Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: The Wind Through The Keyhole

Title: The Wind Through The Keyhole
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 335
ISBN: 9781444731712
Series: The Dark Tower #4.5
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 2012
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
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For readers new to Stephen King's epic seven-volume fantasy masterpiece The Dark Tower, The Wind Through the Keyhole is a stand-alone novel, and a wonderful introduction to the series. It is an enchanting Russian doll of a novel, a story within a story within a story, which features both the younger and older Roland Deschain - Mid-World's last gunslinger - on his quest to find the Dark Tower.

For the legions of fans, it is a gift of deeper insight and a chance to discover what happened to Roland and his ka-tet between the time they leave the Emerald City and arrive on the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis.

It’s been ages since I read the Dark Tower series so I was quite excited to see that Stephen King had a new Dark Tower book coming out. The Wind Through the Keyhole didn’t turn out to be quite what I expected. I was looking forward to finding out more about what happened to the ka-tet in the time between books 4 and 5, but instead King provides a story-within-a-story narrative that shines a light on Roland's past without really expanding on the story of the ka-tet's journey itself.

The novel starts out with a brief interval where we join the ka-tet as they journey along the path of the Beam. A starkblast (a huge storm which causes sudden drops in temperature) approaches and they are forced to seek shelter. As the storm rages outside Roland recounts two interlinked stories. The first “The Skin-Man” is a story from his own past where Roland and his ka-mate are tasked to hunt for a murderous skin-man (a shapeshifter that can shift between human and animal form). While Roland comforts a young boy, the only witness to a skin-man attack, he tells him a folktale, “The Wind Through The Keyhole”, which Roland’s own mother used to read to him as a child.

The Wind Through the Keyhole gives a far more intimate insight into the character of Roland. He shares his own story in the first person stripping away the protective layers he has built around himself. It is through the recollection and sharing of these stories that Roland manages to deal with the guilt and grief of his mother’s death and finds the forgiveness and closure he yearns for.

The Verdict:
The Wind Through the Keyhole might not have been what I expected, but it’s still a worthwhile read. While it doesn’t add anything to the core story of the Dark Tower series it does reveal more about Roland and his past. The stories were enjoyable in their own right and it was great to reconnect with old familiar characters, albeit briefly. I think a Dark Tower re-read is long overdue.

While familiarity with the Dark Tower series isn’t a requirement to enjoy The Wind Through the Keyhole I think newcomers to the series might find some of the terminology and setting confusing. Some much needed background is included in the foreword, but it really doesn't impart the history, character development and feel of the previous novels. I’d definitely suggest that you rather start at the beginning of the series for the best experience.

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Thanks to Andrea from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

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