Wizard and Glass

by Stephen King

  General / Favorable Reviews
  Critical Reviews

OUTSTANDING!!! King's Best Novel!! *****

"Wizard and Glass," Volume IV of Stephen King's fantasy/western "Dark Tower" series is even better than the three books which preceded it. I didn't think it would be possible to top "The Wastelands," Book III, but King has accomplished the task with great elan. The author's tremendous talents and consistency as a writer are evident here. I can only advise the reader not to begin this novel during a busy period in your life, as it will cause you to miss all sorts of deadlines. I really found it difficult to put this page-turner down.

The novel opens with a wrap-up of the cliffhanger which began in Book Three, where bizarre Blaine, the psychotic, riddle-loving monorail tries to take the stoic Gunslinger and his companions on a suicide trip to a terminal destination. Given the dark humor, it's a really fun ride. The band of four...and a half, the Gunslinger, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and their talking dog-like pet, Oy the Bumbler, disengage from the wreckage of Blaine, and continue along the path of the Beam toward the Dark Tower. They finally take a rest, around a campfire, while Roland narrates the details of his quest, the whys and wherefores behind his decision to take this particular course. He tells the tragic tale of his lost love, Susan, and his beloved friends and companions Cuthbert and Alain, who all formed a magnificent Ka-tet, (King's word for a group of people drawn together by fate). These characters have been brought up in prior novels and all played a formidable role in Roland's past life...one which will haunt him to the ends of the changing world. "Wizard and Glass" is more a traditional fantasy novel than the other, more darkly fantastic books in the series. The forces of magic aren't often on the side of Roland and his friends, so they must rely on their wits or their weapons instead.

Roland's father, the best Gunslinger who ever lived, sent him away from the Inner Baronies and looming danger, with his closest friends Cuthbert and Alain. All were disguised and took aliases. They arrived at their destination, the small seaside town of Hambry, in Mejis, on the outskirts of Mid-World, ostensibly to count the taxable goods for the Affiliation. The trio discovered that there was trouble brewing here also, worse than that in Gilead. They were in much more danger in the Barony of Mejis than they would have been staying at home. The town's officials had secretly defected to the side of John Farson, "The Good Man," whose armed revolution was gradually destroying the world. Farson's group planned to use oil wells and refineries, built during the long-ago Age of the Old Ones, to create gasoline to power weapons of war. These relics of the past, and other resources, lay right outside Hambry. Cut off from communications and support, Roland, Cuthbert and Alain were up against powerful adversaries, men of evil and ill will, as they attempted to foil the plot.

On their first night in Hambry, Roland met beautiful Susan Delgado, just sixteen, a year or so older than he. The two fall deeply in love. Unfortunately she had been coerced into giving her promise to the lecherous, aging Mayor to be his future lover, (and future mother of his child - he hoped). His wife had been unable to bear him children after 40 years of marriage. Susan was unable to break the contract without staining her family's honor. The young lovers entered into an illicit affair - one which endangered the lives of them all.

It is difficult to summarize the richly detailed and intricate plot of "Wizard and Glass" and do it justice. The characters, major and minor, are outstanding - they just come to life on the page. There's the ancient witch who becomes addicted to Farson's pink crystal ball, and whose hatred for Susan will prove to be disastrous for the Ka-tet; Jonas the failed gunslinger, banished to the West long ago, and his two cronies - all in Mejis to do Farson's work; Cordelia, Susan's deranged aunt who is eaten up by jealousy, guilt and her own pettiness; Sheemie, who is devoted to Cuthbert for saving his life, and proves to be loyal and courageous - an honorary member of the Ka-tet. And, of course there's young Roland, the newly made Gunslinger, who longs to lead his friends with honor and be worthy of his father's name; Alain, serious, noble and gifted with the Sight; Cuthbert the cutup, who is so like Eddie; Susan, a strong young woman, with her dream of first love finally realized, and so much to lose. King demonstrates a huge talent for creating a wide variety of characters and weaving them into a credible community. His narrative is rich in vivid detail and the pace is fast-going enough that I had a problem deciding where to pause. Ultimately, the reader is given an understanding of why Roland is the man he is. And this is a good place to acquire it. Roland, while never unsympathetic, has always seemed a bit too stoic - a hard, ruthless, unsentimental man who will kill for his cause.

I think this is Stephen King's best book ever, and certainly one of the best novels I have read in a long time. One of the high points, for me, is the way the author brings in characters and themes from his other books, pointing out to the reader that the figures of evil in all his work are the same throughout - no matter what their names. Whatever the storyline, the purpose of total destruction remains consistent. It may have taken the author a long time to get this book out, but it is sure worth it. "The Dark Tower" is really Stephen King at his best and most ambitious. He examines here, in this extraordinary epic, the importance of mythology, and of the quest, in man's life! Very highly recommended!

Jana L. Perskie "ceruleana"

(from amazon.com)


After 694 pages, The Tower is only inches closer ***

As well written and compelling tale as it is, Stephen King's fourth novel in the proposed seven book Dark Tower series will probably disappoint as many readers as it satisfies. After resolving the cliffhanger ending of The Wastelands and treating us to an alternate dimension of The Stand, King shifts gears. Most of Wizard and Glass is Roland telling a campfire tale of how he met his One True Love, Susan Delgado, and how she became one of the many ghosts that haunt and drive him him in his quest to right the slowly toppling Tower. While the yarn is a fine and beautifully textured one that creates a magical land that marries the gritty Spaghetti Western Mythos, made famous by Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood, with the noble myth of King Arthur, Merlin, and his Knights of the Round Table with an awe inspiring narrative surety, the story feels needless. Long time readers of the series may squirm even as King delights with this tragic tale set in a Barony a long time ago and far, far away. Some readers, like this one, may wonder why King is wasting so much time telling a story he has already spoon fed to us through hings and flashbacks in previous novels. Mayhap the tale needs to be told so Roland's new prentices will have a needed wedge between them, or have knowledge of their leader that strengthens their some times fragile ka-tet, for a future battle. I do not know, I am not Stephen King and have no clue what direction the final books will take. All I can say is that, right now, as fine a piece of fantasy writing that it is, Wizard and Glass seems a poor choice for a mid-series coffee break. The story feels far better suited for a Dark Tower prequel series than for the main series itself, so I'm docking it a star, while still recommending it to both fans of epic fantasy as well as to King's beloved Constant Readers.

Chadwick H. Saxelid "Bookworm"

(from amazon.com)




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