Well, I finally finished Stephen King’s newest book, Fairy Tale. It only took me a little under three months to read the 599-page story of a boy and his dog.
To simplify it as a tale of a boy and his dog journeying into a magical land is a simplistic summary. In actuality, there are three parts to this novel. The first part is about Charlie Reade, a 17-year-old high school student, rescuing the reclusive old man at the top of a big hill. The two develop a friendship which leads to Charlie also taking a liking to the old man’s dog, Radar. There’s obviously a mystery surrounding the old man, particularly where he gets all of his wealth from. About a third way through the book, the old man dies and leaves Charlie possession of Radar. He also leaves Charlie a tape explaining his secret.
The old man, through the recording, tells Charlie a fairy tale about how he obtained his wealth and how Charlie might restore youth onto Radar. It involves venturing into another world. That’s where the second and third part of this story takes place.
Overall, I loved this book. It was a solid Stephen King book. I waver between a three and a four out of five stars.
On the one hand, it’s a very solid modern-day fairy-tale novel. If it wasn’t written by Stephen King, I would probably like it more.
On the other hand, it’s a painfully formulaic Stephen King book. Throughout the tale, you can see pieces of Stephen King’s other works scattered throughout it.
- A younger boy befriends an older man which develops into a mentor-mentee relationship? Check.
- Traveling to a magical world that’s accessible from the normal world? Check.
- A coming-of-age story wrapped inside a tale of good and evil? Check.
- Guns being a tool of justice and good? Check.
- A rich, magical land that could’ve been explored more, but that would’ve dragged out the narrative, so the readers are left thirsty for more? Double Check.
- The main character is a storyteller. Check.
I’m not trying to be a downer when it comes to this novel, because it’s a fantastic novel. The characters are interesting, the relationships between Charlie and Radar, Charlie and his father, Charlie and the old man, Charlie and the citizens of that magical world are so good. When that first part finished and the meat of the story was just beginning, I almost didn’t want it to end. I enjoyed Charlie learning life lessons from the old man. I liked Charlie teaching the old man how to handle technology.
The world in which Charlie travels to is so big and rich that I wanted Charlie to travel it. Instead, he only sees a fraction of the kingdom he suddenly finds himself in, but we know there are more areas to explore.
King does a really great job exploring the themes of classic fairy tales while maintaining the modern day feel of Fairy Tale.
The main problem that I have, that I’ve alluded to above, is that to King fans, this isn’t anything new. Sure, the setting and the plot may be a bit different, but essentially there’s nothing new to them.
Apt Pupil, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, and Hearts in Atlantis are all examples of the younger kid developing a relationship with the older guy. The Stand, IT, and ‘Salem’s Lot are examples of the main character going through a coming-of-age story while a battle of good and evil takes place.
The Talisman is a book written by King and Peter Straub that is about a younger boy being convinced by an older maintenance man to undertake a quest to travel into a magical land to save his ailing mother.
In short, while it’s a superb book, Fairy Tale doesn’t offer anything new to King fans.
Would I recommend Fairy Tale to someone to read? Yes, most definitely. Would I recommend it to someone that’s a fan of King but hasn’t read everything yet? Not at first. Like King writes in The Gunslinger, “there are other worlds than these.”
Have you read Fairy Tale yet? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!