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This story does so well what other stories do not: it works within the canon universe without blindly rehashing the canon plot. There are essentially two initial starting changes (and some debatable OOC moments with one major character). The first change is what if Naruto was raised by root to be a stealthy bastard? The next change deals with what happens when Naruto is missing from the canon plot. Essentially the author invents a standin character for naruto that acts like the canon one would, and prevents the AU from diverging too much.
Initially this seems like a huge cop-out, but it works very well. This standin isn't as good or exactly like Naruto. Things diverge a little at first, and then rapidly, and the standin himself is a very memorable character.
The overall effect of these decisions is that the plot roughly follows canon, but not so closely that it gets boring (like so many fics do. "What if Naruto was born with every bloodline imaginable? Watch as he does everything exactly the same as he would have in normal canon!"). But the plot doesn't feel like the author is making things up just to be different either. Everything feels like a very believable series of events resulting from the changes.
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