The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King (audio)

Edit – Update! I’ve just linked up to The Stephen King Project blog, where we’re being encouraged to read King (or listen!) and share our reviews. Thanks Natalie for the reminder. I didn’t join on purpose with a plan or anything, but I’m happy to be here now. …and back to the book review.

My word, this is lovely. I have never been disappointed in Stephen King, but this is definitely my favorite of those I’ve read. The Wind Through the Keyhole is part of the Dark Tower series, to which I am new, and therefore I appreciates the introductory remarks, in which King notes that it is not necessary to have read others in the series, but it would help to know a few facts about MidWorld, which he then relates. It’s true: I didn’t have any trouble following the action or keeping track of the rules of this alternate world.

King employs the story-within-a-story format here, and puts it inside another story for good measure. I got so immersed in the innermost story, about young Tim and his frightening journey into the forest in the starkblast, that when it ended I expected the book to end! I suppose it might have been jarring to then return to the story of young Bill and the skinman (which is in turn being told to the characters of the outermost story), but it wasn’t. I was just relieved that there was more to hear.

Stephen King reads this audiobook himself, and does it beautifully. I have listened to a handful of author-narrated audiobooks, and they have all been great. The actors, or professional narrators, are often wonderful as well, but some of these authors do amazing jobs too. Barbara Kingsolver’s reading of The Lacuna was extremely impressive, because of all the different accents necessary. It makes me marvel that a person can be such a talented artist in two different media! But I’m getting off track. Stephen King does a great narration, everything felt very real, and I was comforted knowing that the names of his imaginary lands and people were pronounced just as the author imagined them in his head.

So what is this book about? It opens with Roland Deschain and his traveling companions, chatting on the road to who-knows-where (presumably this is part of a larger storyline that I would know if I were reading the series). A particularly strange and threatening storm called a starkblast is coming, and they seek shelter, and find themselves up all night in the howling wind; so Roland agrees to tell them a story. This is where we leave the outermost story and enter the middle-layer story.

Roland is a young man and a novice gunslinger. I quote Stephen King’s foreward: a gunslinger is “one of a small band that tries to keep order in an increasingly lawless world. If you think of the gunslingers of Gilead as a strange combination of knights errant and territorial marshals in the Old West, you’ll be close to the mark.” He has just lost his mother – killed her, in fact, in an obviously traumatic incident that is only alluded to in this book – when he takes a trip with fellow youngster gunslinger, Jamie, to solve a mysterious series of bloody murders in a small mining town. It is theorized that the murders are being committed by a skinman, a shapeshifter. Roland befriends a young boy, Bill, who has witnessed his father’s murder, takes pity on him, and sits down to tell him a story Roland’s mother used to tell him when he was a little boy. This is the innermost story, and it is called – what do you know – The Wind in the Keyhole.

Once upon a time, in an ironwood-logging town called Tree, Big Ross is killed by a dragon in the woods. His partner, Big Kells, marries Ross’s widow Nell, and becomes stepfather to the boy Tim. Tim’s story is an adventure and sort of a dark and frightening fairy tale. He finds out a sinister secret about his stepfather and takes a journey deep into the treacherous forest where his father was killed; he encounters strange creatures, dragons, fairies, tigers, good magic and bad magic. This innermost story is the one we spend the most time with, and is set in a marvelous otherworldly world, fully developed, filled with creatures and characters and conventions and rules, fascinating and glorious and strange and scary, but also rather sweet.

Roland concludes the telling of The Wind Through the Keyhole to Bill, and then concludes the telling of Bill’s story to his companions, so that we close the stories we’ve opened and finish back with the elder Roland and his companions weathering the starkblast. There is a sense of circularity, and completeness.

The outermost story, of Roland and his fellow travelers, is engaging and also set in another world (MidWorld) I found interesting and would like to hear more about. The middle-layer story, of the young Roland seeking the skinman, involves some good old-fashioned detective skills and has a satisfying conclusion. But the story of young Tim and his quest through the forest was clearly the star. I was entranced, and sorry it was over. I shall be searching out more King, without a doubt! And I appreciated his narration, as I said earlier; I hope he’ll continue to narrate his audiobooks.

Stay tuned: tomorrow I’ll tell you about the teaser chapter for an upcoming book that was included at the end of this one.

Rating: 7 puppy dogs.

17 Responses

  1. I definitely have to read this series. I’m always in love with everything he writes anyway, and I just concluded The Stand for the big readalong, so I think I might have to hop to this series next.

    Feel free to link up your review to The Stephen King Project that Kathleen from Boarding In My Forties and I are hosting; you can add the button as well if you like to this post to get the word out! Here’s the link:

  2. Cool, thanks for hosting! 🙂

  3. […] noted yesterday, there is a teaser chapter at the end of Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole for his upcoming book, Doctor Sleep. I am giving this one chapter its own post here because it […]

  4. A well-read book is such a pleasure. Douglas Adams did some great audiobooks of his novels. Really funny. I also remember hearing Angela’s Ashes on audio, and it was such a pleasure to hear Mr. McCourt (my high school English teacher) reading it, and of course singing the songs.

    During the six months when I was obsessively reading and re-reading and blogging about Inherent Vice, I listened to the audio version many times. The reader (Ron McClarty) was really good, including singing all the songs. I emailed him, in fact, to tell him how much I’d enjoyed his work.

    • That’s great (all of it!) – you’re right, the narrator can really make or break an audiobook. I’m becoming a little bit fascinated with that side of things. I wonder how one becomes a reader of audiobooks? And I marvel at the skill & talent.

  5. My first review for The Stephen King Project is this series, and while I have about five or so of the Dark Tower books sitting on my shelves, I’m glad to see the series is holding up. The first one was a little slow for me but I plan to keep going.

    I keep saying I’m going to try an audiobook and knowing the Stephen King reads this one, may be the ticket for me.

    • I thought it was a big hit! -King’s narration, that is, and the book as well. I have The Shining on audio now, waiting for its turn. King doesn’t read this one, which I regret, but the narrator Campbell Scott does come recommended. I’ll let you know. 🙂

  6. […] The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King: also read by the author, as it happens, and I enjoyed knowing that I was hearing King’s own impression of things. He does a great job. (If you’re noting how many on this list are author-read: I’m as surprised as you are.) […]

  7. […] time for book one in the Dark Tower series by King, which I entered with a later installment, The Wind Through the Keyhole. I loved it. I’m just sorry this one isn’t read by Stephen King, […]

  8. […] is my 1000th post! Thanks for your support, friends! I so very much enjoyed The Wind Through the Keyhole from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series that I had to find The Gunslinger, book one in that […]

  9. […] I reviewed book 1, The Gunslinger, here (and a later installment, The Wind Through the Keyhole, here). And I have just ordered my copy of book […]

  10. […] the night and Roland tells a story. This telling will fill the vast bulk of the book, so that as in The Wind Through the Keyhole, it’s a story within a story, with the inner one taking top […]

  11. […] The Wind Through the Keyhole, written last but fitting between books IV and V. […]

  12. […] The Wind Through the Keyhole, written last but fitting between books IV and V […]

  13. […] The Wind Through the Keyhole, written last but fitting between books IV and V […]

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