Cover Image: Fairy Tale

Fairy Tale

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Member Reviews

Feedback has been slow in coming from me because "Fairy Tale" is long even for a Stephen King book -- 24 hours of listening! And I did not want to rush because it's so brilliant.  Beginning as the heartwarming story of a high school boy, Charlie, who forms a friendship with an elderly man, it then seamlessly evolves into thriller and then into dark fantasy, wrapping in elements from a Grimms-worth  of fairy stories. I never, at any point, knew where it was going, and I loved that. More importantly (to me), though, was the fact that the heartfelt humanity of the early chapters runs true through the fantasy-adventure. And a shout out, in a big way, to narrator Seth Numrich.  This is a tour-de-force job.
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It's rare that I listen to an audiobook that's actually two audiobooks because it's so dang long but this was worth every single minute.
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As someone who doesn’t much care for modern horror but respects Stephen King tremendously as a writer, I’ve been delighted to see him branch out into other genres lately. I like Billy Summers a lot, and I liked this one too.

At its heart, this is an adventure story, and oh what an adventure Charlie and his dog Radar embark on, crossing over into a cursed world fraught with peril and excitement. 

The format follows that of a standard hero’s quest, and there’s nothing truly unique about this version of it. I didn’t find this particularly bothersome though, because it’s a darn good story and a lovely tribute to many fairy tales, both the ultra timeless and the lesser known. 

In addition to some small nods to the Brothers Grimm , Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Perrault, and other early traditional fairy tale authors, the story is a fantastic tribute to both Something Wicked This Way Comes (one of my all-time favorites) as well as the Wizard of Oz. Oz is probably the most comparable setting to the world that King has built here.

The book isn’t overlong by page count (adventure epics are allowed more latitude than most books in this regard, in my opinion) but there are parts that drag and probably needed to be condensed purely because they really hamper the pace of the story. The section on the prison/fight club, for example, seems to linger endlessly and is one of the least interesting parts of the book.

But overall, it’s a terrific adventure novel with a lovable hero (and his equally lovable canine companion. If you enjoy this genre, you’ll enjoy this one. 

Audiobook readers: This is an excellent pick for this format. It helps mitigate the length a bit, and boasts a good balance of dynamic storytelling and engaging prose with an easy to parse plot. The narrator is lovely, and look out for a few sections read by the author himself!
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‘Fairy Tale’ by Stephen King
Oh, how good it is to have Stephen King return to the depths of fantastical horror. ‘Fairy Tale’ (Scribner) is vintage King, taking us into new world-building like no one else. Following this hero’s tale of Charlie Reade and his trusty sidekick, the aging German shepherd Radar, from a Chicago suburb to the kingdom of Empis is not only an adventure, it is the adventure of 2022. From the master who made us believe vampires sleep in the basements of small town America, “Fairy Tale” manages to merge every fanciful tale — with their true Grimm roots — you’ve ever read while simultaneously sprinkling baskets full of Easter eggs. Nary a reference, no matter how subtle, from every fantasy or science fiction tale of the past century is omitted along the journey, spicing the story in ways “Radio Play One” does for disciples of the ‘80s. Recommended for anyone older than the age of those able to consume the grisly outcomes of original fairy tales — that is, those sans the Disney or otherwise sanitized endings. But even among those readers, it is really — really — recommended that you eschew the print version: For those who love to hear a story that will echo long after the last page, this is that book. Not enough can be said for the audio version of this story — the way, after all, many of us were first presented with the fairly tales we remember and love today — with the reading talents of Seth Numrich assisted wonderfully by Stephen King, himself. Numrich’s talents in presenting King’s vast and varied cast is both inspired and as awe-inspiring as the story, and although most authors do their readers a disservice in reading their own material, King has been perfectly cast here, adding flavors to a story over which he obviously labored and loved. If you want to read, or better, hear, this story before it becomes a movie, you’ll have to hurry. It’s little surprise that this cinematic tale is already in development.
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I loved the first half of this book: Teenager Charlie Reade lives down the street from the creepy old house inhabited by a recluse and his old German shepherd. When Charlie finds Howard Bowditch injured in his yard, thanks to the warning barks of his dog, Charlie becomes the old man's helper and companion. Strange noises come from the shed in Mr. Bowditch's yard, and what happens next is just like something out of (that's right) a fairy tale. I was hanging on every word until the "what happens next" which was just a bit too far afield for me. To be fair, this book is billed as a fantasy, but I prefer King's books when they're more rooted in reality.
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As an avid Stephen King reader, Fairy Tale is King at his finest! Alice in Wonderland meets Stranger Things. I struggle sometimes visualizing fantasy storylines, but not here. I saw the world of Empess as vivid and surreal as King's ability to bring a whole new world to life. We meet Charlie as he befriends the grumpy neighborhood croon, Mr. Bowditch, and his trusty dog, Radar, when he's at his lowest and has no choice but to trust seventeen-year-old Charlie with the unimaginable. 

The audiobook narration is splendid and I listened at a slower pace because I wanted to savor every second of this story.
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