Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Wind Through the Keyhole

Fear not, dear reader!  I've once again been shaken out of silence.  This time to review a book hot off the press.  Stephen King's The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012) is what faithful fans of his Dark Tower series, myself included, have spent years waiting for.  No, not word of yet another TV or film adaptation that will ultimately be relegated to the clearing at the end of the path.  A new novel!

The Wind Through the Keyhole falls in between Wizard and Glass and The Wolves of the Calla, and so can be considered volume #4.5 of the Dark Tower.  During their journey away from the Emerald City, Roland and his ka-tet are forced to seek shelter from a once-in-a-generation storm known as the starkblast.  With all hell breaking loose outside, Roland settles down to tell a tale that harkens back to the year following his mother's death when gunslingers were still a force of law in Mid-World.

Roland is sent by his father to investigate a series of mysterious deaths in an outlying holding thought to be the work of a skin man, aka a shapeshifter. In the aftermath of a fresh attack by the skin man, he befriends a boy who has lost his entire family to the creature.  To calm him down and lend the boy strength, Roland relates a bedtime story told to him by his mother (who is oft on his mind in the wake of her death)--the legend of Tim Stoutheart and his dealings with Marten Broadcloak (aka the Man in Black, Randall Flagg), agent of the Crimson King and longtime nemesis of Roland himself.

The story of Tim Stoutheart and his coming of age provides the bulk of The Wind Through the Keyhole.  Through this narration, we get a portrait of the world before it has moved on (an aspect of the series which I find particularly interesting).  All the usual suspects that make the Dark Tower universe so compelling are there: cowboys, gunslingers, wizards, dragons, North Central Positronics, etc.  Tim's story is heartfelt and quite charming, adding a light interlude to relieve the otherwise on-the-whole gritty series.  Coming right off the events of Wizard and Glass, I think even the heartiest reader could use a bit of a breather!

While The Wind Through the Keyhole doesn't add heaps to the overall Dark Tower narrative, it nicely gives some further insight into Roland's character, particularly as it relates to the tragic circumstances of his mother's death.

It was really fabulous to spend some time with Roland and his ka-tet again, for I have rarely felt more of a connection to a group of characters.  There was the merest whisper of a hint that we might not have heard the last of Tim Stoutheart, so here's to hoping that King will treat us fans to more of the Dark Tower in the years to come!

A final tidbit:  one of the guardians of the Beams, who just happens to be a lion, is named Aslan!  How cool is that?

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