The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Rating 8.8/10
The final volume sees the gunslinger on a roller-coaster mix of exhilarating triumph and aching loss

When it gets to the last book in a series there is very little left unsaid. I hold the Dark Tower series in the very highest regard. Yes, I have slight reservations but when taken as a whole it is the magnum opus that its author, Stephen King, hoped it would be. Over thirty years in the writing, it is a vast, sprawling tale of one man's quest, some may say obsession, and the story is excellent, the characters that populate it amongst that special type that remain with the reader forever.

So when I reach the final review I like to look at what others say, what the majority have loved or detested about the seven books. My thoughts can be read in the preceding six reviews but I will try to recap my reading experience in one paragraph:

The first three Dark Tower books are amongst the best I have read in the genre. I found books four and five tough going on first read but wonderfully enjoyable on re-read. I did not particularly like book six, for many reasons, and although I have warmed to it during re-reads it still remains, in my opinion, a weakness, but luckily book seven, this book, provides the series with the fitting denouement it deserves.

Here is the seventh book's synopsis:

Roland's band of pilgrims remains united, though scattered. Susannah-Mia has been carried off to New York to give birth, Terrified of what may happen, Jake, Father Callahan and Oy follow.

Roland and Eddie are in Maine, looking for the site which will lead them to Susannah. As he finally closes in on the tower, Roland's every step is shadowed by a terrible and sinister creation. And finally, he realises, he may have to walk the last dark strait alone...

First, let’s take a look at the positive reviews:

"It's one of those series of books that are quite hard to *like*, because they are full of such pain and darkness and sadness, but they are absorbing in a way that very few series can hope to achieve. Perhaps the most fitting evidence that King succeeded with me is that, despite working my way through all seven books, I am still eager to read more about Roland and his background."
Dr. Michael Heron

"Bravo Mr King. It's a series destined to go down as one of the greats of modern fantasy. Let's hope the rumoured TV serialisation and movies turn out half so good, if they turn up at all!"
Hippy Sal

And now for the negative:

"Am I the only person to feel cheated and let down by this book, the final chapter of the Dark Tower series which I have been following for over 30 years? My overall impression was that in some ways these books were almost 'writing themselves' and evolving a deep and meaningful story with a life of its own. However it seems that, in the end, King could not find a fitting way to wrap things up and took an easy way out. Given that people followed these works for years (I remember reading of a letter sent to King by a woman diagnosed with terminal cancer asking to be told the end of the story because she would not live to read it herself) it's a crying shame that he couldn't come up with anything more convincing than what he has done. In my opinion it's dreadful. I feel I have been taken advantage of by Mr King and wasted all those years."
Nivek

"When you strip away all the excess fat in the DT series (King's allusions to his other novels, the copious number of various minor coincidences scattered throughout the series explained away as "ka", characters which shouldn't even be in the series in the first place, basically everything that is "19") what's left after all is said and done is an extremely weak, unfinished and poorly written story. I completely fell in love with The Gunslinger when I first read it and subsequently picked up the next 3 volumes. Wizard and Glass is by far my favourite installment to the series because of the absolute quality with which Roland's sojourn to Mejis with his friends was written. This was probably King at his pinnacle. You can actually see the duality of the quality of the story in this novel, the sheer scope and quality of Roland's no bull**** recounted tale in Mejis versus the bland and ludicrous weirdness of the story of the Ka-tet of the Nineteen and Ninety and Nine. The contrast between what the story had become at this point and what it should have been (Mejis and "The Gunslinger" will forever be captured in my imagination) is all too evident at this point in the series and with the following volume, Wolves of the Calla, it was all but blatant that King had lost the plot. And by that I mean, yes, he is telling a story... its just no longer the one we were reading."
Jason

"I couldn't believe it when I got to the end of this book. I'd been following this series for years as they were coming out and I was loving every page. It was such a clever idea, to weave this story into the other seemingly unrelated stories to create one greater picture that doesn't become apparent if you just read the odd king novel here or there. But to have all that work culminate with just the most last minute, scrapped together, half arsed, hack, first year creative writing class ending sequence is tantamount to a direct insult towards me."
M

And finally on to the mixed opinions, which most closely mirror my own thoughts:

"I enjoyed the first 4 books, and thought the 5th was okay. Unfortunately it all went south after that - I kept on going in the hope that it would be redeemed at the end. Sadly not. Stephen King spoils this completely by inserting himself into the story - way too narcissistic and just annoyed me. If you can draw the line after the 4th book - you will be doing the right thing." Flash

"I couldn't help feeling that at the end Stephen King was literally just making it up as he went along. It was a shame because if you get to this last book, you've spent a lot of time getting there. At times the whole Dark Tower saga had me gripped, but at other times it was so disjointed and so made up on the fly that for me it lost its coherence. What a shame."
SimonSpear

"Let's begin at the end. I thought the ending was superb. It won't please everyone I know, but for me it was inspired and just, so I have no problem with that. My problem with the saga as a whole is that it wasn't consistent, and the last 3 books especially felt very very laboured, in particular the Wolves of Calla which was clearly twice as long as it needed to be. Song of Susannah was ok, and I thought the final book ramped it up a bit. Of the first four novels, The Wasteland was dire (I know I'm in a minority here) and dragged and dragged.... the first two novels were fine, but the real gem is Wizard and Glass, a story within a story, which was superbly written and plotted, and of all things it was a love story, and I'm not in the habit of reading love stories I can assure you!"
Andy C

"I just finished the final book in the magnificent series - it was truly an awesome ending, and with hindsight the only possible one, although I certainly didn't see it coming until the final page! I spent most of the book wondering how it could possibly end, and there was really only this way (don't want to spoil it for you!) I nearly gave up when Stephen King introduced himself as a character. it seemed ludicrous at the time, but luckily he didn't appear very much, and it was a stroke of genius making King's real-life accident a crucial point of the saga. The later books lacked the haunting other-worldly quality of the early works, but I was happy to see that the story ended in Roland's own world, and not in the real New York, as I had feared it might. A great ending to King's towering vision, and one of those books that you're truly sorry you've finished. I'll really miss Roland and his ka-tet!"
Frostycat

As always the best way to see if a series is for you is to read the first book in it, in this case The Gunslinger. If it grips you like it did me then you have found a brilliant but occasionally flawed series that stands up to repeat reading better than any other series I have read. If the first book doesn’t work for you then it’s probably best to move on to something else.

A special mention should be made of the Dark Tower audio books, which are read masterfully by George Guidall and the late, great, Frank Muller. They are up there with the best fantasy books available.

This The Dark Tower book review was written by

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The Dark Tower reader reviews

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10-stars

This entire series is unlike anything I have ever read before. It was simply amazing and had me yearning for more once I finished this last book. Luckily though, King graced us with one last follow up, "The Wind through the Key Hole" and gave me one last piece to satiate me. You can read the rest of my review here: http://wordymadness.blogspot.com/2014/01/by-stephen-king-genre-fantasy-horror.html

9.4/10 from 2 reviews

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