Tue
Apr 24 2012 10:00am

The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen KingTo the Constant Reader and to new friends walking the unfamiliar Path of the Beam for the first time I say, “Hile! May it do yeh fine.” Be welcome to this special review of Stephen King’s upcoming novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole.

This newest book from “Sai King” is a part of The Dark Tower Cycle, the series known for being both King’s self-proclaimed magnum opus, as well as “the series whose ending everyone hated.” Over the years when I mention the Dark Tower to friends and associates familiar with the series, I usually receive a sigh and a comment about how the ending just wasn’t what they expected or wanted. That it was such a let-down. A disappointment.

Not to me, say I and thankya. Regardless of whether it was what I wanted or not, the series’ ending has stuck in my gut for nearly eight years. I both loved and hated it, and agreed with Mr. King that it was “right” ending; the “only” ending that could be.

So when whispered rumor reached my ear that a new Dark Tower novel would be released this year, I perked up. The kind Powers-That-Be here at Tor.com kindly hunted down one of the early illustrated editions and sent it my way for reading and appraisal. I tend to be a slow and thorough reader, but in truth I devoured this novel the moment it hit my lap. (If you’re not familiar with the Dark Tower, but would like to learn more, be sure to check out Suzanne Johnson’s excellent Dark Tower Read happening right here on Tor.com.)

Interior art from The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

The Wind Through the Keyhole is a mostly stand-alone novel which takes place narratively between books four and five in the Dark Tower cycle. You needn’t have read the previous books to enjoy this one, although the previous books will layer the tale with extra color. Wind is similar to Wizard and Glass in that Roland and his ka-tet are only seen in the opening and ending of the narrative. Roland recounts a story of his younger life where he and his friend Jaime DeCurry travel to a remote town to investigate some unusual murders. King does a great job initially of building a gruesome mystery. He certainly has an unsurprising knack for describing dismembered corpses.

Just as the murder mystery starts to get good, young Roland sits down to tell his own story to a young boy. And it’s within this story (named “The Wind Through the Keyhole”) that the book’s tale really begins. This story-within-a-story absolutely shines. It consumes the majority of the book, but reads in a flash. It centers around an eleven-year-old boy named Tim who lived “Once upon a bye, before your grandfather’s grandfather was born.” In this story, King weaves a fairy tale demonstrating his absolute mastery of storytelling. You can cringe at some of the brutal language (or scoff at the heavy usage of passive writing, if that’s your thing), but in the end, you’re likely to find yourself cheering for young Tim and his heart-wrenching quest.

At its heart, The Wind Through the Keyhole is a fable that ignites your love for those deep-and-true stories we all know. Die-hard Tower fans will surely find an abundance of backstory and revealed truths for intriguing characters like the Man in Black (aka Walter aka Randall Flagg), and Maerlyn the mage to be interesting. I imagine the various Dark Tower fan sites and wikipedias will have a filed day with all the juicy hints Mr. King laces throughout.

Interior art from The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen KingThe only one disappointment in the novel is that once Tim’s story is complete, we return to young Roland and the gruesome murder-mystery-that-was is wrapped up quickly in a fairly unexciting way. I get the sense that Mr. King, having finished his real story, phoned in the ending. To be fair, young Roland delivers the button revealing the true themes of the story, and those are certainly touching. It’s just that the ending was, well, rushed.

All in all, this is certainly a worthwhile addition to the Dark Tower cycle. I own a full hardcover set of the books, and I intend to slip this one in between books 4 and 5. Reading scenes with Roland’s ka-tet; Eddie, Jake, Susannah, and Oy, brought back bittersweet memories of the gang. Going into this book I expected that to be worth the price of admission, but in the end, it was the story of Young Tim that pulled me in.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is currently available in limited edition form with illustrations by Jae Lee. It will be available in trade hardcover, eBook, and audiobook on April 24 of this year.

You can read an excerpt from The Wind Through the Keyhole right here on Tor.com.

(This review was first posted on March 12.)


Jason Denzel is the founder and webmaster of Dragonmount.com, the premier Wheel of Time website. He’s an award winning independent filmmaker and aspiring gunslinger. Find him on Twitter (@JasonDenzel) or at JasonDenzel.com

18 comments
L Lawson
1. L Lawson
I've got the DM Grant special edition, so I've read through half the novel already, and I have to concur with most of what's penned here. It's a really good read. (However, I also thought the end of the DT series was exactly what it was supposed to be.) The one thing I'd add is that I'm really excited that XXXXXXXXXX has a 1st person POV.
Chin Bawambi
2. bawambi
I will possibly read this but might read it in store like I did New Spring from WoT and Children of Hurin from LoTR.

EDITED for not being able to white-out spoiler.
L Lawson
3. emeraldcite
I didn't find the end to the DT series immediately gratifying (although I wasn't dissatisfied either). Overall, I did like the ending. I thought it fit well and it was perfect for where the series went.

I think people didn't like the ending because readers expect the instant gratification. This is why so many people are disappointed with the ends of long series (think: Harry Potter).

For some reason, I think we all expect an ending where you want to cheer and not feel cheating. But that's not possible; certainly not after spending so much time with the characters. I think a strong ending to a long series should take some time to digest. I don't think a reader should be immediately satisfied with an ending. That, in itself, would be a cheat. I don't want to spend countless hours with a group of characters for a pat ending.

Although, I do have to admit that I still find that what happened with Susannah and the choice she made to be a bit out of character. Otherwise, I think the ending of the series fit very well. I don't find the DT series to be perfect (nor do I feel that Harry Potter was perfect), but I certainly enjoyed both and was happy with the endings of both.
L Lawson
4. PhilJ
Isn't it a story, within a story, WITHIN a story? Hmmmm...
1. Stephen King watches Inception.
2. Stephen King has an idea for a new Dark Tower novel.
3....
4. Profit!

With that being said, I've already pre-ordered it and King could publish Roland's grocery list and I'd buy it. Thankfully, this book sounds like a good one.
L Lawson
5. Paulie
I've been wanting to discuss the ending of the DT series for ages. None of my friends have read it. I honestly think it's one of the best ending I've ever read. It allows you to wonder if Roland ever can break the cycle. The choices he makes could lead to happiness...or to continue his obsession. I have a lot of thoughts on the ending that I don't know if I could articulate them well. Does anyone know of a discussion thread on the end of the DT?
L Lawson
6. Lsana
I'll admit that this review disappoints me a little. I was really looking forward to learning a little more about Roland's youth and Jamie DeCurry, the one member of his old ka-tet we didn't get to meet. But if I go in knowing that this is Tim's story rather than Roland's, I can adjust my expectations and hopefully enjoy it more.

@3,

Interesting. I have a problem with the ending of DT, but it isn't the same problem that most other people have. Difficult to describe too much without spoilers, but suffice it to say I REALLY didn't like Susannah's fate. I wonder if you and I have the same problem.

For endings in general, I always feel writers try to end things too quickly. Back in second grade, we learned the narrative arc: beginning, rising action, climax, falling action, ending. Too many writers I feel interrpret "falling action" as "falling off a cliff", taking about three pages to go from the climax to "and they all lived happily ever after." To his credit, King doesn't do that in DT, and I might actually like the ending if it weren't for Susannah and some of the other issues I have with the later books.
L Lawson
7. StrongDreams
@PhilJ,
to be fair, that is also the structure of the very first chapter of Gunslinger.

@3, @6,
I supposed I need to re-read book 7, but I was not bothered by Susannah's choice. For one thing, it took place after a series of debilitating events, the last of which took several weeks or months in story-time even though it was only a chapter or so. And the other thing is, it's a foreshadowing of a choice Roland is later offered, only he chooses differently.
Roland of Gilead
8. pKp
"It’s just that the ending was, well, rushed."
So, a true Stephen King novel, then. Can't remember one book of his with a truly great ending. Even The Stand's climax feels rushed.

Otherwise, well, I need this about yesterday. I'm neck-deep in The Talisman at the moment, guess I know what to read afterwards.
L Lawson
9. PhilJ
@StrongDreams That is true. And to even more fair, it's been the structure of many great tales since people have been telling them (I'd bet).

I just like to be contrary. But I do loves me some King! ;-)
Kate Nepveu
10. katenepveu
My reaction to the ending wasn't that it was a let-down but a betrayal; that said, I think the people I've spoken to are about 50-50 in liking it or not.

But saying more would be inappropriate given that this is not a spoiler post for DT 7.
L Lawson
11. mr. awesome
I thought the ending was 95% perfect.
The 5% that was wrong was that Oy didn't come back to life.

It's still my favorite ending ever.
L Lawson
12. bettielee
To me, the ending of the series was perfect. I felt like he had reached inside my head and found the ending I wanted. Because generally, I tend to open up the first book and get to reading it again. I always find it hard to set these books down and leave that world behind - to go and find other worlds to read in. And it inspires me in my own writing. (My own worlds are also hard for me to leave.)
L Lawson
13. New Beginnings
The ending to the DT series was the most brilliant ever. Plain and simple.
L Lawson
14. Scuba steve
Before I start I am not going into this to belittle and insult the people who like the ending, everything I say is sincere and not intended to be sarcastic, I just want to sound off from a person with a different opinion and experience: If you truly like the ending and think it's perfect, I truly admire you and wish I shared your interpretation, because I hated the ending and really didn't like the last two in general.

I remember reading the first four books and thinkg they were King's greatest work to date and probably the best books I've ever read. That made the wait between 4 and 5,6,7 torturous for me, and that maybe coloring my perspective.

A statement by King before the last 3 came out said that the last Dark Tower books would tie up most if not all of the questions left unanswered by his previous books. I find this statement to be almost completely false as it only ties in a couple of books.

I'll be as vague and non-spoilery as I can, but I have to bring up a point because it's either the second biggest issue I have, or it's tied for first: A certain villain, whom I consider the greatest depiction of a villain in all of story-telling, be it books, movies, or whatever was cheaply tossed aside. I feel his depcition and behaviour wasn't true and not even remotely close to the character I've known for so long, and I expected a better resolution.

I remember before any of the last three came out speculations on the endings appeared in forums and one poster got it the ending exactly right, and I thought at the time, "No way, that would be the worst possible ending King could choose, and he would never choose that one." Some point in book six, I don't remember what it was that tipped me off, I realized that was exactly how the series would end, and I couldn't believe it.

***THIS PART I CANNOT AVOID MAJOR MAJOR SPOILERS SO DO NOT READ THE NEXT SECTION IF YOU DON'T WANT IT SPOILED***

I was saddened and depressed by the deaths of Eddie and Jake. Again I feel they were cheap and did not reflect who they were and what they had become over the course of the series. King has taken shots over the years at the DT fan-base, calling them spoiled and entitled, and I often wonder if this was just a childish way to get back at them.

***END OF SPOILERS***

TL;DR version: Sorry so long, the TL;DR verison is: The first four books were made at their own creative pace, and it shows when compared to the last three which were rushed out just so the series would be complete before King died. I don't think any less of you if you loved the last 3 and the ending, in fact I'm very happy for you when I consider my reaction. But I wonder if we would have gotten three completely different volumes and a different ending if King never got into that accident. It would have been better if King would have died before he could have completed the series than to have the series as it stands now.
L Lawson
15. Scuba Steve
Holy shit! I re-read that last sentence I wrote and it didn't come out the way I meant at all! Let me rephrase: It would have been better for King to have waited 5-7 years between the last three books and not to have rushed the creative proseess and have him die of natural causes with the series unfinished than to have the series as it is now. I DID NOT mean that I wished King would have died in his accident because of the way he wrote the last three books. *embarrassed*
Marcus W
16. toryx
I finished The Wind Through the Keyhole on Sunday and I enjoyed it more than I had expected to, primarily because of the story of Tim. I'm not really all that interested in Roland's youth but the story he told as a young man was fantastic.

I've found that I'm more interested in the world(s) of the DT series than Roland. I wouldn't mind reading more about Mid-World or End-World.

Anyway, it was quite a pleasant read and I'm glad I managed to snag an early copy (even if it wasn't the illustrated one).
Tricia Irish
17. Tektonica
I really loved this series when I first read it....ages ago. The ending irritated me at first, but then I found myself chuckling about it more and more....I do think it was perfect!

I'm also really enjoying the Suzanne's "Read" of the series, here on Tor, taking me through mid-world once again. Highly recommended!

Looking forward to this....thanks for the review Jason!
L Lawson
18. StrongDreams
Just bought the book for a cross-country airplane flight. I like that it is short. I got the feeling with book 7 that King had written himself a certain number of tasks that needed to be performed, and he decided to cram them all into one book come hell or high water. It felt too big and too rushed at the same time. Keyhole looks like King had a story to tell, and it is just long enough to tell that story without too much padding or King's patented wordiness. We'll see how it holds up over the flight.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment