It’s sort of hard to be objective when a book sucks you in as hard as this one sucked me in. It’s not often anymore that I actually lose myself in a book—just straight up forget about my own existence, and become completely absorbed in a fictional one—but this one totally did that. It gave me the same feeling as The Drawing of Three, which is probably still my favorite in the series so far, though this one comes close.
Roland and his ka-tet are once again back on the Path of the Beam, but along the way, their gunslinger duties come calling. Calla Bryn Sturgis is a small town on the Crescent, the last inhabitable land before the Thunderclap, and the end of End-World. For generations, folk in the Calla have been preyed upon by Wolves, wolves who come once in a generation and steal children for their own nefarious ends. But it’s creepier than that, because most pregnancies in the Calla result in the birth of twins (singles are as rare as twins in our world). And when the Wolves come, they only take one twin, leaving the second behind (presumably to carry on breeding and providing them with more babies to steal).
I was a bit wary of this book going in because Westerns aren’t normally my thing, and didn’t we just do the whole riding into a small town and rescuing them thing in Wizard and Glass? Except most of this book is not actually the ka-tet vs. the Wolves. This book is prep and character work, and characters telling each other stories and divulging/discovering secrets, not to mention worldhopping and world-deepening, which is definitely my thing. This book more than any of the others so far shows you who a gunslinger is and what a gunslinger does. Roland is still THE gunslinger, but Eddie, Susannah and Jake are fully gunslingers now as well, no longer apprentices. It was so fun to see them doing their work and doing it well. (Oy the billybumbler continues to be an adorable, furry angel.)
I also found myself really liking the Calla. One of the reasons I don’t very much like westerns is that there is often a tendency to rely on stereotypes to do the atmosphere work for you. But King actually does the work here, makes specific characters, specific culture, for these people to live in, and it made it feel real. (The lingo also did not annoy me at all, which was incredibly surprising. instead, I found myself wanting to start using it IRL. I did say “yer-bugger” the other day in the presence of a non-Stephen King reading friend, and she had absolutely zero reaction, so my experiment so far has been useless.) I think part of why I’m digging this series so much is that it isn’t just one thing, but many. I often find myself wondering, like Roland does in this book, why we box our stories into categories and limit ourselves to “just one flavor” at a time.
The only thing keeping this from being five full stars instead of 4.5 is SPOILERS the Susannah pregnancy storyline END SPOILERS, which I will wait to see the outcome of before I decide how I feel about how it was handled here.
All in all, I am way into what is happening with this series right now. Can’t wait to dig into the last two books.
[4.5 stars, rounded up]