The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King (The Dark Tower, Book 4.5)
Read by Stephen King
Length: 9 Hrs 49 Min
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Quick Thoughts: The Wind Through the Keyhole is storytelling at its best.It taps into the wonder and thrill of everything The Dark Tower series did right, while stripping away much of the unnecessary baggage of the final books of the series. As opposed the feelings of emotional fatigue I felt when finally completing this saga, I felt rejuvenated in my love for Mid-World and our Ka-Tet when completing this tale.
When I finally turned the last page and closed the book on the saga of The Dark Tower, I told myself I would never enter Mid-World again. Now, this was a big statement for me, because I had read each of the previous six books of the Dark Tower series multiple times, as well as all the other works even tangentially related to King’s Magnus Opus. Yet, when I finished the last book of the series, The Dark Tower, I knew I would not reread that novel. It left me emotionally drained, completing this tale that had followed me for most of my reading life. I had been reading it at work, going on an emotionally rollercoaster from sobbing tears, to anger, to an almost stilted acceptance. I had longed suspected how the series would end, yet that didn’t lesson the impact when my fears/expectations came true. I am not one of those who despise the ending, nor did I really love it. I just accepted it because I feel it was the way it had to be. Yet, I wasn’t going to put myself through the trauma of lost members of the ka-tet and the sadness I felt over Roland Deschain’s fate. At that time I truly believed the grand master when he said he was going to retire, that The Dark Tower would be the final moment of his illustrious career. Even when he started writing new novels, I never expected him to return to any level of the Tower. Heck, I even stayed away from the Graphic Novel series, not wanting to get sucked in again. The tale was told, the circle had been closed. So, I was floored when I learned that there would be a new Dark Tower novel, and that Roland, Susan, Eddie, Jake and even Oy would appear in it. The King had another tale to tell in this world. I was excited and scared, and I knew that I would be ripping off the scabs and entering that world, at least one more time.
The Wind Through the Keyhole is a standalone novel in the Dark Tower World that fits between book 4 Wizard and Glass, and Book 5 Wolves of the Calla, so it is rightly touted as The Dark Tower, Book 4.5. We find our Ka-Tet having recently escaped their conflict with old RF in the Emerald City that was not Oz but before they arrived in Calla Bryn Sturgis. Roland and his companions are following The Beam, when the Billy Bumbler Oy begins acting weirdly. Eventually Roland, with the help of a ferryman, remembers that the Bill Bumblers weird dance was predictive of a strange devastating storm. While holed up in an abandoned town, Roland passes the time by telling the travelers a tale from his past. The Wind Through the Keyhole’s story is structured like a Russian nesting doll, one story, book-ending another, book-ending another. One story tells of Roland as a youth, investigating a series of grisly deaths blamed on a skin changer. While there, he meets a boy who is the only witness to the horrors, and in an effort to take his mind off the tragedy, tells him one of his favorite tales told to him by his mother, called The Wind Through the Keyhole. This story is the highlight of this tale, and reminded me why I love this series. It is told as a classic Fairy Tale, yet it blends the fantasy with science fiction. It is touching, poignant and often horrific and gives us new glimpses of Martin Broadcoat, The Beam and North Central Positronics. It is the sort of blending of The Wastelands and Wizard and Glass that rekindles some of the magic and wonder that the last two books in the series seemed to neglect as they rocketed towards the final showdown. It was nice to return to Mid-World without having to worry about The Quest, the Dark Tower and The Crimson King. You already know the fates of those involved and you can sit back and luxuriate in the storytelling. The Wind Through the Keyhole is storytelling at its best. It taps into the wonder and thrill of everything The Dark Tower series did right, while stripping away much of the unnecessary baggage of the final books of the series. As opposed the feelings of emotional fatigue I felt when finally completing this saga, I felt rejuvenated in my love for Mid-World and our Ka-Tet when completing this tale.
When I heard that Stephen King would be reading this novel, I groaned on the inside. This was going to be a new Dark Tower tale, and I wanted it to be perfect. Was it perfect? No. Stephen is no voice actor, and with the Mid-Worlders penchant for speaking a mix of low and high speech, some of the uses of terms such as "Thee" lost some of the rhythmic beauty they achieve during a reading, and came off a bit clunky. Yet, in the end, the reading worked for me. I think it helped that this was the first of the series I listened to in audio (which was a decision I went back and forth on many times) and the tale was always in King’s voice. His voice is gruff and unpolished, but the passion for his world and love for its characters is evident in the reading. Since the majority of the characters were rough, salty men, he did a decent job with the characterizations and he even pulled off younger characters like Bill Streeter and Tim. So, while a professional narrator may have added something to this tale, in my opinion, King’s reading rarely detracts, and some moments truly resonates with emotional impact. After experiencing this tale, I find myself no longer wanting to cut off Mid-World and the many levels of the Tower for good, but relishing any new chance I may have to reenter the world King has created.
Note: A special thanks to Simon & Schuster Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review. The Wind Through the Keyhole will be released on April 24th.