FimFiction Link - Short ID: 396531/a-bug-on-a-stick
Published: Jan '18 — Sep '20
Really enjoyed this story. Its tagline / description field is outstanding. My advice is to pretend that the "prequel" and epilogue don't exist, and that the fic is tagged AU in which the cosmic sisters find Chrysalis and teach her to be good. All they contain is a cringeworthy failure at the impossible task of reconciling a good Chrysalis with S2, S6 and S9 canon.
If you do this then the story is almost perfect. I got what I wanted from it, and plenty more besides.
Seconding this one. It already deserves a recommendation for its excellent worldbuilding and great characterizations alone but, even more importantly, it's just an incredibly pleasant story to read. And yet you shouldn't let the tags fool you - this depiction of ancient Equestria can easily rival some of the best fantasy longfics out there. It strikes a perfect balance of cleverly expanding upon existing underutilized lore and adding its own where necessary. The pacing is good too, notably featuring a rare case of appropriately used timeskips.
If you decide to read it (you should!), do yourself a favor and skip both the prequel/sequel oneshot and the epilogue. They don't add anything to the story and only exist to tie it in with the show canon. But that's just one relatively easy to ignore blemish on an otherwise truly excellent story.
A Bug on a Stick is a 131k-word Slice of Life longfic about a "filly" Chrysalis living on a HWE-era farm with fillies Celestia and Luna.
There's a lot of good things one could say about this fic but to prevent this review from getting too long I'll focus on just three.
In no particular order, the first would be the worldbuilding. As I've said, it's a (Comedy) SoL fic. The vast majority of the chapters showcases the daily life on a farm where an old unicorn and a varied cast of characters (some ponies and a couple S1/S2 creatures like a Minotaur and a Diamond Dog) care for two bright but seemingly normal fillies. Well, two fillies and an all-devouring cosmic horror that Celestia found in a forest as a pool of black goo. The point is, you wouldn't expect to learn much about the world that the action of such a story is set in.
That would be a huge mistake to make; the fic does such an amazing job dropping bits and pieces of information about the post-HWE Equestria, that many "serious" adventure longfics would be better off if they copied even half of it. The story takes place 1000+ years before FiM, a time gap that the author used to paint a picture of an Equestria that's closer to the classical medieval-themed fantasy than the Equestria from the show. And yet, despite everything that's different, it still unmistakably feels like the same Equestria, not just a lookalike AU. A lot of effort went into all aspects of the worldbuilding, creating a very interesting universe that acts as one of the main hooks of this story.
The characters are just as great as the world that they live in. A Bug on a Stick's Chryssi, Lulu and Tia are the probably the best filly characters I've read in any fimfiction. The latter two are a perfect example of how to write interesting and immersive young pony characters. When I first started this fic, I was worried that it'd be a one big CMC-style story. Having finished it, I can say that if the show CMCs were written as good as Tia and Lulu are here, we'd never get the ">it's a CMC episode" thing in the first place.
Chryssi is great, too. An otherworldly cosmic abomination that tries her hardest to be as good of a filly as she can be. Her adorable behavior is interspersed with confusion at, you know, everything that comes with being an eldritch horror.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the secondary characters. The cast is quite large but they all have something that makes them interesting. Whether it's the peaceful Minotaur with scars that she doesn't want to talk about, an eager earth pony apothecary dabbling in rune magic or just a plain old earth pony struggling to keep up with the fillies' ideas; they're all great, though trying to remember the nine or so OC names can be a bit of a challenge at first.
Last but not least – the writing. Maybe I should've started with this point because holy shit it's just so good. Good prose can make or break a fic – especially comedy – and thankfully Bug is excellent on that front, too. Normally I'd complain a bit about the occasional misspelled word or a missing letter hurting the immersion (I noticed about one such error for every two chapters) but doing that here would be unfair, because everything else about Bug's prose more than makes up for these slip-ups. The flow of sentences in paragraphs and paragraphs in scenes, the adorable playfulness of the narration when it's talking about the fillies or their actions, setting up- and plying with- readers' expectations in a way that feels fun and natural rather than irritating – I could talk about it for hundreds of words but I don't think there's any reason to to do that – (You) will probably see what I mean if you decide to give the fic a chance. It felt so refreshing to read after many fics with average or just merely passable writing.
The pacing is alright. I'll say that it gets a bit fast near the beginning and the end but not to the point that it'd detract from the story. I'm just slightly sad because it reminds me that we'll never get a proper sequel.
In conclusion, A Bug on a Stick is an amazing fic that I'd recommend to everyone looking for an example of how to write a great SoL and a Comedy that's actually fun. It gets an honest 10/10 and a shinning reco–
Right, the epilogue.
I won't waste your time and spoil the fic by elaborating on why it's so bad but it's probably the single worst chapter of any long story I've read, possibly only rivaled by Background Pony's infamous ending. It starts with a timeskip all the way to creaturequestria post-S9-finale and somehow manages to KEEP GETTING WORSE with every scene. It's baffling that the author thought it was a good idea to post this epilogue on fimfic. Were it not for the much more mild but still mediocre sequel oneshot (mislabeled on fimfic as a prequel) that was posted first, I could see Bug being an extremely elaborate 5D chess trollfic meant to test how much one can ruin a story in a single chapter.
Everything I've praised about the fic is still true; The first 26 chapters are spectacular and in my opinion would deserve a 10/10 score if the epilogue didn't exist. If (You) can disregard the epilogue (or, even better, just not read it) then you can treat that as the score I gave the fic. Unfortunately we live in a timeline where the epilogue does exist and I feel that ignoring a fic's flaws goes against the core idea of a review and thus have to lower my final score at least by two full points – 8/10.
(3/2) (addendum to >>39021788)
A score is just a number and hardly the most important part of a review, but after thinking about it some more and comparing it to a couple other fics, I'd like to revise my final grade to 9/10. Writing the review immediately after reading the epilogue wasn't fair to the fic.
It's great, go read it.