I rejoin Roland’s ka-tet this week as I continue my journey to the Dark Tower. Released six years after the previous novel, we rejoin Roland, Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and the billy-bumbler named Oy right where left them… aboard Blaine the Mono, preparing to engage in a deadly game of riddles.
From there we continue our journey through mid-world, and when they arrive at Blaine’s last stop, they find themselves in an eerily familiar world, one that crosses over into another giant King work, The Stand.
As they travel along a highway with a strange crystalline edifice growing in the distance with each passing mile, they palaver and the story finally reveals a large portion of Roland’s past, including his lost love, Susan, and his friends Alain and Cuthbert.
The novel once again embraces its western with fantasy elements tone, and there are many recognisable elements here of both genres, mixed in a new and entertaining way that terrifies as much as it enthrals.
We see a Roland, a younger version of the man we’ve travelled with (and who has changed and grown over our time with him), and yet the sees of the man he would become, the man we now adventure with is there, untempered by his youth.
The encounter with Blaine throws the reader off balance, and the revelations of Roland’s youth keeps us there, even as they draw closer to the strange structure in their way.
I like this novel a lot, and it fills out the character of the gunslinger in a way that has only been hinted at before while continuing to expand the mythology and the magic of the worlds we find ourselves travelling in.
And the encounter with the Man in Black, now known as Randall Flagg is incredibly troubling and portends darkness to come.
Coming in at a towering 690+ pages this one is a big one, but it pays off through character moments, a brilliant story (which includes a youthful romance, and magic of another nature).
We draw ever closer to the Tower, and we still don’t realise the evil and darkness that is arrayed against us in our ka-tet, we only now that even though we face fear, violence and monsters with both human and inhuman faces, we will win through. We will see the Tower in that field of roses.
I love how King crafts this massive tale, taking his time, doling out adventures, and secrets in equal measure as our love for these characters continues to grow. But that also means we’ll have to ready for losses in the future. I hope all of our characters win through, but I know this is a King story, and not everyone will get a happy ending… if any of them…
But the Dark Tower calls us on.