To 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.)
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.
The 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