A couple weeks ago I promised you a review of Past Sins to celebrate 9000 views. We have since hit five digits and the review has not appeared, so I am going to rectify that now. After the page break, the review of the near-legendary epic Past Sins awaits.
(It doesn't matter who you were. All that matters is who you are.)
Twilight Sparkle, ponynapped by an evil cult. A spell to resurrect Nightmare Moon, interrupted by Princess Celestia, but not stopped. And so the story proper begins.
Twilight lost her things in the struggle, and so returns to the Everfree to find them. There she discovers a small filly, an almost perfect, though younger, replica of Nightmare Moon that's scared out of her wits and tangled in a bush. Fighting her own fear, she frees the alicorn filly, bringing her home and asking her questions. She finds the filly with no memory of anything, and though Twilight is still worried the filly may be Nightmare Moon in wait from the spell, she takes care of her. She calls her Nyx after an old story and claims her to be a relative studying indefinitely with her, getting her a disguise from Rarity that would hide her wings and change her eyes to normal pony eyes. Of course, in the process, she must convince Rarity not to tell anypony about the resemblance of Nyx to Nightmare Moon, which Rarity does reluctantly agree to.
In the effort to make Nyx seem normal, she is sent to school, in the process making friends with the CMC and getting bullied by Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. They, annoyed by her nerdiness, play a trick on her, sending her into the Everfree alone, where she comes upon the ancient palace of the two sisters. Memories flood to her of Nightmare Moon, her mane and tail changing to match her new memories. However, she also makes her presence known, both to the princesses and to the cultists. Things are made worse when Ponyville's school play is presented, being the tale of The Return of the Princesses, and Nyx is cast as Nightmare Moon. Fearing her discovery, Twilight forbids her from performing, but she sneaks out anyway, performing for everypony, including both princesses. However, despite her fears, the show goes off without a hitch, and Nyx gets the lion's share of the applause. She also draws other attentions to herself, causing the cult to begin its work anew and Princess Celestia to fear the filly she sees. And it is by capitalizing on this fear that Nightmare Moon is reborn in full by the cult, striking fear into Ponyville's heart.
And that is just the first half of the story. I will not go into the rest of the plot, as that would ruin the fun of reading, but watching Nightmare Moon's return is quite the sight to see.
(Any pony not mentioned here that appears in the story either did not make a large enough impression in my book or were not important to the plot, though that does not mean they were bad. Almost all of them were perfectly in character, and those not were well within normal deviations.)
To begin, the early protagonist, Twilight Sparkle. Twilight plays a large role throughout the story, and is very true to show character in just about all aspects, though she is ready to lie to her Princess a little easier than I would have expected. Her kindness and caring when it counted, her tolerance, her annoyance, all of it were in a balance I completely expected from her. However, she did make many choices that I did not agree with and felt were slightly out of character. While of course they made the plot more interesting and allowed things to happen with other characters and I completely understand the importance of creative liberties, some neared inexcusable, and that just hurt the final character.
Second, the antagonist and cult leader, Magic Nexus. He is a right good villain, but his character is shallow. He has two aspects of motivation: bringing back his queen, and keeping his actions hidden. And once Nightmare Moon is back, he spends the entire time alternating between being the evil backstabbing grand vizier and being the grovelling servant, his only motivations being evil and some cruel ideal in his mind of what the queen should be. I like him as a villain, and he does quite well as an antagonist, but I would have hoped to see a little more from him than “I am an evil cult leader, fear me.”
Princess Celestia plays a notable role, as much as the ruler of the nation as an unintended catalyst for many of the actions. It is because of a fear of her response of what she may think that a lot of other characters act. She herself, however, doesn't quite conform to the show personality, as she is fearful and almost paranoid for quite a while, while at the same time being far too trusting with what should have been classified information, sharing it with ponies that should have been far from the look and keeping it from ponies that needed to know. And even when her motivations are all laid out, not all of them make sense the way they should for the wise, benevolent leader of Equestria should act. There was one chapter in particular that hurt, not because of the heart-wrenching scene and struggle she was going through, but because she was going so far against herself to do what was written. I don't hate her character for it, but it just seems like it could have been better handled.
Rarity is very much her show self, all the flaws and all the good, to a greater extent than most I have seen. However, this author fell into the same trap many have before Sisterhooves Social: her parents are dead and have been for a while. Not going to fault it, but it is used to give her a bit more depth of character than she would have without it.
Nyx is cautious, quiet, and curious, eager to learn pretty much anything, though she is very touchy when the wrong things are said and quick to hide when not in her comfort zone. However, and I hate to say it, she fits the description of a Mary Sue to the T to begin with. She overcomes it with her character being deeper than a puddle, but even so, it's a dangerous path to tread.
And finally, Nightmare Moon. Nightmare Moon is, of course, what Nyx eventually becomes, and she is... interesting. I like her character in a lot of ways because it's realistic, but at the same time... She makes so many decisions that I just cannot agree with, essentially falling under Nexus's hoof to please him despite her being the one in charge. Her character is not at all bad, it's conflicted and confused and everything it should be in the story when it appears, but it comes across as weaker than it is. Her own weakness and indecision for so many chapters just grew tiresome, and while for a long time this was the main source of conflict, I felt it got dragged out further than it should have. She fell into the trap of the other characters with horrible decision making, which made it feel as though the author couldn't make the plot progress without breaking character slightly. It brings down story quality for me as there were ways it could have come across naturally, or even been understandable under duress, and then there's handing the character the idiot ball for a minute to make the cool thing happen. While it can make an impressive story, it does so only at the character's expense, something I cannot get behind as a writer. But that is my own personal bias shining through again, so feel free to ignore it.
Technically, there are many flaws throughout, mostly minor typos, particularly apparent in chapter 11. It has been reviewed and rewritten so much that a higher quality could have been expected, though. However, there was a tendency for emphasis to be placed slightly oddly, making small things seem larger than they were, while the large things got emphasized to the extreme. He also liked to use simple sentences that, while nothing wrong with them, I kind of hoped for something a bit more complex. Though there was one flaw that glared at me, when Rarity “drug” Twilight into the back room instead of having dragged her. Yes, it's a choice some Americans make with the language, but I am not one of them and I do not approve! The to/too mishaps also became quite numerous.
However, in pacing and story, it is well done. There are hiccups, slow points to the extent of dragging and fast ones rushed by so quickly they gave you whiplash, but it is all very well written. In fact, the only reason I probably noticed as many things as I did was that mistakes compounded on themselves. A hiccup drew attention to a typo, then another, then poor character choices, and suddenly I wasn't enjoying the few paragraphs ahead. What I harped on was done in disappointment, but the words are no less true.
There are definitely enjoyable and amusing moments, and it is a grand story with a lot of interesting character, but... I dunno, I don't see why it has a huge standing as some legendary work. It's good, to be sure, and definitely worth the read, if you have the time, but I have seen quite a lot of things on par with it go completely invisible. Sometimes I just don't get what passes for amazing and what gets passed over in our fandom.
That said, yes, I enjoyed the story greatly, and I would recommend it to others. But do not go into reading it because it's some quasi-famous story in the community, or because I told you to. Do not go into it with any preconceived notions. Read the story because you want to enjoy a creative work about the ponies of Equestria, painstakingly writ for your enjoyment. Because whatever you go in believing, it will affect your view of the story. I went in expecting some perfect legend, like Venus in story form, and now that I have read it, I regret having that expectation taint my views.
A wonderful tale of redemption that should be under everyone's belt, though it should be approached like any other story. It is chilling, heartwarming, and engaging all at once, even with the many, many little typos and flaws within. A must read, and ~Medicshy Approved!
But don't take my word for it. Read it yourself.
Now, I promised two things for the 10,000 view mark, though you may have to dig to find them. One was this review, and the other was an interview with the author. It is with some regret that I inform you that you will not be getting the interview, not because the story isn't deserving, but because it would defeat the purpose of both the tale and what I believe. The story is, ultimately, about two things: that anypony can change who they are, and more importantly, that who we are in the past is not who we are now. These are both things that I agree with wholeheartedly, and which enforcing the legendary status of the read would just cause problems for. They amplified the flaws as I read, diminishing the impact of the story for me, which is a crime to any work, be it mediocre or magnificent. Therefore, I have decided to end the fanfare of this story here and leave the rest up to you. If you want to ask the author about it, feel free (he left his email at the end of each chapter), and if one of the other admins would like to pursue an interview, I will not stand in their way.
But I cannot perpetuate the legend. For it is from the grip of legends that monsters and gods are born, and while I may ignore the past, there are those who cannot. A reputation is hard to remove, and good deeds and sins of yesterday will never truly be forgotten.
Your solemn writer,