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The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass Bk 4 by Stephen King.

It’s the fourth month of the Dark Tower Readalong hosted by Teresa and Jenny at Shelf Love.  The fourth book was the longest yet at a massive 845 pages (I’ve been able to say that each month!), but it was also very enjoyable and the pages sped by.

This is a series that you can’t really dip into, you have to start at the beginning and go on Roland’s quest for the dark tower with him all the way.

In book four, we rejoin the Ka-tet (a group joined by fate) where we left them – on board the runaway train having to riddle for their lives to appease the insane computer brain of Blaine the train – how about all those rhymes eh!

Needless to say they work out a way to get the train to stop at the end of the tracks in Topeka Kansas, and emerge to find a strangely familiar city which has been ravaged by a superflu virus. Getting out of the city, finding their way back to the path of the beam, they sit and finally Roland is persuaded to tell his story.  We are taken back to what happened next after he became a young gunslinger.

The teenaged Roland and his compadres Cuthbert and Alain are sent to the town of Mejis to be ‘counters’, verifying numbers of horses, fishing boats, etc for the Affiliation.  This should be an easy assignment, but it soon becomes clear that factions in the town are no longer for the Affiliation, but are with the rival for power in this crazed land – John Farson.  We have a classic Western set-up – all that’s missing is the girl.  Young, blonde and beautiful, Susan Delgado has been promised to the Mayor come the Reaping Moon, but when she and Roland happen to meet, it’s love at first sight, and they risk everything in a hidden relationship – doomed of course!  The one other component which takes us away from a pure Western is the witch Rhea – she’s definitely more of a witch than a wise woman with her crystal ball.

Roland’s story takes up around three-quarters of the book and it’s a great one. After the post-apocalyptic tones of the opening, this western is a great contrast, and we finally get to hear how Roland heard of the dark tower, and elected to go on his quest.  Roland’s back story over for now, the band get back on the path of the beam, only to come up against the ‘Emerald city’ – yes, that one, and it ties up the two previous sections neatly.

I particularly enjoyed Roland’s story – loving westerns as I do, and there was more than a hint of Romeo & Juliet about the central love story too.  I wasn’t so fond of Blaine the train at the start, and couldn’t wait to get the riddling over.  I liked the increasing influence of the Wizard of Oz on the story, which I only really got thinking back once the Emerald City emerged – we’re definitely not in that Kansas any more though!

Book four is a definite highlight (9/10) and I’m with the series until the end now. It’ll be interesting to see how the others hold up to the first four.

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The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass v. 4 by Stephen King
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum

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