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Stephen King: The Wind Through the Keyhole (Dark Tower 4.5)

“And so it happened, once upon a bye.”

Stephen King finished his magnum opus, the seven-book Dark Tower series, in 2004. But now in 2012 he has discovered that his “old friends had a little more to say.” “It was a great gift to find them again,” he says, “years after I though their stories were told.” Us hardy Dark Tower fanatics were equally pleased to hear that we would have the chance to see our old friends—although some of us may wish they had a bit more to do and a bit less to say.

The Wind Through the Keyhole fits between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. Wizard and Glass was split between stories that featured the heroes of the Dark Tower series (Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy) and Roland’s storytelling of his own past and first love. It is a fascinating book, but often clumsy: I have re-read it numerous times, and I have begun to skip Roland’s narrative in favor of those narrated by Sai King himself. Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy are what make the Dark Tower emotionally fulfilling. Roland’s past is interesting, but not (for me) as fascinating.

Sadly, The Wind Through the Keyhole suffers from the same fault as Wizard and Glass. Team Roland gets stuck in a storm and pass the night with a story narrated by Roland—one that explains an adventure he had shortly after the events he’d described in WaG. Within that story, young Roland narrates a Gilead fairy-tale about a young boy on a quest.

That King would choose to use Roland (one in the past, one in the “present” of the Dark Tower story) to narrate both stories is appropriate to two of the dominant themes of the second half of the Dark Tower series. One, the tricky, often reflexive, relationship between hero and author. Two, the ways in which storytelling, frame narratives, and meta-narrative remind us of both the fictionality of what we are reading, and the way that stories and how we tell them shape our understanding of our own lives.

That’s all well and good, but if you are hoping for more adventures with the gunslingers you know, this book is a disappointment. They listen silently (even Eddie!) and when it is time to move on, the book ends. However, if you manage your expectations and treat this book as the opportunity to see another glimpse of Roland’s past, as well as a bit more of Mid-World, you will not be disappointed. The story of Roland’s youth is effective, and shows his gradual transition into the man he will become. It even features the horror and gore that helped King make a name for himself back in the day. In that way, it feels almost like the story of his own growth towards authorial maturity.

Narrated by young Roland, the fairy-tale is even stronger. It is a true quest narrative, set in a simple village that backs onto a scary forest filled with monsters, featuring a young, stout-hearted protagonist who makes mistakes and takes risks to do what is right. The themes within this story resonate with the themes in the story of Roland’s youth, and the conclusion to both of those stories neatly tie up some of the dangling threads left in WaG.

Because both stories feature child-heroes, because of the obvious fairy-tale influence on the central tale, and because it is a relatively short 309 pages, this book feel simpler than King’s more recent work. It did not sate my thirst for more Dark Tower, or even my desire for a new Stephen King book. But it did make me smile, and I’ve been pleased to recall one scene in particular numerous times in the days since I finished the book. I suspect it is a book that will grow on me, both in memory and in re-reading.

2.5 out of 4 tygers.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

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