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Review of Fairy Tale

Blurb: Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was ten, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. Then, when Charlie is seventeen, he meets Howard Bowditch, a recluse with a big dog in a big house at the top of a big hill. In the backyard is a locked shed from which strange sounds emerge, as if some creature is trying to escape. When Mr. Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie the house, a massive amount of gold, a cassette tape telling a story that is impossible to believe, and a responsibility far too massive for a boy to shoulder.

Because within the shed is a portal to another world—one whose denizens are in peril and whose monstrous leaders may destroy their own world, and ours. In this parallel universe, where two moons race across the sky, and the grand towers of a sprawling palace pierce the clouds, there are exiled princesses and princes who suffer horrific punishments; there are dungeons; there are games in which men and women must fight each other to the death for the amusement of the “Fair One.” And there is a magic sundial that can turn back time.

A story as old as myth, and as startling and iconic as the rest of King’s work, Fairy Tale is about an ordinary guy forced into the hero’s role by circumstance, and it is both spectacularly suspenseful and satisfying.

Review: Charlie Reade is a normal seventeen-year-old having had a rough childhood. Yet now he's a good kid, and when he hears a neighbor's dog barking, he finds the old recluse had fallen. Charlie helps Mr. Bowditch recover, and when Bowditch passes on, he leaves Charlie the house and a whooping fairy tale full of magic, monsters, and gold. Charlie travels into the fairy tale world with the hope of finding a magic sundial to turn back time and make the old dog he's come to love young again. The hero of a new story, Charlie meets exiled royalty and is captured and forced to fight against his fellow prisoners. Yet something bigger and darker looms over the entire kingdom, and this evil might reach up the stairs to Charlie's world and take that from him too.

A marvelous read in typical Stephen King form where characterization outshines everything else. This is Charlie's story, and his heroism starts when he is just a little boy and forced to fend for himself after his mother dies and his father becomes an alcoholic. He isn't all good, and he's ashamed of things he's done in the past acting out with his misery. Yet Charlie does have a good heart, and when his father recovers, the relationship between the two of them is sweet. It's there, too, when Charlie is caring for the grouchy Mr. Bowditch, and especially with Radar the old dog. I love Radar so much!

This is a coming of age story. It's about Charlie. Not really about the fantasy world. The plot isn't fast moving, and he doesn't get to the Other world until a third of the way in. It's also what I would label a young adult book. It would be something I'd recommend to my twelve-year-old. (In fact, he's already seen one of his classmates at school reading this book!) So, old me who loves the dark and gritty horror was surprised there was none here. There are undead and guts and blood, but it falls into the fantasy realm for me, and I was good with it because this is Charlie's story.

The fantasy world, Empris, is sullen and gray. It's a cursed land that Charlie must help save. He attempts to do it with help with friends he makes along the way, Radar, a princess, and a giant cricket. (The Lord of Little Things rules and proves there are no little things!) There are bits and pieces of well known fairy tales in here. Charlie often wonders if it is his knowledge of fairy tales that is affecting the world and making it how it is. There are also darker more adult tales, like those of H.P. Lovecraft. A hint of an underlying darkness that far more evil than any of the characters could comprehend.

Overall, it's a great read if you enjoy coming of age fantasy novels. It's not like most of what King writes. I would not compare it to The Dark Tower or The Talisman. Fairy Tale stands on its own.

You can find Stephen King on his site and buy the book here.

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Elizabeth Hartman Seckman
Elizabeth Hartman Seckman
Jan 23, 2023

Stephen King is the master of the tale!

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