Title: Fairy Tale
Author: Stephen King
Page Count/Review Word Count: 582
This book is Stephen King’s latest release, at least at the time of writing, and it’s another great example of why he’s still got it.
Now, I’ll admit that I was a little hesitant at first, but that’s only because of the title. I’ve never been much of a fan of fairy tales, and I was worried that this was going to be a retelling, which generally just annoy me. Perhaps the reason for that is that my favourite books are Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which are a retelling of Paradise Lost, and so I’m a harsh critic with high standards.
Luckily, this one is less of a fairy tale retelling and more like a King style spin on R. A. Salvatore’s Spearwielder books in which a guy called Gary Leger finds a portal to a fantasy kingdom and ends up trying to save it. The same kind of thing is going on here, although King takes a lot longer to get there and we get to see some reflections on the real world beforehand.
For example, we get the typical King theme of alcoholism, and the story is told by our protagonist who uses the first couple of paragraphs to explain that he’s no great shakes as a writer. We also have an old man with a secret, which also seems to happen a lot. It’s funny to think that King himself is older than a lot of his older characters, and it also scares me to think that one day I’ll wake up and check the news to see his obituary.
Fairy Tale has an interesting range of ideas and themes to it, and I liked that it combines fantasy elements with gritty realism in a way that’s almost like George R. R. Martin and yet simultaneously nothing like him. I can’t explain exactly how that works, but it does.
For me, I think the characterisation was the better part of this one, and that’s saying a lot because the plotting was tight and the execution was top notch. There’s a lot to like here, and it’s pretty difficult to pick out my favourite elements. Even the old guy’s dog felt like a relatable character.
I think that’s because King puts so much of himself into his work, and it was difficult to read about the guy with a broken leg and not think about King’s accident or to find an alcoholic in recovery and not to think of King’s own history with substance abuse. There are those out there who say that he was never the same after he sobered up, and I can see that, but to a point. His style changed, but I wouldn’t say that it’s for the worst. If anything, he matured, and that’s a good thing in my book (if you’ll excuse the pun).
But I still don’t think I’d recommend this one as your first King book, though if the opportunity comes around then you shouldn’t pass it up, either. I’m at the point where I’m pretty close to having read everything that he ever wrote, and so when a book like this comes out and gives me another chunky bite at the apple, I have no complaints.
Ultimately, it’s good but not great, at least for King. But most other authors would kill to have written a book like this.