FimFiction Link - Short ID: 255203/rarified-airs
Published: Mar '15
This is such a good fic… until it isn't.
Well the good news is that most of the story is really enjoyable. It shows an AU where the pony tribes "solved" the windigo problem by fighting a war that left only the unicorns alive. A thousand years later, unicorn princess Twilight Sparkle conducts an experiment meant to bring back the pegasi race. The result of her work is Rainbow Dash, Unicornia's first pegasus. Unfortunately for her, not all of the citizens of the city are eager to see a walking pegasus. To help her understand her place in the world, Twilight sends RD on a diplomatic mission touring the other four major regions of Unicornia.
All of the above is great. The worldbuilding in particular is excellent. During Dash's quest, the fic explores a handful of distinct and well thought-out fantasy kingdoms, each with their own ruling systems, societies, logistical issues, and a dash of political intrigue. All of those locations are really interesting, and the decision to show them from Dash's perspective was great; it's evident that there other things going on in the background, and it makes the world feel more alive.
While this fic's world is by far its best and most defining feature, the characters are anything but dull. It's fun to read about the FiM ponies we know and love, thrust into a fundamentally different setting. Of course, the circumstances meant that some of the canon ponies had their names or species changed. I'm a bit ambivalent on that sort of obfuscation, but I will admit that it's pretty fun to go "Oh, so [X] is [Y] in this world! Of course!" whenever one of the FiM characters shows up.
I won't sugarcoat it. The ending is BAD. Drastically subverting expectations is rarely a satisfying way to end a story, and this fic does it twice. The ending is extremely rushed and its resolution feels unearned. It's nothing like all the previous chapters. And while I hate to use an ad populum, a lot of people who read it share the same opinion.
It's bad. It feels like the author didn't want to write this fic anymore, so he came up with a crappy ending to be able to slap a [Complete] tag and move on.
That puts the story in a weird spot. The first 85% of it is excellent, but the ending sours the experience a lot. It doesn't retroactively ruin all the nice worldbuilding and the like, but it does diminish the overall atmosphere/world feel that this AU was trying to convey. I'd still recommend it because of how fun and interesting the first five chapters are, but that ending is why I can't count it among the best of the best. That is a shame, the story was shaping up to be something pretty special until then, and it ended up being merely "really good". Reluctant 7/10 it is.