Author: Stephen King
Narrator: Stephen King
Length: 9 hrs 49 mins.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publisher’s Summary: In The Wind Through the Keyhole, Stephen King returns to the rich landscape of Mid-World, the spectacular territory of the Dark Tower fantasy saga that stands as his most beguiling achievement.
Roland Deschain and his ka-tet—Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy, the billy-bumbler—encounter a ferocious storm just after crossing the River Whye on their way to the Outer Baronies. As they shelter from the howling gale, Roland tells his friends not just one strange story but two . . . and in so doing, casts new light on his own troubled past.
In his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt-ridden year following his mother’s death, Roland is sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape-shifter, a “skin-man” preying upon the population around Debaria. Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, the brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast’s most recent slaughter. Only a teenager himself, Roland calms the boy and prepares him for the following day’s trials by reciting a story from the Magic Tales of the Eld that his mother often read to him at bedtime. “A person’s never too old for stories,” Roland says to Bill. “Man and boy, girl and woman, never too old. We live for them.” And indeed, the tale that Roland unfolds, the legend of Tim Stoutheart, is a timeless treasure for all ages, a story that lives for us.
King began the Dark Tower series in 1974; it gained momentum in the 1980s; and he brought it to a thrilling conclusion when the last three novels were published in 2003 and 2004. The Wind Through the Keyhole is sure to fascinate avid fans of the Dark Tower epic. But this novel also stands on its own for all readers, an enchanting and haunting journey to Roland’s world and testimony to the power of Stephen King’s storytelling magic.
My Review: As a long time fan of the Dark Tower series I found myself immediately intrigued to learn that there was more to the story.
I knew without a doubt that I would be experiencing this book in the audiobook format so I immediately looked to see who would be narrating. I had made the assumption that George Guidall would be the obvious choice so I was surprised and a little disappointed to learn that Stephen King was narrating it himself. In general I’m not a big fan of books narrated by the author. (Notable exceptions are books written by Malcolm Gladwell and Neil Gaiman) So I had to talk myself into going ahead with this audiobook. I told myself that it would prove to be very interesting to hear this story directly from the author’s mouth. It would be a unique opportunity to hear the language of Mid-World as Stephen King has always imagined it.
As the book began it seemed to feel a little weird to pick up Roland’s ka-tet in the middle of their journey. The ka-tet is travelling along The Beam when Oy starts acting funny. His odd behavior turns out to be an early warning system for one hell of a storm. When Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy take shelter they ask Roland to tell them a story to pass the time.
Roland begins his story and you go back further in time to when Roland was just a teenage gunslinger. The story that unfolds here is a fascinating look into Roland’s history. His experiences here tracking the shape shifter are classic Mid-World lore and fits perfectly with everything that you already knew about gunslingers. Basically they are bad asses.
As much as I enjoyed this section of the book I have to admit that my favorite section was the story that the teenage Roland tells to the young witness of the shapeshifter’s murderous escapades. This story, from the Magic Tales of Eld is basically a Mid-World fairytale that blurs the edges of time and space. Familiar characters and themes are there to be found within this tale.
This story, within a story, within a story seems a little disorienting when the stories begin and end. While they are being told though I tended to completely forget about the story I had just left and found myself completely engrossed by what adventure I was just dropped into. As the fairytale ended I knew that things were starting to draw to a close. I have to admit that I was a little depressed. I kept wondering will this be my last trip to the Dark Tower series?
Finally we find ourselves back with our ka-tet after they had just rode out the storm. Roland’s story seems to have helped take everyone’s mind off the storm and it also seems to have had a cathartic effect on himself as well. Knowing what is in store for Roland as he travels down The Beam, it was nice to see that he was able to find a little bit of closure on one of the most stressful experiences in his life.
Audio Production: Stephen King is not a great narrator. This audiobook isn’t one that I would recommend to a first time audiobook listener but it certainly is one that I would recommend to long time Stephen King fans who love audiobooks.
Overall: The Wind Through The Keyhole is a fascinating trip back to Mid-World. King’s narration is a bit of a double edged sword. Audiobook newbies won’t be converted into audiobook lovers based upon his performance. However, long time fans of King’s work will be able to find simple enjoyment of listening to the world of Roland Deschain and his ka-tet unfold directly from the master storytellers lips.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this audiobook from the publisher