The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King

Rating 9.5/10
You must read this book, whether you are an existing Dark Tower devotee or just a fan of great books

Visit Mid-World's last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and his ka-tet as a ferocious storm halts their progress along the Path of the Beam. Roland tells a tale from his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt ridden year following his mother's death. Sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape shifter, a 'skin man', Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, a brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast's most recent slaughter. Roland, himself only a teenager, calms the boy by reciting a story from the Book of Eld that his mother used to read to him at bedtime, 'The Wind through the Keyhole.' 'A person's never too old for stories,' he says to Bill. 'Man and boy, girl and woman, we live for them.' And stories like these, they live for us.

Today, to my horror, I realised that I had yet to write up a review for Stephen King's The Wind Through The Keyhole, a book that was one of - if not - the best books I read in 2012. Not all that is eagerly awaited meets the expectations but when this book arrived in April (pre-ordered, that's how keen I was) I read it in only a handful of days. It was magnificent and as I write this review I am tempted to say that it is the best book in the series… But I think I should defer that accolade for a later date.

Reading King's 11.22.63 earlier in the year had appeared a good omen as I found his writing skills and imagination to be undiminished by time, and arguably at a level not achieved for some time. And so it proved with The Wind Through the Keyhole, which is a shining example of story-telling at its very best.

So, onto the first question: Can you read and enjoy this story if you haven't read the other Dark Tower books? Stephen King's answer is "Yes, if you keep a few things in mind…". What he means is that a newcomer can read and enjoy the book with no real issues but a reader who has already made their way through the Dark Tower series will undoubtedly take more from it. The author also goes on to say that "this book should be shelved between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla… which makes it, I suppose, Dark Tower 4.5".

And it is book four, Wizard and Glass, to which The Wind Through The Keyhole bears most resemblance, although it is much shorter. I say this because both books begin with our heroes, Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy sitting down upon an evening to listen to Roland recount a significant period in his early life. But within this tale is another tale, one told to Roland by his mother, the titular Wind Through The Keyhole. This story within a story within a story showcases King's Russian doll style narrative device at its finest and I cannot find the words that suitably describe just how much I enjoyed this book and how cleverly King pulls of an ambitious and difficult literary challenge. You get three stories for the price of one: one filling in the period of time that occurred between the ka-tet leaving the Emerald Palace and arriving at Call Bryn Sturgis; the second allowing a greater insight into the younger life of Roland Deschain as he recounts a mission he undertook with a friend and fellow apprentice gunslinger. But the  jewel in this novel's crown is the Brothers Grimm styled fairy tale that is The Wind Through The Keyhole, a wonderfully dark and compelling story that reminded me strongly of Margo Lanagan's evocative re-imaginings of ancient fairy tales.

You must read this book, whether you are an existing Dark Tower devotee or just a fan of great books. It is superb in every way and one that everyone should enjoy.

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