The story of Roland Deschain and his quest for the Dark Tower has been a part of Stephen King’s literary agenda from the beginning. The opening sections were written in 1970, when King was an ambitious, unknown 22-year-old. The seventh and final volume, “The Dark Tower,” appeared in 2004 and brought the story — all 4,000 pages of it — to a startling conclusion. It’s therefore both a pleasure and a surprise to encounter “The Wind Through the Keyhole,” a new, largely independent narrative set in a previously unexplored corner of Roland’s universe.
For those new to the series, Roland Deschain of Gilead is a gunslinger, the last of a dying breed sworn to maintain order in a rapidly decaying world. Roland’s life has been shaped by his obsession with the Dark Tower, an enigmatic structure that binds together an infinite number of parallel worlds. The Tower has come under attack by an entity known as the Crimson King, who plans to overturn the Tower and rule forever in the ensuing chaos. Roland’s attempts to prevent that disaster form the centerpiece of this long, discursive saga, which is informed by such diverse influences as Robert Browning’s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” and the Western films of Sergio Leone, notably “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” The result is an epic fantasy unlike anything else in its overcrowded field.