The bestselling novelist scales down his literary ambition with a return to the Dark Tower series.
Though King has expanded his thematic terrain and elevated his critical reputation in recent years (11/22/63, 2011 etc.), he remains a master of fantastic stories spun from a very fertile imagination that seek to do nothing more (or less) than entertain. Some readers might be surprised at this return to the narrative that King had apparently concluded with the massive The Dark Tower (2004), the seventh book in the series. Yet rather than extend and revive the plot in this installment, he mines a seam from earlier in the series, suggesting that “this book should be shelved between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla...which makes it, I suppose Dark Tower 4.5.” He also makes a point of reassuring readers new to the series that they can start here, that the novel can be understood as a stand-alone title (with just a little contextual background, which he summarizes in a couple of paragraphs). Short by King’s standards, the novel draws inspiration from tales of knighthood and Old West gunslingers, as its story-within-a-story (within a story) details the rite-of-passage heroism of Roland Deschain, who saves a terrified boy in Mid-World from a shape-shifting marauder. “These tales nest inside each other,” explains Roland at the outset, as he prepares to recount a story through which its characters drew courage and inspiration from a story. If it weren’t for the profanity which liberally seasons the narrative, it could pass as a young adult fantasy, a foul-mouthed Harry Potter (with nods toward The Wizard of Oz and C.S. Lewis). It even ends with a redemptive moral, though King mainly concerns himself here with spinning a yard.
Will more likely serve as a footnote for the many fans of the series than a point of entry to expand its readership.