"The Wind Through the Keyhole" by Stephen King

'The Wind Through the Keyhole' by Stephen King

Seven years after the publication of the ostensibly last book in his Dark Tower series, Stephen King revisits the epic, fully realized universe his fans have been following for decades. Well, sort of.

The Wind Through the Keyhole takes place chronologically between books four (Wizard and Glass) and five (Wolves of the Calla) in the series, and King himself dubs it Book 4.5. The book opens with our beloved ka-tet - Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy - moving past the horrors of Lud and toward the horrors of Calla Bryn Sturgis. But on the way, they take shelter from a fierce, sudden, freezing storm called a starkblast, and Roland passes the time with two stories. 

He tells a story of his youth, taking place after the events in Mejis where he loved and lost the beautiful Susan Delgado. He and his ka-mate Jamie DeCurry are sent on a task by Roland's father, Stephen Deschain, to a town not far from Gilead, where a skin-man (or shapeshifter) is terrorizing the citizens of a small salt mining village. 

While Roland is protecting a young boy who witnessed the skin-man's dreadful work, he comforts Young Billy with a fable his mother used to tell him - The Wind Through the Keyhole, which follows Young Tim as he faces a ghastly, magical quest to avenge his father and protect his mother. 

With The Wind Through the Keyhole, King transports us cozily to the universe that die-hard fans have loved for years. The odd yet familiar vernacular, the quaintly archaic setting, the strong but subtle certainty that all things serve the Beam, and the Beam only ever serves the Tower - these undeniable elements of the Dark Tower quest permeate every page of the novel. 

However, many (one could argue all) of King's books take place in the universe of the Dark Tower without actually being Dark Tower novels, and The Wind Through the Keyhole seems to be more of that ilk than a valid entry in the series. We only spend thirty pages at the beginning of the novel with our ka-tet, and three at the end. And these pages are ultimately inessential for the Ka-tet of 19's story. As lovely as it is to see our old friends again, the visit is so brief as to be unsatisfying. Readers like myself hungry for more Jake, more Eddie, more Susannah, more Oy, will close this book hungrier still. We do spend time with young Roland - the portion of the novel titled The Skin-Man is actually written in Roland's first person point of view, a brand new and enlightening perspective for long-time readers - but even that is interrupted by the meat of the book, the fable that does not feature any of our cherished characters.

While The Wind Through the Keyhole is not what I expected, it is still wonderful. As always, it feels as if King uncovered this universe rather than created it, and any yarn he spins of Mid-World is spun very well. The book is magical, engrossing. The fable of Young Tim is especially riveting. King's archaic language is lovely, proverbial and always unsettling. 

The path, as it crossed the clearing, was paved in some smooth dark material, so bright that it reflected both the trees dancing in the rising wind and the sunset-tinged clouds flowing overhead. It ended at a rock precipice. The whole world seemed to end there, and to begin again a hundred wheels or more distant. In between was a great chasm of rushing air in which leaves danced and swirled. There were bin-rusties as well. They rose and twisted helplessly in the eddies and currents. Some were obviously dead, the wings ripped from their bodies.

I would recommend anyone who has already read and loved The Dark Tower series to read The Wind Through the Keyhole, but I would not recommend someone who is reading it for the first time to insert this novel between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. A first-time reader would be doubtlessly irritated to find the forward motion of our central characters interrupted once again with a flashback, as a flashback makes up the largest part of Wizard and Glass. I would not call The Wind Through the Keyhole a strictly necessary publication, but it's an undeniably good read. And there is nothing wrong with a good read, sai. 

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Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies April 27, 2012 - 7:57am

excellent write up. i defintely will read this, having read the whole series. will be fun to see these guys again. 

Meredith's picture
Meredith from Houston, Texas is reading His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman April 27, 2012 - 9:46am

Thank you! Yeah, it's definitely fun visiting them. I've missed my old friends.

misterwoe's picture
misterwoe from Kansas but living in Athens, Greece is reading Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer, A Wolverine is Eating My Leg by Tim Cahill April 27, 2012 - 1:09pm

Great series. I'll probably wait for the paperback here. And I need to reread Wizard and Glass for sure!

Dorian Grey's picture
Dorian Grey from Transexual, Transylvania is reading "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck April 27, 2012 - 3:19pm

Thanks for the advice -- I plan on starting Wizard and Glass soon and I was planning to read this before Wolves. I can't wait to finish the series and get to this one.

Meredith's picture
Meredith from Houston, Texas is reading His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman April 30, 2012 - 10:00am

I can't wait to hear your thoughts after you finish the series! It's one of my favorites of all time.

Tim Beirne's picture
Tim Beirne from Russellville, AR is reading Anything and Everything July 25, 2012 - 8:30pm

I picked this this up just the other day after reading about it here. It is excellent!

This is a wonderful edition of the Dark Tower series, and any fan of these books could do worse than to give it a read. Although it doesn't focus much on the four gunslingers, it does give us a new look into Roland's world.

I'd recommend this to any King fan, especially those who've followed the Dark Tower series.