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Thursday, January 12, 2023

Review: Fairy Tale

 Fairy Tale is Stephen King's novel of a world crossing adventure. It describes a 17-year old who in the course of helping a mysterious neighbor, discovers that the neighbor's shed contains a well which leads to another world. Like many examples of the world-crossing genre, it turns out that he has a special role to fulfill in that world.

The story builds slowly, and Charlie Reade (the protagonist) has a transparent, cheerful, interesting voice which makes for great reading. King is probably at his best when convincing you that Reade is a real person, and establishes the milieu he lives in as no one else can. The protagonist being an almost adult rather than a young child makes the book different than many other examples of the world-crossing genre, and lends the story believability.

Once the story crosses over to the world of Empris, however, a lot of the world building feels lacking. There's definitely no sense of deep history, and many set pieces or important plot points feel like superficial objects meant to act as MacGuffins rather than something real. For instance, one major motivation for Charlie to enter deep into the enchanted capital explicitly draws inspiration from Something Wicked This Way Comes, but at the end of the book the explanation is a huge disappointment.

All throughout the book are sprinkled references to Bradbury and HP Lovecraft, and there are many pieces of brilliance in the novel --- more than enough to keep me reading. It's not a coincidence that the novel is set in Illinois, the same locale as in Bradbury's novel. The climax feels like it comes a bit too easy, but the easy to read prose and moments of brilliance kept me going anyway. Recommended.

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