Published eight years after the last volume of The Dark Tower series, Stephen King created another tale to share of the gunslinger Roland Deschain of the line of Eld. Following their escape from the castle that was not the Emerald City from Wizard and Glass, Roland, Susannah, Jake, Eddie and Oy the billy-bumbler take shelter from a cold weather storm known as a starkblast.
Over the course of the night they take shelter in a stone meeting hall, long deserted, and share a palaver. Roland tells a tale to fill the night of an adventure he had after his youthful exploits in the previous book.
He and his friend Jamie De Curry are sent to a remote mining village after there are reports of a skin-man, a shape-changer, killing dozens of people in the small town. Arriving there, the two young men have a plan, and when they discover a young survivor who may have seen the transformation, the plan goes into effect.
To pass the night while suspects are gathered, Roland, a young gunslinger at this point, shares a tale that his mother use to tell him as a child The Wind Through the Keyhole, and this tale takes up the mass of the book, becoming a story, within a story, in the story of Roland and his quest for the Dark Tower.
This one is the shortest of the Dark Tower books since the first novel, The Gunslinger, and the fairy tale at its center is magical, but still very recognizable as the world from which Roland has come. There is magic, and monsters, wizards, murders, and cures.
This one doesn’t need to be read as part of the series, despite the fact that the characters are ones we’ve traveled with for four volumes now. The story, literally in the center of the book is a perfect little fairy tale as only Stephen King could write it.
We are introduced to Tim Ross, his mother, and his new steppa, and the adventure that he goes on that is instigated by deception, and a need for a cure and self-discovery (as all good fairy tales are).
King’s way with words serves him well in this tale, and despite the graphic nature of some of the moments in the book (the final attack by the skin-man is terrifying) it doesn’t have the same blunt, cold-edged feel of danger that the earlier volumes seemed to have. This is a more relaxed and mature King, doling out his tale perfectly, his words falling into place to create a perfect tale.
Soon, the adventure will continue as I dig into volume five, but this one was a great, oh-so enjoyable adventure, showing me that King is probably one of my all time favorite authors.