By: Stephen King
Date Finished: 04.01.13
“That is the story, and sometimes stories tell more than histories, and more quickly, too.”
My very first Stephen King novel! And, boy, was this a great place to start.
The story revolves around the royal family of a country called Delain and the king’s advisor Flagg, who is in fact an evil magician. Flagg’s only desire is for power without the potential for personal harm, which is best achieved by whispering in the ear of a weak king. Unfortunately for Flagg, the crown prince, Peter is a strong, kind, and clever boy — the very opposite of what he needs. Before knowing the danger, Peter falls into the trap set for him and must find a way out of it for the sake of his kingdom, which Flagg has brought to the brink of ruin.
King’s storytelling is exquisite with a self-referential narrator that is in no way involved in the plot. This narrator speaks with a casual voice making him feel like he’s in the room with you. It’s not exactly a campfire story, but it has that level of intimacy. There are also many times throughout the book when the narrator says, “That’s something you must decide for yourself.” This mantra is certainly audacious, but it works. Hats off to you, Mr. King, for knowing exactly how far you can push the boundaries.
Speaking of boundaries, this book redefined short chapters. It’s absolutely absurd to reach Chapter 70 when you’re only halfway through a book, but I love the brevity of scenes. And at the end, as all the storylines converge, the chapters shrink rapidly until they’re only half a page. This simple device brilliantly propels the story forward. Throughout, the pacing couldn’t be more perfect as one antidote flows seamlessly into the next, providing a lengthy and intricate backstory. It’s not an idle history either, as every detail becomes crucial to the bigger story — at least from the narrator’s view, since we are invited to decide for ourselves.
It’s a delicious tale, but I most love how the characters are introduced and how complete they are, from the crown prince to the nameless palace guard. You can tell that each person who makes it onto the page has their own history and motivation, whether or not it’s explicitly mentioned. Happily, the narration allows us to intimately know several different characters. Even the sled dog gets a chapter of her own. The specificity of the characters makes every interaction significant and rich.
In a nutshell? Seamless. Riveting. Marvelous.
At the end of the day: Really, really, really for me