Review–The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

The Talisman
by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Summary: On a brisk autumn day, a twelve-year-old boy stands on the shores of the gray Atlantic, near a silent amusement park and a fading ocean resort called the Alhambra. The past has driven Jack Sawyer here: his father is gone, his mother is dying, and the world no longer makes sense. But for Jack everything is about to change. For he has been chosen to make a journey back across America--and into another realm.
One of the most influential and heralded works of fantasy ever written, The Talisman is an extraordinary novel of loyalty, awakening, terror, and mystery. Jack Sawyer, on a desperate quest to save his mother's life, must search for a prize across an epic landscape of innocents and monsters, of incredible dangers and even more incredible truths. The prize is essential, but the journey means even more.
Let the quest begin. . . .

Source: I’ve owned the paperback for over a decade and finally picked it up.

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The Talisman is exactly what I would expect a fantasy novel written by Stephen King to be like, which is a good thing. He modernized the fantasy genre quite a bit, but in a different way than most authors do. Most people take the stuff of fantasy novels and place them in a modern world, like that of the urban fantasy genre. But King (and Straub) didn’t really do that. Instead, the fantasy world is somewhat of a parallel universe and Jack has the ability to shift back and forth into it. But like the fantasy novels of old, the main character was young, hopeful, and had a long journey ahead of him before he could relax. The stuff of nightmares plagued him, played on his psyche, and motivated him to keep moving. He encountered villains along the way, but he also encountered friends, even among the strange creatures of the Territories.

I loved the plot and I was engrossed in the story for the majority of the novel. I enjoyed watching Jack grow and also seeing how he coped with the obstacles put in his path. Perhaps my favorite part of the novel was meeting Wolf. I felt like I got a lot more information about the Territories from Wolf and how they related to the regular world. I liked his fierce loyalty. It seems as if many reviewers disliked Wolf’s character and simplemindedness, but that was one of the highlights of the story to me.

My only issue with the book is also not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t understand why King’s novels are always so similar. I felt like there was a little bit of everything peppered into this story from his other novels that I’ve read, which was a shame considering I haven’t read very many. At the same time, those familiar characteristics or moments were great because I enjoy so many of the human aspects of his book, seeing how people grow, and discovering how their relationships with others is impacted.

I wouldn’t necessarily call The Talisman the best fantasy or the most magical story ever written, even by King or Straub. But it was highly captivating and awesome. I enjoyed reading it. The daunting length didn’t really get to me because I was so engrossed in the book. I recommend reading it, especially if you’re into fantasy types of plots and not so much horror, but have always wanted to check out King and Straub. They are some of the best horror writers of our time, but horror isn’t really a genre for everyone. The Talisman allows readers to get why King is a such a compelling author without stepping into an uncomfortable genre. Although, as a fan of horror novels, I still highly recommend picking some of his normal books up!


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