In 1981, Stephen King and Peter Straub teamed up to create the first "dark fantasy" novel, two horror novelists' take on a classic adventure story of a child moving from the mundane real world to a larger-than-life fantasy world right next door, for the sake of a quest critical to the survival of each world.
While the form is an old one, aside from Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" and L. Frank Baum's Oz novels, the genre is traditionally almost entirely British or European: Alice in Wonderland or through the looking glass, the British children entering Narnia through the wardrobe and painting and so on. More importantly, the actual consequences of such adventures are rarely dwelt upon to any degree: Twain's story is a comedy, Alice wakes up into the real world at the end of her adventures, and if the children forming a new Royal Family in Narnia has an repercussions, they aren't felt on this side of the wardrobe.
In contrast, the repercussions of the adventures that take place before the opening of "The Talisman" - the adventures of the parents of the protagonists, to be specific - are what drives the action. The sins of the fathers become the problems of the sons, problems far beyond what any child should have to endure. That the adults could get so entranced with the magic of the Territories that they become drunk on it is part of the dark underside of fantasy, one rarely touched upon prior to the publication of "The Talisman." But while the fathers find the magical land of the Territories - a magical pseudo-medieval American colonies that never were, where an old blues player serves as the wise advisor instead of a white-bearded wizard - to be intoxicating and seductive, their children also see the terrifying side. Monsters even worse than those that exist in the real world - and the horror grounding of authors King and Straub clearly communicate an understanding of real-world evil - stalk back and forth between...
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