Minds Eye’s “Extra Sprinkles”

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Donut skip today’s story.

Extra Sprinkles
[Slice of Life] • 2,801 words

Mama never said there would be days like this.

Donut Joe, on his first day running his father’s shop by himself, gets hit with a hurricane of tempers and accusations.

A well-connected hurricane of tempers and accusations.

Still, customers are customers, and they deserve the best service he can give.

FROM THE CURATORS: While this feature was being written, Everfree Northwest kicked off its seventh year of festivities — so it’s fitting that this week’s story began as an entry to EFNW’s Scribblefest fanfiction competition.  And like the conventions we attend, its goal is to celebrate the show.  “In story comments I called this one of the best feel-good fics I’ve ever read, and it absolutely is,” Present Perfect said in his nomination.  “There are no frills, just solid character work and Twilight learning an important lesson.”  Broad agreement such as Horizon’s sent this to a spotlight: “This is a pleasant, comfortable read with its share of cool surprises. It’s a show prequel very much in keeping with the tone and character of the show itself.”

Unusually, all of us agreed on the story’s primary strength.  “The character dynamic is commendable, and the little tidbits of worldbuilding help add some much-needed heft to it,” Soge said.  Horizon agreed: “Characterization is impressive,” he said. “Specifically, it’s impressive that Pony Joe comes across as a sympathetic and positive character despite our introduction to him being his attacking Spike with a broom.  And the story manages to give us hints of character even for the ponies who stay offscreen the whole time.”  For his part, FanOfMostEverything appreciated the character growth both on-screen and off: “I love how we see Joe’s mental gears gradually shift,” he said.  “The outside perspective on Twilight and Spike does a great job of displaying the strange mix of the bizarre and mundane in their relationship, and their characterization shows great work in extrapolating how they’d behave based on how far they’ve come since.”

However, the aforementioned surprises drew their share of praise, too.  “Also, this explains why he’s sometimes Donut Joe and sometimes Pony Joe, and I absolutely love the way that was pulled off,” Present Perfect said, while FanOfMostEverything quipped: “I too appreciate the Pony/Donut Joe explanation, but the toroidal food porn is the glazing on the donut.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Minds Eye discusses shareholder dividends, lightning targets, and Fluttershy: Cloud Assassin.
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AdmiralTigerclaw’s “Arrow 18 Mission Logs: Lone Ranger”

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Today’s story arrives from the past to look at the future.

Arrow 18 Mission Logs: Lone Ranger
[Adventure] [Sci-Fi] [Human] • 66,605 words

The star system Omega Centauri was just another oddity on a map to scientists in the not too distant future. However when they found the star was orbiting an earth-sized, earth-like planet instead of a black hole as its motion had suggested, a mission was scrambled to investigate this most unusual of celestial behaviors.

Hamstrung by politics, and nearly crippled before it began, the ‘Lone Ranger’ mission was reduced to just one crew member and left to his own devices.

These are the logs of Arrow 18 and its lone commander. This information is classified TOP SECRET by the Global Space Agency.

Do NOT tell the princess.

FROM THE CURATORS: “What we have here,” Horizon said when nominating this story, “is an early-fandom classic HiE (first chapter publication date: 2012), but with a twist: the HiE arrives not via handwavey magic but on a spaceship from 23rd-century Earth. What follows is a curious blend of standard HiE tropes, science-fiction first contact, unique Equestrian science worldbuilding, and a very pony story of friendship across a language and culture barrier.”

This reflection of ponyness and humanity was a common theme in our discussion. “The thing that really wowed me,” Present Perfect said, “is that this is a story about humans meeting ponies for the first time, where we, the reader, learn about ourselves through the eyes of ponies, through the eyes of the human protagonist. This weird feedback loop of discovery was really what kept my spirits high through the whole story, regardless of what was going on.” “The ponies’ reactions to a benign alien all ring true,” FanOfMostEverything added while Soge said, “I was just left with this pure, wholesome feeling inside at the end, just glad to see the characters’ relationships progress to that point.”

Soge went on: “Most of all, this is HiE without all those typical HiE pitfalls: The protagonist is witty but never annoying; he sees the ponies as equals; and most importantly, it does all that without a speck of the misanthropy that seems to plague even the best examples of the genre.” And that, FanOfMostEverything concluded, makes it “a very pony story in terms of its central message.”

Read on for our author interview, in which AdmiralTigerclaw discusses conceptual thunderstorms, strange nostalgia, and the curse of cursive.
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Cyrano’s “Suns and Roses”

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Put your hands in the air for today’s story.

Suns and Roses
[Equestria Girls] [Romance] [Dark] [Tragedy] [Alternate Universe] • 10,907 words

The Crystal Mirror brought Sunset Shimmer not to the steps of Canterlot High, but to another world all together. She meets Roseluck, a prisoner in her own home trapped beneath the authoritarian rule of her father, and the two embark on a journey of love and bank robbing as they search for somewhere they can truly be free.

FROM THE CURATORS: The My Little Pony fandom sometimes seems dedicated to proving that ponies can cross over with any genre — and often, as with this tale, the result elevates both sources.  “This is a high-speed fic about falling in love, seeking freedom, and getting into way too much trouble,” Present Perfect said in his nomination.  “You’ve got bank robberies, tommy guns, gas that cost twenty cents a gallon, and going out in a hail of gunfire when the odds are stacked against you. Suffice to say, this story is entirely my aesthetic and I unabashedly love it.”  He wasn’t the only one: “I am a tremendous sucker for period pieces,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “And apparently for lesbian Bonnie & Clyde stories set in the Roaring Twenties. And brief interludes with human Twilight working at a patent office. Sorry, bank. I meant bank.”

And while its pitch-perfect genre elements endeared us to the story, those weren’t the only things it got right.  “It’s a gripping roller coaster of a story,” FanOfMostEverything said, while Soge praised the characters: “Sunset and Roseluck worked out perfectly as a romantic pairing, with the kind of chemistry that would make me less harsh towards shipfics. The setting also works wonders in favor of the story, serving as a perfect way of framing this type of story as a pony fic.”  Horizon appreciated the framing as well: “This melds its pony elements into its 1920s framework subtly and smoothly, and uses them to make the gut punch at the ending all the more poignant.”

While this was breezing to an easy feature, at times our discussion sounded more like a book club than a literary critique.  “This was a fantastic tale of following a road paved with good intentions to its inevitable end,” FanOfMostEverything said, causing Soge to respond: “I will certainly disagree with the idea that this is about a road paved with good intentions, given their impressive (and seemingly dispassionate) body count.  And I say that because it was probably my favourite aspect of this fic — the inherent tragedy to it all, of two teenagers broken by life finding their only escape to be through love, yes, but also murder. It feels very significant that, at the end of the day, they only lose when they take a more empathetic path.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Cyrano discusses boardwalk empires, spring semesters, and a little more panache.
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Aldrigold’s “The Quiescence of the Crystal Empire”

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Today’s story is a blast from the past.

The Quiescence of the Crystal Empire
[Sad] • 2,569 words

Before Twilight and her friends saved the Crystal Empire, its ruler had to watch it die. Long before she meets Shining Armor and Twilight, Cadence walks through her home for the last time.

FROM THE CURATORS: Whether written eight seasons in, or in the early days of the show, one thing doesn’t change about fanfiction — it shines brightest when exploring past the edges of what “My Little Pony” has shown us.  And even when canon later invalidates a story’s approach, it can be enjoyable on its own merits.  “This is a fascinating ‘What If’ of Crystal Empire history that was actually written prior to season 3 airing, let alone Cadence’s backstory showing up in the first official novel,” Present Perfect said in his nomination.  “No Sombra exists to oppose her, only ennui and faithlessness in the face of encroaching winter.”

Unsurprisingly, much of our discussion was about the unique ways this fic engaged us with the benefit of several years’ hindsight.  “It’s always fascinating to see what we come up with in a near-vacuum,” FanOfMostEverything said.  “Part of the fun of reading this was picking out the grains of canon around which formed this gorgeous pearl of speculation.  It also takes how some of the fandom saw Cadence just after the wedding, the Princess Who Doesn’t Do Anything, and turns scorn towards Hasbro’s marketing department into a compelling slow tragedy.”  AugieDog agreed, both in the fascination value and in the story’s added depth.  “I really like the idea of a ‘preemptive AU’ — you know it’s not gonna be right, but you’ve got an idea you wanna get out there, so you just leap ahead and do it,” he said.  “Still, it’s the atmosphere here that struck me — empty, cracking, snow-bound ruins with this one living figure wandering through them.”

Even without the nostalgia, though, we found plenty to compliment.  “It’s a chilling tragedy shot through with quietly powerful lines like ‘She didn’t remember what taurine meant’,” Present Perfect said, while FanOfMostEverything added: “The pacing is incredible, allowing us to appreciate all that has been lost, both in terms of the Empire and of Cadence’s innocence, without crossing the line into maudlin territory.”  Soge summed it up: “It has a consistently melancholic tone, which really helps sell the depths of Cadence’s tragedy here. In a sense, it reminds me of a more personal ‘Lost Cities‘, and that is high praise.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Aldrigold discusses adventure ponies, playground explorations, and fun pants.
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alarajrogers’ “Sleep While I Drive”

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Today’s story drives its characters to extremes.

Sleep While I Drive
[Dark] [Adventure] [Sad] [Sci-Fi] • 12,791 words

Celestia and Discord, as teens, flee their destroyed homeworld to a new world promised by a letter from Luna. But Discord can’t escape his nature, nor Celestia her memories. Being a chaos mage on a starliner is a death sentence, and yet, Discord has to keep using his mind-control powers to take Celestia’s emotions away, at her request, because otherwise she wants to die. And Gray Celestia, the discorded Celestia with no emotions but the drive to protect herself and Discord, will do anything that needs to be done to save them both.

FROM THE CURATORS: When a story tackles ambitious ideas, our commentary sometimes gets as wide-ranging as the fic itself.  “This has got tragedy, mental illness, friendship and horrible things done in the name of survival, all in spades,” Present Perfect said in his nomination, and on its way to a rare unanimous approval, compliments like FanOfMostEverything’s stacked up: “Alara excels at building a universe and finding a place for everyone in it, especially Discord,” he said.  “That skill is on full display here, blending ponies, sci-fi, and the interplay of harmony and chaos into a seamless whole.  The actual story that takes place in this universe is a breathtaking one, tackling the themes of love, loss, survivor’s guilt, prejudice, duty, and more in an interstellar narrative arc that hurts to read in the best way.”

With so much worldbuilding for the story to do, it walked a fine line between competing extremes, both in tone and character.  “The technobabble felt purposeful, and in its relatively short length it manages to build a whole universe, much darker than anything in MLP proper, but still remarkably faithful to the show — remarkable, considering Celestia’s actions throughout the story,” Soge said.  AugieDog, meanwhile, remarked on the power of its theme: “The two characters are pretty much destroying themselves in order to save the other, not becoming whole together but becoming echoing, hollow shells,” he said.  “It’s a story that could easily wear the ‘Tragedy’ tag if we didn’t know where things ultimately are heading, and maybe even then.”

Along the way, the story also offered some unique accomplishments.  “I’m unable to think of the last time I read a story that successfully pulled off both an in medias res opening and a ‘fade to black’ ending,” AugieDog said.  “Granted, it helps that we know who these characters are and what will eventually become of them, but to take a piece that doesn’t really begin and doesn’t really end and still make it into a story, that’s some writing right there.”  It was a package that added up, as Soge said, to an impressive whole: “This is a fantastic fic, full of character, amazing worldbuilding, and a dramatic flair that gives the whole thing heft and purpose.  I don’t think I’d heard of alarajrogers before, and what an introduction this was.”

Read on for our author interview, in which alarajrogers discusses deity elections, well-meaning extremists, and dining-room takeovers.
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R5h’s “Partyquest”

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You don’t have to travel to a magical land of ponies to see greatness in today’s story.

Partyquest
[Adventure] [Comedy] • 11,594 words

Pinkie has one month to throw a party that’s out of this world. Which is exactly where she’ll receive the training she needs.

Can she brave the trials of artistic integrity, heavy rainfall, an actual literal gun, and thinking too hard about why she went to Equestria in the first place?

FROM THE CURATORS: One of the things that makes fanfiction great is the way that it pushes beyond the safe and familiar in order to explore more unusual ideas — a quality on full display with Partyquest‘s gentle merging of polar opposites.  “As Aragon pointed out in the results post for the ‘Comedy Is Serious Business’ contest, this makes good on its daring decision to mix some genuine drama in with its out-and-out silliness,” Horizon said, and the story won curator praise on both sides of that spectrum.  “This is a fic that does everything just right,” Soge said.  “The drama feels impactful and gives the whole thing some real weight, characterizations are well done and very well utilized, and, most importantly, the comedy really hits home.”

Our praise for the story, however, extended much farther than its tonal balancing act.  “I have a soft spot for EqG humans in Equestria, but this does far more with the concept than simply have technicolor apes be tourists in Horseland,” FanOfMostEverything said in his nomination.  “It characterizes everyone involved with pitch-perfect precision, doing more with Somnambula in particular than literally any other ponyfic I’ve read.”  FOME wasn’t the only one appreciating the characters.  “Party Favor’s hard-boiled noir narrator shtick is amazing, Somnambula’s excitement over modern Equestria is adorable, and Cheese Sandwich demonstrates why party ponies are so important to Equestria,” Present Perfect said.  “But it’s that golden nugget of Pinkie’s insecurity and self-doubts that makes this story work.”  And that character work reinforced the comedy, Soge said: “Sci-Twi and Human Pinkie make for a great comedic duo, the situations are clever, the pacing is brisk, and even the referential humor was well realized (like the Blazing Saddles nod).”

That all added up to a story that impressed us on many levels.  “Much like the best presentations of Pinkie, there’s solid substance under the fun fluff,” FanOfMostEverything said.  Horizon agreed, citing some of the standout moments: “This does an exemplary job making gags out of the little details (‘funslingers’, Sci-Twi’s post-pointing faceplant, etc), and gets some solid running gags in like Twilight’s various book titles,” he said.  “With all its laugh-out-loud moments mixed into the consistent cleverness, it’s easy to see why this was one of the contest winners.”

Read on for our author interview, in which R5h discusses filthy hobos, Camden cars, and recursively horsey horsewomen.
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Dromicosuchus’ “The Rise and Fall of the Dark Lord Sassaflash”

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There is much Love in the craft of today’s story.

The Rise and Fall of the Dark Lord Sassaflash
[Dark] [Adventure] [Crossover] • 116,239 words

Wanted: Porter, assistant, jack-of-all-trades, minion. Applicants should be strong, loyal, pain tolerant, cold tolerant, unambitious. Must be capable of following simple instructions. Ideal applicant should be of low to average intelligence and mildly deformed, but exceptions will be made for extraordinary candidates, with extraordinariness to be determined by employer. Must be willing to begin work immediately.

Remuneration will be in the form of room, board, and insight into the true nature of the cosmos. Extremely generous bonuses up to and including subcontinents may be awarded if merited and if circumstances permit. Interviews for the position to be conducted at 108 Haybale Lane at 10:00 AM sharp on 4/7. Applicants are expected to be punctual.

—The Dark Lord Sassaflash

FROM THE CURATORS: “This story does just about everything right,” AugieDog said, “but I want to feature this just for the opportunity to write ‘Nyarlathotep is Best Pony.'”  And while the Outer God was a memorable character in a work jam-packed with them, our reactions more closely mirrored Augie’s first statement.  “A truly fantastic read,” FanOfMostEverything said in his nomination, and Horizon echoed that sentiment upon assigning this a top score: “Oh my yes.  One of the best things I’ve read in recent memory.  This is the sort of story that makes me happy I read fanfic.”

At the heart of those glowing reviews was an unusual yet sublime fusion of ideas.  “What the author’s Mendacity does for fae folklore, this does for the Cthulhu Mythos, seamlessly integrating it into Equestria and making you wonder how we never noticed it until now,” FanOfMostEverything said.  And it did so with a remarkable adherence to pony themes.  “We’ve already featured At The Mountains of Discord, which was an excellent Lovecraft tale that happens to be about ponies, and I think this is near the other end of the spectrum: this is a fantastic pony story that happens to be about Lovecraft,” Horizon said.  “It’s fundamentally hopeful and redemptive in a way that keeps MLP firmly at its core.”  That caused AugieDog to note: “The story also made me realize just how Lovecraftian some of the canon bits of Equestria are: the crawling chaos of Discord; the parasprites as sort of ‘rats in the walls’; just the Everfree forest in general, really, or the way a dragon can show up to take a nap and doom the entire realm. And, well, Swamp Fever, anyone?”

Magnificent character work was one of the factors bringing those ideas to life. “Sassaflash and the Mule are perfect together, and I love how Sassaflash pretty much speaks the way Lovecraft writes,” AugieDog said.  “The world-building is wonderful throughout — I was especially impressed by the way the author made the not-yet-reappeared Crystal Empire so vital to the story.”  FanOfMostEverything agreed: “Sassaflash makes for a fascinating protagonist, utterly driven by her quest but not immune to the magic of friendship even at her most obsessed.”  And the story around them was consistently exemplary, Horizon said: “This just kept surprising and delighting me around every corner. Even the screaming left turn of the story’s final arc, which in the hands of most authors would have faceplanted into confusion and plot holes, is seamless and brilliant.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Dromicosuchus discusses dream Jives, Marx sprays, and Skyrim inspirations.
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Bookish Delight’s “Being Juniper Montage”

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Today’s story will really get into your head.


Being Juniper Montage
[Equestria Girls] [Drama] [Slice of Life] • 42,118 words

Mere weeks ago, Juniper Montage was a spiteful girl, a thief, and even—for a short time—a magical menace. However, Starlight Glimmer and the Rainbooms managed to reach her, and extend the hands of forgiveness and friendship. Juniper has been grateful for the second chance ever since, and eager to show that she can be a good friend herself.

While touring Canterlot High School with Twilight Sparkle, she comes across two girls in dire cinematic straits. Juniper knows she can help, so she decides to step in. However, in the midst of her attempt, her past—all of her past—returns to haunt her, and her self-esteem pays the price.

Now Juniper must discover for herself what it truly means to be a friend, while also fighting an angry, fearful voice in the back of her mind that continues to insist that she’s not worth anyone’s friendship… and keeps getting louder.

FROM THE CURATORS: Maybe the most basic reason Pony fanfiction exists is to take characters and situations we know from the show and explore them at greater depth. A good piece of fanfiction, though, works even if the reader isn’t familiar with the particular character or situation. “I knew nothing at all about Juniper Montage going in,” Horizon admitted during our discussions, “and this story made me curious enough about her background to get me watching Juniper Montage’s episodes.”

“Bookish Delight,” Fan of Most Everything said when nominating this story, “has an almost inhuman talent for taking the bipedal cutouts Equestria Girls calls antagonists and turning them into fleshed-out, multidimensional people.” AugieDog agreed, saying, “The ‘Ex-Villains’ Club Sleep-Over’ made me very happy” with Horizon adding, “the whole cast is unerringly interesting.”

“What I liked the most here,” AugieDog went on, “was the way the story digs so deeply into the process of redemption.” Horizon noted, “This brings a lot of context to the inner struggle involved in the redemption we see characters breeze through in the show.” “Juniper’s inner demon,” AugieDog said, “is just that—an interior force—and her realization that she has to find a way of dealing with this thing at the core of her personality drives the story.” “Plus,” Fan of Most Everything concluded, “it’s a good meditation on the creative process as a whole.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Bookish Delight discusses core idealism, glasses-wearing nerd girls, and playing, not working.
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Timaeus’ “Coming in From the Cold”

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Settle in and warm up with today’s story.

Coming in From the Cold
[Romance] [Slice of Life] • 11,961 words

Starting over is never an easy thing to do. Lost, alone, and cold, sometimes a friendly smile and mug of cocoa are all that’s needed to warm the heart.

And right now, Bon Bon is very cold.

FROM THE CURATORS: With winter and spring currently engaged in their annual slippery baton pass, here’s a story, as AugieDog put it, “where the cold and the warm are practically characters.” But the main focus lies squarely on Lyra and the mare now known as Bon Bon, newly arrived in Ponyville after the dismantling of her previous life and full of uncertainty.

“Bon Bon’s unsureness about who she is,” Present Perfect said, “was a great place to start” with FanOfMostEverything noting that the readers “get behind Bon Bon’s eyes and stay there for the whole story, the evocative imagery selling everything from struggling through the storm to the anxiety of Lyra getting uncomfortably close to the truth to the warm fuzzies at the end.” Lyra’s equally well painted, AugieDog said, “working as a waitress back home in Ponyville after failing to become a musician in Canterlot.” They’re “two lost mares,” Augie went on, “meeting at the exact moment they most need a friend.”

And more than friends, of course. “I may be a little biased,” Present Perfect said, “as LyraBon is a long-standing OTP, but…the flirting was top-notch.” “Yes, the attraction is mostly physical,” FanOfMostEverything added, “but they’ve only just met and are still getting to know each other, much as Sweetie Drops is still getting to know Bon Bon.” Soge brought up “how well the author utilizes ponies’ physical actions to convey emotion, like ear flicks, tail movements and the like. That helped sell me on their flirting, and the progressively more intimate actions made for a really well realized progression throughout the story.”

Read on for our author interview, in which Timaeus discusses writing as a social activity, second chances, and “playing wild.”
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MagnetBolt’s “The Doom that Came to Tambelon”

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Seeing why today’s story is great is child’s play.

The Doom that Came to Tambelon
[Adventure] [Comedy] • 4,397 words

Starlight Glimmer. Trixie Lulamoon. Tempest Shadow. Three ponies that are definitely really great with foals. But there’s no way they’ll mess this up, right? They just have to keep Flurry Heart out of trouble for one night — what could happen in a couple hours?

FROM THE CURATORS: It’s always a pleasure to find stories which can successfully fuse the best parts of classic MLP and the newest canon.  “Here we have Grogar, goat villain extraordinaire from the original G1 series, spiriting Flurry Heart away to his banished city of Tambelon while she’s being babysat by Starlight, Trixie, and Tempest,” AugieDog said in his nomination. “And it’s one of the ding-dang funniest stories I’ve read on the site in quite some time.”  That sentiment was echoed repeatedly as the story sailed to a rare unanimous approval.  “This is absolutely hysterical — never once afraid to take pot-shots at the characters, or have them snipe at each other,” Present Perfect said, while FanOfMostEverything quipped: “Oh, this glorious bit of madness. … Horrible people doing horrible things in the funniest way possible, only in this case, they’re wonderfully horrible in canon. The three heroines (for a given definition of the term) play off of each other and the obstacles they face fantastically, and I always love seeing a serious villain facing silly heroes.”

But regardless of its silliness, there was a core of authenticity in the humor that drew widespread praise.  “It’s humor that’s the opposite of character destruction — the kind where an author says, ‘Let’s take how these characters are in the show, tighten the focus, and dial that up just a bit’,” AugieDog said.  Soge agreed: “It is a really funny comedy executed with great flair, and a sense of how to stretch the characterization just enough to avoid concerns of them being out-of-character, yet making all their actions as fun as possible.”  And Horizon loved its touch with details: “MagnetBolt has a master’s eye for extracting hilarity from the little quirks of the show.  Starlight’s solution to entering Limbo is priceless, as is Trixie’s reaction when Grogar rings the bell.”

That eye for detail extended throughout.  “It is full of delightful passages, to the point I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite,” Soge said, while Present Perfect appreciated its callbacks: “The G1 building material was handled really well, crafting a legendary Tambelon that lives and writhes and all that other good stuff, and yet is in no way safe from being skewered.”  All in all, as Horizon said, its exemplary humor made this stand out even among the author’s other major works: “The Witch of the Everfree would have been my go-to for a MagnetBolt feature, but this was hilarious start to finish, to the point where I had to awkwardly explain to my boss why I was grinning at my desk.”

Read on for our author interview, in which MagnetBolt discusses all-star zones, insufficient explosions, and Bowie anatomy.
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