Stephen King has always been the master of suspense. Both readers and film makers can attest to the creativity in which King paints horrifyingly beautiful villains in his books. From the monster in IT to the ever-expanding Dark Tower series, he is continually providing reason after reason as to why he holds the mantle of the modern master of horror (Lovecraft is still the king.)
In The Talisman, King teams up with fellow horror author Peter Straub to weave a unique fantasy. In this fictional universe, there are multiple realities, of which Earth is connected to one called The Territories. There are certain interesting features about this alternate reality that draw similarities from other works in the Fantasy-Ficton genre, such as: the existence of magic (not just the Copperfield kind), humanoid beasts, and a culture that would make King Arthur feel at home. Certain individuals are more sensitive to the alternate reality, and some are even able to cross over. The most unique thing about the two linked realities is that there are counterparts or “twinners” of some people in each reality, meaning Bob the construction worker could be a knight in The Territories.
The protagonist, a 10 year old Jack Sawyer, is one who is able to “flip” between realities, and is tasked with saving his mother by adventuring into The Territories and retrieving the Talisman to bring her back to life. This is a twisted tale of Tom Sawyer, where werewolves, living trees and a sinister army lead by his father’s killer stand between Tom and the mythical artifact.
This is a great read for fantasy fans looking for a bit of a twist from the usual Dungeons & Dragons plotlines. A bit lengthy, but one hell of an adventure for those who are willing to follow Jack into a strange new world.
(Note: A sequel called Black House was published in 2001, and follows a now grown up Jack Sawyer.)