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Onyx reviews: The Dark Tower by Stephen King

For nearly thirty-five years, Stephen King has been guiding Roland Deschain and his followers—his ka-tet—toward the Dark Tower, which is both physically and figuratively at the center of existence. Roland has known all his centuries-long life that the Tower is ailing and that existence will come to an end when it collapses. Not just Roland's arcane Mid-World, but all of the infinite planes of reality, some of which look like our own world, many of which are vastly different.

With the publication of The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, King puts the finishing touches to his magnum opus, an enormous, sprawling, innovative series that is a microcosm for his entire writing career, while simultaneously standing apart from his other works.

And what a finish! The previous two volumes filled many pages without covering much ground. Readers wondered how he could wrap up the considerable loose ends that remained in fewer than a thousand pages. In the final volume, King shifts into high gear, and in a book barely longer than Volume V he takes care of everything left of the ka-tet's quest. In short order, he wraps up the multiple cliffhangers from Volume VI, reunites the ka-tet and sends them on their way to deal with their fundamental problem: the Breakers who have been recruited by the Crimson King to destroy the Beams supporting the Tower. The Breakers' work is proceeding apace and any more delays may spell the quest's failure. Only two of the original six Beams remain.

As usual, life for the ka-tet is never simple; they always have several problems to handle simultaneously. There is the matter of Susannah's child, Mordred, who exists to defeat Roland and to join the Crimson King, his Red father. The ka-tet needs to preserve the rose in New York and figure out what to do about the lazy tale-spinner in Maine, who has been marked by ka for abandoning his appointed task. Along the way, there will be reunions and meetings—some with characters familiar to readers of other King books and stories—and there will be partings, few of them pleasant. Roland of Gilead has left a long trail of corpses and regret behind him on his quest.

Where Song of Susannah recounted the events of twenty-four hours, The Dark Tower covers a lengthy time period and considerable geography. Unexpected confrontations face them once they finally set their sights on the long, harrowing road that leads to End World and the smoke-gray Tower that stands in the midst of a vast field of roses.

What will those who attain the Tower find there? King has been keeping that secret for over a quarter of a century, so this reviewer will not even hint at who gets there and what they find. This long tale has never been about endings, anyway; to discover the ending, a reader need only turn to the final page—but in doing so they rob themselves of the enjoyment of the lavish and complex tale that lies before it. The series is about self-discovery. Each member of Roland's ka-tet—and Roland himself—learned important things about themselves and changed from their old ways to enable them to participate in the quest that defined Roland's life. A quest that became theirs, too, as well as that of the legion of readers who have been following the series lo these many years.

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