Wizard And Glass continues the story of Roland and his ka-tet who, at the end of The Wastelands were trapped aboard murderous monorail Blaine, hurtling towards death if they cannot outwit Blaine in a game of riddles. The story continues as the ka-tet escape Blaine and Roland finally opens up about his past before, in some other-world version of Kansas, the group reaches the Green Palace and come face to face with Marten, now going by the name Flagg. In order that they may continue their journey, Roland shares another secret of his past and the ka-tet continue ever onwards towards the Dark Tower. That’s a very very basic version of the plot of this sprawling epic of a book. Now for the bits that really stood out.
So many things were great about this book:
The realisation that upon escaping Blaine the ka-tet have arrived in the world decimated by The Stand’s Captain Tripps flu virus. I read The Stand a while back because I’d read somewhere else that Randall Flagg also featured in The Dark Tower, so I wanted to know more about the character before I started the series. It was strange and good to think of Roland travelling through that same land as all the survivors of the flu, drawn to either Flagg or Mother Abagail.
Roland’s backstory. I’ve been intrigued for a long time about the Gunslinger’s history. Up until now there have been mere glimpses, and Roland seems so changed (damaged?) by what happened that I always wanted to know what had happened, and in this book King provides this narrative in great depth. Cuthbert and Alain are brilliant characters, and I found myself dreading the latter stages of the story, as I was convinced they would end up dead, knowing that in the main narrative Roland is with a different ka-tet, in which these two characters do not feature. By this books conclusion though we still don’t know what became of either of them, so there’s still some mystery to be resolved.
I loved the scene where they intervened on behalf of Sheemie against the Big Coffin Hunters. Talking of them – great villains, and in this category Susan’s aunt deserves an honorary mention too – what an awful woman. Equally as vile – Rhea of the Coos, the old witch who becomes enslaved by the Wizard’s Glass and eventually orchestrates Susan’s murder. King does know how to write a good (or bad) villain.
The battle of Eyebolt Canyon. I was so engrossed in the story by this time that I almost felt I was there with Roland, Cuthbert and Alain as they led Latigo’s men in a chase into the box canyon, from which there would be no escape. The conclusion of that scene, Roland looking down on the men trapped between the fire at the mouth of the canyon and the thinny, which devours all that goes near it, was really good.
The awful way Roland realised he had been tricked by the Wizard’s Glass into leaving Susan vulnerable, and the torment of watching her burned alive by her crazed aunt and evil witch Rhea, unable to intervene to save his love, and feeling all the while that it’s his fault it is happening.
The whole Wizard Of Oz interlude and the confrontation with the Tick Tock Man and Roland’s oldest enemy Marten. Also, the way we realise that Marten is now going by the name Flagg. Sound familiar? (I was glad I’d already read The Stand). The combining of worlds again. King has a knack for this, including settings/characters from his other works, which I always feel draws you in and makes you want to read that book too, if you haven’t already.
The final reveal that Roland unwittingly murdered his own mother. I found it incredibly sad, the way he was tricked into believing she was Rhea, and only at the last minute realising that actually she had made him a belt as a peace-offering, and that she died smiling, killed by her own husbands guns in the hands of her son. So sad!
I can’t wait to see what else lies in store for the ka-tet as they venture on towards the Tower. Rating – 5/5