Early on, I made a promise not to begin The Dark Tower until the entire series was finished. I know I said the same concerning Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen, but sometimes I actually manage to keep my word.
It is thus with trepidation that one sits down to read the opening chapter of one of the most beloved fantasy sagas ever written. All the more so since most of the fans seem to agree that The Gunslinger is by far the weakest volume in the series.
In the introduction, Stephen King explains how the original version needed to be revised and expanded for it to make more sense and be on par with the subsequent installments. I don't know if it's because I read the revised edition, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Gunslinger. Some people mentioned that the fact that the novel is in truth five short stories put together to be offputting, yet I found the narrative to be fluid throughout.
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
To be honest, Stephen King had me with the very first sentence. The revised edition doesn't seem to contain any of the shortcomings associated with the initial version, so readers might want to give this one another shot. You can get your hands on a used copy with the links below, or better yet, get it from your local library.
Though it's a very short work, I was impressed by how the author sets the mood. I have a feeling that the worldbuilding, even if this facet doesn't play a major role in this first volume, will be a very distinctive characteristic of this series. The barren desert landscape reminiscent of the Wild West was a great setting, and I relished the mix of the old and the modern.
In terms of characterization, Roland of Gilead turned out to be one of the most intriguing characters I've discovered in recent years. I particularly liked the aura, the mystique which surrounds him. I loved the flashback scenes, and I can't wait to find out more about him and his past. The mysterious man in black was also an intriguing fellow. His revelations at the end of the book made for some fascinating foreshadowing.
All in all, I found The Gunslinger to be something of a teaser. It introduces us to the series' main protagonist, offers us a few glimpses into his past as well as his future, and moves at a brisk pace which makes this novel hard to put down.
If, like me, you have yet to embark on the quest to find the Dark Tower, let yourself be tempted by Stephen King's The Gunslinger.
Can't wait to discover what happens next. . .
The final verdict: 7.5/10