Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Dark Tower has completely captured my heart and mind. I feel as though I am part of the gunslinger’s ka-tet, making the trek right along with them. And so far, it’s one of the most fulfilling literary journeys I’ve ever embarked upon. Wizard and Glass did nothing but reinforce that feeling.

“And now, all these years later, it seemed to him that the most horrible fact of human existence was that broken hearts mended.”

In this installment of the series we get a lot of backstory on Roland, the tragic hero of this entire tale. And tragic is definitely the right descriptor. Because of the framework King set up before embarking on this trip into Roland’s memories, we know things are going to end horribly, even if we don’t know exactly how things go wrong. We know we’re in for a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. And yet, even knowing this, even knowing that the events we’re witnessing occurred in the past and can’t be changed, it’s impossible to keep from pleading King to give us a different outcome in the telling. No such luck. But even the most heartbreaking tales can be utterly captivating when told well, and this one is very well told.

“So do we pass the ghosts that haunt us later in our lives; they sit undramatically by the roadside like poor beggars, and we see them only from the corners of our eyes, if we see them at all. The idea that they have been waiting there for us rarely if ever crosses our minds. Yet they do wait, and when we have passed, they gather up their bundles of memory and fall in behind, treading in our footsteps and catching up, little by little.”

I’m really glad that I read The Stand before picking up this book, as it was referenced heavily. While you could definitely read only the main series and still very much enjoy it without feeling lost, I think reading books like The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman, ‘Salem’s Lot, and others will only enhance the enjoyment for King’s Constant Readers. If you have no interest in reading all of King’s backlog and just want Roland’s story, go for it. It’s more than capable of standing on its own. The interconnectedness of King’s other works to the Dark Tower is just a wonderful added bonus.

“It starts here. From its field of roses, the Dark Tower cries out in its beast’s voice. Time is a face on the water.”

An unexpected side effect of reading this series is the soft spot I’m developing for the Western genre. I never thought I had much taste for Westerns, but I’m becoming a bit enamored with the setting. Who would’ve thought that Stephen King, the King of Horror himself, would have me finally gearing up to read Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry? And King’s portrayal of ka, the irresistible and unstoppable fate which drives the world, has given me a lot of philosophical musings on which to ponder.

“If it’s ka it’ll come like a wind, and your plans will stand before it no more than a barn before a cyclone.”

There’s not a whole lot more I can say without spoiling something, so I’ll just say this: I loved this book. I loved the story-within-a-story, as well as the framework containing it. I loved the cultural references, and the connections to The Stand. Most of all, I love the group of characters at the core of this series. By this point, they feel incredibly real to me. And, knowing King, I’m terrified that not all of them will make it to the Tower. But live or die, they’re a ka-tet I would be proud to belong to, and I’m with them ’til the end of the line.

“Stand, and be true.”

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