Five Word Summary
Vivid, poignant, jocular, macabre, beguiling
- Lovers of fantasy, but not for lovers of classical fantasy.
- Lovers of Stephen King should enjoy this as his horror / suspense roots litter the story like flavour-adding seasoning.
- For dog lovers.
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 a dog named Radar and her aging master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.
Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.
Initially, I fell in love with this book. I mean, I crushed bad. And it is a brilliant book. So, why the 4.5 stars (rounded up on Goodreads and Amazon)? Because my crush let me down ever so slightly at the halfway mark. It took me a few chapters to understand why, thinking at first that it was simply that the shine of a new relationship had dulled, then the real reason hit me. Sadly, I can’t share the why here without giving away spoilers. Suffice to say, I got a point where I was reading like crazy to move past said point. Is that to say it was bad? Absolutely not. In fact, while reading to get past the soggy part, I fell into it and started to like it all over again. I was once more reading because I was enthralled.
Without a doubt, Fairy Tale is a showcase for Stephen King’s talent. His horror / suspense writing genius showed through and some scenes were super creepy. He’s the master of showing an atmospheric location and, a few times, seriously had me crawling into a ball on the couch while reading.
Typical of many of Stephen King’s books, it has a slow burn beginning. But also typical of SK’s books, the ‘everyday life’ beginning was so well written that it was terrific. I’m sure plenty could argue that others write everyday life better, but King is King as far as I’m concerned and I didn’t mind the slow burn in the least. I fell in love with Charlie and his dog, Radar. In fact, Radar would up there on my list of favourite book characters. The world King built was terrific and the characters vivid and arresting. The book explored the balance of a person’s light and dark sides with finesse and enough subtlety that it didn’t feel contrived.
Apart from the middle, two other things contributed to the half star off.
One: there was so much of SK in the book – like, he intruded into the story like a hammer to the face. However, I also smiled. It seems to me that SK has earned that right and who am I to judge?
Two: the ending. Sadly, it trickled at the end and I never got the ultimate lesson or reveal that I was hoping for. It just faded away. Although, as I write this, it occurs to me that the faded ending might just be the final lesson. Life doesn’t care a fig about the big events – it trundles on and it’s up to us to adjust to treadmill’s new pace.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. If you loved Billy Summers, you’ll probably love this. If you are a SK fan, you’ll probably like this. If you like good writing with amazing characters, you’ll enjoy this. Get on it and let me know what you think.