The Wind through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel by Stephen King
I still remember finding that raggedy paperback copy of The Gunslinger in my local library, the perfect example of a “gently used” book (damaged spine, stained pages, ripped cover). My introduction to Roland and his life in Mid-World occurred during middle school; by the time Wizard and Glass was released in 1997, I was fully caught up on his adventures. It’d be another six years before the remaining three books were released, all on an amazing rapid fire schedule, motivated by King’s desire to complete his epic tale after being hit by a car. I’ve never really left Mid-World since, as Marvel started releasing comic adaptations of Roland’s journeys in early 2007 (with art by the incomparable Jae Lee) and has been doing so ever since (though more recent installments are sans Jae Lee, which really is a travesty).
Since The Dark Tower has been a constant companion of mine, I was thrilled to hear that Stephen King would revisit Mid-World with The Wind Through the Keyhole, a new tale set in between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. However, at the same time, I was very, very hesitant (which is probably why I held off reading this volume for as long as I did): in general, I’m not a fan of stories being retroactively inserted into established tales. To me, these attempts usually feel gimmicky, mostly financially motivated, and/or — at the very least — just not as creatively strong. In the end, I’m usually left with a feeling of disappointment.
It became clear early on that this story would not focus on Roland’s “present day” ka-tet of Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy (which, given my reservations, was no doubt a good thing) as it flashes back to Roland’s early gunslinger days. Here, he is tasked with tracking down a murderous “Skin-Man” that has been terrorizing the small town of Debaria.
At this point, I was excited. While I found it mildly amusing that this new novel would provide yet another tale of young Roland — this story (effectively Dark Tower #4.5) sequentially follows Wizard and Glass (Dark Tower #4) which was already dedicated to Roland’s adolescence — I welcomed it, as I generally enjoy the original ka-tet of Cuthbert, Alain, and Jamie. Plus, how cool is it to have a killer shapeshifter on the loose in Mid-World?
However, at some point during Roland’s investigation, this story within a story becomes a story within a story within a story. This… I did not anticipate. Yet it’s not to say the structure doesn’t work — or that it isn’t good. It is. The tale of Tim Ross, a kid who has lost his father and whose mother has re-married in order to prevent The Covenant Man from claiming their house, is both an interesting exploration of step-families and an expansion of the Arthurian mythology ever present in Roland’s world. Furthermore, its telling serves a purpose as it instills a sense of courage in Roland’s primary witness to a recent Skin-Man attack, a young boy being asked to look at the man who murdered his own father square in the face.
On the whole, it all worked quite well. Both stories were engaging, though I don’t quite feel the resolution to Tim’s story had the same sort of momentum that the first 2/3 contained. The book didn’t necessarily exceed my expectations but it was a rather enjoyable tale deeply rooted in strong characterization. It obviously can’t further the larger Dark Tower saga but, as a way to revisit old friends, it’s a solid contribution.