By Daniel Dern. For many years now, Jane Yolen, among others, has been researching, teaching, writing, and panelling the dark pre-Disney roots of fairy tales.
In Fairy Tale, his newest novel, Stephen King delivers a, cough, grimm contemporary story, explicitly incorporating horror in the, cough, spirit of Lovecraft (King also explicitly namedrops, in the text, August Derleth, and Henry Kuttner), in which high-schooler Charlie Reade becomes involved in things — and challenges — that, as the book and plot progress, stray beyond the mundane. There’s a dog involved — in this book, a good one rather than a bad one. (King does, amusingly have Charlie namedrop “Cujo” — the St. Bernard from King’s early eponymous novel — early on.)
And lots more. There’s guns and gold. No riddle scenes, no dragons.
Personally, I’m inclined to label Fairy Tale “dark fantasy,” whatever that means, rather than horror, although as I think about it, both feel correct. (Darrell Schweitzer or some other horror expert is welcome to weigh in.) But it’s not the “because evil/unhappy spirits of buried bones” that it feels like too many of King’s books end up blaming.
If you are already a King fan, you’ll want to read Fairy Tale. (I’ve read lots of King, though not all, for example, not the Dark Tower books, although I have one friend who loves them.)
If you haven’t read King yet, or only a few, but you’re open to dark bordering-on-horror fantasy, I recommend Fairy Tale. Does it have a happy or unhappy ending? Is there a pile of gold? No comment. The only non-spoiler comment I’ll make: The story is told first-person, Charlie unreeling events from a long-after perspective. So Charlie doesn’t buy the farm.
I know, heckofa non-review. It’s King, so well-written, long (though by today’s standards, average length or even, since it’s a one-and-done, technically almost short). Good, real characters. Clear prose, great pacing.
Or, to boil it down to a short sentence: “Stephen King’s got a new dark fantasy/horror novel out, worth reading.”