Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 200: Tough at the Top?

And here we are! PR has reached its two hundredth edition. I had a number of suggestions as to how I could mark this, and I'm planning on using several of them for future editions. This week, though, I'm doing something very simple: reviewing Fimfiction's top-rated stories of under 20,000 words. (At the time of selection – the order changes from day to day.) I'm sticking to one story per author – sorry, Rambling Writer, as you're hit by this rule.

Read it Later story count: 337 (+1)

The top-rated fic of all that meets my criteria is not part of this roundup, for the simple reason that I've already read it! In fact, I've read the top three: Hoopy McGee's The Keepers of Discord (PR 138), ye olde classique by PhantomFox Sunny Skies All Day Long (PR 30) and Rune Soldier Dan's To Try for the Sun (PR 116). The next story is eligible for review today, so let's begin our journey through these six (count 'em!) highly-rated fics with that one:

The Lazy Dragon of Dragonvale by Georg
Best Hell Ever by Rambling Writer
Just Dodge! by DannyJ
Ah Ain't Got No Ack-cent! by Conner Cogwork
Twilightning by Bok
All the Mortal Remains by Cold in Gardez

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 2

The Lazy Dragon of Dragonvale by Georg
OCs and Starswirl
Slice of Life; 3k words; Sep 2017; Everyone
Once upon a time there was a very lazy dragon who did not want to find a town to pillage. So he decided to make one of his own.
One thing you don't get much of in this fandom is really nice children's stories – so it's fantastic to see this story joining the small group of those I unhesitatingly recommend. You'll have read stories like this before, probably many years before FiM came to be, but this one's quality is such that it feels like meeting an old friend again. It is satisfyingly Equestrian, though, with a nice turn from Starswirl and a non-preachy moral about ponies working together. I don't know whether the city-builder game parallels were deliberate, but those only made me happier. Go and read this. If you've already read it, read it again. I haven't enjoyed a children's ponyfic this much since In the Place the Wild Horses Sleep (PR 20). What a great way to start off this edition! ★★★★★

Best Hell Ever by Rambling Writer
Twilight
Comedy; 2k words; Oct 2017; Everyone
Twilight goes to hell. It's actually a pretty great place.
Oh, this is amusing. Exactly why Twilight is in hell is pretty secondary, but the point is that she's been "forced" to catalogue the Library of Babel. Unsurprisingly, she doesn't exactly see this as coming under the category of "torment". Consistently funny, and with some nice horse puns for those who like such things (eg me), this is more than worth the few minutes it'll take to read. The occasional slightly clunky line ("disturbance in the folio") and a small bit of meta late on I didn't care for, but it's still great. ★★★★

Just Dodge! by DannyJ
Lyra, Discord and Mane Six
Dark/Comedy; 10k words; Oct 2014; Teen
Lyra thinks Discord is an idiot for not thinking to dodge when the Elements of Harmony were about to strike him. Discord thinks this is the perfect opportunity for a game.
Hey look, it's a time loop story! I can't remember when I last read one of those. This is a rather different thing to the likes of Hard Reset (PR 8), though. Discord's game consists of putting Lyra (whose character is refreshingly non-clich├ęd) in his place and challenging her to do better. She gets unlimited goes, but if she gives up she must submit to—well, I won't spoil that. Maybe more of an adventure than a comedy, and you can see the ending coming a mile off, though it is still fun. The [Dark] tag is eventually merited, though not for very long. A very high three. ★★★

Ah Ain't Got No Ack-cent! by Conner Cogwork
Applejack, Rarity, OCs, Apple Bloom and Granny Smith
Comedy/Slice of Life; 13k words; Sep 2011; Everyone
When Rarity enlists Applejack's help, she uncovers a secret of hers from Manehatten... the ability to still talk fancy!
Look at that publication date – this is story no. 749 on Fimfiction. And the tale itself is even older, having appeared on EqD in May 2011. Given the fic's age, I rather like the characterisation and the interplay between Applejack and Rarity. Main OC Mister Marmalade is fun, as are the pre-canon Pie Sisters Inkie and... Maggie? The deeply irritating early-fandom idea of Racist Granny Smith makes a thankfully very brief appearance, but that's the only major sour taste. The fic's moral is obvious, but no more so than many early episodes of the show, and there's some nice S1-style world-building. The big problem with this, as with the same author's On a Cross and Arrow (PR 37), is the writing. See the title? AJ in farmpony mode is written like that all the time; it's much, much more irritating than the usual restrained "ah-speak". And then there's the LUS. Oh, the LUS! AJ is "the orange equine", "the orange farmer filly" and "the applebucker", among much else. Much else. The heavy use of all-caps instead of italics also jars, though the various minor technical problems aren't too intrusive – older reviews say otherwise, but it seems many errors were cleaned up in mid-2012. It still nearly makes a three because of the characterisation, the world-building and the underlying concept – but of all this week's fics, this is the one that really shows its age. ★★

Twilightning by Bok
Twilight and Spike
Slice of Life; 5k words; Feb 2014; Everyone
Twilight taps into the power of lightning itself to perfect a new form of teleportation. The theory is sound; what could go wrong?
This being Twilight, the answer is "plenty". Twi's insatiable curiosity for things scientific comes to the fore when she discovers an old diary containing some rather incomplete research notes and can't resist trying to work out what's happening. For quite a while, this seems to be a pretty straightforward "Twilight discovers a new spell and almost gets herself killed in the process" story, but an extra dimension is added later on when we discover just where that diary came from. A rather underwhelming ending aside, this is a solidly entertaining read. ★★★

All the Mortal Remains by Cold in Gardez
Mane Six
Mystery/Slice of Life; 9k words; Dec 2014; Everyone
Twilight Sparkle discovers an urn, and a decade's worth of questions, in the ashes of her library.
Okay, given the author you know the writing will be excellent, so I'll start by saying that this has probably my favourite Fluttershy line in any fic ever, and that includes Five Hundred Little Murders (PR 121). The story is narrated by Twilight as she attempts to make sense of her friends' sometimes incompatible memories and discover something about the pony whose ashes are in the urn. On the face of it this is a fairly simple mystery. And you know what? It is. But "simple" doesn't preclude "brilliant", largely because the characterisation is glorious. Whether it's Twi keeping fragments of Spike's eggshell or Rainbow Dash's views on libraries, it's all silky-smooth. There's some lovely light-touch world-building, too, especially when it comes to pony tribal customs, and an ending that may make you wonder. Very, very few niggles, except perhaps a slightly uninspired Pinkie joke near the end. Regardless, that Fluttershy line, and the scene in which it's in, would be worth the admission price alone. I wish I'd read this years ago. ★★★★★

Next time on Ponyfic Roundup: back to normal next week with a mixed bag o' pone. I'll be mightily impressed if the average rating is as high as this edition's!

6 comments:

  1. Oh heck. D: I'm about to drop a much larger number for a review milestone today.

    I think maybe I'll wait...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whatever suits you best. I'm relaxed about this. :) Will look out for your milestone, though!

      Delete
  2. Congrats on reaching the 200 mark! And an interesting sounding bunch of stories. I'll have to ask you about that Fluttershy line when we next meet up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! :) The Fluttershy line is very context-dependent, so if you haven't read the fic it may well not have the same impact. It floored me, though.

      Delete
  3. Wonderful. Thanks! Writing kids stories is tough. I need the practice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! It certainly turned out well this time!

      Delete