Stephen King expands alternative universe in The Wind Through the Keyhole
The Wind Through the Keyhole
By Stephen King. Simon & Schuster Canada, 320 pp, hardcover
It’s been eight years since Stephen King released his final book in the Dark Tower series, or so we thought. Through seven expansive novels, King built Mid-World, an alternative universe that exists outside, and sometimes within, our plane of reality.
In King’s latest novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole, we return once again to Mid-World and the gunslinging antihero Roland Deschain (diplomat, knight, and peacekeeper of his time).
Chronologically, this novel exists between Book 4 (Wizard and Glass) and Book 5 (Wolves of the Calla) in the series. It’s not an extension of the colossal saga, but a small gap filled in the epic fantasy, and if you haven’t read the series from the start, be warned. While you may not be completely lost, you might not fully appreciate the characters and backdrop. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, I would recommend starting at the beginning, with Book 1 (1982’s The Gunslinger).
The novel itself is really three layers of narrative. The first contains Roland and his gang, or ka-tet (those who share his destiny), seeking shelter from an impending storm. While they try to outlast the storm, Roland shares with them a dark quest from his past, thus creating the second layer. As a young and inexperienced gunslinger, Roland was saddled with the job of hunting down a shape-shifting serial killer, known as “the skin-man”, preying on the inhabitants of a small town. In the midst of his pursuit of the killer, the last layer of the novel unfolds, as Roland recites a bedtime fable from his own childhood, in the hope of soothing a frightened survivor of the previous night’s massacre. The tale spins the legend of Tim Stoutheart, a stubborn boy who seeks revenge for the murder of his father. As each new story builds on the preceding one, King does a good job of incorporating the new tales into the existing lore of Roland Deschain and Mid-World.
While The Wind Through the Keyhole is neither ground-breaking nor earth-shattering, it is King at his most devoted. No, it’s not blood-curdling horror or heart-stopping supernatural suspense. It’s a veteran author indulging in his craft, as he returns to his beloved fantasy world one more time.
The book seeps a strong sense of nostalgia, leaving us feeling as if we’re catching up with old friends. Furthermore, it succeeds in bridging the gap between books 4 and 5 in the Dark Tower series, while carving its own little place in King’s vast landscape.