FimFiction Link - Short ID: 500605/from-whence-power-flows
Published: Aug '21
'From Whence Power Flows' is a very short, two and a half-thousand word oneshot about the source of the Alicorns' power.
I have to commend the author for their confidence. It would have been extremely easy to just push the solution in the reader's face, but they trusted themselves enough that the plot will provide the answer organically, leaving it to the reader to figure it out. (My interpretation is the following: The concept sort of feels like a play on the philosophical idea of the "social contract:" As long as the ponies believe and trust the princesses' power, they actually have this power. When doubt begins to crop up, their power wanes, which could lead to a catastrophic downwards spiral. This is prevented by them stepping down voluntarily.). I also like it a lot that it's not explicitly said what "leaving" means in this story, keeping just a tiny bit of hope that it's a non-permanent retirement, though most likely, as many signs imply, it's an euphemism for voluntary suicide or at the very least a final passing from the world.
To be honest, I wasn't super touched emotionally. In such short stories you usually don't even really have the time to "settle in" before the story is already over, but at the very least I can say that it's not unnecessarily sappy and the characters act more or less in-character.
As for things I didn't like, they are mostly minor nuisances: I felt like explaining the magical barrier around Twilight when she is hit with the egg, which was otherwise a quite strong moment in the story, was pointless and hurt the story's flow a bit. The penultimate section of the story with the griffon and the unicorn feels out of place and would've worked much better before Twilight's speech, foreshadowing her own tipping point. Finally the ending felt like a very abrupt stop, as it both implies an incoming calamity and also sort of the fact that Flurry Heart will not retire like the other princesses. I think it was intended to be a hopeful finale, but to me it didn't really work.
I feel like this story suffers from its length. While the intrigue remains tense due to the shortness, there is also not nearly enough time to delve into the reasons for the vanishing of power (the princesses have been around for millennia, why are they all losing their power now?) and detailing the repercussions of the princesses' departure. Questions like: "Who took their jobs over?", "Are they ever gonna be any more Alicorns?", "Is this the end of an era permanently?" remain unanswered. It more or less feels like a very well-rounded synopsis of a far longer drama.
Overall: 5/10 Great concept, competent writing, but the length keeps a choke-hold on the story, instead of allowing it to explore the idea in its entirety. Due to its shortness I recommend it, but some readers might find it slightly disappointing.