FimFiction Link - Short ID: 388150/the-city-upon-a-hill
Published: Oct '17
It’s been quite a while since I’ve enjoyed a short story this much, this prequel to Familiar hardly seems like it was written by the same author.
It's not at all apparent from the description, but the first part of this story follows Rainbow Dash as a troubled teenager before she gets Cloudchaser. Rainbow is being absolutely flattened by the combined force of a school of friendship, a “perfect” parent with the patience of a saint, with overbearing, comprehensive surveillance and medication to turn her into a respectable member of society. The story captures Rainbow’s lack of empathy and impulsiveness from the show, and enhances Rainbow’s struggle to be Dash in the face of this pressure to the point of mental illness. Rainbow’s guilt over her wish to be a good pony and realize her potential clashing with her desire to buck the system and be Dash is exceptionally well written. The major difference between this story and Familiar is that this is all told through implication instead of simply being laid out.
I liked the scene in which Dash and her mother discuss Dash receiving a Familiar, and their acknowledgment that they couldn’t possibly be qualified to own a person but do so anyway. For clarity, it's established that Celestia assigns a Familiar to ponies when they turn 16.
After Dash receives Cloudchaser the story again manages to do something that the original couldn’t – make me feel something for Cloudchaser. The vile, corrosive effect of the Familiar’s compulsion to love their master lurking just under the surface of their relationship is a sight to behold. With Rainbow’s coming of age, Cloudchaser helps Dash out from under the weight of all the aforementioned forces and allows Dash to joyfully be herself, inevitably leading to the events of Familiar. Again, I’ll emphasize how much I enjoyed the way that this was all written with implications and not just laid out plain like in Familiar.