Reviews: Rainbow Double Dashs Lunaverse
The Return Of Tambelon: A fantastic season opener.
I'll do my best to avoid major spoilers. The Return of Tambelon is a great way to begin Season 2, reinventing the classic MLP villain Grogar and his story. RDD's engaging, vivid writing style holds strong, as do the presentations of the characters—-the L6 and Luna herself are flawed but fundamentally good ponies, Corona is more than just a cackling paper cutout of a villain, and Grogar is wonderfully chilling. There are also some more minor points that still add their own nice touch. The presentation of Tambelon's culture, the fact that Grogar's incantations are in at least fairly decent Latin (saying this as a Classics major), and some of the little touches in the character interactions (especially between Luna and Corona). It's clear what this story sets out to do, and it does it well, in my opinion.
LNLD: An interesting premise with a pretty great result.
LNLD takes an interesting premise and succeeds in building pretty inventively from it rather than just being a cookie-cutter fic, where every mention of Celestia is whited out and scribbled over with "loona" and every frame of Twilight has a hat photoshopped onto her head. Instead, things are rebuilt from the Luna-Celestia reversal on up, and changes are made that don't immediately spring to mind when one imagines a Princess-swap. The canon Mane 6 are no longer the Bearers of the Elements here and it shows, though (at the risk of stirring up the already-numerous coals of contention) the changes are ones I'm okay with. The fic is a lot more open with the vices of all its characters than show canon, a fact that extends to the Luna 6—-Trixie shows clearly that she is a good-hearted mare, but can get short-sighted and vindictive, for example. In the same way, the Mane 6 aren't exactly cackling villains—-Applejack holds all other local produce farmers in the grip of the Trust, but out of genuine (if wholly, blindly deluded) concern rather than spite; likewise, Twilight (who doesn't actually appear in this particular installment but shhh) does what she does not because she is evil but because she genuinely doesn't know any better. While their actions are not wholly excused on these accounts, they are at least understandable. As for the quality of the writing itself, I find it enjoyable. The characters tend to feel pretty vivid and the narration has an interesting range of tones that all seem to work at the very least. Not to mention the fact that RDD managed to do a musical number that serves as a battle (not easy to do in a text medium, even with an accompanying song to hear) in a way I felt really worked.
I'TS A MEH FIC.
Average. I had read all the stories, both from the author and guest writers and by far my favorites are: Carrot Top of the Line and Hard Bargain, but I haven't put them in my favorites because they are so-so. The structure of the stories in general are good, the plot easy to follow and had a very rich worldbuilding. The main problem that made it so average and had so many people that dislike it are the characters and their interaction. For me the two issues are: Treatment of the canon characters: Is not that their characters are different, is that there is almost a bashing-like portrayal of them. Not one of them is likeable or even sane. Either they are anti-social wrecks (Twilight, Applejack or Flutterhsy), parodies of themselves (Pinkie and Rarity) or absolute assflansk (Rainbow) and the explanation for this are flimsy at best. Trixie as element of Magic: With trixie there is a more tell instead of show of why she should be the element of Magic. Why would luna made her apprentice, being a barely average unicorn? Why would she become the spark of friendship with the other elements? There is a fear that trixie will eventually push away her friends and I can say she is totally right. Trixie is a selfish, self-centered, egotistically, socially stump character and while she had good intentions and had helped (or tried) the others several times, I can't wrap my head why the others accepted her as a friend in the longest night, outside of the plot-say-so. Even then, there have been many instances that had shown that most of the time Trixie is a terrible friend to have (sushing rain drops during rainbow abuse, using Lyra several times as a prop, demanding 25% of Carrot Top would be price for helping her etc...) that would have made others force her to change or just break the relationship for good. She wants to protect the others and she cares about them, but that is not enough for a friendship. If she was only a friend like carrot top and berry punch that go along but are not close-close I could understand, but she is the holder of Magic (friendship) itself and their relationship is the base of the entire series. Even the best friendships are hard and a person like Trixie having so loyal friends is, well, silly. Cheap sitcom silly. Do I hate the series? No, but it's also not something I would recommend.
So Okay It's Average (especially the pacing)
Writing; adequate. The prose itself is neither beige nor purple, though it does go on a lot of weird tangents at times. I'd say "inoffensive" is the best word here. The writing isn't terrible or off-putting by any means, but it isn't usually gripping either. It doesn't get in the way of the story, but it fails to enhance it. Plotting; the plots are interesting, but long-winded. The author(s) doesn't seem to know whether they want to write stand-alone stories or interwoven arcs and this gives everything a very choppy feeling. I have no issue with scale, but the synergy between stories varies wildly, and this is not okay for a 'verse. This is what broke immersion so consistently for me. Characterization; excusing the constant overuse of OC Stand In, the characterization is decent. Most ponies have a defined personality, and character development does occur on a regular, believable basis. In Summation;I know it's a Love It Or Hate It work (as other reviews show), but I just can't summon anything besides ambivalence towards it—some parts are good, other are bad, and it all evens out to an unimpressive body of work. It did not grab me, it did not push me away. I've always said that popularity doesn't imply quality, and the Lunaverse is a prime example of that. NOTE: I have only read ~3 stories from the 'verse (and it was the first chapter of Crisis on Two Equestrias that really cemented my opinion), but if you can't hook a reader with 3 stories, then there is something amiss. I have not read stories from every canon author, but the point of a shared verse is consistency, and I saw enough of that among the stories I read that one author being better/worse than the others does not (and shouldn't) fully explain the situation. TL;DR: The stories, collectively, are not bad by any measure, but the inconsistent pacing and lackluster prose prevented me from enjoying them. Not bad, but it could be better.
As the title suggests, the Lunaverse gives me mixed feelings. It's an interesting idea, and for the most part I'm a fan of the new Elements. The stories are for the most part well written and have a lot of character; they stand apart from what they're based on while still paying homage in a clearly recognizable way. On the other hand, I'm not fond of what the authors have done to the original mane six and other focus characters. While it's perfectly legitimate to point out how differently their personalities would be and how their lives might've gone if Celestia was the one to lose it and be sealed away rather than Luna, the Lunaverse seems to outright villainize most of the characters we know and love in order to give its own cast a chance to shine. Even that is okay to a degree, but Lunaverse has them acting fairly out of character to facilitate it. The entire setting also seems to have a hint of Writer on Board, as well, with several common fan beliefs being rather mercilessly crushed. The whole point of the Lunaverse is to be something different, but at times it comes off pretty heavy handed in this regard. All in all, an enjoyable read that is well fleshed out and has a pleasing narrative flow. It's got great characterization, some good jokes, and interesting setups. But it's not without its annoyances.
In short, I cannot under any circumstances recomend the Lunaverse. Other than one or two characters who have been intentionally spared, everyone is either handed the idiot ball, villian ball, or something else that has slowly cumulated into turning the setting into a crapsack world. The canon mane cast has been bashed either for the heck of it, or to show how special and wonderful the Lunasix are, Luna herself has been turned into a limp-hoofed pansy unlike almost any possible interpretation of her core personality who was somehow unable to just stomp the Lunar court into dust the first time they tried something, Applejack is crazy, Fluttershy has turned into a hyper recluse, Celestia wasn't given the mental tools needed to recover and backslid... In short, it's a mirror darkly, and one done so for the most pointless of reasons.
Boast Busted: a good story, but not a good introduction
The Lunaverse is an AU in every sense of the word: everything that can be different is different. Different main six, different wacky adventures, different plots. This is not a bad thing. The problem is that Boast Busted, the first story written for the 'verse, does not adequately prepare readers for those differences. It introduces most of the new cast, and concretely establishes many of the differences between canon and the Lunaverse. It's main flaw, however, is the prominent role given to Twilight Sparkle. Twilight's Sparkle's presence sets a precedent that the rest of the series does not live up to. It implies that, despite being an AU, the main characters will still be an important part of the setting. They are not, and that is the main shortcoming of this fic's world-building. Perhaps this was necessary: it would have been unreasonable to expect readers to latch onto the series if the canon characters hadn't appeared in it at all. Releasing the Lunaverse in chronological order may have scared off readers. Releasing this fic first, however, sets an equally incorrect precedent. In summation: I read Boast Busted before any other Lunaverse fics, and I regret doing so. It is a good story, and it introduces the setting and characters well enough. It does not establish how unimportant the original main six are to it's universe, however, and this is its greatest shortcoming. Do not start with Boast Busted, but be aware it was meant to be an introduction when you read it.