Thursday, 11 July 2013

Book review: Pinkie Pie and the Rockin' Ponypalooza Party! (G. M. Berrow)

Front cover
At least there's a Party Cannon on the back...
Pinkie Pie and the Rockin' Ponypalooza Party! — somehow inevitably for Pinkie, there's an exclamation mark in the title — is the second in the series of My Little Pony "chapter books" that began with the really pretty entertaining Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell (by the same author). This second one was available for pre-order direct from, but for mysterious reasons it became unavailable shortly before the release date (2 July). Luckily, several Marketplace sellers still offer it, though be careful to pick one that ships from within the UK. I paid £6.01 (including p&p) from "langton_info_england" and was very pleased with both speed of delivery and the item's condition. As for the actual book...

...don't judge it by its cover. That has the most overused pony vector in the history of pony vectors. Argh. The story inside is... quite good. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, that's because it is. While Ponypalooza (I'm not typing out the whole title each time!) is a fun, and often funny, read it didn't grip me as much as Crystal Heart Spell did. To my slight surprise and slight disappointment, the sly nods to the brony market we saw in the first book aren't there, unless you count the inclusion of "Bon Bon" as a name to find in a puzzle at the end. (She's referred to in passing as the dreaded "Sweetie Drops" in the story itself.)

The story itself is quite an interesting and original one, which really should have worked better than it does. The rediscovery of the Crystal Empire has led to ponies wanting gems all over their garden paths, and that's bad news for those who make their living from rocks. Including, of course, Pinkie Pie's own family! Igneous Rock, Cloudy Quartz, and Limestone and Marble Pie all play a substantial part in the book — though there's also an intriguing mention of an older sister, left guarding the rock farm, with a Pinkie sentence cut off at the very point she's about to name her.

Pages for the rock nature study
"Look out! Here comes Tom!"
Twilight is still having a bit of trouble adjusting to her new-found princesshood (as is half the fandom) but she knows when to turn on the royalness. The Pies are highly impressed by Her Royal Highness as she tries to help. But then there's a real shock: Pinkie's family think her plans for a rock concert (the "Ponypalooza" of the title) are too silly and feel that, with their rock farm under threat, she should be serious. And so "Pinkamena Serious Pie" (the title of one of the chapters, some of which have fun names) is born, much to the concern of her pony friends.

There seem to be fewer cameos from other ponies this time around — and no, there's no Derpy scene, I'm afraid. DJ Pon-3 (so named) appears in connection with the rock concert, and there are small parts for the CMC and Cheerilee, but the story is strongly focused on Pinkie and her family, and secondarily the rest of the Mane Six. The latter are generally written quite well, though I'm not entirely convinced by some of Rainbow Dash's dialogue. Pinkie herself is very nicely observed, and just about everything she says here works.

At the end of the book, as with its predecessor, there are some activity pages. These include several word games, a space to write down your Pinkie Promises (do not break these!) and — most amusing of all — a space to jot notes from the field study of rocks that all bronies will doubtless now undertake. Finally, there's the "Exclusive GIANT trading card", which is once again a big standee. This shows a slightly worrying-looking bipedal Pinkie at Sugarcube Corner. Whether the cupcakes in the picture lasted more than a millisecond longer is open to question!

Giant Pinkie standee trading card
Pinkie on a pedestal
To sum up, then: Ponypalooza is a solid read and it certainly passes the time, but fans may feel a little underwhelmed. There are a few nice puns, especially when it comes to the names of the acts appearing at the rock concert ("Coldhay" is my favourite, followed by "Nine Inch Tails") and of course Pinkie herself is amusing, especially when she's trying to be serious. It's disappointing that there's no major backstory along the lines of the story Cadance's origin in Crystal Heart Spell, and the lack of nods to the brony demographic is a shame. Worth buying and worth reading, but just... quite good.

  • Pinkamena Serious Pie is great value
  • (Most of...) Pinkie's family appear
  • Several good/terrible puns to enjoy
  • That field study!
  • Occasionally surprisingly flat for a Pinkie story
  • Rainbow doesn't always seem quite in character
  • What happened to the brony references?

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