Skip to main content

Fairy Tale


Fairy Tale

There is no author I know of who does a finer job of getting into the psyche of young people than Stephen King. In his latest novel, FAIRY TALE, readers will take an instant liking to 17-year-old Charlie Reade. Seven years ago, Charlie lost his mother in a hit-and-run accident. Sadly, his father turned to alcohol as a way of coping with this heartbreaking loss.

In the present day, Charlie is walking to school when he hears a dog howling in the neighborhood. This leads him to the Bowditch house, where he finds Howard Bowditch laying on the back steps after falling off a ladder with what looks to be a badly broken leg. As he is being taken away in an ambulance, Bowditch asks Charlie to watch after his German shepherd, Radar, who only has months to live. Radar begins growling at a sound coming from the shed in the backyard. Charlie bangs on the door to drive away whatever small animal might have gotten in there.

"FAIRY TALE never disappoints and delivers on every single level. Most of all, it shows us why Stephen King is our greatest living writer."

Bowditch eventually comes home but needs a lot of care and attention, so he pays Charlie to look after him and Radar in the evenings. One day while at school, Charlie receives a call from Bowditch, who fears he is having a heart attack. There is information under his bed that Charlie will need to investigate for himself that will tell him the entire story. Unfortunately, Bowditch dies while on his way to the hospital. Though in shock, Charlie does as he is told and finds a series of cassette tapes where Bowditch explains all the secrets that he never got to tell him.

In the shed, Charlie comes across the corpse of what looks like a huge cockroach, which is still decomposing after Bowditch killed it. Hidden between a series of boards appears to be a well, but is actually a stairway leading to an unknown location. On the tapes, Bowditch encourages Charlie to look for his initials, which are found throughout this other realm, in order to guide him. There is also a magical sundial that can give back years and vitality, and he must take Radar there to save her life.

Charlie has fallen for Radar in a huge way, so he has no choice but to go on this unlikely mission. However, the once beautiful land and grand city has fallen on hard times and does not resemble the shining empire that Bowditch knew during the 100+ years he visited there. It is up to Charlie to discover his own way throughout this now desolate and dangerous world, where he cannot travel at night lest he fall prey to the beast known as the Night Flier and its many minions.

The characters Charlie will meet are reminiscent of the denizens of Wonderland or Oz and the darker sides of Middle-earth. The adventures become increasingly dangerous, and it soon becomes quite evident that it is a journey not so much to save Radar as it is to find out what role Charlie is to play in this new land. Is he really the Prince, which many of the residents believe him to be, or is he just a teenager from Chicago in way over his head?

FAIRY TALE never disappoints and delivers on every single level. Most of all, it shows us why Stephen King is our greatest living writer. This is a weighty novel at nearly 600 pages, yet it doesn’t feel like it. It’s an absolute pleasure read filled with one colorful character after another, especially our young hero, who you will not soon forget.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 9, 2022

Fairy Tale
by Stephen King