The Wind Through the Keyhole, while set within Stephen King’s original 7 volume Dark Tower epic, has little to do with the series. Another words, it’s a small off ramp within the franchise that neither adds nor subtracts from the other volumes. King himself, in his forward, calls it book 4.5 (set between volumes four and five).
While some might hope to spend more time with Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake and Oy, they only become bookends to the novel as it takes a structure of a story within a story. The Ka-tet hunkers down during a sudden storm and Roland tells them a story around the campfire. Their only purpose is to listen to the two stories and provide a context in which the stories take place.
The first story is from Roland's life as a young gunslinger, before he set out on the quest for the Dark Tower. It occurs immediately after he is tricked into murdering his mother, and a large part of the sub-text is Roland struggling to forgive himself for that act. (This is not a spoiler, by the way; King supplies this information in the introduction for readers who may not have read the Dark Tower novel that relates Roland's back story, Wizard and Glass). When he was teen, Roland’s father sends him and gunslinger, Jamie, top remote village to investigate the horrific killings of townsfolk by a “skin-changer” (King’s take on a shapeshifter). While investigating, Roland takes into custody the only witness, a young boy named Bill. While trying to keep the boy company, Roland tells him a fairy tale from his own childhood his mother used to tell.
This story takes up the bulk of the novel.
It’s this section, with its mix of fantasy and science fiction that will remind many readers of how the Dark Tower universe works, as Roland tells the boy about the encounters with fairies, dragons, mutants, long-abandoned technology and even the wizard Maerlyn.
He also runs into the Man in Black.
Like most of King’s novels, it’s enjoyable and very readable. It is a bit lite, coming on the heels of 11/22/63 and its richness, and it comes off more as two novellas, but I enjoy King and his Dark Tower series. I’m curious if he’ll continue with this format, because I can guess that he’s not really finished with this universe.
Next up for him, in January, will be his sequel to The Shining called Doctor Sleep.