FimFiction Link - Short ID: 221135/a-scratch-on-shining-armor
Published: Oct '14 — Mar '17
A Scratch on Shining Armor is a 183k word drama, and I think it's one that really lives up to the tag. In a good way.
The story shows a young adult Vinyl Scratch getting into trouble with the law for the nth time. As a repeat small time offender, the Guard isn't sure what to do with her. Celestia devises a plan that is essentially her being on parole, but with a really hooves-on parole officer. And who better to fit that role than the up and coming new cadet, Shining Armor.
Before I say anything about the story itself, there's something I need to bring up. Something that permeates the first fifth of the story. It has not been proofread. There are so many typos, mixed words, and so on, that I have to wonder how did the author not notice it. I rolled my eyes every time I saw the letter "i" capitalised in "Vinyl". That may seem awfully specific, but there were a lot. What's more there was one instance where I saw a period and a space where there should've been only one space, so I think the author was writing the story directly on FiMFiction from their phone. I normally don't care about typos, but these are really noticeable, and they took me out of the story more than once.
Now, after the first 7 or so chapters, the author got a proofreader, since those mistakes vanish for the most part. I mentioned this to the author one time, and they said that since the story is so old, they don't have it in themselves to change it. If you feel this speaks to the quality of the story and don't want to give it a chance, I can understand it.
But, if you can put of with some annoying mistakes for a little bit, you'll be rewarded with an excellent story.
While a bit slow, and certainly heavy at times, I feel the characterisation of both canon and OC characters is certainly top tier. They all felt like real, multifaceted people. Nearly every character in the story is super likeable, and even the antagonists feel grounded and real. On top of that, I'd say every interaction and conversation between characters feels fun, and there's even a scene later on when Shining had to take filly Twily over to Vinyl's house one evening and them just hanging out, playing games and cooking dinner felt so comfy. It was such a delight to read.
That alone makes this one of my favourite stories and something I wholeheartedly recommend. But! What about the plot? Well, there are three stages to it, and I'll only go in-depth on the first one because I think the developments are good.
Shining Armor is tasked with helping Vinyl get her life back on track. Get cleaned up, get her a job, and see if her life's stable. Cadence wants to help, and she sets her up with an acquaintance of her--Intrepid--all in hopes that the rehab program will work. Not only that, but Shining decides to get involved as well, helping Vinyl deal with a whole lot of unresolved family issues.
This segment alone already shows the story's strengths. Solid characterisation, good interactions, fun banter from Vinyl, and an interesting look into some of the inner workings of Canterlot. If this is enough to sell you on the story, go ahead and read it. You won't regret it.
The next stage of the story is set in motion due to a big, big event. So spoilers from now on.
It turns out Cadence was pushing Vinyl and Intrepid together using her magic. As well intentioned as that was, it was still a betrayal of their trust, and it spells (heh) the end of their relationship. Not only that, but Cadence reveals she's used her magic on Shining Armor as well, to gently remind him how much he loved her whenever they had a fight. Needless to say, he doesn't take it well, and it all spirals out of control.
After this, it's interesting to see how that affects Vinyl's rehab, as well as Shining's trust in himself. Nevertheless, they slowly and gruelingly pull their act together and make progress. Shining even goes even further into helping Vinyl by taking steps to resolve a big issue in her past.
Meanwhile, Cadence undergoes an identity crisis. She messed things up by using her powers. But that's what she's supposed to do. Right? Make ponies fall in love. So she goes to Celestia for guidance.
Celestia is interesting in this story. I love a celestial and super powerful depiction of the Princess just as everyone else, but if you're not going to take that path, I think doing what SoSA did is good. This Celestia isn't all-knowing or the wisest of sages. She's just a pony who's lived for a long time and has seen a lot. As a result, she has a pretty good grasp on how things work, and has interesting insights on things. Deep down, however, she's still a flawed and fallible pony.
She actually gives good advice to Cadence, but since Cadence omitted key information when asking for help, lesser pink feels validated in having meddled with the minds and hearts of others.
Meanwhile, Shining and Vinyl bond over their shared misery and this motivates them to keep going. As they bond and bond, it was inevitable that the Romance tag would play its part. Not that it should come as a big surprise. The story really builds up their shared attraction isn't just a shallow thing. They respect each other, care for their well-being, and have great chemistry. I could probably fawn over them for several posts, but I think their friendship and eventual relationship was well structured and developed.
We then enter the last third of the story and this is where everything pays off. I won't say much, but I really like how character arcs and plot points that were brought to a climax. There's even a little bit of political drama thrown in, and Celestia gets to shine and remind everyone why she managed to be in charge for a thousand years.
I will say. This has got to be one of the best falls from grace for a an alicorn I've read. It felt so... not satisfying, of course, but as you read, you see the seeds of doubt taking hold of her. How she feels unworthy. Useless in the big picture. She doesn't know what her role should be, either as an alicorn with love power or a princess of Equestria, or even if she's even capable of doing the right thing. And she does some heinous stuff. Not just using her powers to mess with Vinyl and Intrepid, but later on, as everything comes tumbling down, her actions become inexcusable, and the problems just keep piling on and on. The worst part is that it all makes sense. Or, at the very least, you can understand why she feels it makese sense. You see how all these justifications and excuses keep popping up. As I read, there was this mixture of pity and disgust in my gut.
To wrap up, I'll say that while this story tells a complete narrative, there's still the loose thread of Nightmare Moon returning in just a couple of years. There is one complete sequel, but that's just a bridge between this story and the real sequel: Bad Moon Rising... which has been left untouched for two years. The author is still alive and has worked on other stories. Bad Moon Rising seems to be in limbo, and that's a pity, because it was shaping up to be quite the ride.
Nevertheless, I cannot recommend A Scratch On Shining Armor enough. If you can put up with a few temporary kinks and are interested in character driven drama, check this out.
Sky can go suck a million dicks. I'm glad she's sick.