It’s been years since I’d read the third book in the Gunslinger’s series, having all but stepped away when it became evident that it would take some time before Stephen King was finally done the telling of this epic saga. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of this type of story, but it can be fatiguing when the majority of what you read tends toward this format. However, now that there’s going to be a feature motion movie franchise pitting Idriss Elba against Matthew McConaughey, it seemed like a good time to reacquaint myself with Roland – last of the gunslingers. And what a pleasant surprise it was. Having left the series a little disenchanted, not liking the Waste Lands as much as I had the first two books, Wizard and Glass turned out to be in my opinion the best of the series so far. More a prelude then a continuation of the search for the elusive Dark Tower, we are instead treated to a recounting of the events that helped put Roland on this path. The result is a post-apocalyptic western, where it’s every “man” for “himself,” and the ends sometimes do justify the means.
Here we witness the gunslinger’s transition from boyhood to the grim hero we have met, and learn just how tragic a hero Roland really is, and that the arrival of his new “ka-tet” of traveling companions has served to help heal the wounds he has carried since the events of this book. There is some criticism about the love interest that’s introduced, feeling her little more than a foil for Roland than being her own character, but in my reading she came across as a quite capable young woman who had been bullied by her only relative and guardian into a relationship that was strictly for her aunt’s benefit. The way in which Susan comports herself as she struggles against this promise while becoming a woman in her own right, and an adult that should be able to make decisions for herself, not to mention grappling with the realization that her father’s death might not have been an accident after all, nicely mirrors Roland’s own story as he does his best to “remember the face of his father,” while tackling a conspiracy on the edge of the confederacy.
And while the author himself testifies that writing young love stories is a little out of his depth, having more experience with marriage that has spanned decades, and the maturity of a relationship that comes with such a commitment of time, Stephen King’s portrayal in Wizard and Glass a believable one. Not to mention the response it elicits from two of Roland’s boyhood friends and traveling companions we meet. Certainly it has its problems, especially in my opinion having to deal with the train plot from the Waste Lands, and the end which could be seen as perhaps a little too surreal, this installment in the Gunslinger series has turned out to be my favorite, and is definitely worth the read. Even if just for the great western it ended up being.