Whenever I’m faced with a natural disaster, I pick up a Stephen King novel. During the blizzard of 1978, I read The Shining while snow piled up to the windows, and the lights flickered off and on an entire night. Rooster didn’t make it home. He slept at the Chrysler plant where he worked because the roads became impassable. The only thing standing between my two small children freezing to death if we lost power would be me. I would be exaggerating if I said I was scared out of my mind. Natural disaster tradition is why I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Book Review during the recent pandemic.
Several Stephen King books were included in my secret stash under the stairs. Two of those books were part of the Dark Tower series. I started reading them when our state went into lockdown mode. I had the time to sat down for long reads while we sheltered in place. Thus, I’ve managed to read the first five books in the Dark Tower series before I went back to work. Now that I’ve been furloughed due to Covid 19, I plan to finish the series. Thus, I will start where I left off with The Wind Through the Keyhole.
Quick Synopsis of The Wind Through the Keyhole
The story begins after Roland and his ka-tet leave the Green Palace and follow the Beam as they journey toward the Dark Tower. They encounter an old man named Bex at the boathouse. Bex feeds the ka-tet, ferries them across the river, and warns them a starkblast is on the way. They should wait out the storm in a town named Gook. The short chapters with Bix reminded me of Charon in Greek mythology, who ferried the deceased across the River Styx with coins in their mouths to pay for their passage.
The members of Roland’s ka-tet are now Susannah, Eddie, Jake, and Oy. They find a firm shelter where they can ride out the storm. The party passes the time listening to Roland tell a series of stories. It appears one of the important roles of a gunslinger is to be able to tell a good story.
The Skin-Man (Part 1)
Roland launches into a tale about a skin-man. Roland accidentally shot his mother when he mistook her for someone else. Shortly after her death, his father sends him to Debaria with Jamie DeCurry to investigate a report saying a shapeshifter is killing people there. They aren’t in town long before another attack occurs. The only witness to the crime is a young boy named Billy Streeter. Roland launches into another story to give the young boy comfort while suspects are rounded up for identification.
The Wind Through the Keyhole
Roland reaches back to his childhood to a story his mother told him. The Wind Through the Keyhole’s essence is a narrative about a young boy who must deal with his father’s death, financial hardship, an abusive stepfather, and his mother’s blindness.
When Barony Coventer rides into town on his black horse, he causes more trouble than the demand for payment. He gives Tim a key, which opens his stepfather’s trunk. The young boy finds his father’s lucky coin inside. This discovery leads to a chain of events that result in his mother’s blindness.
Tim gathers his courage and takes a journey into the unknown to find a cure for his mother. A starkblast is moving in the direction of the forest and the town of Tree where Tim lives. He must hurry to find the cure before the storm overtakes him. The Covenant Man also sends a fairy to trick him. He receives help from a strange tribe of people called the Fagonard. They give him a guidance metal device, Daria, made by the North Central Posiitronics company. The device becomes Tim’s friend as she leads him into the forest. This device violates directive nineteen and leads Tim to a Tyger.
The boy and the tyger ride out the storm together under a magic blanket. Tim does the animal a good turn when he administers magic drops to the Tyger. Maerlyn of the Eld appears and helps Tim finish his quest.
The Skin-Man (Part 2)
Roland takes up the story of the shapeshifter. Young Will finds the courage to view the miners rounded up in a makeshift lineup. This story is a short completion of The Skin-Man (Part 1) and brings the reader to the end of the book.
Highlights found in The Wind Through the Keyhole
There were at least three highlights in the book. The first one occurred when Roland started telling the Skin-Man story. I found it fascinating because he fills in a gap left open at the ending of the last book.
The second highlight occurred when he transitioned between the stories. Also, I found it fascinating when the tyger transforms into Maerlyn of the Eld. I didn’t see that one coming.
Story development in The Wind Through the Keyhole
Stephen King is a master storyteller. The Wind Through the Keyhole became a reading adventure made up of a story within a story. I experienced a sensation similar to opening a Russian Nesting Doll. One story is opened that leads to another until you discover the story hidden inside the other stories. A master was required to pull off the various transitions and make it appear as if the storytelling occurred naturally. King managed to do this writing with finesse.
Worldbuilding in The Wind Through the Keyhole
Much of the worldbuilding for me occurred in the previous books leading up to The Wind Through the Keyhole. I had a good image in my mind of the landscape Roland the gunfighter and his ka-tet navigate. King gives a fair description of Mid-World in the introduction. Roland’s world is similar to the American Wild West. The world Tim lives in is from an earlier time. It reminded me of the feudal period in Europe, where people paid money to work the land and the forest.
The magic system in The Wind Through the Keyhole
The ka’s mysterious force that leads all living things is central to the magic found in the Dark Tower Series. Gan is equivalent to fate or destiny. A ka-tet is a group of people brought together by ka. Roland and his ka-tet follow the Beam on a quest to find the Dark Tower.
People in the story can perform magic. Gunslingers have a sort of supernatural power. There are people such as Maerlyn of the Eld and the Red King who possess a form of magic. The Covenant Man uses several tricks to send Tim on a quest to find a cure for his mother. Throughout the series, there is a pull between good and evil. In the end, they all must do the will of Ka.
Evaluation of characters found in The Wind Through the Keyhole
Roland Deschain is a mixture of a western gunfighter and a knight’s errand. He is the leader of the ka-tet and the storyteller on the night of the starkblast.
The ka-tet consists of Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy, the billy-bumbler. A billy-bumbler is a sort of dog-like creature who can say words like a parrot.
The ka-tet doesn’t play a big role in The Wind Through the Keyhole except as an audience for Roland’s stories. The one exception is Oy. Billy-bumblers are barometers for an approaching starkblast. His odd behavior gives a warning about the storm moving their way.
Most of the true character development in the story focuses on the two young boys who are the central focus of the stories Roland tells. Young Bill Streeter is a frightened child who hid while the Skin-man killed everyone on the ranch, including his father. Tim Ross is the main focus of the story Roland’s mother told him as a boy. The Wind Through the Keyhole takes up the major part of the book. These two characters are almost interchangeable.
The reader also gets the first good look at Gabrielle Deschain. She plays a major role in this book even though she is deceased. It is the first time in the series the reader gets a feel for the personality of Roland’s mother.
The Wind Through the Keyhole is more an intermission in the Dark Tower books than an actual part of the adventures in the journey along with the Beam. Traveling has come to a standstill while the ka-tet waits out the starkblast. I enjoyed reading through this short sample of King’s work.
While The Wind Through the Keyhole isn’t the best example of a King novel or even the best book in the series, I found it a pleasurable read. The story is worth checking out, even if you aren’t reading the Dark Tower Books. If I’m ever trapped in an unfamiliar place waiting out a storm, I hope a storyteller with Stephen King’s skills is with me. I believe that might be the reason why I grab one of his books every time I experience a natural disaster. His writing has a calming effect because he knows how to spin a good tale like a skilled gunslinger.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures, click here.
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