Fairy Tale by Stephen King | #BookReview #DarkFantasy #Horror

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.

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

Fairy Tale by Stephen King is a dark fantasy about “a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the key to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for their world or ours.” (book blurb)

Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):

This story sounds like it may be a quantum physics-type story, so I’m very curious if it is. Quantum physics/ parallel worlds have always fascinated me. But I must admit I’m going into this book worried that it may be too much for me. Stephen King’s horror stories are precisely why I don’t read horror stories. I read a few of his books when I was a teenager, and they scared the pants off me. I can, however, handle sci-fi thrillers and dark fantasy, and it sounds like it’s more of that type of story, which is why I am even giving it a try.

Actual Reading Experience:

It is very much a dark fantasy story, and I enjoyed it. Of course, with dark fantasy comes a lot of violence, blood, and gore, and it did have plenty of that. But no pet-type animals are harmed, and that’s the line I can’t cross.

It’s written in much of the same style as the original Grimm fairy tales, which are about as far from their Disney retellings as they can possibly be. I even doubted whether there would be a fairy tale ending because I could see Stephen King doing just that. And I’m not telling you how the ending actually was. Consider that my little tease for you.

I loved the little technical details too. Visually it looked like a fairy tale. The font is the classic fairy tale font, and each chapter begins with a small black-and-white drawing type of picture. These little details significantly impact the novel’s feel. They allowed me to more easily buy-in into the “Once upon a time, in a land far, far away” vibe that King was going for.


Charlie Reade is a teenage boy who lost his mother in a freak accident while still young. This event had a significant impact on Charlie and his father and continues to as the book unfolds.

All the characters are incredibly developed, down to the most minor of support characters. They are all unique, with discernable voices, and have layers upon layers of scars and experiences that created their character in the story.

Narration & Pacing:

It is a very long book, and although the pace stayed quick, it felt like a long book. I wondered a few times when I would finally feel like I was making some progress. I felt like I was not making a dent in the number of pages, even though I felt like the story moved quickly. But it is just over 600 pages, so I probably shouldn’t be that surprised.

Charlie narrates the story in first-person, which is the perfect narration for this story. It allows the reader to be as surprised as Charlie is about revelations and events.


The story takes place in the contemporary US and a parallel world. Both worlds seem as real as the world outside your window because they are so exquisitely detailed using all the senses. The parallel world is very different from our own, but I felt like I knew it as well as I did our own. I could see it, touch it, even smell it. This made for a very immersive story that doesn’t let go of you even after the story is over.

Read it, if you like:

  • Classic Grimm fairy tales
  • Spectacular world-building
  • A mix of plot-driven and character-driven
  • Dark Fantasy (significant amount of violence and gore)
  • Loads of suspense and thrills

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • Originality: 5 out of 10
  • Writing Quality: 10 out of 10
  • Pace: 8 out of 10
  • Character Development: 10 out of 10
  • ‘Couldn’t Put It Down’-ness: 5 out of 10
  • World-Building: 10 out of 10

39 Replies to “Fairy Tale by Stephen King | #BookReview #DarkFantasy #Horror”

  1. Glad you enjoyed it too, Tessa! I listened to it and I flew through it a lot faster than I’d thought I would.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought about getting the audio version because I have some extra credits, but if had been scary, I thought the audio version would make it that much worse. 🤣. Of course, it would have been fine.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I know, right? I thought putting that no pet-like animals were harmed was a bit of a spoiler, for just that reason. Though I tried to word it in a way that the outcome is still open.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. There is one little detail nagging me about this blurb: when someone is under 18, they are seen to lack the capacity to inherit a gift under a Will, and therefore are not entitled to receive or accept the gift or share of estate until they reach the age of 18. How has this been dealt with?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The father is actively involved in everything between the man and the boy. He went to the lawyers office with his son for the reading of the will, and I don’t remember if it was explicitly stated or not, but usually the parent or guardian manages any property inherited by a minor. I got the impression that would happen in this case as well, though the story doesn’t reach the point where it would have to show that. The boy’s age is handled appropriately in a few instances in the story.


  3. A bit different for King, but he’s done fantasy before in the past. It’s been a long while since I’ve read one of his books but I can always count on the writing quality to sweep me away!

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  4. Believe it or not, I’ve never read a Stephen King book! When I was younger, I loved horror films and I thought the film adaptations of Misery and The Shining were excellent. These days I am not into horror, but dark fantasy sounds more appealing, so maybe a good place to start?

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  5. Thanks for sharing! I’ve had my eye on this since I love Stephen King’s writing normally 👀👀👀

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  6. It sounds very different from typical Stephen King books. Wonderful review, Tessa. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. Not sure if I could attend for 600 pages.

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  7. This sounds like a book I’d enjoy, Tessa, but the length is intimidating. Maybe something to save for a long plane ride someday in the future. 🙂 I do like dark fantasy and spectacular world building.

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  8. This sounds like an incredible fantasy! I’m not really into dark novels but I know Stephen King is an incredible author, so I may have to give it a try! Great review Tessa!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve been wanting to read this book and, after your review, I’ll be buying it! Thanks so much.


  10. I just finished the book (and it is long, but not daunting), and as a long time King fan I thoroughly enjoy his foray into fairytale land. Yes dark, but yes entertaining and clever. I was just talking with my husband about it and how I wish I could put my finger on what it is about his writing style that makes books so readable. It’s some kind of magic, I swear. Glad you liked it. My review will be up soon.
    Terrie @ Bookshelf Journeys

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s his world building. He’s exceptional at creating worlds that you experience with all of your senses. Plus his characters are so incredibly well-developed. That all makes such a difference.


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