FimFiction Link - Short ID: 499401/a-hearths-warming-patrol
Published: Jul '21
>This creature didn't have any eyes! He didn't even have eye sockets, green skin was simply covering up the place of his eyes. Sword recoiled a bit at the strange sight, but quickly regained her composure.
>She was sure every ogroid creature has eyes.
'A Hearth's Warming Patrol' is a six and a half-thousand word long one-shot about a royal guard mare stumbling upon Anon who nearly suffers hypothermia on the cold streets of Canterlot. The story can precisely be cut into two parts, what happens before and after the arrival of Anon and I sadly have to admit, the former half (while still a bit flawed) works far better than the latter. While the beginning half of the fic is not exactly eventful - we more or less just follow the protag as she makes her rounds as a guard then returns home for a little while, - I admit it's still pretty comfy and while stories like this aren't exactly my cup of tea, I would've been content with the classic family conflict and reconciliation plotline.
However, that's not where the story is headed, rather soon on Hearth's Warming Eve, the protagonist Sword Glitter stumbles upon a foreign creature, who you might have already guessed to be Anon, and takes it upon herself to bring him first to safety, then to at least closer to happiness. Before we proceed, I have to admit two things: Firstly I've never read any other AIE stories before, this is my first time. Secondly as alluded to above, I'm not really into these kinds of feel-good stories so my judgement might be a bit more biased than usual. Regardless, I've tried to approach this story with an open mind and even then there are some things that stick out like a sore thumb. For instance when Anon just starts monologuing about himself, his planet and his circumstances feels fairly out of place. Or that nobody even noticed him on the streets. As mentioned in the story this is Canterlot post-Changeling invasion, so one would expect ponies to be more wary towards weird things. Similarly the evil orphanage concept just feels... I don't even know. Unfitting? Like something right out of a Brothers Grimm tale. Also the way characters change between speech patterns kind of breaks immersion. In one paragraph Anon speaks fairly cultured about coming from Earth and such, but in the next he says "alien hobo." Maybe the author intended this to showcase him warming up to Sword, but it happens too fast and without too much reason. The mane-touching part feels more like the author fulfilling a fantasy, it being faintly fetishistic, rather than a real plot element.
Ultimately it's still a sweet story and knowing this is the writer's first work, I can't exactly expect an immediate masterwork.
Overall: 3/10 While I didn't much enjoy the story, it still had a few comfy moments and the author shows potential to improve. I wish them more luck and success on their subsequent works.
This follows Private Sword Glitter in the lead-up to her assignment on Hearth's Warming, and the patrol itself. The general tone is basically comfy slice of life.
I really liked Sword's characterisation; I think it does pretty well in terms of building her up as an idealistic, competent, principled and optimistic guard. In the process, it also paints a really comfy picture of Equestria as a place that's somewhat more realistic than a cartoony utopia, but still far more idealistic than the real world, with most ponies genuinely caring about each other. I really like that; it's the kind of slice of life that really paints a happy picture. I think it works particularly well because it follows a Royal Guard; guards are generally the people who will see most of the ugliness if there is any to see. What we have is a portrayal of Royal Guards as having primarily the relaxed and friendly duty of being helpful and assisting citizens - and this is at the same time as being shown as a clearly serious and competent organization, rather than just some ceremonial pushovers; they simply don't actually need to be stern soldiers during their patrols, and the result is an impression of a genuinely very welcoming and safe pony society.
As a specific point on the story, I think the carriage parking scene conveys very well how idealistic and rule-abiding Sword is, which makes it very refreshing to see her be a successful guard. Stories of the idealistic naive hero going up against a tough cynical world get tiring; sometimes it's nice to read some slice of life about an idealistic hero cruising happily in a peaceful, idealistic world.
Anyway, this much for the characterisation and setting of the story. The second half - the blind Anon arc - is where I think the story drops the ball for me. Out of nowhere, it turns into an HiE (now granted I never read tags, if I did I would've been forewarned; but still, the first half of the story works fantastically as a pure pony-only story, which makes it a bit jarring). The blind Anon portrayal was quite unusual. Now, I kind of get the reasons - it's a setup for Sword to essentially get to white knight for a lost, blind, freezing, depressed alien. But I'm not sure it was necessary to bring HiE into the world at all, as opposed to using e.g. an actual pony orphan, or perhaps a blind pony pauper, or something of that ilk.
The "evil orphanage", I feel, treads very thinly on the line of showing not everything is sunshine and rainbows, while trying to keep the world positive: my only complaint would be that, while sure bureaucracy exists, maybe "months" after complaints came in is a bit longer than is reasonable for the situation to get investigated.
Other than my reservations with the whole Anon thing, I think the feel-good moments worked pretty well, and overall I liked it.
The only weird part came when Anon complimented Sword's mane. I know she's proud of her mane, but that whole passage reads pretty awkwardly.
>Sword always cared VERY MUCH for her mane and tail, and she always took great pride in them.
Like, suddenly the story switches from a nice, show-don't-tell, decent prose narrative into a couple of paragraphs of pure tell-don't-show, "by the way, Sword REALLY likes her own mane, and Anon complimenting it really flattered her, ok? got that guys?".
Overall, I liked it, I like your depiction of Equestria and I like your characterisation of Sword. I just don't feel like the blind Anon was the right choice for this plot, but you did make it work as well as you could have, I think.