A tiny rant about genre stigmas and (eventually) a review of "The Wind Through The Keyhole", by Stephen King.

Title: The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel 
Author: Stephen King
Illustrator: Jae Lee 
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 352 
Release Date: April 24th 2012 
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Taken from Goodreads

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.


Y'all know my love for Stephen King is vast. I consider him the Dickens of our age and believe that his works will prove to be as timeless as Charlie's, given time. King is known as a spinner of spooky stories by most. Some, like myself, consider him a literary master too. But strangely, even among his "number-one-fans", his prowess as a writer of fantasy fiction is often swept under the rug. This is a true shame, because books like those of the
Dark Tower series, The Talisman and The Eyes of the Dragon, are some of King's most brilliantly imaginative.

What is it about fantasy fiction that has given it such a bad rep? It seems that when we think of fans of fantasy, we summon up the image of acned youths who would prefer to spend Friday nights alone in their basements learning Elvish, rather than out making friends.* A lot of people seem to assume that if you're into fantasy fiction (and hell, I'd argue that all fiction is a fantasy to some extent...) then you have one of the following issues:

- bad taste

- a fairy fetish
- a desire to meet a talking dragon
- a tenuous grip on reality

Come to think of it, if you
don't want to meet a talking dragon then maybe you're the weird one. 

For the writers among you, anyone who has explored the publishing markets will have no doubt noticed how many agents/publishers state that they are not interested in reading fantasy, unless it's for the YA audience. 
 I find this distinction bizarre. Harry Potter wasn't just a hit with the kids, was it? 

Why is admitting to enjoying this genre on a par with professing to enjoying the odd puff on a crack pipe? It is more acceptable to love a poorly-written fan fiction about a BDSM-loving 
chauvinist, than to admit that you like to read books about wizards. (Yes, Fifty Shades fans, that was a dig in your direction). 

Come to think about it, maybe one of the few genres held in lower regard than that of Fantasy would be the Western, and this book also fits that category. Even I've never perused the cowboy shelves of the library... And yet I grew up loving cowboy flicks! 

Should I stop ranting now? I probably should, shouldn't I? This is meant to be a review of a truly excellent fantasy book by a truly excellent author, so let's get to that!

Stephen King can really spin a yarn. I've always particularly loved it when he adopts the tone of fairy tales. He has a way of capturing the magic and the darkness that made the stories of most childhoods so enrapturing. He did this in 
The Eyes of the Dragon and he does it again in The Wind Through The Keyhole. The villains are monstrous and wily. The heroes are noble but flawed and have brilliant names like Tim Stoutheart. The world 

The Wind Through The Keyhole
is a wonderful return to the world of Roland Deschain and his ka-tet. Now, I'm very familiar with Roland. I've read the Dark Tower series and adored it. However, I can see why the synopsis claims that you could enjoy this book even if you haven't ever visited the world of the gunslinger before. You don't really need much prior knowledge about Roland or his friends because of the way the book is structured. 

The Wind Through The Keyhole
 begins with Roland and his gunslinger-pals seeking shelter from a ferocious storm. While they are hunkered down, Roland tells a story of his younger days which involves him telling a story to another young lad. So it's a story within a story within a story.** The two stories within the frame of Roland's larger narrative are what matter in this novel, so newbies shouldn't feel too put off. 

The world in which the gunslinger lives has many echoes of our own, except it has "moved on". Technologies are failing (though some remain) and civilisation is becoming sparse. It's a world where science is dying and so magic is emerging once again. This is a world which is part post-apocalyptic wasteland, part spaghetti western and part Arthurian legend. Very few authors could weave such elements effectively and King is one of them. 

If you're one of those people who casts negative aspersions on readers of the fantasy genre, then I recommend you give this book a go. It could be your "gateway" book! It will lead you to the magical darkness that is the journey to the Dark Tower. It will acquaint you with Roland Deschain, one of the most enjoyable protagonists I've ever come across. You'll fall in love. The only downside is that when reading on the bus, you'll have to hide your book inside a less shameful tome. Perhaps an issue of
Jugs or Playboy...

* A note to acned youths who would prefer to spend Friday nights alone in their basements learning Elvish, rather than out making friends. No offence is intended here. Elvish is cool. But maybe you could make a friend to learn it with..? Otherwise I recommend memorising this phrase:

Translation: I'm going to die cold and alone. 

** When one story is framed by another, the term is mise en abyme. This is pronounced "meez on ah beam". This made me chuckle. All things follow the path of the beam. (Book-related joke). 


  1. I definitely have at least 2 out of 4 of those issues. Some people would say 3. I'll let you decide which ones.

    I've yet to spend Friday night in a basement learning Elvish though. Partly because I don't have a basement.

  2. Well, everyone wants to meet a talking dragon.

    Maybe we should start a Friday night geek club! :P


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