on August 22, 2012
Alright, let me first say that this book is not perfect. I enjoyed the middle story, Wind Through the Keyhole, it gave a wonderful hint at the grand adventures that were taken in Roland's world long time past. There really wasn't a problem with the center story. Then there was the story of the Skin-man vs. Roland. The problem with that story was that it was too short for my taste. I wanted more (more than the comics) written by King himself about Roland's time after becoming a Gunslinger and his adventures as seen in the mid-story of Wizards & Glass. The teen Roalnd's story was too short for my taste. It was a good idea, but too short. Thus the first reason I ticked off half a star from this book. Then there was the "current" story with Roland which was the outer boundaries of this book. That too could have been a bit more described. Sadly, because it wasn't given enough of a tale, that was another half a tick off of the star. Now mind you, I do think this book does a great job in showing some of what happened between book 4 and 5. Don't get me wrong. But I just have to wonder what it was like going from the world of The Stand (which was the world Roland and his friends found themselves in, in book 4) back into the world of Mid-World. It would have been interesting if King had showed at least a small meeting between, say, Stu or Mother Abagail (I think it would be greatly powerful to see Mother Abagail's reaction to Roland and his Ka-tet). Still, can't have it all...also mind you, I think Stephen King has a few more stories in his mind. We know that The Talisman and Black House adventures of Jack Sawyer takes place in the Dark Tower universe, so there is supposed to be a third book in that series. We also know that the main heroes of the Eyes of the Dragon meet up and confront RF, while also meeting Roland, so there's that book too. So, I hope that those books will be written. My only concern is that these books will either be a) rushed, b) written not by King but by his son, or c) made into comic books. Oh well, you can't have it all. I would highly suggest picking up this book. I read it in a day's worth of time, so it is a quick read. If you really want to be a collector, buy the Donald M. Grant version with the artwork. If not, then go ahead and buy the regular edition of the book (it does not contain the artwork).
on August 9, 2012
Note, that's not a 5 star rating you see: it's only 4.5 which doesn't fit with Amazon's rubric, so I rounded up. It's only 4.5 because while I found "The Wind Through The Keyhole" a ripping yarn that Mr. King weaves well up to his usual high standard, there were a few discordant knots that gave me pause. The first was the setup of the innermost story coming out of Roland's mouth in the voice of Gabrielle. I somehow can't wrap my mind around the dissonance of phrases like, "Get me off this f***ing island!" flowing from the graceful and dulcet mouth of Mrs. Deschain as she reads to her toddling boy. A minor quibble to be sure, but when someone suggests that the queen spices her story-telling with lingua vera, I begin to suspect that the author forgot who was telling the story within the story (within the story).
Another peeve I have with Mr. King is that ever since DT7, the ultimate confrontation with the villain / monster of the piece is pretty ho-hum. I plowed (quite happily) through 1,000 pages of "Under The Dome" only to find the cosmic crescendo explode with all of the sound and fury of a popcorn fart when one of the heroes begs the bad guy alien kiddies to "please, please stop hurting us!" (or words to that effect). The demise of Randall Flagg? -- no Showdown at the Discordia Corral there. And now, the Skin-Man Commeth . . . and is dispatched in about three paragraphs after 260 pages of buildup. With all of the gore and horror that Mr. King kneads into the story in his brutally graphic idiom, one would think that taking on this hellion Skin-Man is going to be one smokin' finale, but alas like the obliteration of the quintessential antihero (the Crimson King) at the hands of a kid with a No. 2 pencil's eraser, he is dispatched within mere minutes of revelation in a totally predictable fashion. As good a yarn spinner as Mr. King is, he can do far better.
Insignificant niggling aside, this novel is a splendid example of Mr. King's craftsmanship. At a moderate 300 pages, I hung onto every word as though I were at the fireplace with Eddie, Susannah, and Jake. The innermost story was compelling enough to stand on its own as a novella, much like "The Little Sisters of Eluria." I hope and pray that Mr. King will resume his narrative of Lefty Ross and serve us with all of his gunslinging exploits at some future point.
Unlike others, I really don't care if this work doesn't advance the overall arch of the Dark Tower series and I haven't given much thought about whether it's an eighth novel or an appendix to the series. I just like the way Stephen King writes and would willingly take a chance on anything he produces. If you feel about him and his talent the way I do, you'll delight in "The Wind Through The Keyhole."
on July 23, 2012
Let's open this thing up with some honesty, shall we? Stephen King can write whatever the hell he wants, and spin it into gold like some sort of tall, decrepit, bespectacled Rumplestiltskin.
If he wanted to write a story using only eleven letters of the alphabet and omitting every other page, and for some unfathomable reason he set it in Machu Picchu in 1693, it would still sell a blagillion copies. At times, it felt as if King knew this as he wrote The Wind Through the Keyhole (TWTTK). Presumptively, the "King of Horror" bows to no editor. And you know what? If I had his talent, his résumé, and had almost died at the hands of an idiot in a van once upon a tragic time, I wouldn't either.
But there is control within the chaos.
This new volume doesn't expand upon the original story in terms of plot, but in this little pit stop King examines the rules of fiction writing, and he bends them to his will. TWTTK is actually three separate stories, tucked within one another like little Russian nesting dolls. This means that, yes, there are three interrelated levels of storytelling going on here--four actually, if you acknowledge the fact that King is the divine mastermind behind the desk. Not to mention, the whole thing rests within the heart of King's greatest tale, his magnum opus, The Dark Tower series.
And because of his caramel-smooth prose and knack for laying blood-drawing barbs, the story-within-a-story-within-a-story approach is all but seamless. While the result is not the most epic of tales, what you have is three hundred pages of fireside fantasies and a nice little bridge between the colossal love story which comprises Volume IV: Wizard and Glass, and the battle looming in Volume V: Wolves of the Calla.
The Dark Tower began as a teenager's curios idea long ago. King wandered through the first four books between 1982 and 1997. But then, after the near-fatal van accident of 1999, suddenly the notion that his greatest work might go unfinished didn't seem so...surreal. Add to the pressure his two assistants, Marsha and Julie, who got sick of fielding fan mail about when the darn thing would finally be completed. Thusly, King released the last three volumes in classic, brick-sized form between 2003 and 2004.
Even though the impetus for TWTTK was the result of a survey to see if fans were hankering for another Dark Tower book or a sequel to The Shining (don't worry, Dr. Sleep is on its way, too!), you get the sense that this volume was still done under his own terms, something he held a little closer to his heart. TWTTK carries the optimistic tone that he adopted after the van accident--as faint as it may be at times, and as juxtaposed as it is against those blood-drawing barbs, you can sort of feel it there like the shift in the wind. But because the stakes aren't as high this time around, that tone suits the book nicely.
This episode begins along the jaunt directly after the ka-tet of Eddie, Susannah, Jake, Roland, and Oy have left Emerald City. They are back following the Path of the Beam toward The Dark Tower, and as an elderly man takes them across a river, he warns them to seek shelter soon. A starkblast is on its way.
"Starkblasts" are the just the newest ingredient to King's Dark Tower world. It's described as a cold storm that comes over a region quickly and lethally, and can last several days:
"One moment your warm as toast--because the weather always warms up before--and then it falls on you, like wolves on a rattle of lambs. The only warning is the sound the trees make as the cold of the starkblast rolls over them. A kind of thudding sound, like grenades covered with dirt. ...Ponds freeze in an instant, with a sound like bullets breaking windowpanes. Birds turn to ice-statues in the sky and fall like rocks. Grass turns to glass."
So the ka-tet finds shelter and builds a massive fire. This presents Roland, the Mid-World native and central protagonist, a chance to practice the revered tradition of his home world: storytelling.
He begins with the story The Skin-Man, the "true" tale of a murderous shape-shifter. As a teenager, Roland was sent to Debaria with fellow gunslinger Jamie DeCurry. (If you're completely unfamiliar with The Dark Tower, gunslingers are sort of like Jedis: Vigilante peacekeepers, but in more of a "shoot `em up" Western kind of way). They come across the gory remains of a brutal slaughter, where the only survivor and witness is a boy by the name of Billy Streeter. Roland escorts Billy to a jail cell as bait for the Skin-Man, where Roland tells him the legendary tale from his own world: The Wind Through the Keyhole.
This third tier is where the real meat is. Tim Ross's father was out chopping trees one day when his dad's best friend and business partner Bern Kells returns and tells them that Tim's father died at the mercy of a dragon. Bern (drunkenly and abusively) slides in as Tim's stepfather, up until the Covenant Man comes along collecting taxes. (Come on! You know within two lines of dialogue that this guy is more evil than the tax collectors we got here in the good old U. S. of A.) Anyway, he tells Tim to meet him in the woods later...alone. This sets off Tim's quest to learn the truth behind his father's life and death, to cross the magical history of Mid-World, and hopefully find a cure for his mother's blindness, caused by none other than Kells himself.
This novel is a nice little exercise in storytelling, in each purpose, interpretation, and execution. While this falls middle of the pack among the other volumes of The Dark Tower series, and probably in the upper third of all King's works, you'll walk away feeling more rewarded if you make sure to tiptoe in with below-magnum-opus expectations. If you're looking to visit a few friends you haven't seen in a few years, in a place you haven't been back to in a while, then I'd say boil up a mug of hot cocoa, grab the closest flannel blanket, and sit down beside the crackle of the fire for another good yarn, laced, of course, with a few anticipated barbs.
on July 20, 2012
King states in his preface that this book can be read by either Dark Tower veterans or by someone completely unfamiliar with the story. This mass appeal is the greatest weakness of the story. The introduction does a great deal of telling as opposed to showing and I was turned off as a reader intimately familiar with the series. Roland and his ka-tet felt more like caricatures than characters for this reason. Luckily, we don't spend a great deal of time with these caricatures.
The beauty of this book is it is a story within a story within a story. The outer layer (or present) is mercifully short and unimportant. The next layer in is a story about Roland's youth that is also relatively short but much more interesting than the outer layer. The core layer of the book is a fairy tale Roland hears from his mother when he is sma'. This fairy tale is what makes this book worth reading.
Without revealing too much of the plot, this story is set in "Once upon a time" for the Childe Roland but this "Once upon a time" is still way after the "Ancient Ones" (modern Earth) chronologically. Many elements of this story will be recognizable to the Dark Tower vet. In fact, the story of the protagonist mirrors Roland's own in many ways. The story, while often gruesome, has an overall light-hearted tone that reminds the reader at parts of The Hobbit. This similarity may be more than accidental as there are references to other fantasy works. One gripe with the fairy-tale is the relatively minor role of Daria. She promised to be a very interesting character but is out of the story before the reader has any emotional investment in her. The protagonists response to her leaving seems out of proportion with the time they spent together. Also, the last part of the fairy tale felt rushed (from the ending of the swamp area to the ending of the dogan).
After reading the book in it's entirety I was pleased. If I had stopped reading after the first ten page or so (which I was tempted to do) I would have missed the jewel at the heart of this book.
on June 29, 2012
Within the novel's first two pages, I found myself transported back to Mid-World with Roland and his ka-tet as if I had never left them. There is something spellbinding about King's writing that has that effect. King calls this book Dark Tower volume 4.5 because it takes place immediately after the events in Book 4, Wizard and Glass, and ends right before the heroes reach Calla Bryn Sturgis, the setting for Book 5, Wolves of the Calla.
While the novel begins with Roland (the gunslinger) and his friends travelling along the path of the beam, it quickly shifts to a flashback tale about the young Roland who we got to know in the long flashback sequence in Wizard and Glass. This story begins shortly after the end of the Wizard and Glass flashback, and has Roland and a fellow gunslinger named Jamie chasing down a skin-man - a shape-shifter that's committing widespread murder in a nearby town. Like Wizard and Glass, the story has the feel of an old western tale with the supernatural trimmings of the Dark Tower world King has so beautifully created. The tale of the skin-man is full of suspense and perfectly executed. King could write a dozen more flashback stories about the young Roland and I would buy them all.
Embedded in the flashback story, however, is a whole other tale called The Wind Through The Keyhole. Although it's narrated by Roland, The Wind Through The Keyhole is a story his mother told him about events long ago ("Once upon a bye, long before your grandfather's grandfather was born ..."). The story, about a boy named Tim who must survive with his mother after his father's sudden death, is steeped in Dark Tower mythology and has almost a fairy-tale feel about it. In this sense, it reminded me a lot of another Stephen King novel, The Eyes of the Dragon. There `s even an appearance by Randall Flagg, if I'm not mistaken. The story is wonderfully engaging on its own, and after it ends, we still get to learn the fate of young Roland and the skin-man. The novel is shorter than King's last several installments in the Dark Tower series (only 307 pages in hardback) and is a very quick read that reminds us how special King's Dark Tower books truly are. I hope this book is not the last, for I'm certain there are more great stories about the young Roland that remain to be told!
on June 16, 2012
Initially reading the series, when I went from "Wizard and Glass" (Book 4) to "Wolves of the Calla" (Book 5), I immediately noticed a gap in the narrative, a severed point with two ends that didn't quite match up. "Wind Through the Keyhole" fills that gap and, despite the limitations of working within a finished series, King delivers.
A quick note on the writing - it's mostly masterful. As other reviewers have noted, this is a story in a story in a story. But it's more than that. Each story is written in a distinct style, with their own unique elements. Each of the stories stands on their own, which makes this book all the more impressive, and the fantasy elements have King's unique touch.
"Wizard and Glass" is my favourite Dark Tower book, so I wasn't surprised that I liked this one and the depth it added to Roland's character. I never minded that I knew how certain things would turn out; stories can still have tension and depth without the life-threatening element, and the layering of time and experience works exceptionally well here as we're being exposed to two points in Roland's past.
Roland's extended flashback (first story) is reasonably well-written. The only real let down is the antagonist doesn't get extended action scenes. But I think this is accounted for in other information dropped at the beginning of this story, and I think its handled in a way which isn't anti-climactic in the way King can often be. It's a mystery, but handled realistically and logically. And there's a really exceptional poem at the end which lifts this story and gives it a lasting impact.
The fairy tale (second story) is exceptional. Please don't focus on this though - after reading reviews I was impatient to get to the "heart of the book", and didn't take the time to enjoy the other stories as much as I normally would. There's alot of background to Mid-world, some subtle story links, and some indirect characterisation of Roland.
What's really compelling about this second story is that even though this is told as a fairy tale, and has some distinct fairy tale elements (plot structure, characters, good guys vs bad guys, etc), I'm inclined to think of this story as something that actually happened in this world. There are enough links to make it plausible. The balance King strikes between the elements of fantasy and realism, and the uncertainty about whether this really happened, gives the story tension. The fairy tale elements are tinged with dark realism, and there's uncertainty over whether this stuff is just reflecting the darkness of Mid-World, or whether it's reflecting the darkness of horrible circumstances. It's subverting the typical fantasy-hero story in a way that allows King to still tell that story but in such a way that, on reflection, doesn't make me feel guilty. There's no bad or derivative storytelling to diminish the story in its own rights. That's how ingenious King is here.
The frame story is fairly brief, and serves mainly to bridge the gaps between books 4 & 5, and to provide this opportunity for a wider characterisation of Roland. There's a scene at the end with Susannah which brings all three stories together, and moved me close to tears. Despite not having much space in the overarching story to work with, King manages to add alot to his Dark Tower story.
The pacing, characterisation, and plotting are all exceptional throughout, and there's a healthy scattering of action. There are a few moments when King pushed the "Wind Through the Keyhole" linkages too far, but these are thankfully brief.
The only real problem I had with this book is that the tone of the frame story didn't seem the same as the other Dark Tower books. It's been a few years since I read the other books, so I might have forgotten how they were written, but it just didn't feel right until after the first and second stories are through. Still, a really good showing from King, and it's great he's hit a purple patch with his writing.
on May 28, 2012
It had been nearly seven years since the last "Dark Tower" book had been published. For those of us who aren't into graphic novels or comics, the ending of the seventh book in 2005 was the last time we were immersed in the Dark Tower Universe. Thankfully, King brings that place (and its requisite characters) to life once again in "The Wind Through The Keyhole", an engaging little tale that can easily be read in a single sitting or two. The verdict? It was most definitely good to "be back" within Dark Tower.
Basically, "Keyhole" is a story within a story within a story. Slotted as "DT 4.5" (or taking place between "Wizard & Glass" and "Wolves of the Calla"), the book starts off with Roland the gunslinger and his ka-tet waiting out a "starkblast" (or severe storm). While sheltered in a cave, Roland tells once again of his younger days, this time recalling his first "mission" as an independent gunslinger to catch a mysterious being known as a "skinwalker". In that story, Roland (drawing on a story from his own mother) tells a young boy a tale from long-ago, about a boy embarking on a quest through Mid-World. All three tales are wrapped up in the final few pages.
The genius of this book is that King knows what we want: more young Roland. While many of the Dark Tower books are disputed in terms of overall effectiveness, very few people didn't fall captive to the story of young Roland, his mother, and his young love. As such, roughly half of "Keyhole" takes place in the "young Roland" time period, where King knows his audience revels. Without giving away any spoilers, the events of "Wizard and Glass" were just so raw that King made the perfect choice in revisiting them for this novel.
In terms of where to read this book, I would actually recommend it as "DT 8" instead of "DT 4.5". The reason? If read directly after "Wizard & Glass", I don't know if enough time will have gone by for you to really appreciate the narrative. Instead, I would continue along with 5, 6, & 7, then go back in time a bit for this one. I just think you'll appreciate the "young Roland" arc that much more if a bit of time has gone by to let you fully digest the events of "Wizard & Glass".
Overall, "The Wind Through The Keyhole" is a collection of three engaging story and some more character backstory for Roland of Gilead. It was definitely a bit different from what I was expecting, but I couldn't put it down regardless. Read it for the "mythology" or read it for the stories...either way it is a treat!
on May 28, 2012
I only discovered The Dark Tower Series a few years ago and was therefor awarded the pleasure of reading the 7 original books back to back without having had to suffer what had to be the agony of waiting (for years in most cases) for the next one to be published. Of course I absolutely LOVED the series and really was just waiting for an excuse to read it again. So when I learned of the impending release of Wind Through The Keyhole I was excited. I could read the whole thing again including this one in its proper sequence. A couple of weeks ago I started The Gunslinger (bk1), read right through Wizards and Glass (bk4) and today finished Wind Through The Keyhole. Tonight I will go ahead and start re-reading Wolves of Calla. But first, my thoughts on what's been dubbed "book 4.5".........
While I thoroughly enjoyed the tale within the story, the one of Young Tim, I didn't love the story it was couched in (Young Roland and the Skin-walker) nor did I care for the framing story of Roland and his Tower-seeking ka-tet. The voices of those familiar characters ("Old Long and Tall", Eddie, Suzanna and Jake) seemed off to me - lacking the same familiarity and continuity of the original 7 books. Those 7 books had been written/published over the course of 30 years, yet King never seemed to lose hold of the spirit of those characters. Here, going back to them again, it seems to me he does. Roland doesn't sound/feel like the Roland I came to love and Suzanna especially feels contrived. The framing - the small part of their hunkering down for the Starkblast - feels very much like an afterthought and Roland's narration of the tale of his time in Debaria reads like someone else is telling the story. It reads totally different from his telling of his Mejis adventures in Wizards and Glass.
The Young Roland in Debaria as well feels very different than the young Roland who was in Mejis. Now perhaps that is by design, given the things that happened to him in Mejis and after his return to Gilead, but I hardly recognized him at all. To me there were no signs of his former self, nor any of the Gunslinger he would later be.
All this is to say that Wind Through the Keyhole, which was the story of young Tim Ross, proper. could have been and should have been a stand alone novella, done without the framing of being an addition to The Dark Tower series. Seems like maybe a marketing ploy that it was and for that, I'm kind of disappointed. If King is going to add to the series, fill in some blanks or tell more of Roland's back story, he should do a more thoughtful job of it. Otherwise leave well enough alone. His constant (and loyal) readers would surely have scooped up the tale of Tim regardless.
on May 24, 2012
I've been a Stephen King nerd for a number of years now, and the Dark Tower 'series is easily my favorite of all his works. Needless to say, I was delighted to hear when he announced the release of this mid-series sequel. Which is also a prequel. Let me explain.
It's been unofficially dubbed The Dark Tower 4.5 '''because it falls chronologically between Wizard and Glass 'and The Wolves of the Calla 'while the ka-tet is on the road leading away from the curiously Oz-like castle and ever closer towards the Tower.
Hindered on their journey by a horrible, freezing flash-storm called a Starkblast, the team of gunslingers are forced to seek shelter in a stone ruin for several days with little else to do than wait and keep warm. It is during this three-day wait that Roland divulges a bit more of his history with a story from his past, as well as a Mid-World fairy tale of sorts from his own childhood.
The first story, regarding a younger Roland, is split in two and called The Skin-Man. 'I won't spoil what that means, but Tower readers will find the term familiar. This piece of Roland's history takes place very soon after his mission to the Barony of Mejis with Cuthbert and Alain, though those two boys don't make an appearance. Roland instead travels with Jamie DeCurry, a reserved yet talented young gunslinger.
Putting a story within a story, Roland comforts a scared young victim of the Skin-Man named Bill by telling him the story of a very brave boy, called The Wind Through the Keyhole. This is a 'fairy tale' Roland's mother often told him, though King intertwines some heavy hints and fun connections that suggest this ancient story is perhaps not all fictional.
I can't go much further without starting to give spoilers, but I must say this book was a delight. Though I love the series overall, I was initially not super thrilled that this volume was going to deal primarily with Roland's past (which I find a bit dry compared to the adventures of the weathered gunslinger on the road to the Tower). However, I ended up enjoying it very much for several reasons.
First, it was wonderful, even if brief, to hear again the voices of Eddie, Susannah, Jake, Oy and Roland come to life and enjoy their interactions. Secondly, the story of Young Roland moves quickly and is exciting and compelling. It well displays his talents, even at a young age, and has a similar sense of adventure and uncertainty as the other Tower books. Third, the fairy tale itself is very well crafted and richly full of King-Universe connections. And lastly, I feel that King has done the series justice in adding to it 5 years after he called it finished. Adding to a well-loved series after the fact is a tricky and risky move. Yet the book doesn't feel like an unnecessary addition, but rather it enriches what was already written and makes the journey as a whole that much more full and enjoyable.
King says in the introduction that you can read the book as a stand-alone, even if you've never read a single other of his books, let alone the Tower series. That's true, but it'd be silly to do so because so much of it builds upon these characters and this unique universe. For that reason, I'd only recommend this to someone familiar with the Tower books, or if you're intrigued to try them, start at the beginning and read this one in order where it falls. I wot you'll be glad you did.
Long days and pleasant nights!
on May 18, 2012
In the midst of their quest for the Dark Tower, the gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and his companions, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy are holed up in a stone building, waiting out a terrific storm. While they wait, Roland tells them a story of his youth and a story from his childhood to pass the time. We're also treated to a brief glimpse of his father, Steven, as a young man; his story, Roland's story, and a childhood story come together to teach a lesson about life.
That's the set up.
First, let me say that I am a tremendous fan of Stephen King; no one writes a character quite as thoroughly and realistically. Having said that, I'll also say that he's had his share of dud stories (no butt-kissing here). I am also a fan of the Dark Tower series--the second, third, and fourth books rank in my top favorite books, and (unlike a lot of fans) I actually LIKED the end of the series. It stopped me dead for a few minutes before I laughed my head off in a "You tricky bastard" kind of admiration. Having said THAT, though, I will also say that the fifth and sixth books were 'meh' and his insertion of himself in those books and the seventh was ghastly (sorry, Mr. King).
So. I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book; after all, we know how it's ultimately going to end, so there wasn't a whole lot of playing King could do with the main story line at this point. The fact that "Under The Dome" was underwhelming (though "11/23/63" made up for that a bit) made me a bit antsy, too. I do love Roland, though. Seriously.
I ended up being quite delighted with this book, on the whole. The story of Young Roland and his quest to identify and kill the "Skin Man" was well played and took me back to "Wizard and Glass". (I wish with all my heart we knew more about Roland's youth and that legendary Battle of Jericho Hill) In the midst of that story, Roland relates a childhood story, read to him by his deceased (by his hand) mother, the story of Tim Stoutheart and his quest for the truth of his father's death. Both 'stories-within-the-story' were interesting; Tim Stoutheart's story was the most magical (hearkening to 'The Eyes of the Dragon'), but perhaps a bit rambling. I could be prejudiced, though--my heart belongs to Young Roland, and I wish that section had been longer. I still have such nostalgic feelings for our intrepid questers, as well, though seeing the strength of their bond at this point of the story was a bit bittersweet when one knows how they all end up. That framing section was the stiffest of the three, but still interesting.
King has never been shy about admitting his love for genre fiction, and, as in all Dark Tower books, there is more than a whiff here of Tolkein, a dash f L'Amour, and a liberal sprinkling of Rowling (His "Magic Tales of the Eld" has a bit more than a passing resemblance to the "Tales of Beedle the Bard"). My nerdy little heart loves every bit of this melding of so many worlds in which I've passed the time. I liked finally getting to know a little bit about Jamie DeCurry, who is mentioned but never seen in the other Dark Tower books. I also absolutely loved Randall Flagg/Marten Broadcloak in his new guise as Covenant Man (a tax collector). He was creepy beyond belief. And Maerlyn! We finally get a sense of cloture with Arthurian legend when he shows up!
There were a few things that niggled at me, I have to admit. There was a weird tic of telling us the full names of passing characters, then their nickname and how they got the name, and then referring to them strictly by the nickname. That got old fast. If it had been pertinent, fine, but it wasn't. I was also a bit 'iffish' about characters from other SK books being mentioned. I know it's a hallmark of the DT series, but in the other books it usually feels natural; in this book, it seems forced. The 'story-within-a-story-within-a-story' structure was a bit cumbersome and hard to wrap one's mind around at times. One thing that I'd love to have seen, given the way the Gunslingers' relationship to Arthur Eld is emphasized in this book, would have been to see one of the classic King Arthur tales, retold as a quasi-Western, befitting the quasi-Western feel of Roland's world. That would have brought the story circle around nicely.
The characterizations are lovely, as is King's trademark, and the story telling compelling. Those are reasons enough to read the book... but then there's the end. I have to admit, had it not been for the way the end grabbed my heart and twisted, this would probably be a three rather than a four star review. There's a lovely melding of all the stories, summed up by Tim Stoutheart's muse upon time (and the source of the book's title):
"Time is a keyhole, he thought as he looked up at the stars. Yes, I think so. We sometimes bend and peer through it. And the wind we feel on our cheeks when we do - the wind that blows through the keyhole - is the breath of all the living universe."
As lovely as the sentiment is, it is not the thought of an eleven year old child; King has put the thought of an older, wiser man in Tim's young head, and that's okay with me. This is fantasy, after all. Time ties all of the stories... but not as closely as his last thought, the thought that closes the book. I won't ruin it for you here, but it made my eyes misty. Yes, I might be a bit sentimental, but I think King has hit on something here, something bigger than love and stronger than passion. I love this author's heart, and that takes his story, despite its flaws, beyond four stars.