FimFiction Link - Short ID: 510420/monument
Published: Aug '22
'Monument' is a seven thousand and five hundred-word shortfic. The fic is an assortment of clippings, journal entries, and articles, which slowly shed light onto how and why Twilight Sparkle is dead.
For fairness I have to mention that I offered a minimal amount of help in this story. This only includes fixing typos and rephrasing a few sentences that were a tad confusing and thus isn't relevant to my opinion about the fic.
And what a fic it is! For one, it's certainly not easy to read. Due to how interconnected the chapters are and the fact that they are almost completely out of order, it requires at least two (or, if you're a bit slow like me, three) readings before you fully "get it." Doing so, however, is immensely satisfying. At the risk of sounding extremely pretentious, I'd say this story is almost a lite version of 'Return of the Obra Dinn':
Based on the process of elimination and some logic, an attentive reader can match dates and events to characters and figure out things that were merely implied instead of being stated outright, making the story feel almost "interactive," including the author sneaking a few misdirections into the fic to trap you. I walked into one of these and, once the jig was up, I felt completely fooled.
I wouldn't really say the overarching narrative itself is particularly complex. While it could be summarized in a single sentence, doing so would be missing the point. It'd be like reading the solution to a puzzle without attempting to solve it. Perhaps still a bit satisfying, but far more lacking in punch. Due to this I will not speak in any more concrete terms about the events, but in general I can say that I love the world-building and the characters are enjoyable as well.
I only have two negative things to mention: The journal which I assume to be Celestia and Luna's felt a bit forced to me. It reads as a conversation between the two, which gives the unintentionally funny mental image of them angrily swapping the book back and forth while scribbling their outbursts inside. The same could somewhat be said about Twilight's late entries but this to me felt far less of an issue due to the state she's in.
Out-of-universe I obviously understand that emotions had to be conveyed in a way that fell inside the contest's rules, but still, in my opinion dialogue and speech related things (like trailing off into ellipses) don't really belong in a journal.
The second "bad thing" is really just that there isn't more. Once the "secret" is cracked and you've matched all fates, the story is basically laid bare. The ending is satisfying and I definitely wasn't left disappointed, but I could easily imagine an even slower burning fic with the same basic premise.
Overall: 8/10 This fic demands your time and attention, but if you're willing to invest, you're treated to some nice atmospheric horror and a great mystery. Can recommend.
For a mystery/horror fic, Monument does both "mystery" and "horror" really well. If you enjoy stories that reward your inquisitiveness and attention to detail, you'll likely enjoy Monument.
The atmosphere is great, which of course is a must for a good horror fic, but the real highlight is the mystery, the puzzle that (You), the reader, are supposed to solve. Monument is really good at providing you with the tools to do just that, with every chapter bringing you a step closer to comprehending what really happened. It also deliberately plants a couple details that an incautious or overeager reader might misunderstand, which adds some depth to this otherwise fairly simple shortfic. It's important to note that those "fake" clues aren't gotchas, as even if you do happen to get derailed, you're gradually given stronger and stronger hints to get you back on the right track.
I love when mystery stories are told this way, so even though I'm usually not a fan of darker fics – the AU here is several shades darker than FiM Equestria – I liked it a lot.
Or at least I would've liked it a lot were it not for two of the author's choices. The less important one is the form. It was written for a no-prose competition, and although you CAN write a compelling story this way, there were a couple moments in the fic where you can clearly tell that the restrictions weren’t always benefiting the story. "Journals" written as conversations between two characters are the worst offenders.
The second – and far more annoying – problem is how the ending was handled. I spent half of the review rambling while trying to put into words how nice the mystery part of the fic is, right? So yeah, the ending reveals the ideal amount of information for you to piece the reveal together...
...and then loredumps you the answers afterwards anyway.
What the fuck, man? I have no idea what was the point of doing that, especially since the story was begging for a nice semi-cryptic ending that reveals the last hints necessary to get the full picture.
But don't let the unsatisfying landing distract you from the fact that The Journey(tm) here is great. If any of what I said sounds even mildly interesting to you, I'd recommend giving the story a shot. It really is quite hard to recommend it without spoiling anything.
As for me, the story is a very strong 7/10. That's a pretty high grade on its own, but I'm still a bit annoyed (at myself? at the writer?) that I can't in good conscience give it a point more.
I really enjoyed monument. Echoing most of what has been said, I feel the first 80% of the story was stronger than the resolution. Not that it was underwhelming. Finding out that reality is hanging by a thread is always a good end in my book, I just feel jumping several years on Twilight's underground journey as well as other plot points just stopping due to, well, death, just was lackluster compared to the intrigue the first segments managed to build up.
My only real gripe is that I kinda wish there had been an overall reason to have all these documents put together. I get the feeling that these excerpts and files were put together as part of the ongoing investigation, but not all entries qualify as that.
Nevertheless, this managed to scratch my never ending horror itch, and I greatly appreciate it for it.