/mlp/ Fanfic Reviews

The Family Cygnet

FimFiction Link - Short ID: 550248/the-family-cygnet

Published: Jan '24

Review in No. 40780348
I must admit, while I don't have any personal issues with Tailsopony (by all means, the comments I've seen from him have been more than reasonable, he seems like a nice bloke), I've been never much of a fan of his stories, as the topics they handle make me gag. I prefer grimness that stems from far more classical sources. Good vs evil, natural vs supernatural, you know, the usual crap I like writing about. So with an introduction like that, you might feel why even I'm surprised to say, there is merit in this story that I was held at gunpoint to read.
First, red flags, just so that we're all on the same page:
>this is a post S9 story, but not post finale
>Twilight is the sole ruler and alicorn
>there are mentions of Arrack
And now the one or two people who might have remained after the list might think that "whew, at least we're past that, now things will surely get better." Nope! This is also a story of NTR, incest, and a lot of (attempted) corruption. Again, very much topics that make me gag. Twilight is in her thirties and (despite being functionally immortal) is feeling a strong midlife crisis about being a virgin, especially after her attempted date turned out to just be humoring her and she might have also killed someone. Now, Bookhorse isn't exactly right in the head. So much so, that her intended solution is to solicit Shining who is, as you might know, her brother, to become her casual fuckbuddy. Shining, being the only sane member of the family, is understandably very much not a fan, but considering he's too having a bit of a spat with Cadence, Twilight's sluttery *almost* gets him to agree. And then it gets worse. As I've mentioned, this is an NTR incest story, and as I've mentioned Shining is the only sane pony in the family. You can put the rest together.
So why am I not chucking this story as far as I can from the get go? For one, it is funny. Like, not "constant belly laughter" funny, but "frequent snorting and even a few chuckles" funny. The author weaves his jokes very naturally into the otherwise depressing narrative. There is also a central theme to the story of ponies being either swans (who mate for life) or ducks (who, I quote, "duck fuck"). It's not a particularly deep idea on its own, but the story takes its time to portray what being either means and there is a moment around the end of the story where one character says they're the other, but because of their previous behaviour you know they're bullshitting. And I think it's nice that the author trusts his readers enough to pull something like that.
It's also impressive how grim and occasionally gross this story is without ever going into actual clop territory. There's mention of cum, bruises, matted coats, etc. but no actual fucking. And yet the insinuations and double innuendos are plenty to make one queasy. Which is probably the point.
Review in No. 40780352
Because, thankfully, as fucked up as the story is, the author makes a clear point that this is a completely dysfunctional and tragic family, with nothing to envy about, despite their status and wealth. Twilight being so fucked isn't because "she is hot" (as the characters like to cope), but rather because she was raised by two utterly messed up ponies, with Night Light being a creepy pushover and Twilight Velvet being a neurotic bitch. Again, it's a miracle that Shining somehow grew up sane. What I also really liked is that (and this is admittedly a major spoiler, but it might be worth checking if you're on the fence) this story has a relatively positive ending. There's no sister-fucking and Shining keeps his moral high ground till the end. IMO anything else would've dipped this story so deep into grimderp that would've been impossible to take seriously.
There is also a surprisingly grounded B-plot about a bunch of cultists trying to resurrect Sombra back in the Crystal Empire. It has only minor effect on the main storyline, but I appreciated such a 'normal' conflict being presented next to "the tragic life of the Twicest family". It somehow makes the latter conflict even more grotesque and revolting.
Overall, I can say what I've said about ToD. Tailso's strength is writing stories that tread where most other authors (understandably) don't. This is also his weakness too, as it severely limits his audience, but I don't believe either care about this. I cannot with a good heart say I'm a 'fan' of his work, hell, there were moments I've considered dropping this very fic too, however, I see the effort put into this fic and it'd be unfair to discard this story for the simple sake of me finding topics meant to be gross, gross. I can't not appreciate the humor, the surprising amount of wit, and the efforts he went to make such a fucked up situation seem kinda realistic (at least when viewed with a moderate amount of suspension of disbelief).
Therefore my recommendation is also a warning. This story doesn't fuck around about fucking around. If you're strongly opposed to even reading about the topics mentioned above, stay away. Under all the positive stuff, this is still a fucked up fic. However, if that doesn't scare you away, I can actually recommend the story. In such an undignified genre, it manages to somehow present a decently dignified drama of incompatible romantic desires, suffering from who you are, the unbreakable binding force of family, and that even with so much messed up stuff, one can still retain their integrity.
There is no score this time, I don't think I could give one. If you can't decide even after reading this, read the first chapter and then decide based on that it'll get slightly worse (in narrative, not quality) than that.
No. 40876737
NOT a review, the post has spoilers.

I've read the 45% (4 chapters) yesterday, and it's... not at all what I expected. Of course you assume it'd be disgusting, but it wasn't that at all. The first chapter has really good humor and sets the scene well; it's easy to like it. I did like it. Twilight is clearly going too far, but they're drunk, so it's understandable. They're both nicely written, and while Shiny is the relatable good guy, you can "get" Twilight's logic too, and it doesn't seem too wrong by then. And it needs to be said that the whole setting/premise is exactly what it had to be for Twilight's offer to be at all reasonable, but it is that. Just like Shining believes, it's a lot more agreeable when it's not cheating at all—or is it? The NTR warning in the description doesn't seem right; it still feels obscene, but nopony is getting cucked or feeling jealous, and nothing will happen before everyone gives their consent. That still leaves the incest part, but I don't know about that either. It seems like the author went out of his way to present the subject matter in a relatively non-disgusting way*. Honestly, so far the fic has been weirdly kind of sweet despite the awkwardness; the fact that Shining Armor is such a nice voice of reason really helps sell it. After all, if he considers it, then surely it's not completely outlandish, right?

That's a lot of words to say that I'm actually enjoying this fic. Not just in the context of "I thought I'd hate it but it's fine", no, I do like reading it. A lot? I wouldn't say that yet. If the second half doesn't ruin it for me, then there's a chance, but I am still almost certain that it will do something worse. Judging it only by its first third, though, it made me both feel some things and think some thoughts, wrapped up in a weirdly enjoyable package of a story. I'm invested in this, and although I hope Shiny doesn't get convinced to abandon his morals to obvious manipulation from Twi, right now I couldn't really blame him if he did. It kind of feels like the author presents his point as the default "right" and then lays out why those assumptions are wrong in this specific setup. I enjoy when stories try to do that, and I intentionally let them, which makes this an intriguing read.
*It helps that, at least for me, sibling incest in fiction doesn't feel nearly as morally reprehensible as anything with parents. Maybe I gradually built up a tolerance due to media exposure (all the onii-chans of the world), but even a decade ago I think I was already making that distinction, see Nienor in Silmarillion.
No. 40877699
Same as above, not a review. Spoilers abound.

It's funny, actually. Twilight was crystal clear about what she wants, and everyone—including Shining Armor—knows that she's only acting out what he wants her to hear (she said she'd done the same thing with Rarara), and yet it still stings when that's confirmed. Mainly hurts Shiny but also lashes out at any reader naive enough to go along with the act just because that'd seem so much nicer. Including yours truly. To be clear, she makes NO statements about wanting to work on her behavior or anything, and Shiny (+some readers) still subconsciously assume that she would, if only because to them that's the obvious approach.
And then we get to the actually disgusting part of the story, where a pair of characters from another one of this author's fics make an appearance and the illusion is broken. Ugh. So that's where the NTR tag comes into play? Kinda; they weren't really in a relationship yet, but the feeling of betrayal and fucking behind somepony's back is definitely an NTR thing. Look, I get it. It's intentionally gross. If it wasn't obvious, the author made that clear by having Twilight participate in the activities that she did before describing it to Shiny in detail. Not kinkshaming here, but the roughness of it and all the descriptions were emphasized to make Shiny (and the poor reader) blanch at the reality of their situation. I can respect that as an intentional writing decision, and I can even say that it works, but I cannot say I, personally, liked reading that. You're not supposed to like it. Everyone can see where this is going long before the "reveal", but (You) just keep second-guessing yourself that maybe you read it wrong. Maybe she didn't do the thing that the evidence points towards. That part is pretty good, too, as is the next part—the one about Shiny being tempted and struggling to maintain his beliefs. Unlike the earlier parts with Twily, it feels like Shining Armor succumbing here would be a complete moral collapse. It's nice that he doesn't, then.
I'm not sure I like the actual ending, though. It was great to read about Shiny overcoming his crisis and making up with Twi, but the ending is not good. Just to be clear, I'm completely ignoring the incest in the implied possible "good end incest" here, but rather that even if they were complete strangers and Shiny wasn't married, Twilight as a person in this story cannot be trusted, certainly not as easily as he did in the ending. Not 'ducks and swans' thing, she's not compatible romantically with him. Again, incest is not nearly the biggest issue here.
And of course, this is a post-S9 fic with repulsive degenerate ponies and Captain Gallus, which is a sin of its own. As are pride flags in Equestria, also featured here. I can't say I enjoyed reading every part of it, and some parts were especially hard to read, but all in all, I'm glad I finished this fic.