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.