FimFiction Link - Short ID: 118727/sun-princess
Published: Jul '13
'Sun Princess' is a one thousand and seven hundred-word oneshot. Unlike my usual reviews, I'd rather not put a summary here. If, by some faint chance, you haven't read it yet, I implore that you do so before reading on. You will not regret it. This fic's score is perhaps one of the easiest 10/10-s I've given yet.
This story is a quintessential tragedy. The author beautifully depicts how a dog's simple yet deeply devoted mind might work, through flawless prose and flowing descriptions that stab directly at the readers' hearts. By using titles instead of names, such as the eponymous "Sun Princess" and "Faithful Student," while also mentioning the "lessons" the dog learns, the author juxtaposes the relationship of Applejack and Winona with how Twilight might have felt next to Celestia.
The narrator recounts how idyllic her life was and explains how things worked thus far. In Winona's mind, Applejack is perfect in every way: Immortal, infallible benevolent and all-knowing. To her, she's basically a god. So when her own state begins to deteriorate, she doesn't doubt her owner. Instead she only blames herself for failing her, then despairs at how her entire life was ultimately pointless, before finding some comfort in the fact that she would be remembered and - twisting the knife one last time - how "at least [the Sun Princess] would last forever." This, among many other examples in the fic, is a masterful display of what I could only describe as peering through the eyes of an innocent. By this I mean that because the narrator is a dog, she doesn't fully grasp the places and the meanings of the events around her. However, because the author weaves obvious clues naturally into the narrative, it immediately becomes painfully clear to the reader what's happening. And all of this is done in a way that doesn't feel either pretentious or patronizing.
I genuinely can't think of any criticisms about this fic. Perhaps some might say that depicting the suffering of animals is an easy or cheap way to tug at the readers' heartstrings, but even if there is some merit to that statement, this story does it in an exceptional way, that I can only praise.
Overall: 10/10 This story depicts the happiest and saddest moments of keeping a pet in a dignified and deeply moving way. I can only recommend it.
Really? I own two dogs, grew up with them, and yet I didn't think it was that impactful. I thought the metaphors and parallels were neat, and that itself is praiseworthy, but when the gimmick made me stop and go "oh, that's neat! pretty clever, haha!" it kind of diminished the emotional impact. I never felt like it was "twisting the knife" at any point, last time or first time.
Now fortunately I haven't experienced the death of a close pet yet (though, running up on 12 years on the oldest, realistically it's not unlikely to happen within the next few years). But stories are meant to let the readers experience things which they've never encountered IRL - might not even be able to ever encounter - so I don't think that for a story whose entire point is depicting a deeply emotional moment, "you have to have experienced it yourself to get it" is a valid excuse.
Now I don't think it's a bad story, per se. It's pretty clever, I'll definitely grant it that much. It's also quite hard to write a (short!) story that mostly relies on emotional impact, and not have it come off as either pretentious or just completely flat. Sun Princess does achieve a measure of emotion and in only 1.7k words; it didn't tug at my heartstrings much but I got what it was putting across, so to speak, and it didn't feel either boring or pretentious. I just don't think it makes for a 10/10 story. I'd have probably given it 8/10 if I was generous, because it's pretty well written and like I said quite clever; maybe 6 or 7/10 if not, because ultimately without a big impact, there's not that much substance to it. Enough to be above the average of 5, for sure, but the question would be by how much.