This review has been a longtime coming, but not nearly as long as this book has been. As a fan of the Dark Tower series, any amount of time is too long to wait for another adventure with the Ka’ Tet. That being said, it should be pretty obvious that this is a good review.
First off, let me start by stating that this review is a review of the book in its audiobook format. Some would say that there’s no difference… I know some that would argue that point (looking at you Honk :P). I KID! I KID!
*NOTE* IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THROUGH THE DARK TOWER SERIES, I SUGGEST YOU STOP READING THIS NOW. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS OF MOST OF THE BOOKS THROUGHOUT THIS REVIEW, AND I DON’T WANT TO RUIN IT FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE NOT THIS FAR DOWN THE PATH YET, IF YA KENNIT.
*FURTHER NOTE* AFTER WRITING THIS REVIEW, I REALIZED THAT THERE ARE QUITE A FEW REFERENCES TO OTHER THINGS WITHIN POP CULTURE AND NERD CULTURE THAT ARE NOT NECESSARILY RELATED TO THE BOOK. I USED THEM IN THE NAME OF HUMOR. SORRY IF THESE ARE LOST ON YOU, BUT I AM REFUSING TO OMIT THEM BECAUSE THE PEOPLE THAT GET THEM WILL LOVE IT.
When I heard that there was a Dark Tower 4.5 in the works, I was elated and frightened in the same moment. I was elated because I would be allowed to “Follow the Path of the Beam” once again, I would get to hear that Towerese once again and I would get to pay a visit to 4 long-lost friends (and one that was only lost to himself) once again. I am 100% positive that I was not the only person that felt this way. I am just as confident that there were plenty of people who were concerned that the story would be too much. That it would mess with the perspective of the characters that we have all come to know and love. This book was meant to fill a gap that spanned, something to the effect, of a couple of weeks time, in story. What sort of new developments were we going to see our beloved Ka’ Tet go through? Would this ruin future aspects of the book? What effect would be had on the series, as a whole? All GREAT reasons to be concerned. That was what frightened me.
I know a lot of my King Media counterparts released reviews of this book early, because they pre-ordered that special edition that shipped out early. I did not, simply because I should not be trusted with early release Dark Tower stuff. I know I would spoiler it for everybody. So I elected to wait. I have not read any of their reviews, as of yet, and I’m sure they understand why. I want a clean slate walking into the story. It has also taken me this long, because I may have gone about it differently. A couple of months before “Keyhole’s” release, I started the Tower series from the beginning, and let Keyhole fall right into its new spot in the universe. After I finished Keyhole, I continued on with the rest of the series and finished it out. I did this simply to see how well it fit into the overall story. I am not sure if Bob, Bryant, David or Joe (Kingcast, Honk Mahfah, Talk Stephen King and Discordia 19 podcast; respectively) did it the same way, but that is the angle that I wanted to have on this story as a fan. It just so happens to work out well as reviewer’s perspective.
I am going to come at this in a couple of ways:
- What I think of the story, as a person that is familiar with the already existing Dark Tower story line
- How well did it drop into the series?
Amazing! This book allowed me to go back to mid-world and hunker around the campfire (in this case a fireplace) with characters that I consider VERY near and dear to my heart. I got a little signature something that I was expecting from each member, including a little bit of Detta’s language, that I hadn’t realized I’d missed.
This book is essentially a story, that tells a story, that tells a story. Once again, Roland guides us through a small portion of his past (immediately following the death of his mother that we heard in “Wizard & Glass”) with the tale of how he dealt with the skin-man, a shape-shifting creature that Tower fans will know of, but not know. He is telling his Ka’ Tet the story in the same fashion that he told them the story of Mejis, Susan Delgado and the pink ball in “Wizard & Glass,” which, as I imagine, is mostly told, but has telepathic slideshow qualities as well. Apple people might refer to it as “Mirroring”… No? OK then.
The setting is that there is a very specific storm, called a Starkblast, that is about to settle right on our Ka’ Tet’s shoulders. So Roland barricades the group into an abandoned stone building, so they can ride it out. To pass the time of the storm, Roland tells of the skin-man that he had to deal with. The fast forward version is that he and Jamie DeCurry, back before the world had moved on, are sent out to a mining town called Debaria (awkward…) to deal with the skin-man, who has been terrorizing the locals. The problem is that no one knows who the skin-man is. It could be anyone! Shortly after arriving in town, a gruesome series of murders happens out at one of the farms. They go to investigate, and find a single survivor, a young boy named Bill, who lost his father in the attack. He reveals to Roland under hypnosis that the perpetrator has a blue ring tattooed around his ankle. Roland decides to take Bill to town and put him in a jail cell. This is for his own safety, as Roland plans to parade every man in town with a similar tattoo right past Bill’s cell so he can identify the man. Bill tells Roland that this idea scares him, and Roland tells him to be brave like Tim Stoutheart. Well, Bill doesn’t know who that is (neither does the Ka’ Tet of Roland’s current when, and neither do we) so Roland pauses the tale of the skin-man to tell the story of Tim Stoutheart.
Much like little Bill, (“Ka is a Wheel.” Do ya’ not kennit?) Tim is also a young boy that has lost his father, in this case, to a dragon. Tim’s father, obviously, was not a Dovahkiin… JOOR-ZAH-FRUL! #GamingReference On top of the loss of his father, the Covenant Man (tax collector) was due to come around soon. Tim’s mother decides to marry her former husband’s woodcutting partner, Bern Wells, so they can pay their taxes. Adding insult to injury, Bern turns out to be the type that enjoys a drink or two too many and then comes home to beat his wife. When the Covenant Man shows up to collect, he secretly gives Tim a magic key that will open any lock, but then becomes completely useless. Tim immediately think of his new step-dad’s trunk that Bern is so fond of. He waits until Bern is gone and opens the trunk and finds his father’s medallion, which should have been burnt up by the dragon’s breath. He then goes into the forest and finds the Covenant Man and tells him what he has found. The Covenant Man, more for sadistic pleasure rather than justice, allows little Timmy to discover his father’s body in a nearby river, confirming that his father wasn’t killed by a dragon at all. In all actuality, Bern had killed him to get at his wife. When he gets back to the Covenant Man’s campsite, the Covenant Man shows Tim a vision in a tub of water like he’s Dumbledore or something. The vision is of Bern discovering that his trunk had been tampered with, accusing his new wife of messing with his stuff and then beating her blind for it. After the Covenant Man relays a little info, Tim goes back home to check on his mom. The next morning he rounds up a posse to go after Bern, telling them of the murder of his father and beating of his mother. Tim, relying on some intel from the Covenant Man, goes off on a quest to find some magic that will restore his mother’s site. After he has his own run in with a dragon, Tim receives something like a GPS system, called Daria (LA LA LAA LAA LA) from a tribe of slow-mutant mud men. Daria guides him to a Dogan in which a caged tyger awaits him with the key to the Dogan looped around its neck. With a Starkblast fast on his heels, Tim befriends the tyger and lets him out of his cage. Tim and the tyger enter the Dogan and ride out the storm under a magical blanket. The next morning, Tim awakes to find the tyger has been replaced by the great wizard of legend, Maerlyn, who had been transformed to the tyger by black magic. To repay Tim, Maerlyn gives him a potion that will heal his mother’s eyes. He returns home and cures his mother’s blindness. Bern, who still hasn’t been captured by the posse, enters the house with the intention of killing them, but is slain by Tim’s mother first. That is the story of Tim Stoutheart as told by Roland to Bill.
It is found out that the blue ring tattoo is common amongst the miners, so Jaime goes and rounds them all up and, just as planned, parades them passed the cell that Bill is in. Bill identifies the skin-man, which transforms into a snake and kills two people before Roland can shoot and kill it. On their way out-of-town, Roland and Jamie take Bill out to Serenity, the same place where Roland’s mother had lived for a while after her affair with Marten, and the woman their adopt Bill. I wonder if they ever told him stories of a spaceship manned by a ragtag group of outlaws, running around the verse having all kinds of shiny adventures. Probably only a few before they were cut off horribly short, long before Bill was ready for the stories to end. #DAMNYOUFOX!
When we rejoin our Ka’ Tet, the storm has ended and so has story time. They pack up and head off along the Path of the Beam.
Part of the Series:
This actually fits pretty well into the series. I do have a couple of complaints, but I think they are solid complaints and deserve a voice.
- Considering Roland’s character is that of a man of little words, doesn’t two entire books of, what comes to, Roland telling everyone stories seem a little strange? Those two books are back-to-back even!
- Why didn’t the people of the Calla experience the Starkblast? I understand Wolves was written first, the point is that it seems like this book might have added some continuity errors to the full story arc, as well as, filling in the missing story of the skin-man.
On the positive side:
- Oy becomes a much stronger character in this book because of the Bumbler’s ability to sense when these Starkblasts are coming.
- When Odetta and Detta merged to become Susannah, that transformation happened pretty fast. Detta was almost squished out of existence completely with Odetta being the dominant personality there. I mention that because I think Susannah’s little tirade of swears for something as simple as getting dirty was amazing. It allowed the reader to see that transition period a little bit. Detta got the best of Odetta and over-reacted letting out an impressive string of curses.
- The story of Tim Stoutheart also does a good job of showing that transitional period between “before the world had moved on” and “moving on” that happened in In-World. The Covenant Man was a sign of how the world was moving on, yet the appearance of Maerlyn was a sign of the magic that still existed in the world.
I really enjoyed the stories in this book! Stephen King took few short stories, which he has ALWAYS been good at, and managed to mash them up to make a novel that is compelling and moves the over all story along. Great book!
Purchase “The Wind through the Keyhole”: