THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE, as author Stephen King hastens to tell us in his short and pithy foreword, could probably be considered The Dark Tower, Volume 4.5, fitting in between WIZARD AND GLASS and WOLVES OF THE CALLA. As with the current Marvel Comics adaptation, which reinforces the mortar between the already substantial bricks of the Mid-World mythos, the book provides an additional look not only at Roland Deschain and his ka-tet, or group, but also at the culture of Mid-World.
"THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE is a welcome addition to [King's] bookcase of volumes in general and the Dark Tower series in particular. In the twilight of a brilliant and perhaps unequalled career, King is in terrific form."
The arrival of this volume, by happenstance or design, is perfect. It has been five years or so since the final Dark Tower volume, just far enough removed that those who were sated by the onslaught of installments heralding the end of the series might want something new. At the same time, THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE serves, for those who have yet to sample the wonders of Mid-World, as a gentle introduction to the opus of which it is part. King’s foreword carefully provides new readers with just enough to ease them through the door, so to speak; the stories within do the rest.
Note that I said stories, because that is what we have here. There are three different tales in the volume, intertwined Pulp Fiction-style, but without Pulp Fiction’s confusion. The first story is the tamest, and deals with Roland and friends as they take shelter from a “starkblast,” which is a sort of tornado. As they wait out the storm, Roland tells them two tales. One concerns the time immediately after the murder of Roland’s mother, when Stephen, his father, sends Roland on a mission to hunt down and bring to justice the Mid-World version of a serial killer who is terrorizing the tenuously held regions of Stephen’s outer kingdom.
That story, in turn, is wrapped around a novella-length “child’s tale” titled “The Wind Through the Keyhole,” which Roland’s mother told him as a young boy. I say “child’s tale” as it is fairly wild stuff --- not one that most parents would tell their children. The world of Mid-World, however, is a violent and difficult one, so it fits in perfectly, being a tale of jealously, magic, friendship, violence and revenge. “The Wind Through the Keyhole” portion of the book concerns a young lad named Tim who loses his father and whose mother takes her late husband’s business partner as her mate, with results that, at least initially, are somewhat predictable.
Some parts of the novel can be seen coming, perhaps by King’s own design, for just when the reader thinks that the story is going down one path, it grows wings and flies off into another. Tim seeks the rescue of his mother, revenge for his father, and a settling of his own accounts. It is a rough-hewed coming-of-age story brimming with irony. At the same time, the entirety of THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE puts paid to one of the more tragic and poignant aspects of the early parts of the Dark Tower canon in a manner that may leave the reader misty-eyed.
King often has been accused of writing too many books, but regardless of which side of that issue you might fall upon, THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE is a welcome addition to his bookcase of volumes in general and the Dark Tower series in particular. In the twilight of a brilliant and perhaps unequalled career, King is in terrific form.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 27, 2012