FimFiction Link - Short ID: 238716/the-fading-world
Published: Dec '14 — Nov '15
The Fading World is a 37k word Fate/Zero crossover. Right off the bat I should make it clear - this is incomplete and highly unlikely to ever be complete. Despite this, this might be one of, if not the, best crossover fanfiction I've ever read.
The reason I say this is that most crossovers come in the form of character A in world B, or scenario A in world B. I've seen decent crossovers of this form, but they're very highly limiting in potential. The best kind of crossover comes about when you combine A and B in a way that retains the essential aspects of both - and the Fading World is the best execution of a grail war crossover I've ever seen, by the sole virtue that it is not a 'grail war in Equestria' fic, but rather an 'Equestria's grail war' fic.
This isn't to say that this fic doesn't have other virtues. This fic takes place in an Equestria where magic is fading, and the world itself is dying. It builds a dark, brutal world of vast class differences and privileges, where familiar characters are noticeably altered and different - a Twilight made sharper, colder, from military service, the Apple clan as a kind of expy of the Matous, and Polaris Blueblood here as a short-sighted but well-meaning noble (a headcanon name that I actually like). This is normally grounds for doubt, yet this story manages to keep the ponies from being exact expies of their Fate/Zero counterparts while making it believable how they turned out in this alternate reality. It makes it all the more fun when echos of their canon selves appear - when Twilight summons Celestia, you can almost see for a moment the pony she might have been, in a kinder, better world.
And the servants, just the ones that are revealed, are done very well. Because this is Equestria, we have Equestria's heroes and legends - Star Swirl the bearded, a younger Celestia, Luna, Chrysalis, Discord name among some of the familiar figures we see here in a different context. Servant-Master relationships are the key to a grail war story, and here, and of the ones we actually got shown to any great depth before the fic abruptly ended, Lancer Luna-NMM's dynamic with Trixie is probably the best. This Lancer is boisterous, proud, fun in a good way, reminiscent of canon, albeit a bit more warlike, and honestly might be a better grasp on her character than most fics I’ve seen. Her speech pattern is great too – her foreign nature is implied in outdated metaphors and speech style, and numerous anecdotes of an altogether different Equestria.
Other interesting dynamics are set up – a colder Twilight with a younger Archer Celestia, the Element of Honesty with Assassin Chrysalis, a class known for subterfuge, and the chaotic duo of Pinkie and Rider Discord. Too bad most of these never had the chance to pay off.
What else is good? The worldbuilding. It is evident that tons and tons of effort has gone into details that only appear in a sentence or two, yet nonetheless come together to give the strong impression of a vast expansive world, where twisted yet understandable versions of familiar characters adapt and survive. This also does the double advantage of making the Masters’ motives relatable – Blueblood, Applejack, Sunset & Twilight all respectively wish to make the world better in their ways, Trixie, who does not so much have a wish as a desire to both prove herself and to rise above the unfairness of this cruel world, and so on. Side characters like Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow make their appearances and imply deeper personal histories.
The prose is good. Evocative without being excessive. I suppose if I have to complain it is that paragraphs can get long whenever Twilight appears on screen.
Right, time for the negatives. If you're not a fan of alternate versions of characters, this is obviously not for you, for one. But also, this fic has the deal with the inevitable burden of every single Fate crossover fic - the jargon. The Fading World handles this relatively well; it tries to integrate it organically into the larger pony world, for example:
>A Noble Phantasm (NP) is a treasure, weapon or ability linked so strongly with a Servant’s legend that Servant and Phantasm are essentially inseparable. For example, all legends and records of Commander Hurricane of Pegasopolis state that he had total mastery of the weather around him. When he was summoned into the Archer vessel in the seventh Grail War, his NP was the Banner of Storms, a standard that controlled weather absolutely. He could bring down columns of lightning indoors, or drown a city in sudden floods, crush his targets with melon-sized hailstones, and even create storms of fire or acid—’
But that it handles it well doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist, as inevitably in chapter one there is an exposition dump is required to explain what a grail war is, and so it continues.
Oh, and there is Blueblood x Rarity, which I don’t mind but some might.
Some might also think that 37k words before any of the action truly starts is a bit too much setup. Personally I didn’t mind; there was plenty of action and rich charaterisation even in the set up chapters. The biggest issue is that none of the set-up gets to pay off in a satisfying way, because the fic simply never continued. That is also it’s biggest flaw, but one I shall not harp upon.
If this fic had been finished, I suspect it may well deserve a 9/10, even 10/10. As it is, it is a very good execution of an idea in a way that few crossover fics truly do well, but it is let down but the fact that we get only a glimpse into this alternate world, and its many promising character arcs, before we are torn away. 8/10