cover image Fairy Tale

Fairy Tale

Stephen King. Scribner, $32.50 (608p) ISBN 978-1-66800-217-9

Bestseller King (Billy Summers) underwhelms in an overlong fantasy most likely to appeal to his YA fans. In 2003, seven-year-old Charlie Reade’s mother dies in an accident, sending his father into an alcoholic tailspin. Ten years later, a chance event changes Charlie’s life dramatically; while passing by a neighbor’s home, he hears frantic barking, and a feeble cry for help. He discovers elderly Howard Bowditch badly injured from a fall and calls 911, earning him Bowditch’s gratitude and a reputation as a hero. Charlie becomes the caretaker for both the dog, Radar, whom he grows to love, and Bowditch, who gradually reveals his secrets, including the source of the gold pellets he keeps in his safe: the mysterious shed on his property contains a portal to another world, one teeming with evil that wants to escape. Once the action shifts there, the plot becomes derivative, retreading standard portal fantasy tropes and the familiar struggle between good and evil. Illustrations at the start of each chapter, headed with descriptions of what they include, further convey a juvenile feel. This attempt at creating a sense of wonder and magic falls short. (Sept.)