Book Review: "The Talisman" by Stephen King and Peter Straub

The Talisman by Peter Straub and Stephen King is a 644-page novel about a boy's journey across the country. Of course, if you know anything about these authors, you know that the novel is not as simple as I just made it sound.  

The Talisman revolves around a world that is mostly King's creation. Fans will recognize underlying tones from his other novels, particularly the Dark Tower series. Sure, the flavor of The Talisman is King, but that's not to say Straub's style is overpowered at all. It's a nice blend that is ultimately one of my favorites.

Jack is a boy of 12 who is somehow the keeper of two worlds that are connected, but somehow different. These two worlds are the world we know and the Territories. He must save both worlds and his mothers in both worlds from an evil man named Morgan. Morgan Sloat here, Morgan of Orris there. He is to achieve these heroic acts by finding the item on which all worlds, many more than these two, rely. This item is the Talisman and it is kept a country away from Jack within an evil castle/hotel that will try to stop him from retrieving his prize.

Peter Straub and Stephen King manage to weave a world that is both horrific and beautiful in the Territories. They also manage to remind us of what is horrific and what is beautiful in our own world. The reader cannot help but become engrossed in Jack's journey as we see him travel his way through both worlds, faltering at times, but always full of inner strength. Like a good fantasy novel, The Talisman has heroes of unlikely sorts and evils beyond comprehension. It is gripping, it is gruesome, it is sweet and it is charming in all of its complexity. Really, it is a damn good book.

Are there lengthy passages in the book that could probably be skimmed over or cut out completely? Of course there are. Stephen King is verbose after all. However, the book should not be discarded out of an unwillingness to read the unnecessary bits. The meat of the story is in there and it is worth chomping through some word salad to get to it. There is a sequel as well. It is called The Black House. We'll get to that shortly. I have to give it a reread before I tell you all about it, but I can tell you now that I liked it the first time I read it and that probably won't change, so if you get a chance to read both books before I get back to you, go for it. Don't wait around for me to tell you that a pair of novels by two masters is worth reading.

Shelly Barclay

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