I can remember begging my parents and grandmothers to tell me stories when I was little. My Nana used to sing “Tell Me A Story,” which was a hit in the 1950’s and I would tell her to stop singing and tell me a real story. Some things don’t change. I still love being told stories and Stephen King tells really good stories. I am one of what King calls his Constant Readers.
Finding The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King was pure joy. This book fits into the Dark Tower series as book number 4.5, bridging two previously written novels. I’ve read and enjoyed all of the books in this series and was very happy to revisit the characters of Mid-World, but I also believe this book could also be read and enjoyed as a stand alone novel.
Coming across the characters again was like meeting old friends. In this story, Roland and his ka-tet of Jake, Eddie, Susannah and Oy are in Mid-World, travelling to the Outer Baronies when we (I went along for the ride) sat out a starkblast in a ghost town. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, a starkblast is a terrible storm where the temperature drops to “as much as forty limbits below freezing in less than an hour.” Then the wind blows for days, causing severe damage to the frozen world. While we were sitting out the storm, Roland told us a story.
Roland’s story was a true tale, of himself and his friend Jamie in their youth, although they were already gunslingers. Roland’s father, Steven, sent them on a quest to clear an outlying area of Mid-World of a skin-man, a mysterious shape-changer who was randomly killing and maiming the people of Debaria.
Next came the story in the story, in the story.
While Roland was laying a trap for the skin-man using an orphaned boy named Bill as bait, he tells us (the ka-tet) the story he told Bill to distract him from the dangers of his situation. This story is of a boy named Tim, who was the son of Nell and Big Ross. Big Ross was killed by his partner, Big Kells, who had made it appear as if a dragon had killed Big Ross. Kells then married Nell, to save her from the dangerous and evil Covenant Man, who will soon want taxes whether Nell can afford them or not.
Kells turned out to be a drinker and a wife-beater, rather than the saviour he presented himself as to Nell. When Big Kells blinded Nell after viciously beating her, Tim, who is an extraordinarily brave 11 year old, went on a quest of his own, to save his mother’s eyesight. He was guided by the Covenant Man, who set him on his way with some magic, although the Covenant Man also bears some responsibility for the events which lead to the beating.
There is magic everywhere in this story, some good and some bad. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Dark Tower novels, particularly The Eyes of the Dragon, but I suspect that The Wind Through the Keyhole will also be one day counted amongst my favourites as a few weeks after finishing the book, I am still thinking about the story.
The last word about The Wind Through the Keyhole goes to Roland, who tells another character, “A person’s never too old for stories.”