In “The Wind Through the Keyhole,” Stephen King returns to the rich landscape of Mid-World, the spectacular territory of the Dark Tower fantasy saga that stands as his most beguiling achievement. Roland Deschain and his ka-tet”–“Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy, the billy-bumbler–encounter a ferocious storm just after crossing the River Whye on their way to the Outer Baronies. As they shelter from the howling gale, Roland tells his friends not just one strange story but two . . . and in so doing, casts new light on his own troubled past.
In his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt-ridden year following his mother’s death, Roland is sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape-shifter, a “skin-man” preying upon the population around Debaria. Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, the brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast’s most recent slaughter. Only a teenager himself, Roland calms the boy and prepares him for the following day’s trials by reciting a story from the “Magic Tales of the Eld “that his mother often read to him at bedtime. “A person’s never too old for stories,” Roland says to Bill. “Man and boy, girl and woman, never too old. We live for them.” And indeed, the tale that Roland unfolds, the legend of Tim Stoutheart, is a timeless treasure for all ages, a story that lives for us.
I should kick this review off with a confession; I only ever got as far as the second novel in the Dark Tower series, but having read The Wind Through The Keyhole I will definitely be going back for more. It’s such a beautiful read, completely spell-binding and totally immersive. It reminded me so much of the stories I used to love as a child, and gave me that same feeling of complete immersion that I would so often have back then, when you’re one hundred percent lost in a tale and nothing matters outside of the characters and their world. Now it takes a lot for a book to do that to me these days, to make me forget about all of the problems at work and all of my worries outside is no easy task, but King did it effortlessly here.
“Stories take a person away. If they’re good ones, that is.”
I can wholeheartedly vouch for the fact that The Wind Through The Keyhole works perfectly as a Stand-alone. If you’ve never picked up a Dark Tower series novel, or, like me, you’ve read a couple a good few years back, don’t let it put you off for a nano-second because it works brilliantly regardless. Having said that, I’m sure that die-hard Dark Tower fans would get more from this than I did, in the sense that it provides extra background and colour, and they’ll be far more familiar with the characters and the terminology than I was. But it doesn’t matter, because what I got from this one was plenty.
The Wind Through The Keyhole is a story within a story, within a story. Now usually that wouldn’t work for me, but hats off to King, he pulls it off here. Essentially it reads like two novellas connected by a smooth fictional bridge. All three stories are like warm, comforting fairy-tale Lattes, each with a syrup shot of horror that turns them into something completely unique. Imagine a mix of Narnia and Oz, with a side of Guy Ritchie. That’s the closest I can come to describing it for you. And it doesn’t do it justice.
It’s worth mentioning as well that the illustrations in this paperback edition are absolutely perfect. My only complaint is that it made me greedy, and I wanted more of them.
It reminded me what a complete master storyteller Stephen King is. I’ve fallen out of love with him a little over recent years, I’ve had a few big disappointments with some of his titles, but this one has made me remember the reasons why I always used to have my shelves overflowing with his name. When he’s on form, no one can compare. I can’t wait to share the namesake story of this novel with my son when he’s a little older, and I hope so much that he will fall in love with it the same way I did, Starkblasts, Billy-Bumblers, Maeryln and all.
“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.”
I absolutely cannot recommend this one highly enough.
A Phoenix Fantasy Five Star Read
[The Wind Through The Keyhole is published by Hodder and is due for release in Paperback on 28th Feb 2012]