This book essentially contains two nested novellas, wrapped within an interlude with our favorite ka-tet. All three stories pivot on a starkblast, which is a powerfully cold storm that causes trees to implode from the sudden drop in temperature.
The books stays true to the narrative nature of the other Dark Tower books–so much so that I can’t imagine how frustrated I would have been to have read this is in sequence after Wizard and Glass, which is itself another storytelling hour from Roland.
I also think that nesting the stories provided few returns and was ultimately irritating. Halfway through each tale, King fires up the next one, and it breaks the narrative flow. Humorously enough, this book started me on a vicious round of starting books and not finishing them. I’ve had about a dozen going lately.
But though I put this book down for months, I’m glad I returned to it. The conclusions to the stories were evocative, and as a Dark Tower fan I was rewarded with some emotional moments centered on Roland when we find out who the whole thing is about. It was mature and rather subtle sleight of hand.
Overall, a well-written gem with a frustrating structure, a nice addition to the Dark Tower cycle. I hope it’s not the last.