Coming up next on Problematic Reviews

Coming up next on Problematic Reviews

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

FiM Fiction Review: The Equestrian Origins (Part One): These Flowers Never Bloom

Welcome back, internet travelers! I'm taking on another little endeavor to brighten things up in our imaginary offices. I introduce to you, the reader, my latest shenanigans: series reviews! Just kidding… I know it's not all that exciting. Worth mentioning though: For the next few weeks, we'll be putting Cerulean Voice’s Equestrian Origins Trilogy under the microscope and reviewing all three stories. With that incredibly important piece of news: onwards to the review! These Flowers Never Bloom, the first of three stories diving into the very origin of Equestria is, surprisingly, rather solid. It definitely has its moments with some fascinating imagery and solid dialogue. However, things start to get awfully troublesome in the character arc department when clunky pacing and some bland main characters combine to make things stagnate. Either way, I recommend you take a look at it. Head down below the break for my review of Cerulean Voice’s These Flowers Never Bloom!

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These Flowers Never Bloom by Cerulean Voice
Complete! (Completed on 16th Nov 2013)

Will you remember me as the one from the trees, when the forest used to sing?

Bound to the Earth, specifically his domain the Everfree forest, an invisible guardian roams endlessly. He has been so alone, for so very long, wandering. But it was not always so. He was once proud, with his partner Rose the weaver of dreams at his side. Until the grand deception that not only tainted him and his precious forest, but shaped the very land of Equestria as we know it. Now for the first time, we will see and understand the mythos behind the creation of the Everfree forest, told through the Lord of Woe's personal journal: the Chronicles of Woe. Read it here.

Tags: Tragedy - Rating: Teen (for mild language) 
Word Count: 16,244 words total

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It’s worth noting that These Flowers Never Bloom does dive deep into some headcanons. There’s plenty of original characters, imaginative concepts on the origin of ponies and the heavenly land of Equestria, and just about everything else you can think of adding to the Headcanon Grand Buffet. Unfortunately, the plotline, with its biblical parallels regarding the tainting of a pristine garden and creatures, does feel a bit shoehorned. This is due in part to clunky and ineffective pacing that inhibits the storytelling throughout. While I understand the notion that These Flowers Never Bloom is written in the style of a “journal” of some sort, there isn't any build up to the events that transpired into the creation of Equestria or real sense of the passage of time. For example, we don't see characters develop over what I can only assume is a course of dozens of years. Instead, some characters change their magical abilities and even personalities with little indication besides “she’s been acting rather funny sometimes.” It sends the sense of time into a bit of a spiral and just stirs up trouble with the main character arcs. Overall, the plotline flies past at blazing speed and leaves us with a story that is trying a bit too hard to draw its parallels with the biblical Genesis while installing its own original concepts. 

While character progression and pacing is one of its more striking issues, the characters are overall rather weak. It’s a small cast, consisting of four main(ish) characters taking the stage for most of the story. Albeit, while they were rather uninteresting, These Flowers Never Bloom’s weakest character is unfortunately, its leading role. Ilias is more often than not predictable and sadly, one-dimensional. His greatest weakness would be the little internal conflict we see him go through in the opening and middle chapters. Unlike characters like Fallout Equestria’s Littlepip, which sees constant inner turmoil throughout her role, Ilias brings very little to the table. In fact, I was more interested in his wife, Rose, who from the beginning of the story undergoes the tremendous task of balancing her natural temptations to abuse her powers but at the same time, protect the “garden” from evil. These Flowers Never Bloom doesn’t elaborates on this internal conflict or Rose’s character, and ultimately makes her struggle a backdrop to the conflict between the “garden” and evil. Regrettably, TFNB doesn’t develop its more interesting characters and has a leading role that just can’t carry the torch for the rest of them. 

Surprisingly, even with its lackluster characters, These Flowers Never Bloom’s little dialogue is decent. It does its job well enough. Conversations flow well and feel organic. They don't overstay their welcome and, thankfully, rarely disrupt the pace of individual scenes, particularly in the climactic set piece near the end. Overall, the little dialogue in These Flowers Never Bloom is, well, decent; not much more or less. However, “decent” should be taken with a grain of salt. As a form of interaction between character, Cerulean Voice gets the basics right. Beyond that, everything gets rather bland and uninteresting simply because the characters have no voice. I hate to keep pointing at the smoking gun that is this story’s characters but there’s a simple concept to grasp here: the characters are dull and shallow, so the dialogue all too often is monotonous and predictable. You won't be disappointed if “organic and well flowing” is all you look for in dialogue, but you won't find dialogue that breaths life and character. 

That’s where most of my criticisms end for These Flowers Never Bloom. While it can be rather drawn out at times, Cerulean Voice exhibits some deeply descriptive imagery and scene visualization. Throughout the story, we see this beautiful oasis come alive in vivid clarity through skillful and imaginative writing. I greatly enjoyed it and it’s wonderful writing that brings a lot to a story. If there had to be one negative side to this is that some of these descriptions simply drag on for too long and make the story a bit hard to read. This is, however, a minor complaint; as it happens rarely. Aside from that, the scene visualization is phenomenal and a true testament to how much imagination went into creating the world. 

Opinionated sidenote: While I don't have a huge problem with it, I definitely don't support the practice of attaching music to a story for the sake of establishing mood or tone. These Flowers Never Bloom was inspired by Make Them Suffer's album named “Never Bloom” and so, the author deemed it appropriate to link the music at the beginning of each chapter. Unfortunately, there are brief moments when the tone setting falls short and it’s obvious you were expected to be listening to the music. This is where I say that this practice is rather careless. I read fan fiction on a Kindle that doesn’t have sound capabilities and frankly, I'm glad I do. Link your inspiration for the story, not background music.

Even with its weak characters, clunky pacing and mediocre dialogue, I can't say These Flowers Never Bloom is a terrible story. It’s still pretty far from good though. A lot of the story elements need some polish; especially for the subpar characters and flat leading role. This would add some character and voice to the monotone dialogue and overall strengthen the plot. Work on cleaning up the clunky and confusing pacing and try to develop the storyline further to get your readers in on the lore and world. These Flowers Never Bloom is deserving of your attention for its fascinating headcanon and imaginative and skillfully done imagery. I advise you give it a peek if you have some time on your hands! This has been Amy Clockwork. Thanks for reading and enjoy your week! 

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