The Talisman (1984) – Stephen King and Peter Straub

There are very few Stephen King novels I haven’t read, and even as I revisit the occasional one, I realised that I had never finished The Talisman.

A copy of this book was a Christmas gift to my Mom the year it came out. She read it first, and I was next in line to take the journey with young Jack Sawyer. I remember starting it, and getting so many pages in, and then just not getting hooked on it.

I even tried it 15 years after that, and still couldn’t get into it. In fact, I didn’t get anywhere near as far as I had the first time I tried.

Third time was the charm.

Sharing writing credit with Peter Straub, the two authors created an epic tale following in the theme of a quest, and a bit of a road movie (though one could argue they are one and the same).

Young Jack Sawyer’s mother, Lily, is dying, and he goes on a cross-country for a mystical totem called The Talisman, that sees him travelling not only across the United States, but a connected world known as The Territories.


The Territories are a fantasy realm, there are werewolfs (Wolfs, not Wolves) dastardly villains, and terrifying monsters. And some of the people in Jack’s world have twins in the Territories.

As we follow Jack on his journey we encounter darkness, evil, as well as goodness and love, though to be sure, this is a Stephen King an Peter Straub story, so darkness and evil seem to be a little more prevalent throughout the story.

While I enjoyed the story, and a lot of the images, this one didn’t engage me quite as much as King’s other works, and I’ve only ever read one Straub book (Ghost Story. Any other recommendations?). It’s not that it was predictable, though I was well aware of what beats had to happen before the end of the journey, it just didn’t hook me in like I had hoped it would.

Perhaps over the decades, my mind had built up what I thought it should be about versus what it actually ended up being.

It’s a good story, but the monsters both human and other that Jack encountered didn’t seem to be as frightening as I think they would have been had I read the book in my early teens. I would have been the same age as Jack, had I read it when it was my mom’s present, coming to it now, it didn’t take me in the way other King tales have.

It is, nonetheless, an enjoyable read, and I definitely see me picking up the sequel, Black House, somewhere in the near future, but it also kindled an urge to travel with the Gunslinger again as he pursues the Man in Black and journeys towards the Dark Tower.


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