The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
King takes the great promise built in The Gunslinger and provides a second book that is even better, further fleshing out the characters and the places while providing an even more tantalising insight into their lives and the worlds they inhabit. If the first book peaked your interest then the second book will close the deal.
In The Drawing of the Three Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger, encounters three doors which open to 1980s America. Here he joins forces with Eddie Dean and Odetta Holmes. He also confronts deadly serial killer Jack Mort.
If you have a penchant for character-driven tales then you will not find many authors better at it than Stephen King. Not only do the major players (Roland, Eddie, Jake and Odetta) receive full and fascinating back stories, even those that play only a transient role (Henry Dean, Enrico Balazar) are still given flesh to their bones. And this is why I have always been a King fan; these insights provide the explanations for why characters think and behave the way they do and it is not padding, as some unfairly label it, but proper storytelling and there is always a point behind each sub-story, a reason why it is there.
If, like me, The Gunslinger had you hook, line and sinker from page one, then The Drawing of the Three will simply reel you in even further. One reason for this is Roland, a character that in my opinion stands up there with the pantheons of the fantasy genre. He is an enigmatic, strangely likeable lead whose life story is luckily just a rich snippet of what the series has to offer. And we have already met, and very sadly lost, Jake, but now Roland's ka-tet is joined by two diverse characters; the heroin-addicted Eddie Dean and the schizophrenic Odetta Holmes. It is safe to say that these are not what you will normally find in a fantasy epic and a reason why it stands out so far in a crowded market.
But great characters are nothing without a great story and while the overriding story arc is Roland's journey to the Dark Tower, book two is all about discovering who is going to be joining - and helping - him on his way. And The Drawing of the Three progresses the story with moments memorable for many reasons and leaves the reader excited at the prospect of what book three can bring and leaves them wanting to spend yet more time with the incredibly dysfunctional ka-tet on the journey to the Dark Tower.
Every time I re-read this series (this is the third occasion) a new title becomes my favourite. And from memory I hold true The Drawing of the Three was my favourite first time around. From joining Roland on the beach (and the unforgettable lobstrosities of course - da da chum) to meeting Eddie and Susannah in their whens, before they are drawn into the world of the last gunslinger, is a tale that should not be missed.
Late last year Lee and I took the dive in doing a co-op re-read of the amazing Dark Tower series, written by Stephen King. And you won’t believe it, I actually fell behind in reading!
Okay, so what have we seen so far in the Gunslinger? I already stressed in my review of The Gunslinger, the first book in the series, that it is an amazing piece of work and that The Dark Tower for me was what really got me into fantasy. The Gunslinger isn’t a thick book, and looking at my shelf the other books become thicker and thicker. In the Gunslinger you thoroughly got to know the last Gunslinger of Gilead, Roland Deschain and meeting up with him in his quest to reach the ever elusive Dark Tower. It resonates strongly through the whole book that he must reach his goal. The world had moved on and this is his only focal point. The ending of this book was a real eye-opener for me. The palaver with the man in black really was a highlight of the book. The man in black either made certain goals clear for Roland or put them in motion. There were cards drawn... but what they meant then was still a mystery… This will all become clear in The Drawing of Three, the second volume of the series.
Firstly to begin, whenever someone mentions “The Drawing of Three” I get a huge ear to ear grin on my face and can only think of one thing... Dud-a-chum? Did-a-chick? Yes! the lobstrosities on the beach that Roland soon discovers. Especially after listening how the phrases were mentioned in the audiobooks, pure gold!
The time span between book one and two remains for me unclear. When Roland woke after the palaver, the man in black was a set of bones… Now Roland awakes from a dream. On a beach. With lobstrosities. They are a bit like giant lobsters, but they catch Roland unawares and he looses the battle. From this point on he slowly begin to understand that what he is discovering for his quest in this book becomes more crucial in his search for the Dark Tower.
Like I mentioned before, the palaver with the man in black revealed many things. Roland was dealt several cards, the prisoner, the lady of the shadows and death. The drawing of these cards indicate the nature or state of the people that will join Roland in his search. It was, I think, a challenge on how Stephen King wanted to introduce the reader to the new characters of the book. With Roland now being once again in a barren place without a soul in sight, he opted to go via a door approach, yes, right smack in the sand a huge wooden door was ready for Roland. Now I do not know how many books have featured this prior to The Drawing of Three but I can say that many after it also have chosen for this approach and more than often in provides a great versatility, creativity and of course entry in both new world but also in the storyline itself.
The role of The Drawing of Three is to introduce you purely with the new set of characters and their rich pasts. And they are all not without flaws. The first companion of Roland that you get to meet up with is Eddie Dean, a heroin addict. This part of the book was the longest, probably owing to the fact that the entry into the new world was new to Roland. The entry of Roland into the other worlds can be achieved at different levels, he can take control of the person of who the door belongs to, he can take things back and forth through the door, but he can also physically place himself into the other world. And you get to see all three of these things in a great amount of scenes. Going from shoplifting to a full-out mob gang fight. But back to Eddie, Eddie lives in the New York of 1987 and is smuggling drugs when Roland gets to posses his body. This first encounter was actually well placed and Eddie’s reaction towards another presence in his mind told him it was probably due to going cold or “cool” turkey. Later, when he does know it is a completely different persona in his mind, the storyline does force him to just believe it and later when he has got nothing left to live for anymore in the real world he joins Roland in his quest forever. The Eddie character is a great addition, firstly you just think of him as an addict waiting to get his fix, but what Stephen King manages greatly in just a few chapters is make you see the true nature of him and that he just wants everything right for his brother and later for Roland and the others.
The second companion is Odetta Holmes / Detta Walker who also lives in New York, but in the 60’s. She is a schizophrenic. By this time Roland has grown more confident in his entering the doors and this part of the book, the encounter between Odetta/Detta and Roland is not that long. This does not take away the fact that there is still quite some elaboration on the personality of Odetta and Detta and how again things came to pass, it already seems that the intention of weaving several plots together is coming to fruition here, names are becoming similar as well as different. Odetta’s character is really gentle, but the other side of her Detta is vulgar and quite rude to say the least. She is an African American living during the time of the Civil Rights Movement and Detta has more than a few things to say about white people. Firstly I was actually a bit put off by this heavy language and when I first read this book years back almost wanted to put it away. Well luckily I didn’t. This language abated as the book neared it final pages luckily.
Well the third companion is something that still remains to be seen and I will not talk about it.
A great thing that Stephen King took into account while writing this second story was portraying Roland. I already had a discussion, also with a colleague at work about the weird world that Roland inhabits. Is it the past or the future ? I do not know. But Roland opens doors to New York. Having thrown different word at him, that he funnily interprets like tuna-fish to become tooterfish and of course the famous sandwich to popkin. But also when Roland is “walking” in Eddy or Odetta/Detta or Jack his reactions become natural but nonetheless he is still, I think, a bit blown away with what is possible in those days and ages.
So in short: The Drawing of Three introduces us to new characters for Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower, ex-junkie Eddy and schizophrenic and wheelchair bound Odetta/Detta. Roland still has a lot on his own mind, he has lost some parts of his that will make him to rely more heavily on his new companions. However the drawing, as explained by the men in black, of three has not been fully completed, or has it? The second volume in the series is a real “maker” of the series it shows just a bit more of the iceberg which was revealed in The Gunslinger. Now with the new party of Roland, who knows what’s going to happen next? Again, if you haven’t read The Dark Tower, I urge you to do it, you are missing out.
Jasper de Joode, 10/10
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