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Roland of Gilead. Son of Steven. The last Gunslinger.
Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass - Stephen King
Member Name: dawnymarie
Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass - Stephen King
Date: 13/10/12, updated on 03/12/12 (146 review reads)
Advantages: The epic saga continues in Western setting and we get to meet Susan Deldgado...Roland's love
Why read this one?
I had greedily consumed the first three instalments of Stephen King's Dark Tower Epic series - it was inevitable that I would read this one. Indeed, wild horses would not have prevented me from continuing with this tale. At the end of the last book - The Wastelands - there was a cliff hanger situation, I had to know the outcome.
Roland of Gilead. Son of Steven. The last gunslinger. He has suffered greatly since the age of 14. Up until then he had lived a quiet life in the comforts of Gilead - though he was under instruction from a tough mentor (Cort) in the skills of gunslingers. He searches for the mysterious Dark Tower and is completely focused on this quest. He has already lost much in his obsessive hunt for the Tower. Recent events have brought three people and a billy bumbler (part dog, part raccoon) into his life, his world. They are now Ka tet (a group with the same destiny) and have bonded. Blaine the train wants riddles and they had better be good - if not they are all in for a very bumpy ride. Roland has a traumatic challenge that will open old scars - has he the courage to revisit his past?
For the love of Susan Delgado...
This book was a long time in the making. King knew that he had to tell the tale of Roland's past in this prose and it scared him to death. King needed to remember what it felt like to be in love at the tender age of 14 - this was something he thought impossible, not his usual topic is it...love? Not something that he is good at? A voice inside him told him that he would tell what it was like... that voice was Roland's and he tells it well.
After a climatic and fast paced start to the prose the Ka tet realise that they are in another part of the world in another when. Not only that, they have lost the 'beam' the parting of the clouds and the subtle path that leads them on their way to the Tower. I have had a brilliant read already as the book begins where the last one left off and it got the heart racing as I hoped for a good outcome to the dilemma, that was, Blaine the pain in the neck train. Now I am in a different 'when' and it is fascinating to think that different outcomes are possible for any time and place which seem to be running in parallel - are they? Nothing is set in stone just yet and that is what keeps me reading this series - the possibilities are endless.
They seem to be in Kansas and some signs and stores are recognisable with the odd one or two that are clearly not - riddle time again, maybe? Is there someone playing games with them? The book is called the wizard and glass - it is possible. Or maybe the Tower. Is the Tower a real, living thing or does someone control time and worlds from within the Tower? I do not find this confusing - I find it totally absorbing and thought provoking. I am challenged to think outside the box. It is satisfying to have such a partnership with the author.
What this book had in store for me was magnificent. This is the best of the series so far. I have loved them all but this one grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let me go - in a good way. Roland (who is so like Clint Eastwood in my mind's eye) knows that he has to tell his sorry tale and that means revisiting a small town called Mejis. This is where he met the love of his life - Susan Delgado. My hairs stand on end now at the mention of her name, that is how well King told the tale as reported by Roland. I have heard Roland mention Susan in past books and knew he had once loved her. I knew she was most likely dead and they were just words - no emotion evoked when you just read the words without having got to know her, without having any incline of the passion this pair shared. Once I had met Susan and grown attached to her I would feel a shiver down my spine. I never expected a love story in this cut throat world of Roland's - women yes but not lover. This surprised me and satisfied me in a very good way.
Mejis is described in such a way that I am not bogged down with all the irrelevant nooks and crannies - I have all I need to know to visualise something out of a spaghetti western or a town similar to Deadwood. There is no Al Swearengen here though; but you have cowboys and guns. One particular bad boy is Jonas and he is a failed gunslinger - that is a chip on his shoulder and he doesn't make a habit of mentioning it to his two sidekicks who are half decent shooters but not much in way of brainpower. This trio provide a good lot of conflict and challenge for Roland and his two companions who are all boys. Roland may be a youth but he is a fully fledged gunslinger - you don't mess with one of those.
Susan and Roland meet for long enough to know that they love each other before he rides into town - as she is spoken for by an old man who wants her for his plaything in return for monetary favours for her aunt (a cruel shrew) she initially tells Roland to stay away. She wants him. King portrays that beautifully and it is like he has been writing like that a long time. Subtle but effective - you know what Susan Delgado wants and you know that in time she is going to have to have it.
So, the scene is set and for the first time in the tale we are in a western. I love that genre and I devour the pages which are filled with sense flaring precision. Then there is the witch named Rhea. Susan has an intrusive and invading experience with this woman - I was cringing whilst reading the degrading test that she had to endure. The old Mayor wanted a virgin - Rhea had ways to check - enough said. Whilst in the location of Rhea's shack I was transported to another world and reminded of Hansel and Gretel. It was creepy, but then that is to be expected from this genius writer who excels in creepy and suspense. I say suspense at this point because the glass that is mentioned in the title is a ball, it glows pink when it comes to life - I thought pink would equate to nice surprises but was horribly wrong in that assumption. This glass ball only enjoys suffering - it can show it and it can create it. Rhea loves this ball. Anyone who looks into the ball wants the ball. I am reminded vividly of Lord of the Rings when Rhea says to the ball 'come to me, my beauty' and she is in a trance like state as the hobbit was when he placed the ring on his finger. As I also like that saga this really does appeal.
There are games being played by all in this town. Supposedly a sleepy hideaway for the naughty boys to be sent after Roland had been misbehaving - their fathers need them safe too as war is breaking out and a man named Farson means to destroy all in his path. Gunslingers will be in his way. No one in Mejis will be aware of the boys status, especially not Roland's - for this reason they have false names and pretend to be harmless and stupid. That is until Cuthbert causes mayhem in the bar when a simple boy named Sheemie is in danger of being killed. Just like in the westerns we have good guys and bad guys, folk who appeal to good guys and need protection and underhanded double dealings going on - greed, betrayal and blackmail a plenty. Both men and women capable of obscene cruelty in their quest for wealth. This scenario provoked much thought - human nature is interesting to see in action and time again it all comes down to greed. Power and greed.
The western/fantasy themes slot together in the prose perfectly and the pace is consistent throughout. King never wanders off into reams of description, some is definitely needed and appreciated to give a clear understanding of the environment, and he always sticks to the story. Not once did I hope that he would get on with it. Every page is justifiable in what it contains. Occasionally the heat is turned up a notch and King delivers to the reader a suspenseful treat.
On the topic of love - King is masterful; he listened to his protagonist well. I was in little doubt that Susan and Roland would be together and as the prose developed and the dangerous situation evolved my heart began to race. Pages turned and I desperately wanted them to give in and acknowledge their love. King developed passion. That passion developed into urgency and I need not tell you more but he hits the spot. I was very impressed. He wonders if he did the job well, he feared this theme and wondered how he would deliver the teenage relationship in words that would convey the feelings that only a young person would feel. Well, if my experience is anything to go by - Mr King you did well. Breath-taking.
I became attached to Cuthbert, Alain, Sheemie and Susan during the course of this prose. I was doubtful of Susan's safety but could not help but grow to love her and care about her. She is not a whimsical girl who has been swept off her feet. She is capable and independent; she is manipulated by her aunt because of her father's death (that is another story). Susan's traits are appealing and her tenacity and loyalty, in particular, touched me. This book got to me in ways that the others have not - this is because of the inclusion of Susan - I have looked deep inside Roland of Gilead. I once thought him like a machine in his manner. I knew he had compassion but had yet to see what he was made of and what experiences had scarred him for life.
The opposing sides will end up playing each other like a game of chess (known as castles). Each wanting to out think and outwit the other. I liked these developments very much. It was exquisitely crafted and appeared flawless. Not a simple strategy either. Both sides gave their best and all of them knew if they lost that they lost with their lives. Big stakes. As with any western the stakes are life or death. Take your chances.
Jonas dithers when he knows he is up against a gunslinger. He has felt the wrath of a gunslinger in the past and he fears it. He knows he is a failure. But then he touches the glass ball and he thinks himself unbeatable - he thinks he stands a chance. Go take your chance Jonas. I won't wait up.
An impressive feat is played out before my eyes - I would love this series to be made into a TV series as it would be fabulous viewing. Both sides are set but only one will win. Only one will win the war of men that is. But in the war that concerns Rhea of the Coos, Rhea who has reason to want revenge on Roland of Gilead - that troublesome boy - the worst is to come. Once again I have goose bumps and my heart sinks - not till now have I been filled with tears when reading a King book. Not when reading the Dark Tower series. The final pages of this prose brought out emotion and it was strong. I was saddened and horrified by the final outcome of this war between men, women, wizards and witches. Some play fair. Some don't. Some won't stop just yet. Watch yourself Roland of Gilead. Rhea of the Coo's has not finished with you .... Not yet, not ever unless you stop your quest for the Dark Tower! You have been warned.
Rhea will appear in the ball like the bad witch in the Wizard of Oz and back in the present time, after the story is told, the Kat et will click their red ruby slippers three times as they say 'there's no place like home'. Will they get there?
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If you have read the first three books in the Dark Tower series you won't want to miss this one. King promises western mixed with Lord of the Rings and in this one it stands out loud and clear. I enjoyed the climax to the cliff hanger that began the prose but the icing on the cake is the visit to Mejis where we meet bad guys from all walks of life, a good natured boy named Sheemie who is loyal to Roland and his friends, and Susan Delgado. To get to find out all there is to know about Susan was a real treat - it doesn't take the main role in the prose, plenty of fighting, mischief, horrors, betrayal and mayhem to come, but it was captivating. Considering King's reluctance to begin this novel, because he wasn't sure how to convey the love aspect, he has excelled and had no trouble in evoking strong emotion in me. This one has many themes to interest the reader and all of them sit well with each other. Western and fantasy join to deliver a masterful prose. The conclusion was satisfactory though heart wrenching and horrifying - unimaginable suffering. And the journey goes on. I will ride with Roland again. I have to. I'm a part of the Ka tet now.
Published on Ciao
Summary: Continue in search of the Dark Tower