• Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
• Paperback: 668 pages
• Publisher: Plume, 2003 (originally published in 1997)
• ISBN: 0452284724
• Genre: Fantasy/Horror
• Recommended For: Any reader of the Dark Tower series (you have to read this one to continue on); anyone who wants to read a Stephen King romance (75% of the book is romance!).
Quick Review: Two stories in one. The ongoing story of the Dark Tower ka-tet continues in Wizard and Glass and is awesome. Unfortunately, this story only constitutes 25% of the book. The other 75% of the novel is Roland’s back story, and this story is lackluster to say the least. But, you’ve got to get through it to continue on with the ka-tet and the genius that is the Dark Tower series. So, I recommend you read Wizard and Glass.
Overall, the book receives a 72% or 3.6 stars. This score has been calculated by rating the two different sections of the book: the present-time plot and the flashback plot. See critique and analysis below for a full explanation of the score and the corresponding rubrics.
How I Got Here: The Waste Lands ends on a MAJOR cliffhanger, and Wizard and Glass picks up right where it left off. This book satisfies tasks for The Dark Tower Challenge and The Stephen King project.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
Roland and his band have narrowly escaped the city of Lud and boarded Blaine, a train that will take them to, of all places, Kansas, where the ghost city of Topeka has been depopulated by a superflu and where, alongside Interstate 70, an emerald palace rises enchantingly. Before Roland and the companions of his ka-tet continue along the Path of the Beam, Roland must tell his companions the tale that defines him both as a man and hero, a long-ago romance of witchery and evil, of the beautiful, unforgettable Susan Delgado, of the Big Coffin Hunters and Rhea of the Coos. And when his tale is finished, Roland confronts a man who goes by many names, a man who “darkles and tincts” and who holds perhaps the key to the Dark Tower.
My Analysis and Critique:
Ahh…Wizard and Glass. Was I so eager for all things Dark Tower the first time, or am I just not interested in flashbacks? Am I so jaded when it comes to first love? Or do I only care about my precious ka-tet of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy? I don’t remember disliking this book or trudging through it the first time I read it, but this second time, seven years later, I struggled. Not with all, but the majority. Let me break it down…
Wizard and Glass can be broken into two very unequal parts. There’s 25% of the book that covers our main Dark Tower characters: Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah, and Oy. The book begins with them and their ongoing predicament aboard Blaine the Mono and their few subsequent adventures. Then, Roland and the gang take a seat (literally) in the middle of the road and Roland finally tells the ka-tet the story of his first love and his first real challenge as a bona fide gunslinger in the small town of Mejis. This flashback portion of the novel takes up exactly 75% of the novel. The remaining bits of the 25% of present-set story arc show what happens to the ka-tet after they finish their story-time with Roland. This is a measly 52 pages more. While the present-day story of the ka-tet is, as always, very strong, it very quickly gets overshadowed by the “Susan story”, the not-so-interesting flashback to Roland’s youth that is mainly told via Susan (his one true love)’s perspective (how Roland knows her perspective so well is unknown, and unfortunate for the readers).
Because this novel is really two stories in one, and one is very strong while the other is weak, I made a difficult decision, one that I sometimes make as a teacher grading student essays and stories. I decided to critique this novel in two parts instead of as a whole. So, I completed two rubrics: one for the present-day story of the ka-tet and one for the flashback story of Susan and Roland. I then gave each portion its due based upon the percentage of the book it occupies. Thus, the grade for the flashback story counts for 75% of the overall grade, while the grade for the present-day story counts for 25% of the overall grade. Here are the rubrics: The Present-Day Story: Wizard and Glass_present Rubric and The Flashback Story: Wizard and Glass_past
and here are the calculations and overall grade:
The Present-Day Story earns a 96% and provides 24 points to the overall grade out of 100.
The Flashback Story earns a 64% and provides 48 points to the overall grade out of 100.
Therefore, Wizard and Glass earns 72 points out of 100, or 3.6 stars.
So, now let me explain a few points for and against these two parts of the novel.
The Present-Day Story: This book starts off with thrills and chills. Blaine the Mono (the creepiest train that ever was) is tormenting our ka-tet on a suicide mission, forcing our gang to try to come up with a riddle that Blaine can’t solve. Unfortunately, Blaine knows every riddle there ever was. This opening plot was just jaw-dropping “wow!” and the characterization was perfect, every member’s riddles fit them perfectly and their interactions with the ultimate bad guy Blaine were so fitting for their individual personalities. The climax of this scene was a fist in the air, Arsenio Hall-style “Whoo-whoo-whoo!”. So, exciting!
The plot goes on to reveal new twists and connectivity between the Dark Tower plot and other King works (namely, The Stand), which this constant reader always loves. The themes were solid and intriguing, it was super-addictive, and the setting came alive. Everything was as solid as The Waste Lands. Then, Roland had to go and ruin it all.
The Flashback Story: I really am interested in Roland’s back story. What happened to all of the other gunslingers? What was he like before he was so cold and stoic? What does it exactly mean that “the world has moved on”? Moved on from what?
You learn a bit about this in the flashback story, but not enough. Mostly, you learn what it’s like to be a girl whored off to a knuckle-cracking old man in Mid-World, and how much it sucks when you’re secretly in love with a dashing 14-year-old gunslinger from the Camelot-like barony of Gilead. Too much Susan! I don’t hate Susan, but I didn’t really want her story. Well, I didn’t want it from her point of view. I wanted Roland’s story! The plot was not exactly light in the flashback (there are definitely some intense, gruesome scenes), but it wasn’t strong either. The characterization was lackluster because the reader didn’t get to know the truly interesting characters as well as they might’ve liked, but really got to know Susan. The supporting cast was very strong–I loved all of the chapters that focused upon the tension between the three young gunslingers (Roland, Alain, and Cuthbert) and their nemeses, the Coffin Hunters. Plus, the setting of Mejis did truly come alive. Yet, if I had a choice, I would NOT re-read this portion of the book again. It did very little for me, and did not sate my appetite for more answers about the world of the gunslingers. I’ll check out the graphic novels for this and hope I get the story I really want.
Back to the Present Day Story: After the long story of Susan, I just really wasn’t feeling it anymore. I think that the remaining pages of Wizard and Glass were solid again, but I wasn’t as engaged with the plot anymore. The mood was gone. This is unfortunate, but hopefully I’ll be all amped up to be back with the ka-tet again when I begin reading The Wind through the Keyhole, the latest Dark Tower novel, next!