FimFiction Link - Short ID: 320477/carousel
Published: Mar '16 — May '16
As Rarity works to create the boutique of her dreams, a forgotten piece of Ponyville’s past is waking up. Secret memories lie forgotten in dusty basements, unrighted wrongs scratch at locked doors, and she finds herself caught up in a history that may be doomed to repeat itself.
- atmospheric horror
- fantastic climax that's slowly built up
- has a great setting (pre-show Ponyville) and characterization
- starts like a glacier
- post-climax is fumbled a little
- follows a standard atmospheric horror plot (creepy place, character goes to creepy place, creepy stuff happens, reason for creepy stuff is revealed, character and reason face off.)
When the summary promises a slow-burning, atmospheric horror, it delivers. There were no cheap scenes put in for shock value; much like Rarity, the true horror of the story slowly creeps up on you, becoming more and more suffocating as it goes on, teasing you with glimpses of what lies in the dark before culminating in a satisfying climax.
When it comes to horror, the atmosphere is everything. I'm by no means an expert on the subject but I have been blown away by how well Carousel understands and realizes this core idea.
The fic tells the story of Rarity moving into the soon-to-be-Carousel Boutiqe, four years before the show. It starts really slow, with a near-SoL storytelling. Rarity wants to move out, Rarity is annoyed by her parents, Rarity buys the old town hall, etc. All of that takes place in the first two chapters, in which almost nothing indicating the horror – and nothing related to the actual horror plot – happens. Such a slow start could be a flaw but this fic simply wouldn't work without the first two chapters establishing Ponyville the way it does. Despite its genre, Carousel manages to tell its story while staying relatively faithful to the FiM Equestria.
Make no mistake, it's a horror and it does feature darker themes. What is exceptional is that it does so without ever breaking the suspension of disbelief, gradually. No matter how dark and spooky things get for the poor Rares, the setting is always depicted in-character for Equestria. This feat is chiefly achieved by the author's writing skill, expertly pivoting from almost comfy to spooky over the course of several chapters. A lot of effort must've went into making sure that the fic successfully conveys the desired moods to the reader. The fact that it succeeds in such an ambitious task makes it excellent.
Ponyville is almost seamlessly stitched with Rarara's horror story. Almost. Without spoiling the ending, I'll just say that it undermines both the horror and the mystery. I don't know if there was a way to write it in a way that both keeps it close to FiM and avoids leaving an ugly seam, but it certainly could've been made less obtrusive.
It's also genuinely spooky. The descriptions are vivid, the pacing – excellent, the rising tension is pulled off flawlessly and Rarity's thoughts are woven into the narrative well enough to make (You) seriously unnerved. I don't remember the last time I've read something as creepy as some parts of this fic. Furthermore, the characters are written really well, especially Rarity. Her actions are properly explained and her thoughts are logical (insofar as somepony subjected to supernatural spooks can be understood).
To say something bad about the prose, there are some minor consistency issues in a scene or two and the author has a tendency to abuse word repetitions. I've also noticed a couple typos and minor errors but they're very infrequent and easy to ignore.
All in all, I would recommend Carousel to everyone, not just fans of the horror genre. It's 70k words long, and it was captivating enough to make me read all of it in one sitting. The less-than-stellar ending drags it down to an 8/10 but the atmosphere alone makes the fic worth recommending as if it was a 9/10 or better.