual setup for a sequel. It was a final enough ending that I’m satisfied and won’t be looking eagerly forward to another story. If one gets finished, I’ll be happy to read it, but it doesn’t need one. I also think that several of the plans from various villains were still kind of stupid and short-sighted. Sure they worked, but they picked the worst way to go about things. Twilight Sparkle’s early antagonist Pyre was really, really dumb. Believably so, but I spent most of this book wanting to smack sense into her for picking the worst way possible to achieve her goals. On the plus side, it was very much so that she was that dumb as a character instead of it being bad writing.
Another complaint. The author pretty much shoves Spike out of the story and he never comes back. I was really hoping he would swoop in at the end and perform some daring rescue or feat of heroism. Nope, he goes off for training and we never see or hear about him again. That’s probably my biggest complaint other than the Elements of Harmony thing. Just got reminded of another thing that bothers me a little. Not as much as the spike thing, but it’s up there. Black Rose’s minions are pretty much evil. Sure you can argue their goals and motivations might be on one side of the ethical divide or the other, but they did cruel and horrible things pretty much just because. One of them is thought of by disgusting by the more moral-minded of the group for what he does in his off-hours. Yet only one gets any kind of resolution. We never get any real closure on any of the others. Black Rose did horrible things, but she gets at least some punishment, closure, maybe a bit of redemption by the end. Her main minions? Nada. Frustrating but I suppose that is another indication that a third story is planned? Hopefully it’s that and not just the author couldn’t be bothered to work it in. Now that I’m thinking about it, that was one of the main weaknesses running through the entire work. Setting up stuff and then never really doing anything with it.
The basic concept, that there is a militarized border zone around the official borders of Equestria that has little to no contact with the main parts of the kingdom is one I like quite a bit. I wouldn’t go so far as the Upheaval stories did and use peace-enforcing enchantments and magical barriers. Still, a warlike border that is only shipped some supplies and materials for the defense of Equestria has potential for a lot of stories.
Oh, and I want to end on a positive note since this was a lot of ranting about the flaws. This story did have one of the best ‘Celestia is a badass’ moments I’ve run across. It’s brief, but awesome.