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The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass

Reviewed: January 15, 2006
By: Stephen King
Publisher: Signet Books
720 pages, $10.99

The fourth volume of the Dark Tower saga starts by resolving the cliffhanger that ended the previous book, where Roland and his followers were left at the mercy of a suicidal monorail named Blaine which wanted to play riddle games with their lives. While solving that problem does eat up a few of the large number of pages in this book, as well as tying its universe to several other books in the Stephen King Library (The Stand is prominent, but others are suggested), the main event of this instalment is a western.

Okay, so that's not so unusual in a saga which started out with a Sergio Leone inspired tale called The Gunslinger, but this part of the story is a lot different than that was, largely because it takes us back to a time when Roland was a mere stripling of 14, sent on a mission by his father along with two of his boyhood chums.

Really, they were sent off to keep them safe from events in Gilead, but it turns out that they were catapulted from the frying pan into a fire which had been prepared and was about to be lit. The three young men find themselves facing very real threats to their lives and limbs, as well as a threat to their homeland in a place where no one would have expected it.

More to the point, Roland is ambushed by young love, rendered more vulnerable than he will, perhaps, ever be again. So the   500 plus page flashback that takes up the bulk of this volume is both a love story and an adventure, with touches of the supernatural thrown in to spice it up.

In what is almost a coda to this tale, Roland and company then move on to a curiously distorted version of L. Frank Baum's Emerald City, where they meet another kind of wizard and play another sort of game, cementing even more strongly the ties between this book and The Stand, as well as Eye of the Dragon, The Regulators and Desperation.

This is the last of my re-readings of the Dark Tower books. I have to say that I've enjoyed each of these more on the second reading than I did on the first. Subsequent reviews will be moving into the new territory explored in the final three volumes.

I'm looking forward to them.

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