The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King: Book Review

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In the first book of this brilliant series, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which frighteningly mirrors our own, Roland pursues The Man in Black, encounters an alluring woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the Kid from Earth called Jake. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, The Gunslinger leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter. -Goodreads

My Review

My Rating: 3/5

SPOILER FREE

If I was asked if I liked this book or not, I would say both. It’s right down the middle.

The Gunslinger felt like a very long prologue to a much bigger story. Yes, the main plot (I used that term loosely) is the Gunslinger following The Man in Black across the desert. There are plenty of flashbacks which flesh out the narrative – often being the more interesting part of the story – but they are there for developing the main character, rather than moving the story forward (with one exception that I can think of).

I think that my enjoyment was marred by the fact that this book was not what I thought it would be. I was told that The Dark Tower series was a fantasy series, but it’s like a mishmash of that classic style fantasy written by Ursula K. Le Guin or C. S. Lewis, and some urban fantasy elements mixed in for good measure.

That’s not to say that it didn’t work, because it did (more on that in a second), but because I wasn’t in the frame of mind to be reading that style of fantasy, it just felt a bit odd.

The writing style, however, was fantastic. If you love it when the words on the page reach out and grasp your head, surround your vision and send you flying over a new and incredible world, watching from the sky like a bird, then you would love this. King’s mastery of language in every sentence, his choice for every word, is exquisite, and it’s what kept me reading even when I felt that the story was dragging. It kept the world alive and I bathed in it.

There is very little, to no, characterisation, and when the book ends it feels like a beginning to the larger narrative rather than the end of its own story. Like I said, it’s more of a prologue, an introduction, and I wish it had been sold to me as such rather than the first full book in a fantasy series.

I am looking forward to reading the next book, actually following a plot and learning more about the main character as a person, being introduced to new ones, and diving deep into a world only hinted at in The Gunslinger.

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