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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

Fairy Tale - a dark fantasy by Stephen King

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Fantasy

Published Sept 2022; 608 pages

Disclaimer: I'm a long-time Stephen King fan though I can't say I've read EVERYthing he's written. A co-worker, however, is a major fan and always buys his books the day they are released. I borrow and she generously lends.

First Sentence: “I’m sure I can tell this story. I’m also sure no one will believe it. That’s fine with me. Telling it will be enough. My problem—and I’m sure many writers have it, not just newbies like me—is deciding where to start.” (yes, it's told in the first person by Charlie and I did find him (the character) inserting himself in the story now and then in little asides - not sure I loved that)


To paraphrase and simplify the GR blurb a bit, and because many already know the basics of the story, it's the story of a 17 year old teenager, Charlie Reade, who helps an elderly neighbor recover from a fall. As he helps Mr. Bowditch by taking care of his dog, Radar, and fixing up his decrepit house, etc. they become friendly. When Bowditch takes a turn for the worse, he puts his affairs in order so that when he dies, Charlie inherits the house, the property, the dog, AND the locked and magical shed. (by the way, Radar is one cool dog and lives through the story for those who have animal triggers)

Part two of the story takes place as Charlie and Radar go down the steps in the shed to a secret parallel world to try to save Radar's life. Along the way they meet characters that Charlie comes to identify with certain fairy tales from his childhood. Fast forward: Radar gets cured; Charlie gets captured by the evil night soldiers and thrown into a dungeon; there are arena games ala Gladiator; and fairytale references continue. The battle between good and evil is not as dramatic as in The Stand, but wrapped in magic, it's a little more fun.

“It’s the stories of our childhood that make the deepest impressions and last the longest.”

Charlie is a good kid, an average guy who, through a set of truly weird circumstances, becomes a hero. He saves the dog, he helps the cursed people of the alternate world because according to their legend, a prince will come to save them.....even though Charlie thinks that's nonsense, he comes to realize he IS there to help.


I have many thoughts. In my reviews I try to impart my enjoyment or lack thereof about the book but also try to offer information that might help you, as a reader, to make a determination if the book is for you. That's a little harder with a popular, prolific author but especially for Stephen King, because often people have a preconceived idea of his books. If you've read this far, let me try to break through your preconception a bit.

I just wrote and deleted a couple of paragraphs after realizing I was biting off a BIG discussion that maybe doesn't belong in a review. So, maybe I'll write a King general analysis another time. But, back to Fairy Tale.

To me, Stephen King's strongest attribute as an author is his ability to write such readable stories. Every. Time. It's a magical skill, this storytelling job, and he excels. There's this hard-to-explain readability - he's smooth, even, simple and yet expressing complex situations. He's a master of dialog - it's SO natural and believable, even when the characters are talking about unbelievable things. His characters are wonderfully complete: good people have some warts and flaws; evil people are SO evil, it's easy to hate them. He can write a description like nobody's business, whether it's red poppies in a field, two moons colliding in the sky, or a creature with slimy tentacles. Those vivid descriptions, all the dialog and Charlie's thoughts take pages and pages to make sure you're totally immersed in the story.

Many readers are resistant because they look at the page count and put the book away. I understand; we as readers are trained to have stories fit into 320 pages. What do you do with a 600 or 800 page doorstopper of a book? You devour it because it's so readable, it flows so wonderfully, you don't even notice the pages flipping past and before you know it, you're done. And the experience is amazing.

Then, there's the elephant in the room. Horror. You might think, "I don't read horror", or "Horror is too scary". King has certainly written some seriously horror filled stories. BUT NOT ALL of them. I might call this one horror-adjacent. I looked up the definition of horror and it's anything "written to scare or disgust". Well, Fairy Tale isn't scary. But, there are certainly some gross creatures populating the nasty alt-world. Is a gross creature scary to you? Then this might not be the book for you. I've read suggestions (and it might even be in the book) that this fairytale is more along the lines of the original Grimm tales rather than the Disney-ized version of them.

Or maybe classify Fairy Tale as dark fantasy because all the parallel world is certainly fantasy. King does a remarkable job at world-building in this alternate world. Enough reality-based that we readers can visualize plenty of familiar features and situations, but creative enough to be a whole new world. The 'dark' part is the blood and gore that is present when the battle between good (Charlie) and evil (Eldon) occurs.

In case you're uncertain, I really liked this book. I liked the creativity, the storytelling, the characters, the world building. And Radar. I loved Radar.

Counts for Coyer Challenge: 24/54

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