11th October, 2022

Review: Fairy Tale by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton)

As with every new King publication, this one was eagerly awaited by fans. I saved it for a weekend reading retreat because several of our group were planning on reading it and we decided to turn this into a buddy read. 

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.

One thing to start with: This is not your typical King novel, neither the old nor the new King. In a way this book moves into the direction of novels such as The Eyes of the Dragon but it is really unlike any King book I've read so far (and I've read almost all of them :)). 

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how much I liked this book. I didn't hate it, but I also didn't love it. At first I thought that the part playing in the "real world" was slightly tedious and found myself impatiently waiting for the "fairy tale" part to begin. When it did though, I started to really appreciate the first third of the novel with its fascinating character dynamics, etc. The fairy tale section seemed a bit too generic for me with clear structural echoes of YA stories such as The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner. I loved the mythical creatures as well as the Lovecraftian baddies but something seemed to be missing from this part of the novel. All in all, I found it a bit predictable and underwhelming. 

What I did enjoy were the many nerdy references to other books, such as The Wizard of Oz, Something Wicked This Way Comes or The Call of Cthullu. It was fun recognising these and wonder about their implications for this particular tale. I also absolutely loved Charlie's canine sidekick Radar - who wouldn't be rooting for such an amazing dog?

Fairy Tale isn't a perfect book by far, but it was good entertainment indeed and I'm glad I got to share it with my friends. 

Rating: 3/5 stars

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