(This review has been copied to the Gossamer Court's book reviews section.)
"A story loosely based on the story of Rumplestiltskin. This short book tells a story of a young woman Mia as she encounters a will-o-wisp who wishes to take her child."
(I received a free copy of this story in return for providing an unbiased review.)
Ablaze, by Harsh Thakar, is a very short (approximately 3,000 words) retelling of Rumplestiltskin, a well-known fairy tale popularized by the Brothers Grimm. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I will say no more about the plot, save that it is told with a more horrific twist than its namesake.
I felt the idea driving the plot for this story was a sound one. I have heard of a great many timeless fables and fairy tales retold with any number of different spins on them, but I (at least) do not recall the tale of Rumplestiltskin being singled out for the task. Though I was able to quickly determine the base story Ablaze sought to emulate without prior knowledge, I did find the subject matter refreshing in that respect. I did not read the book's description before reading the story itself, and I'm actually quite pleased that the cover art didn't make it obvious that I'm about to be taken on a modified ride down fairy tale lane. As I am often skeptical of "retold" stories, I might have passed on this one if I had known too much at the outset. As a reader, the ambiguity of this story did the job of getting the book in front of me -- which I think would be the goal of any fiction author. The story does was it sets out to do with an appropriately chilling twist, and for that I appreciate it.
While Ablaze does have potential, I feel that the story is in strong need of professional editing. While the spelling was decent, I will be honest in saying that I eventually lost count of the errors in grammar, sentence structure, and improper word usage (some passages were difficult to read and understand due to the aforementioned issues). Judging from the patterns I saw (the same errors occurring multiple times), I am left with the assumption that the majority of errors were more a product of grasping the English language than any sort of deliberate failing on the part of the author. Naturally I'm willing to be more lenient of such problems if they are indeed due to difficulties with the language, but I have to say that whatever the reason may be, when any story (in any language) reaches the stage of final publication, readers should be able to assume that it has been "put through its paces" with regards to editing and proofreading. I didn't get that impression from Ablaze.
Other concerns have to do with the use of space in such a short tale -- I would have preferred a bit more life to some of the characters (Theodore in particular) to give me something of a better idea as to who I was dealing with. Even something as simple as a more detailed description or a few more words about the character's mannerisms/personality would have been quite helpful. I am assuming that the Rumplestiltskin-like creature in the story was short like some sort of gnome, but I was left to fill in that blank on my own. I can't hold that against the story however, as it's more a product of the nature of the beast when retelling an existing story. (I have a particular image in mind of what I think Rumplestiltskin looks like, and it's hard to shake what's already established in my head.)
All in all, I feel that with a bit more elbow grease thrown in, the true potential of this story could well be brought out. It's definitely worth sticking with.