Dark Tower, Book 4 and other works in Roland's world

Thursday, August 28, 2014
Dark Tower update: I am currently reading the last in the Dark Tower series. And both cursing and praising Stephen King for ever writing it. When you've had 6 books (+ related works) to get to know a group of characters, every triumph is so sweet and every loss is so so sad. I think my husband was almost ready to stage an intervention the evening he came in to the room and I was sobbing into my Kindle.

My previous Dark Tower posts can be found here (intro and book 1) and here (books 2 and 3).

First things first: it might seem weird to combine a review of a book in the series with a related novel and novella, but these stories all share a common element in that they all are primarily flash backs in Roland's life. If you are a big fan of the ka-tet -- Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake, and Oy -- then you might be upset to learn that their story isn't really the focus in these stories. But trust me, I think the Dark Tower series truly shines in these flashbacks to Roland's world.

Book Four: Wizard and Glass

Rating ★ / Goodreads

'Bird and bear and hare and fish...' 

Book Three of this series was left in a wicked wicked cliffhanger. I can't imagine how those reading the series at that time felt, as Three was published in 1991 and Four in 1997, because I basically finished one book and immediately bought the next to start. (OK -- I can imagine it, as I am going through the same with GRRM and the  Song of Ice and Fire series, gah!) We get a resolution in the conflict between Blaine the crazy train and the ka-tet and a little more of their journey  (with a nod to The Stand, one of my favorite King novels)  before entering the wonderful retelling of a story from Roland's youth. 

And such a wonderful, engrossing story it is. I think in some ways, Wizard and Glass is my absolute favorite of this series so far. I love the wild Western blending with magic and sci-fi. I love the characters Alain and Cuthbert. I love the relationship between Susan Delgado and Roland, and the way King was able to capture young love. 

I even love the dark sense of foreboding (because if I didn't, there would be no way I could read this epic). I, like Eddie, didn't want Roland to tell his story but needed to read it. I spent most of the time reading not wanting to know what terrible things were going to happen but simultaneously needing to know. 

It was a big risk in someways to diverge so completely from the main epic, but I think this book succeeds. And the tears you'll shed here are only the beginning.

The Wind Through the Keyhole

Rating ★ / Goodreads

This novel was published in 2012 after the original series was finished, but it takes place in the time between Books 4 and 5, so many call it 4.5. It is again mostly a flash-back to Roland's youth, which is essential a frame story for another story (Inception much?) that had been told to Roland in his own youth.

I really loved the further mixing of Arthurian mythology and weird Western. It is a pretty quick read (all things King considered), and I am pretty sure I will revisit it again after finishing the series.

The Little Sisters of Eluria

Rating ★ / Goodreads (within Everything Eventual)

This novella is another flashback of Roland's life -- sometime between the events of Wizard and Glass and The Gunslinger. It has vampire nuns. Do you really need to know anything more?

I'd recommend reading it between Books 4 and 5, as you are already in Roland flashback mode. The story itself is engaging, but as a reader, you also get a chance to explore more of the mythology of Roland's world, which I think is helpful going into the last books of this series.

I found this novella in King's short story collection Everything's Eventual.

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