Published by Scribner (9.6.2022)
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Format: Audiobook, 600 pages
Length: 24 hours, 6 minutes
Narrator: Seth Numrich, Stephen King
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 Howard Bowditch, a recluse with a big dog in a big house at the top of a big hill. In the backyard is a locked shed from which strange sounds emerge, as if some creature is trying to escape. When Mr. Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie the house, a massive amount of gold, a cassette tape telling a story that is impossible to believe, and a responsibility far too massive for a boy to shoulder.
Because within the shed is a portal to another world—one whose denizens are in peril and whose monstrous leaders may destroy their own world, and ours. In this parallel universe, where two moons race across the sky, and the grand towers of a sprawling palace pierce the clouds, there are exiled princesses and princes who suffer horrific punishments; there are dungeons; there are games in which men and women must fight each other to the death for the amusement of the “Fair One.” And there is a magic sundial that can turn back time.
A story as old as myth, and as startling and iconic as the rest of King’s work, Fairy Tale is about an ordinary guy forced into the hero’s role by circumstance, and it is both spectacularly suspenseful and satisfying.
This isn’t my first King novel – I read the first two Dark Tower books and half of the third (and just…never finished, oops. I hit a suuuper boring part and never picked it back up again *shrugs*). I have to admit that I find his books intimidating, not only because they’re always HUGE but also because he’s SO hyped and I’m a black sheep. Baa.
However, this one really worked for me! It’s almost two different stories in one, because the first half is completely different than the second half. It’s so interesting that King can mash two contrasting worlds into one story and make it work. The first half is mundane, with Charlie taking care of Radar and Mr. Bowditch; and the second half is a portal fantasy to a magical, bizarre other-world.
The pacing was a little slow, but not as slow as I expected it to be. It just felt like it took FOREVER to get through. I can usually finish an audiobook in a day or two at work, listening on 1.5-2x speed, but this one took me an entire week! It took a little bit for me to get into it, but I found myself really enjoying the first half, despite it being pretty mundane. (Actually, to my shock, I think I may have enjoyed the first half a bit more than the last half!) I adore stories where a curmudgeonly old person builds a relationship with a plucky young person. I also adore books with animal sidekicks (or even better, main characters). And let me tell you, Radar totally stole this show! Obviously Radar was my favorite character. I love the relationship that Charlie built with her while Mr. Bowditch was in the hospital. It was beautiful! I love that he goes to the fairy land, despite its dangers, literally all for Radar. *cue puppy dog eyes* I really enjoyed the relationship between Charlie and Mr. Bowditch as well. View Spoiler »
I may not have much experience with King’s work, but even after only a few books I know that he is a master at world building. There’s just something about his imaginative storytelling that is immersive and draws you in, and his worlds feel so realistic and 100% authentic. It seemed totally feasible that a portal to another world would be hidden in a shed!
The second part, like I said, is completely different. I loved the kind of magical unveiling of the hidden world and the discovery of it, but I have mixed feelings on the world itself. I liked that it was twisted a la Alice in Wonderland, but at the same time, it was very cliche. (Which I’m pretty sure was the point, but still.) I did enjoy the nods to many other fairytales throughout the story. I guess part of my disappointment in the fantasy world was lack of connection – the characters were distinct, but I never felt attached to any of them. I also never felt the urgency in times of danger because it didn’t seem like there were any real stakes. The only one I was worried about at all was Radar. Oh, and I hated the addition of the romance. It was instalovey and lacked any chemistry whatsoever. I wish King would have left that out.
The narration was pretty good! I usually prefer female narrators, but I thought Seth Numrich did a decent job. I absolutely love that Stephen King narrated Mr. Bowditch himself, because his voice was PERFECT! Exactly what I would expect him to sound like. *chef’s kiss*
Writing style: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5