“A person’s never too old for stories. Man and boy, girl and woman, we live for them. – Roland Deschain”
I loved this book. It’s number 4.5 in the Dark Tower series – just an interlude of sorts before the action keeps going and a very nice attempt (as I fell for it too) to extract more money from the Constant Readers who enjoyed The Dark Tower series. This resembles Inception a little bit or a Matryoshka doll – as it offers a story within a story within a story. A retelling inside a retelling which I love so much.
“The stories we hear in our childhood are the ones we remember all our lives.”
This is a flashback story of when Roland was still young and he met a character of sorts who had nothing to do with the Dark Tower series. Than that character retells a story he heard.
“Time is a keyhole, he thought as he looked up at the stars. Yes, I think so. We sometimes bend and peer through it. And the wind we feel on our cheeks when we do – the wind that blows through the keyhole- is the breath of all the living universe.”
Between the green city from the end of Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla, Roland and his Ka-tet arrive at a river- and an elderly man- Bix- that operates the ferry assists them across the river.
A starkblast is coming and they will need to find shelter to wait out the storm. Roland tells them of an adventure in his youth to keep them occupied: The story of The Skin Man…and a story within the story- a tale that was told to Roland by his mother long ago.
Roland is sent on anther mission to another remote area of the world where a gunslinger is needed to capture the Skin-Man. Sadly, he takes another young gunslinger with him, not Alain and Cuthbert. I was SOOOO disappointed, I thought for sure we’d get those guys back. During the flashback in “The Skin-Man,” Roland tells the titular tale, “The Wind Through the Keyhole.” This tale actually makes up the bulk of the book and was easily my favorite part.
“Once upon a bye, before your grandfather’s grandfather was born, on the edge of an unexplored wilderness called the Endless Forest, there lived a boy named Tim”
Tim Ross lives with his mother Nell in a village who’s property taxes are collected by a mysterious man called- The Covenant Man. Tim recently lost his father – who supposedly was killed by a dragon.
It’s a great old-timey adventure story about a kid who braves impossible odds to help his family.
“He felt awe as he looked up at those stars, but also a deep and abiding contentment, such as he had felt as a child, awakening in the night, safe and warm beneath his quilt, drowsing half in and half out of sleep, listening to the wind sing its lonely song of other places and other lives.”
It is in the title story that we learn more about Maerlyn, the wizard who was so vital to Arthur Eld, along with some more history on Randall Flagg/Marten Broadcloack/Walter O’Dim, who is the major antagonist in the tale. How this particular fact could pass anyone in Roland’s family, allowing Broadcloak to do all the damage he did, is unclear to me, but here we are. We also get Maerlyn’s take on the Crimson King, called the “Red King” by that great wizard.
It isn’t a bad book, though. Roland and the ka-tet are true to form. It didn’t feel forced or tacked on. Rather, the stories felt natural and fleshed out both Roland’s background and the mythology of Mid-World. I liked the Covenant Man quite a bit and the tale of the skin-man held my interest. If they weren’t part of The Dark Tower, I probably would have rated them higher. Tim’s tale reminded me of Eyes of the Dragon, one of Stephen King’s more underrated works.
I guess my main gripe was that there wasn’t much in the way of gunslinging action. Sure, Roland got to strut his stuff a bit but I was hoping for something to explain the ka-tet’s transformation between books four and five.