The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
Creating a sequel or writing another book for an already completed series can be risky. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park – great: Michael Crichton’s The Lost World – not so much. So when Stephen King announced an additional story set in his The Dark Tower universe, it was a moment for celebration along with some trepidation. What more did Roland Deschain and his ka-tethave to tell us?
Thankfully a good deal more. It appears that King also had this concern, and structured The Wind Through the Keyhole, hereafter referred to as Keyhole, to ensure the reader gets a rollicking ride for their time and money.
For those of you chronologically minded, Keyhole should be read just after book 4 of [The Dark Tower] – King himself calls it Book 4.5. Keyhole could be read as a standalone, but there’s too much richness the general reader will miss if they don’t have at least some familiarity with the rules of Roland’s road.
Keyhole finds the last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and hiska-tet (think “posse”) hunkering down as a monstrous storm called a starkblast comes upon them. While the sub-freezing temperatures and howling winds pound the world outside, Roland recounts a tale (or two) to pass the time around a roaring fire. Roland first tells of a mission he was sent on by his father to destroy a skin-man, a person able to transform into a terrifying beast that greatly enjoys eating local citizenry. There he encounters a young boy named Billy Streeter, recently orphaned by the creature. To comfort the distraught boy Roland tells him a tale, wherein we go on yet another quest. This time with Tim of Tree, who has also recently lost his father, but learns it was no accident. Tim’s quest leads him deep into a terrifying forest to try and gain help from Merlin, who may have the ability to heal his mother’s blindness.
I gave a lot of plot there, mostly because anyone reading a review wants to know what’s in the book and feel somewhat cheated if I skip that. However, I could just as easily have said the following: Keyhole is about a lot of people telling stories. It’s a simple as that. Roland tells a story to his friends, and then young Roland within that story tells a frightened child another story. Alongside these two central tales, it seems nearly everyone encountered has a story to relate – the giant prioress at a local nunnery tells of an attack, the local sheriff speaks of when he served with Roland’s father, and so on. King packs his narrative with adventures, monsters, and above all realistic characters. All his themes are here: horror and terror, both subtle and stark, weird mixtures of the fantastic and the real, magics and moderns, and perhaps above all his astounding ability to relate the frightening world that many children live in and overcome.
Did King need to write this book? No. Keyhole isn’t necessary to understanding The Dark Tower and I do not see that it adds anything critical to the overall series. However, Keyhole is a fantastic read and a glorious good time. It has been quite a while since I read through a novel so quickly and with such pleasure. Any King or The Dark Tower fan will love it, but anyone who just wants to get lost for a while in a wonderful world of fiction should enjoy A Wind Through the Keyhole.
Right now King is at one of the peaks of his seemingly endless creative powers. He’s managed to synthesize his strong narratives and pitch-perfect dialogue with his more thoughtful moments to create near pitch-perfect fiction. All these factors will ramp up the anticipation for his next novel, Dr. Sleep, a sequel to his beloved The Shining, to a fever pitch.
Code 451 Rating: 9 (Must Read)
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