Seventeen year old Charlie Reade didn’t set out to be a hero. He was just walking past Psycho House when he heard Radar barking. This leads to Charlie getting to know crotchety Mr Bowditch, a man with unexplained wealth and a shed with a padlock on the door.
‘I can’t talk about it now, Charlie, and you must not talk about it to anybody. Anybody. The consequences… I can’t even imagine. Promise me.’
After spending about a third of the book building a tenuous relationship with the declining Bowditch, we follow Radar and her new person down a well of the worlds and into the Other. All is not well in this fairytale land: a greying population, giants who “never sing when you want them to” and a Big Bad.
I was invested in the first third of the book, when the focus was on the relationship between Charlie and Mr Bowditch. While the world I explored alongside Charlie and Radar intrigued me, especially the haunted city, it didn’t captivate me like I’d hoped. I had a soft spot for Dora, although I didn’t feel like I really got to know the inhabitants of Empis. Much of the story was predictable but I enjoyed the ride.
As far as I’m concerned, the smartest choice Stephen King made when he was writing this book was making Radar a senior dog. I’m all for the cuteness of puppies, with their out of proportion feet and ears they haven’t grown into yet, but there’s something extra special about geriatric dogs. Their puppy soul doesn’t match their body’s limitations. Their grey mooshes are adorable. They’re quite content lazing on the couch with you for hours on end. They’re master manipulators, cajoling you into doing anything their little heart desires just by giving you one of their trademark looks.
Needless to say, I fell in love with Radar immediately and I broke my rule of not sneaking a peek at the final pages because I was so concerned for her welfare. I had to know whether I needed to prepare myself for the worst or if I could relax, knowing she would survive her time being written in the King-dom. Radar now owns a piece of my heart.
Here is something I learned in Empis: good people shine brighter in dark times.
Thank you so much to Hachette Australia for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen year old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher – for their world or ours.
Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mum 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 a dog named Radar and her aging master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.
Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.
King’s storytelling in Fairy Tale soars. This is a magnificent and terrifying tale about another world than ours, in which good is pitted against overwhelming evil, and a heroic boy – and his dog – must lead the battle.