I have to admit, I am a massive Dark Tower fanboy. The original seven books are easily some of my favourite reads – the series ticks a vast number of boxes for me and I can’t help but recommend it to everyone I meet. I also must admit, that upon hearing about The Wind Through the Keyhole I got far too over excited and started to pine after it endlessly. However, as soon as the book finally dropped through my letterbox and I unwrapped it eagerly, hesitation set in. Would King be able to recapture the original spark? And would the concept of a story being told within a story work?
Well, yes and no. Let’s face facts any Dark Tower fan is going to read the new book no matter what I or any other blogger or critic would say. So, I will attempt to sum up whether it lives up to the expectation and whether new readers could approach the series from this instalment.
Mr King opens the book by stating that if you haven’t read any of the previous titles you will have no problems picking up this novel and enjoying it. I’m sorry Mr King, but you are a bit wrong. This part sits between part four (Wizard and Glass) and part five (Wolves of the Calla), in essence it is part 4.5, plenty has preceded this in terms of story and no matter how much summary King gives, it won’t make up for not having read the opening parts. There are too many moments that need prior knowledge and the beauty of The Dark Tower is its randomness and sprawling, linking narrative which would leave a new reader a touch lost.
So, does it live up to expectation? Well, yes and no. For the first 40 pages we meet back up with Roland and his Ka’Tet and all is good. It’s wonderful to drop back into Mid-World; it feels as if we never left. But soon the story takes a turn and Roland begins to tell a tale from his youth. The story of Roland hunting down a shapeshifter is gripping and entertaining and it holds enough of the fantasy of King’s imagination to hold its head high alongside the other parts of the franchise.
However, the entire book becomes a little convoluted when during Roland’s story; his younger self begins to tell his own story. This third tale is more of a fairytale and it is utterly stunning. For me the tale of Tim Ross who must venture through dark forests, deal with magical men, dragons and mysterious technology is everything that The Dark Tower means to me. It contained enough mystery, excitement and passion to keep me under its spell.
King eases back into Dark Tower mode very easily. The language flows from the pages wonderfully and King uses his envy inducing talent for storytelling to captivate the reader. There’s plenty to sink your teeth into, from the starkblast weather storms to the more in-depth involvement of Billy Bumblers. Then there’s appearances from Randall Flagg and technology that hints at other worlds. Even while I write this I’m grinning to think about each nuance that I adore in the series.
Both of these stories are satisfying, they’re a thrill to read, but I have to wonder why King didn’t just write them separately. Why not set out and write a book of novellas or short stories? There’s nothing majorly wrong with his narrative but it did jar with me. It felt a little Dark Tower ‘lite’ rather than a fully fledged new part. Having said all of that, I have to say my hopes were very high for the book and it was probably never going to meet those hopes. I couldn’t help but turn the final page and say “Oh, was that it?.”
Thing is, that’s the only real negative I can think of and even that is built more from my own attitudes and passion for the series than the actual premise or prose. I love that King came back to the universe and I’m hoping that the subtitle of ‘A Dark Tower Novel’ means that we may see more entries in the future. Oh, one other negative… I now want to re-read the entire series… all 3000+ pages of it!
Published by Hodder and Stoughton. This book was kindly sent from the publisher. If you want to read more about The Dark Tower series and more impressions of the latest part, do check out Matt’s (Reader Dad) essay on the series – HERE.