“It's alright to feel fear, but sometimes a very bad idea to show it.”
This fourth book is another massive addition to the ever-evolving Dark tower series. For some reason King decided now would be the time to provide a back story/prequel book for the series. A good thing is plenty of Roland time and backstory – fresh gunslinger falling in love and in battle. The enjoyable but haunting tale of his close friends and his lost lady love.
Many held major qualms that this book spends its time recapturing Roland’s tragic youth, but I enjoyed the flashbacks and character sketching. I’m sure I’d feel much differently if I’d been in the group who had to wait years in between the publication of these books!
The beginning was fun and exciting (about 100 pages or so). We’ve already glimpsed a young Roland in various scenes in the previous novels, so was a full prequel book needed? Having a love story can speak of generic backstory, and even King himself notes in an afterword how difficult it is to pen a convincing romance. But this still adds realism to Roland’s character and the man he used to be to the man he’d become.
The story is akin to an outlaw, gunslinger fairy tale (cool), but it wouldn’t hurt to have a trim. The ending grows bizarre by referencing the Wizard of Oz of all things. King enjoys putting his universes in the Dark Tower series, but the Wizard of Oz?
While I did yearn to return to the more familiar voyage of Roland’s journey with Jake, Eddie and Savannah, his childhood companions were natural to fall for as they three emerged as an honorable, fascinating group. Rhea is such a nasty woman, but of course King’s major strength lies in creating villains.
Bottom line is this is a prequel type deal, a pause. An exploration, sure, but still a pause in the main adventure. With the backstory firmly in place, it’s possible to see Roland with different eyes when we travel forward with him. I enjoy the old-west style atmosphere tucked amongst the fantastical world of Mejis. Of course beauty is only covering up ugly as things slowly rot, destroying the good, the purities.
I’m sure a lot of fans who wait in between novels for years were a little disappointed with this one for the lag, but it’s still a good story that further explores our favorite gunslinger. I think if the flashback scene had been shorter, it would have worked better.
“Panic is highly contagious, especially in situations when nothing is known and everything is in flux.”
“Opinion is politics, and politics is an evil which has caused many a fellow to be hung while he's still young and pretty.”
Extras on Author's Website:
Link to Robert Browning's Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came poem that inspired the story
Discordia (Game Based on the Dark Tower series)
Reviews of the Series: