Synopsis: Roland Deschain and his ka-tet—Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy, the billy-bumbler—encounter a ferocious storm just after crossing the River Whye on their way to the Outer Baronies. As they shelter from the howling gale, Roland tells his friends not just one strange story but two...and in so doing, casts new light on his own troubled past.
In his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt-ridden year following his mother’s death, Roland is sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape-shifter, a “skin-man” preying upon the population around Debaria. Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, the brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast’s most recent slaughter. Only a teenager himself, Roland calms the boy and prepares him for the following day’s trials by reciting a story from the Magic Tales of the Eldthat his mother often read to him at bedtime. “A person’s never too old for stories,” Roland says to Bill. “Man and boy, girl and woman, never too old. We live for them.” And indeed, the tale that Roland unfolds, the legend of Tim Stoutheart, is a timeless treasure for all ages, a story that lives for us.
This is an okay novel. It's not bad, and it's not great. Within Stephen King's published backlist, The Wind Through the Keyhole ranks somewhere in between The Stand and Cell (i.e. my favorite and least favorite King novels, respectively). Beyond that, I don't really know how I feel about it except it's certainly not one of my favorites . . . but I like it a good deal. My feelings on this one are pretty mixed, obviously.
I typically reread King's books fairly often and quickly, but TWTTK (as it will be referred to as from here on out because that title is too darn long to type out) is a special case. I read it on its release day back in 2012, only to never really think about it again. It's not a book that called to me. I finally reread it -- I've been working my way through it over the last couple of weeks -- because I had almost completely forgotten everything about the damn thing, and I wanted to compare how I feel about it in 2016 versus how I felt about it in 2012. I finished a reread of Wizard & Glass earlier in the month, so what better time than now to revisit this book . . . and maybe come away liking it more than I did initially.
I didn't. My feelings toward it are of the strong indifference variety. That make sense to you? Nah, it doesn't make sense to me either.
One thing that did change for me between my first and second read is whether this book feels like an afterthought or not. TWTTK was published eight years after the final Dark Tower novel and is supposed to be shelved between books four and five, so I went into this book the first time armed with that knowledge, expecting it to feel like a tired cash-grab . . . And, honestly, it did. Upon rereading, though, my opinions on that changed and I came to realize this book doesn't cheapen the mythos of Mid-World but instead deepens them. Getting to spend more time with Roland and his ka-tet while hearing not one but two stories from his childhood illustrates the world of this series a good deal, filling in a few blanks left by the original seven novels while leaving room for possible future stories from King.
I feel this review has been a little all over the place while not thoroughly covering anything. My apologies. I'm not sure what it is about this book I can't love . . . But I just don't. It drags a bit, despite the exquisite prose and small page count. It's nice seeing Roland and the tet again, but only thirty or so of the 300+ pages are dedicated to them. The rest of this book is made up of two stories from Roland's childhood -- one an event that happened to him soon after the action of Wizard & Glass and the other a story that was often told to him by his mother. As far as fantasy goes, this is probably King at his best . . . But fantasy just ain't really my thing. It's a good read, but it's not exactly vital to the Dark Tower series. . . and it just didn't grab me either time, sad to say.
I've been burned out on reading lately, and maybe that has played a part in coloring my opinion of this book . . . But I don't think so. This is a good book, but it ain't great. Nowhere near it, in fact. This book is wholly average. 3 stars.