The Talisman is the first collaboration between Stephen King and Peter Straub. It features the tale of a 12 year old boy named Jack Sawyer on a quest to retrieve a magical artifact known as the talisman, which has the power to save Jack’s terminally ill mother. The problem is Jack has to travel through another world (known as the Territories) in order to reach the talisman, and is pursued by his father’s business partner, Morgan Sloat, who wants the talisman for his own purposes.
While The Talisman is much more of a work of adventure fantasy than horror, it should come as no surprise that there are horror elements present. Jack encounters all sorts of monsters (both human and non) during his travels and his best friend for much of the novel is a werewolf simply named Wolf. Meeting Wolf is in many ways the turning point of the novel; before Wolf it seems as though Jack is just kind of wandering from place to place as he makes his way towards the talisman, after meeting Wolf the story takes a darker, more suspenseful turn, especially as Wolf does what werewolves tend to do.
The Talisman has some minor flaws. It takes a while to get going, at least until Jack meets Wolf. Jack is likable enough as the main protagonist, but doesn’t feel as fully fleshed out as many of the other characters, particularly Wolf and Jack’s other main travelling partner, Richard Sloat. While this may not be a reasonable complaint, The Talisman pales in comparison to what each author is capable of individually; King’s Dark Tower series is a classic, as is Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.
Still, those looking for a good fantasy book should check out The Talisman. It’s world-building, character development, and story make it a consistently enjoyable book.