When I first read The Gunslinger, I wasn’t a fan. But I was determined to get past that first book, because I know King views The Dark Tower as his magnum opus and I really wanted to at least try to read that. Then I got to The Drawing of the Three and fell in love it. I couldn’t help but think that it would be the highlight of the entire series for me, but then I read The Wastelands. And Wizard and Glass. And The Wind Through the Keyhole. And I’ve loved them all just as much. Wolves of the Calla was no exception. I would have never thought that a western-horror-fantasy would become one of my favorite series of all time, and yet here we are. If King doesn’t drop the ball in the last two books, this will have quite possibly been the most epic literary experience of my life.Roland and his Ka-Tet find themselves in Calla Bryn Sturgis, a small town in Mid-World that is raided by Wolves once a generation. And that time is upon them again. But the Wolves to raid for money, or supplies. They raid for children. Twins are far more common in the Calla than singletons, as they call them, and one twin from each pair, between the ages of three or so and puberty, will be taken. They aren’t kept forever. Oh no. They’re returned. But they come back broken. Roont, if you will. When Gunslingers come to town, will the Calla finally stand and fight for their children? Or will fear of repercussions keep them docile?
I found the Calla and its inhabitants plenty interesting, but I was always fascinated when New York came back into the picture. King made his own multiverse before the MCU popularized the idea. I’ve been taking the scenic route to the Tower, which means that this was book number 22 on my journey instead of number 5. I’ve loved seeing how he manages to connect everything. This is the Cosmere for horror fans. Interconnected series and worlds were why I loved Ted Dekker so much as a teen, but I’m almost positive he had to have gotten some of his inspiration from King. I feel like so many of the fandoms I love with my entire heart owe King at least a nod or something. The connections he has built into his novels are mind-blowing, and I can’t wait to see how he ties things together at the end of the main series. Even if he doesn’t stick the landing, as he is prone to do, the journey itself will have been worth it. But I really, really hope he sticks the landing.
If you haven’t yet read ‘Salem’s Lot and ever intend to do so, I strongly recommend you read that before you get to this installment of The Dark Tower. Enough of the plot is summarized here to spoil that novel completely. Also, my having read ‘Salem’s Lot made Wolves of the Calla feel even richer and more special than it would have otherwise. As did my exposure to Hearts in Atlantis. There was more depth and meaning because of that prior knowledge. And, towards the end, it even tied in Black House, which is one I almost skipped because I wasn’t sure it was necessary. It even laid the groundwork for 11/22/63, which was one of the first King novels that I truly loved.
There were references to Harry Potter, Star Wars, and even Marvel comics. The nerd in me, the super-fan who loves nothing more than an intellectual Easter egg hunt, was thrilled by this. And I know that some Constant Readers hated the way King wove himself into the end of the series, but I personally was elated. This level of meta-fictionalization and fourth-wall breaking made me absolutely ecstatic and ridiculously excited.
I have tandem-read every installment of this series since The Gunslinger. Listening to the audio while reading along is simply the most immersive reading experience I can imagine. This is the first I’ve listened to that wasn’t narrated by Frank Muller. I was sad not to have his wonderful voice in my ears, but he was in a terrible motorcycle accident before he could record this one. King dedicated the book to him and donated all of the proceeds from the audiobook to Muller’s family, which I thought was lovely. Guidall did a good job stepping into some huge shoes that he couldn’t quite fill, and I’ll listen to the final two with him, as well, but Muller gave Roland his true voice.
Is this a perfect book? No. Absolutely not. There are things about King’s writing that are problematic or bring-worthy, and those characteristics were present in this book. I can see the flaws. But did I subjectively care? Not a bit. The experience of reading Wolves of the Calla was, like almost all of its predecessors, a 5 star one for me. I loved it, and was excited and deeply invested the entire time I was reading it.
Only two steps remain on my journey to the Dark Tower, and I both can’t wait for that final climb and am nervous that I’ll be disappointed with what I’ll find. Much like Roland and his Ka-Tet, I suppose. These characters have won my heart in spite of all their flaws, and I’m with them to the end of the line.