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My first thought was, he lied in every word
The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel - Stephen King
Member Name: calypte
The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel - Stephen King
Date: 03/07/12, updated on 03/07/12 (60 review reads)
Advantages: So great to revisit one of my favourite ever series!
Disadvantages: The middle tale takes a while to get going, and there's little of substance to the others
I first read that line some 20 years ago now, and it still sends shivers down my spine. Stephen King's epic Dark Tower series stands among one of the most important tales in both King's work and my own reading history, transitioning me from 'cool' horror to the fantasy epics I now love.
Roland Deschain is a gunslinger (sort of a cross between a Knight of the Round Table and a Wild West marshal) in a world that is beyond old and breaking down. Things have 'moved on' even over the course of own life, and all he has left is the need to reach the Dark Tower - the nexus of all worlds. If you've read any Stephen King novel, chances are you've 'witnessed' one of the thin spots between realities...
Over the course of seven volumes, Roland collects a small band from our world: former junkie Eddie, wheelchair-bound Susannah (who once had two other personalities), and the boy-who-died, Jake. Each comes from a different time period of a very different place to the one they now find themselves in, joining the quest to reach the Dark Tower. The latter novels had a slightly rushed feel, in my opinion, and the final conclusion was... well, controversial - I can say no more! I love it, though! To hear, then, that Stephen King was releasing a new volume caused mixed feelings: authors revisiting popular series so rarely works. However, I'm super-pleased to be able to report that The Wind Through the Keyhole disappointed me not one jot!
Set between volumes 4 and 5 of the series proper, WTtK picks up with our band during an otherwise glossed-over long stretch of travel - nothing too much happens, you might as well not talk about it. And indeed, here we spend only the barest of time with that overarching narrative: it is merely the outer, bookending tale in a nested set of three.
For, as the 'starkblast' storm approaches, Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake - our ka-tet - seek shelter in an abandoned town hall. To pass the time, Roland is encouraged to tell a story and to maybe reveal a little more of his mysterious past. And so he takes the group back to a task he was given as a young and inexperienced gunslinger, to track down a skin-changer terrorising a small town. During that past adventure Roland also had call to hunker down and tell a story, which is repeated during his more recent telling - if you're not feeling slightly confused yet, you probably followed the plot of Inception very well ;)
In structure, WTtK bears a strong resemblance to the (chronologically) previous novel, Wizard and Glass. I remember the frustration with that volume when it appeared mid-series: after a long (8 year!) wait since the third book, it was crushing to find so little forward momentum in the main narrative, instead taking a near full-book detour back to the past. However, repetition of that 'flaw' doesn't seem to matter to me at all here.
Some of that is down to WTtK not being a tagged-on sequel (and if you've read all seven of the Dark Tower series, you may see how that might or might not work!!). Rather, it seems to me like a decent deleted scene now added to the DVD extras. I would suggest it was removed purely because it was unnecessary to the main narrative, and would have broken the pacing - and it would have been far too similar to the previous, much-complained-about, book. However, so many years on it's nice to revisit and get another - if unimportant - slice of the story. Throughout the series we were given tantalising hints of Roland's world and its history, but I for one always thought there was much more to tell.
We don't get a huge amount more of that story here, more a glimpse of Roland's early life. It's not even as revealing as Wizard and Glass in terms of events shaping the young gunslinger's character. We learn even less about our main quartet; really we just briefly check in with them, perhaps fondly remembering the journey we've already taken with them. And in my case at least, how much I'd love a pet like Oy the billy-bumbler! :)
Instead, the bulk of the book is really setting up to tell the dark fairy tale at its core. Remembered from Roland's own childhood, I wasn't initially captured by the new account, with seemingly little to do with the Dark Tower or the characters we've been following, and frustratingly pedestrian. Themes familiar from King's other works, such as domestic violence, seem rather dull given the scope of what we still don't know about a world containing 20-foot tall cyborg bears driven mad by the passing of unknown millennia!! However, stick with the telling and eventually things do become that bit more intriguing. In fact, through the medium of story-telling (within the tale within the narrative!) we actually see a much more direct slice of the Dark Tower mythology - but of course, it's only a folk story...!
Then, from this darkest of faerie tales, the narrative once more pulls back a level to finish off Roland's reminiscing - which I've heard very aptly described as a "supernatural western" - and yet again to put us back on the path of the beam, once more heading towards the Dark Tower.
If that sentence seems baffling, then it suggests that my disagreement with the marketing of this book is correct: I cannot see this as a suitable stand-alone starting point for those who haven't read the Dark Tower series. For those of us who already know and love Mid-World this is a lovely revisit - and bonus outtake, if you like! - but for strangers to the land then I think the lack of background understanding is going to both lessen this tale and give away far too much about the main series. Which, of course, you should read entirely! ;)
~The Dark Tower series~
1. The Gunslinger
2. The Drawing of the Three
3. The Wastelands
4. Wizard and Glass
--> The Wind Through the Keyhole <--
5. The Wolves of the Calla
6. The Song of Susannah
7. The Dark Tower
A 'redux' version of The Gunslinger was also published: I love the original for all the reasons (over flowery writing, etc) King rewrote it 21 years on, and I love seeing the differences between the two!
Hardback: 335 pages
First published in 2012
RRP: £19.99, but currently £8.99 on Amazon
Summary: Three nested tales, loosely circling the Dark Tower