Book Review: Wizard and Glass By Stephen King (Series, #4)
Roland and his ka-tet escape Blaine the Train, but they accidentally wind up off the path of the beam and in yet another alternate version of Jake, Eddie, and Susannah’s world. They start following an interstate, heading for a palace and hoping therein lies the solution for returning to the path of the beam. One night while traveling, Roland finally tells them what has been haunting him all this time with the story of the summer he was 14 years old and his first love.
As with The Waste Lands, this book reads like multiple books in one. I was expecting that, since The Waste Lands ended abruptly without solving the problem of Blaine the Train. This book takes care of that storyline, then jumps into a flashback that lasts almost the entire book then jumps back to the present and attempts to solve a big problem. It’s a lot for one book to handle, and it would have worked better if Lud and Blaine the Train were one book taking place after The Waste Lands but before Wizard and Glass. If after doing this, King had shortened the flashback, The Wizard and Glass would be an excellent book. Of course, he didn’t do it that way.
Now that I am this far into the series, I’m seeing that King, whether intentionally or not, is writing different bits of the series as different genres. This could be why it holds wide appeal–if someone doesn’t like the genre the story is currently being told in, it will change soon enough. The first book is mainly a travelogue. The second a horror story. The third is a mix of scifi with the time paradox and horror again with Lud and Blaine the Train. Here, we get partly fantasy with the current issues for Roland’s ka-tet, but mostly a medieval romance–the story of Roland and Susan.
That medieval romance starts out well. King sets up three dialects–High Speech, In-World Speech, and Mejis accent–very well. All three are easy to differentiate, and yet are easy to read. Roland’s world is a wonderful mix of the knights of Arthur and the fabeled American west. It’s fun to read, but only when something’s really happening. That’s the problem with the flashback. It feels too long, because very little happens in large portions of it. Roland, Cuthbert, and Alain must spend most of their summer in Mejis waiting, and instead of telling the reader “wow, they waited a long time,” King makes the reader wait too, and it’s fucking boring and annoying. I seriously wanted to give up, and right when I was about to, the action started again. Finally. The action makes excellent use of this mix of fantastical and wild west, but it really takes too long to come about.
As far as the characters go, I know I’m supposed to feel for Susan, but I honestly found her annoying and dull, which is problematic since she’s Roland’s first love. Also, after all this time of Roland stating how Eddie is almost as funny as Cuthbert, I was expecting Cuthbert to be, y’know, funny. He’s not. He acts like that boy in school who used to pull your braids and think it was funny. He’s just juvenile, not witty. On the other hand, the character of the witch Rhea is excellently done. She’s simultaneously disgusting and intriguing, and she’s one of the few who manages to out-wit Roland, partly because he underestimates her since she is an old, disgusting woman. If only Cuthbert and Alain had been so vividly drawn instead of wandering shells of people for Roland to talk at.
The book is a necessary read if you plan on finishing the series. It gives important insight into why Roland is the man he is today, not to mention explains how the ka-tet escapes Blain the Train and gets back on the path of the beam. I think this is the almost inevitable dull book in an overall good series. Just take my advice and skim over the dull part of Mejis until the action picks up again.
2.5 out of 5 stars