FimFiction Link - Short ID: 451970/the-needle
Published: Oct '19
'The Needle' is a short fortyfive-thousand word horror fic, about Daring Do's investigation into the mysterious "Needle Vale" deep in the land of the reindeers.
Let's start with the good: The prose for the most part is great. It really feels like you're reading an adventure book, the characters' interactions (aside from an issue I'll discuss later) and the descriptions of the areas set the mood well.
The characters are all unique, complement each other nicely and get enough time that by the point things go south the reader will realize it themselves, without the author needing to point it out. I'm not sure how much of the reindeers' lore did the author come up with themselves, as I haven't played TFH or read any other fic featuring them, but what I can say is that it felt properly fleshed out. The same can be said about the ponies too, for OCs they are quite nicely written. Daring herself feels authentic too.
One scene in particular (Ragnifera's "deletion") works really nicely, by the time you realize what happened, it hits you like a truck.
Now for the bad: Originally I wanted to start this review with "The fic is a nice horror story chocked by PG-13 word usage," because the characters ruined the seriousness of the situation several times by saying stuff like "dude," "poop," and "jack squat." In a horror story. However, by the last few chapters they start dropping multiple "fucks" and talking about serious bodily harm, so I really don't understand why the author made the otherwise so nicely written characters sound so juvenile early on.
But, this isn't my real issue with this fic. I'm sure there are people who'd object to categorizing this as a negative, I respect your opinion, but to me (and likely some others), this is a deal-breaker. I have found the story's overarching narrative to be disappointing.
Yes, Daring might be possessed by some eldritch creature now, but what's with the rest of the paranormal events? Without anything connecting them, it just feels like a haunted house-ride. We go from setpiece to setpiece, like the "Blizzard," or the "Abandoned Station," but none of them feel connected to each other. They're isolated "exhibits," while the story pats itself on the back for being so mysterious and vague. It's like STALKER, but without being told about the Visitors. I don't expect a full explanation, but I was hoping for something to make the journey worth it. Not for Daring, her leaving empty handed is fitting, but the reader. Probably if one watches the movie the fic was inspired by, it'd be less jarring, but I'm a firm believer in stories needing to stand on their own legs.
Overall: 6/10 I was hesitant whether I should give this story a 7 or a 6, but ultimately I expected more. If you are okay with stories where things just happen and nothing ends up explained, I can mostly recommend it. Otherwise it's likely to leave you disappointed.
The Needle is a 45k word adventure horror story. I feel confident in saying it's one of the best I've read in a long time.
Needle Cove is a valley deep in the Frozen North. Due to its extreme weather, it has remained uncharted for centuries. As a result, it's the subject of innumerable myths and legends. Just what Daring Do loves to explore.
If I had to exalt one quality of this fic, it would be the pacing. It is stellar. Perhaps a bit on the slow side for some, but seeing Daring go around Light’s Edge looking for ponies (and deer) to join her expedition and slowly make their way to this inhospitable place felt really engaging, and it built up my interest beautifully. Every new danger that popped up felt real, and I got excited whenever they discovered one of the secrets hidden in Needle Cove.
And then, the horror kicks in. And the pacing remains top notch.
I won't talk about what happens, but I will say that they're doled out in just the right way to catch you off-guard if you're not paying attention, and hit you with the force of a truck if you were. With each passing chapter, I felt my self unable to look away. I just had to keep reading.
If I ever write something half as good as this, I will be happy.
I can see the ending being divisive, but to me it worked perfectly as a cap to Daring's arc through the story and as the cherry on top for what the Needle represents. I loved it the whole way through.
Rangifera is my Needle waifu.
I thought I'd have something insightful to say. I don't. It's just a plain and simply well-done short adventure fic. Everything is done competently but I can't think of anything to particularly praise. You definitely feel the dread when things go badly, but surely that's expected of a horror fic? As for what's done poorly, little comes to mind. I felt there was something wrong about nothing being explained in the end, but another review said it better when they said that the real problem is that you're never told of the relationship between the things that you see.
Took a few tries, but I finally managed to sit down read it. It's excellent, I especially enjoyed the variation in subtle and overt mindfuckery. I wasn't bothered by the set piece encounters until The Spire, that one was out of place. I had a good time backtracking to see where the distortions started.
I will add that the character design for Stalwart Shield is simply bad. To start with, I would recommend doing a search and replace on the fic to rename her Paladin Patter or something. Her characterization is just all over the place, with her being exuberant and chatty or mean spirited, angry or just inexplicably hostile. It was far too often that her actions or reactions just didn't make sense.
Otherwise, I'm looking forward to reading it again at some point and