FimFiction Link - Short ID: 511993/scholars-mate
Published: Mar '22
'Scholar's Mate' is a three thousand and five hundred word crackship oneshot. Cozy Glow and Flurry Heart play an all-deciding game of chess before their marriage.
As someone not very well-versed in the crackship genre, my first thought (and annoyance) was "How did these two even meet and become lovers?" The story starts out after their secret engagement and spends little to no time establishing the circumstances for it. To his credit the author does mostly explain what made the two fall for each other, I'm just a bit bothered by the lack of the 'how.'
However, after I accepted that the situation is a given and decided to roll with it, the rest of the story was very pleasant. The two mares' romance fueling a conspiracy through which they fool the entire world is a very entertaining spin on the classic "hero has to complete a challenge for the damsel" archetype, told in colorful, but not purple prose. I admit a slower-boiling story might would have worked better to really show off how much of a (literal) 5D chess the two are playing, but I still found the story to be a compelling narrative. Especially when the clever quasi-plottwist happens, which turned the characters from encountering absolutely no obstacles and feeling just a bit too perfect to really care about into having interesting flaws which they are forced to work around in a way that took me by surprise. Both of them act a bit melodramatic, but considering the stakes and the genre I found this fairly fitting. Having Flurry grow up to be an absolute schemer is a headcanon I quite like. The way she made Cozy run for her money was surprisingly satisfying in a way I didn't even anticipate when I began reading. The ending was reasonably sappy and - though I'm not big into the romance genre - I found it cute enough, especially with how nicely the last line plays into the themes of the fic.
Ultimately, the only real negative impression of this story for me was really just the fact that the two's romance had absolutely no setup. Just a very small nod explaining how Cozy went from being cold, dead stone to someone accepted and trusted by seemingly at least half of the alicorns, despite herself even admitting to trying to take over the world multiple times, while also remaining mostly irredeemed in front of the public's eyes is a bit too large of a pill to swallow. As much as I understand that this isn't the main point of the story, I think this is what makes the fic be just "great" for me instead of "awesome."
Overall: 7/10 Aside from the aforementioned pain point, this is a nice little fic featuring a conflict that feels both low- and high-stakes, and characters who are both amusingly conniving and yet not entirely infallible. If this particular ship tickles your fancy or you crave some rapid-fire scheming, I can easily recommend this story.