(click on the link to read the story online)
This moving story possesses all the qualities of fairy tales of old: we have a village where life follows the usual patterns of such tales, and an event that regularly blights the inhabitants’ peaceful rhythms – each year, at the onset of autumn, a girl disappears, never to be seen again. Everyone knows that the Maiden Thief is responsible for the disappearances, just as everyone is powerless to prevent them, or to know who the thief is.
Verena is the younger daughter of a man embittered by the harsh blows life dealt him: his wife and only son died in a terrible accident that left the man lame, incapable of providing adequate income for his three surviving daughters. Amina, the eldest, has taken the role of mother for her younger siblings, and Karis, the middle one, tends the garden that supplies most of their scarce foodstuffs. Verena is the only one attending school in an attempt of being what her dead brother should have been, but soon is forced to leave: a paper she wrote about the Maiden Thief angered her father, and the subsequent disappearance of Karis shortly after convinces the man that Verena’s words directed the mysterious abductor’s attentions on them.
What follows is a slow descent from dark fairy tale to horror story, as the details about the Thief’s identity keep collecting and what seems like Verena’s unavoidable destiny looms closer: the girl’s spirit, however, will not suffer under her fate’s blows for long, and she will walk on a very unexpected path. To say more would be to spoil what was a highly engaging and riveting story, one I can’t recommend enough.