FimFiction Link - Short ID: 537922/beyond-twilight
Published: Aug '23
'Beyond Twilight' is a six thousand-word post-S9 oneshot. Twilight, now the ruler of Equestria, finds a horrible place beneath Canterlot.
It's a strange story. On one hand there is an attention to detail that I was really happy to find. A lot of things just make sense. Spike and Twilight aren't bumbling into the Likely Place of Doom unprepared, they want to go back and get help only to be forced deeper inside. Spike ends up trapped, but the trap is mentioned to be enchanted so he can't burn off the locks. It's all small stuff, ultimately not affecting the plot, but I'm glad to see the writer take their time to explain them. On the other hand, the fic is full of weird typos and stumbles, that really deflate some scenes. Similarly the fic goes out of its way to depict the horrors Twilight finds underground (there's a lot of blood, gore, even the occasional decapitated head), but the prose simply refuses to cooperate. It's hard to put into words, but for every horrible event the author also threw in some light banter between Twilight and Spike or just Twilight being a dork, which resulted in some serious emotional whiplash. I can't even with a good heart call the prose bad, it's functional with even some occasional frills, but it's completely unfitting to the mood the story is otherwise going for.
As for the plot? The basic concept is neat and could make for a nice longfic, but I feel five thousand words is simply not enough to deconstruct and then reconstruct the Princesses. They end up feeling like near Cupcakes-level villains and I simply don't believe their reign could have endured a thousand years when they operated a literal death camp below their castle, complete with torture, executions, and a massive pit of corpses. When the scene switches and we see the Princesses going merrily on about having a picnic, only for Twiggles to burst in and arrest them, I just snorted, it was all so unintentionally comedic.
If I wrote this story, I would have made the Princesses' role far less direct: They ordered the prison, but also wanted the prisoners to be treated decently. Fanatical followers of them slowly corrupted the interpretation of their will and the Princesses were too occupied and too trusting of their ponies to investigate things themselves while the place slowly went to hell. This way they're still guilty by negligence, but not in a "Stalin would be proud" way, and Twilight could have learned a really valuable lesson about how too much trust and being too detached can lead to massive tragedy.
Overall: 4/10 I don't hate this story, hell there are things it does better than others, but I also can't much like it because of the comically gratuitous violence it chose to associate with the princesses and the prose's emotional back and forth. If you like stories where the big horses are bad, you might enjoy this, but be warned that there is not much nuance to be found here.