Stephen King describes this as “Dark Tower 4.5,” so this is the sequence I chose to read it in for my re-read. I thought this was just the right time. This is the most lighthearted, high fantasy-esque installment of the Dark Tower series, and so reading it between the grave tragedy of Wizard and Glass and the high tension of Wolves of the Calla was a welcome breath of fresh air.
We spend most of the narrative in the past. The Gunslingers take refuge during a major storm on their way to the Calla, and Roland tells a tale of his past, interwoven with a twisted sort of fairy tale from his boyhood. I love the way it’s written almost more than I love the tale itself. It’s adventure fiction, apocalyptica, fairy tale fantasy and a good old-fashioned Weird Western all in one. It has the added effect of tying up some loose ends that matter to fans of the series that aren’t dealt with in the other books because they would have distracted from the main storyline.
Can you enjoy it on its own? Maybe, but I’m pretty sure it has the most utility to someone who’s been following the series. It has greater richness that way.
Now, on to the Calla!