Take flight into an alternate Equestria in today’s story.
[Adventure] [Alternate Universe] • 44,226 words
When the Windigos attacked, the ponies had to find a way to put an end to the distrust and anger that fed the frozen fiends. The unicorns found a way. No more earth ponies, no more pegasi, no more problem.
A thousand years later, Princess Twilight Sparkle thinks that her ancestors may have made a mistake. Fortunately, she knows a way to test her hypothesis. She names that way ‘Rainbow Dash.’
FROM THE CURATORS: “This is a story I was hesitant to start based on just the description,” Chris said in his nomination, but from that humble beginning the superlatives flew thick and heavy. “Rarified Airs is an achievement in worldbuilding and characterization in an AU the likes of which I have never seen before,” Soge said, while AugieDog was hooked from early on: “The opening is just about as fine an example of how to introduce a setting as I’ve seen in a ponyfic. We get exactly as much information as we need exactly when we need it, and there’s not an infodump in sight.” Horizon was enthralled for different reasons: “It demonstrates so much emotional depth and tonal range that even as a worldbuilding fan I have to say that the amazing worldbuilding doesn’t feel like the biggest thing right, but just the cherry on top of the powerful coming-of-age tale.”
Over and over again, we cited one big factor in our discussion: “It’s a relentlessly interesting story, full of characters who blend the familiar and the unexpected in just the right combination,” as Chris said. As if to prove that point, everyone name-dropped different supporting cast members when citing what made it exemplary. Present Perfect: “Figuring out things like who Rose Quartz actually is, or what might have happened differently outside the whole marvelous ‘unicorns genocide the other tribes’ premise is so much fun.” Horizon: “The scene where Rainbow Dash throws up and converses with the anonymous guard is a microcosm of what makes the story so powerful.” And Soge: “The author managed to portray Blueblood making lewd remarks towards Rainbow Dash as sympathethic! That is nothing short of a miracle.”
The one major point of contention in our voting was the story’s final chapter. “So much of it is just so familiar to the Equestria we know, and it’s a real letdown,” Present Perfect said — and while most of us voiced complaints about that and the story’s climactic twists, “everything else was fantastic up to that point,” as Soge put it. “It is undeniable how powerful the other 90% of the fic was.” And even that ending managed to garner some praise. “It goes some surprising places at the end,” Chris said. “If not in the broad strokes, then in details like Blueblood’s character growth, or what happens to Diamond Tiara.”
Read on for our author interview, in which SpinelStride discusses solar repair, crystal descendants, and marshmallow fisticuffs.