Title: Wizard and Glass
Author: Stephen King
Page Count/Review Word Count: 866
And so it begins – another epic review. Wizard and Glass is the fourth book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and as such it marks the half-way point. It’s also one of the longest, and certainly the longest of the books so far. That’s probably due in part to the way that this is almost two books in one.
Confused? Let me try to explain it without spoiling the story line for you. Basically, this book takes over where the last one left off, and it picks up with Roland and his ka-tet as they proceed further towards the Dark Tower. But within that, Roland tells a story about his early life, and it’s that story that forms the majority of the narrative.
Because of that, combined with the huge number of pages, I was left feeling like we didn’t actually make any progress towards the Tower here, which in many ways is kind of the point. And yet despite that, it’s still an enjoyable enough read, and it was interesting to find out more about Roland’s past, despite the fact that he’s basically the same as a fourteen-year-old as he is as an adult.
I don’t want to go too far into the story line within the story, but that shouldn’t matter because it’s pretty simple to describe it without spoilers. Genre-wise, it’s a sort of cross between a western and a love story, but with a hint of King thrown in for good measure. It follows the story of what happens when Roland and two of his gunslinger pals are sent away from their home, ostensibly to do some work but actually to get them out of the way of danger.
Whilst there, they find themselves getting more and more tangled up within the web of intrigue that the town’s residents are spinning, and they come up against a trio of formidable enemies. They have to deal with this whilst doing their job and coming to terms with the not-so-tiny problem of Roland falling in love with one of the locals.
It’s all something of a hot mess, but King has it all planned out and it works well because he tells his tale with such sincerity. He knows his subject material like the back of his hand, and as the reader, you can tell. It’s interesting, because reading this book tickles your fiction bone in all sorts of different ways, leaping through genres that are all casually threaded together in an epic narrative.
Epic is the word for it, too. And I’m not just talking about the length – I’m talking about the scope as well. This one single book feels almost Tolkienesque, in the sense that it builds on fairy tales to create something new and unique. The fact that it fits into the wider series whilst not necessarily driving the story onwards is also interesting, because this book feels like a different genre to the rest of the Dark Tower books so far. I can’t think of any other example of a series in which one of the books changes genre so convincingly.
But despite all of that, I found myself struggling a little with this book, perhaps because a lot of the elements were so predictable, due to them drawing from classic fantasy and fairy tales. I also often found my mind wandering, especially during some of the more abstract pages, and by the time that the end of the book rolled around, I was glad of it.
That’s a shame, because the series has been fantastic so far, and whilst this is a professional quality book, it’s just not as enjoyable as the first three were. In many ways, Wizard and Glass loses some of the momentum that King had built up so far, and I’m no longer excited about continuing. I’ll do it, but I’ll do it halfheartedly, and I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll plough through the next book in a week, like I forced myself to do with this one.
Regardless of all of that, if you’re keen to complete the series then you’ll need to read each of the Dark Tower books in order, and so this is just a necessary step towards the end. And let me get this straight – it’s not that this is a bad book, it’s just that it’s really long and not as good as the first couple of books in the series. It’s almost like an add-on, rather than an actual book in the series, and whilst there is a strong story line, it’s almost an experiment in a character study as well.
Overall then, this book is definitely worth your time if you’ve made it this far, but it’s not enough for it to be a good reason to read the whole series. Make of that what you will. Oh, I liked it enough – I just didn’t love it, and with so many Stephen King books to choose from, that felt like something of a letdown. Maybe not a letdown; just an anticlimax. Still, read the series!