Before I begin this one, I just wanted to point out that this is my 500th novel reviewed on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist! I still can't believe that I've reviewed such an enormous amount of books for you guys since January of 2005! Unreal! Now on to the review. . .
Since Wizard and Glass turned out to be my favorite installment in Stephen King's The Dark Tower saga thus far, I couldn't wait to to find out what happened next! And since I was going on another hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies, Wolves of the Calla immediately ended up in my suitcase!
I never check reviews of a book I'm planning to read for fear of spoilers, but it appears that this fifth volume didn't meet with widespread approval from fans. Which leaves me a little perplexed, for I loved every minute of it. As things stand, Wolves of the Calla is second only to Wizard and Glass in terms of quality, at least as far as I am concerned. I just couldn't put it down. Weighing in at 931 pages, I figured that it would last me for more nearly half of my hiking trip. But the story grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. So much so that I finished it this afternoon when I returned from my hike up Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass, just a few short days after I started it.
In my review of Wizard and Glass a few months back, I claimed that I was planning on finishing King's magnum opus before the end of 2016. And given how good Wolves of the Calla turned out to be, with an ending that simply begs you to read Song of Susannah ASAP, it will be hard for me to read anything else. . .
Here's the blurb:
Roland Deschain and his ka-tet are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World on their quest for the Dark Tower. Their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis. But beyond the tranquil farm town, the ground rises to the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is stealing the town's soul. The wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to. Their guns, however, will not be enough...
In the first couple of novels, worldbuilding did not play much of a role. Stephen King played his cards way too close to his chest, and readers learned next to nothing about the series' universe. To a certain extent, it felt as though the author was making everything up as he went along and that there were no definite plans as to where the story was going. Everything changed in The Waste Lands and then again in Wizard and Glass, which was good. From then on, it became abundantly clear that this tale resounded with depth.
My favorite aspect of Wolves of the Calla was the fact that King finally put this story back on track and it is now evident that the author knows exactly what he's doing. Though there are no definite hints as to what the endgame will be like, no book moves the tale forward the way this fifth volume does. Revelations about the Dark Tower, the Crimson King, the rose, the various whens and wheres, etc, add several more layers to an already very complex plot.
From the very beginning, as a no-nonsense Gunslinger Roland of Gilead immediately became a fan favorite. But it wasn't until The Waste Lands that Eddie, Susannah, and Jake truly came into their own and took their rightful place in the narrative. It became obvious at that point that all three would play important roles in what was to come. However, Roland's back story in Wizard and Glass relegated them to the background for most of that novel. And now in this fifth installment, the four of them have become a true ka-tet. Meaning that each of them is a POV protagonist and the narrative is pretty much evenly split between their four perspectives. Another thing that I really enjoyed was the fact that all four are now considered Gunslingers and they can unquestionably kick some serious ass. We often forget that Jake is still a child and his relationship with Benny Slightman was at times very touching.
I loved how time is running out for Roland, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake, and how they must help the people of Calla Bryn Sturgis stand up against the Wolves of Thunderclap, yet at the same time the red rose in the vacant lot of New York City in 1977 must also be protected at all costs. Wolves of the Calla is a mix of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and western, and it works incredibly well. The appearance of Father Callahan, a character last seen in King's 'Salem's Lot opens up so many new possibilities and demonstrates once more just how the Dark Tower could be linked to a panoply of other Stephen King novels. The Wolves of Thunderclap's storyline and its resolution offers us quite a few glimpses as to what lies ahead for the ka-tet, and so does the NYC plotline. Not to mention the ending, which opens up yet more possibilities!
The pop culture references and how they were woven into the narrative were quite intriguing. Star Wars, Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, just to name those three, raise a great many questions and it will be interesting to discover how they came to shape the Wolves of Thunderclap in such a fashion.
Wizard and Glass was indeed the best volume in the series and set the bar quite high for what would follow. If anything, Wolves of the Calla sets the bar even higher, even if it's not quite as amazing as its predecessor. Can't wait to find out what happens next!