Pickles and Ponies: A Fairy-Tale, by Laura May (10:00)

IOD-PicklesPoniesToday we see that if you call your characters ‘human,’ readers are going to assume things like feet and eyebrows.

What I gleaned about the story: In a world where every boy is a prince, every girl a princess, and children mature into adults inside cocoons while hanging from trees, one particular princess faces a perplexing dilemma: marry the boy she loves, or the one she’s already betrothed to.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: The cover art is charming and quite well suited to the story, but as a book cover, it becomes indecipherable at thumbnail sizes and the text becomes illegible.

WTF #1: Tone mismatch

Analysis:  I’m having trouble reconciling the tone of this. It seems aimed at kids, in a sort of whimsical style something like Terry Pratchett for grade-schoolers, but then we get jokes like this: Randolph never shook his fascination with Christina’s threat of Poking, and Christina never forgot that Randolph tried to steal her cherry. The cherry in question was literal, but its figurative use here doesn’t fit the narrative voice which seems a bit younger in focus.

WTF #2: Unhuman humans

Analysis: Having just emerged from their chrysalis state, two newly adult humans gather their clothes (which they took off before entering their cocoons) because they’re now embarrassed by their nakedness. The implication of the text is that they therefore put the clothes on again before dashing away to tell their families that they had matured. But absent any indication otherwise, I have to assume that in this world, adult humans are adult-sized, and that children are child-sized. And that means that the clothes would no longer fit them. Either that, or my assumption about adults being larger than children must be incorrect.

But that’s a problem too, because the author repeatedly calls these people “human,” and that word has to mean something. Given the whole chrysalis thing, I’m already wondering why the author hasn’t given these people a new species name. They could be pixiefolk, or mulworps, or any other choice, either from folklore or entirely invented. But she chose to stick with “human,” and by doing so, she invokes all the baggage that one might normally associate with humans. The word makes a statement of some kind, which at the very least should mean that, in the absence of direct statements to the contrary, anything you think you know about humans applies to these people too.

WTF #3: Constant tell mode

Analysis: She was even more than shocked.  She was overtaken by what is commonly known as a Wave of Emotion, and much like a wave on the sea-shore, after it’s passed, nothing remains the same.  Christina’s despair and suffering and rage were so powerful that when the Wave receded, she was an entirely new person….

This is the style of the entire narrative, and while it can be charming in small doses, there is nothing for me to engage with mentally. Everything is explained and judged in the narration, so with nothing to sink my attention into, the sing-song, digressive nature of the style quickly wore thin. So when the 10-min buzzer finally rang, I found myself relieved that I had still not engaged in the story and was able to invoke the 10-minute rule.

Note: If you find Pratchett enchanting, it’s possible that you’ll like this too, but since Pratchett makes me cringe, I’m not the best judge of that.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

Ghost Moon Night, by Jewel Allen (17:06)
Final Duty, by Kyle Pratt (6:50)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That’s why he writes.