FimFiction Link - Short ID: 91908/the-pale-land
Published: Mar '13 — Nov '14
I'm going to kill myself.
The Pale Land is a 180k Dark AU Adventure fic set in a world where the tribes never came together. A certain purple unicorn, however, travels the icy wastes in search of a way to stop the snow and restore the sun.
Man. To try and be fair to it, I think this could've been an okay fic. I can see (and sometimes appreciate) some of the things the author goes for, but more often than not they're just bogged down by a myriad of issues or just never fully utilized. There are the skeletons of interesting ideas within it, but holy hell are they puppeted on the strings of utterly fucked execution. To say nothing of the overall writing quality- lots of (and I mean a lot) of errors.
First issue, the tonal shifts. This is an absolutely soul-sucking Equestria. Slavery, constant war, a lack of food, absolutely stagering levels of tribalism, population issues, rape. But it's impossible to take things seriously because you're so often bombarded with nonsense. For example, pic related. Back to bitching at each other only paragraphs after learning that they are more than likely going to die after carrying out their mission to visit Cadance in an underground castle, and their deaths will, at best, prolong the destruction of the world just a little longer. It's ridiculous and stuff such as this happens too often. The constant swearing and hehe le sex winkwinknudge don't help, either.
Oh, yeah. There is... a lot of rape in this fic. Either via allusions to it in the shape of the 'breeding pens', or outright with shit like EPs commonly being raised into sex slavery/facing assault during their time as a slave, captured ponies being abused, or characters getting threatened with being passed around between guards. The breeding pens in particular get brought up super often as this horrible, hanging guillotine of a threat. So it's utterly confusing that, in a world where population issues are so bad that pens are simultaneously a punishment and also a way to bolster birth rates, that sex is so often used as a means of humor. Hell, literally right after Twi -injured while she was laying waste to a pegasus camp- was threatened with being broken and then being passed around as a toy within their barracks, Pinkie in the next scene quips about how kinky her attack was to Lyra, having sent her wavy magic tentacles everrrrywheeeere. This facet of the fic was, perhaps, what was driving me the most insane while reading.
There's also no character growth. No one really changes. Twi and Dash (the real main characters, honestly) still dislike each other. Dash is still tibalist as fuck. AJ (and I'll bitch about her at length in a second) in particular is horrible with this. Hell, the M6 actually haven't even all full met each other, which leads into the next problem;
It doesn't really feel like the M6 needed to be characters at all in this. The EoH are not used. They don't all meet/acknowledge each other. The ones that do meet don't even become friends, and the bulk of them are still poisoned by a lifetime of tribalism, crushing cynicism or just general unhingedness (besides Rares). Their canon connection isn't used to solve the issue. It's frustrating to include all the girls, even switch perspectives and have all these other things going on, but only two of them hold any importance in making progress toward the possible solution for the conflict of the story.
AJ is the best (fucking worst) example of how little characters change. She was a slave that was purchased by Rarity, who treated her well. Beyond being willing to buy her in the first place I don't recall a single bad thing Rares did in this fic. Multiple times, AJ acknowledged this. AJ continued to be an asshole. She has a lot of trauma (she was implied, of course, to have been sexually abused by ponies that owned her before), and is obviously extremely distrustful of the other races, and unicorns in particular. Despite that, there are so, so many times in the fic where she and Rarity were either cordial or downright affectionate. But time and time again AJ's BPD would flare and she'd instantly start assuming the worst of Rarity, or vying for her head. The tipping point for her is after she and Rares are run out of the unicorn capital and taken in by (Big Mac's) group of EPs, she was literally jumping at the bit for Rares to be tortured once she woke up. Surprise, after she watched (Mac) brutalize her she felt horrible. Psycho.
To top things off, the ending is super rushed. After all the princesses are released they go and try and fight the windigos, with Twi, RD, and Spitfire hiding out in a cave nearby. While that's happening, the groups farther away (Ponk's mixed community, AJ and Rares' groups, FS) are trying to dig a shelter underground for safety. They... start singing while working and that's enough to ignite Friendship. The windigos go investigate and get evaporated, Twi, RD and Spitfire freeze to death. The princesses, severely roughed up from the battle, raise the sun and think about the fact they'll need to lead to help keep everyone on a good path.
It just leaves so much of the story completely pointless. Why focus on AJ being disgusted by Mac and wanting to be better if you're not going to actually take the time to build on that? All the stuff related to Trixie earlier in the Rar/AJ bits, why? The random altercation between Twi and SA, why? Why, why, why? It isn't satisfying at all and lord knows the story didn't need something else working against it.
Overall, an extremely rough story that's both filled with dark shit and utterly impossible to take seriously. I can 'recommend' it in that it's just so strange. Oh, and glomped is used twice in it.