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The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower Series

Many of you already know that my obsession with the Dark Tower series began when I read and reviewed the graphic novel adaptation, The Gunslinger Born, back in the summer. I’ve been steadily plugging away at the books ever since. Well, I just finished the 7th novel and I have a lot of feelings! 8D

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

So begins the tale of Roland Deschain of Gilead, last of the line of Eld (that would be King Arthur to the rest of us). He has been chasing the Dark Tower his whole life. He’s sacrificed much for the road… family, friends, even the love of his life. No matter. What does matter is the road to the Tower. He means to climb to the top and see what lies within.

Oh yeah, and the Crimson King and his lackey, the man in black, are screwing with the Beams that hold up the Tower. If the last of the Beams are destroyed and the Tower falls, it means the end of the universe. For there are other worlds than these.

Though Roland is a gunslinger – sort of like a knight of the Round Table, but with guns instead of swords – he cannot stop the Crimson King alone. He draws three people from our world to aid him on his quest. One is Eddie Dean, a heroin addict from the late ’80s. Next is Odetta Holmes, a schizophrenic black woman missing her legs from the knee down in a freak accident during the ’60s. The last, a child named Jake Chambers, whom Roland has met before, and they didn’t part so amicably…

This band of misfits, lost in time, come together to form a ka-tet. One from many, with Roland as their leader. Under Roland’s tutelage, they become gunslingers themselves, seeking out the Dark Tower, following the ever-turning wheel of ka, of destiny…

Will they climb to the top of the Dark Tower? Will they even find it? Will those they encounter on their quest help them, or do they mean to kill them before they reach it?

I was held completely in thrall from the first sentence of the first novel to the last word of the seventh. Say whatever you want about Stephen King, the man knows how to write. The story has so many layers and intricacies to it that you take the time to savor every detail. Now that I’m done, I want to go back and see what I missed… maybe after a short break =P

The characters go through tremendous growth through the course of the series, but none more than Roland. At the start, he’s a hardened warrior, single-mindedly pursuing his quest at full speed, blinkers on and blind to all else. As the series goes on, we see him soften, open himself up to love and friendship. It’s not without consequences, and what happens to him is cyclical. Ka, destiny, time, is a wheel, and that’s the message at the heart of this series.

What’s most fascinating about the series is that it’s not one genre. Throw a little bit of Western, fantasy, science fiction, horror, along with a good dash of tongue-in-cheek pop culture and a sprinkling of supernatural and romance in the blender, and you end up with this series. I’m a librarian, and I could recommend it to just about anyone:

  • Love fantasy? The characters are on an epic quest, and there are multiple books to boot. The tone is atmospheric, like you would find in many fantasy novels, and there are elements of magic.
  • You read science fiction? Technology is rampant (though rapidly deteriorating) in this world. For instance, there are robots, both of the benign and killer variety, along with discussions of the theory of time travel and the multiverse.
  • Western reader? Roland himself is very much like a hero cowboy, and much of the setting is reminiscent of the Old West. There are no shortage of shootouts or action scenes either!
  • Horror connoisseur? First of all, I must ask you why you haven’t read this series yet, written by the King of Horror, and containing references to many (if not all) his previous works. Then I’ll tell you that there are monsters of multiple varieties, and passages that truly make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
  • For those of you who hate horror, however, I’m right there with you! There wasn’t nearly enough in this series to turn me off to it. You can also predict many of these scenes coming so you can skim if you need to.

See how easy that was? I’d also tell anyone that this is easily one of the best book series I’ve ever read. The literary quality is unparalleled: it’s just written masterfully. The story, action, and characters will keep you entranced from start to finish. I laughed, I cried, I cheered at Roland and his ka-tet’s triumphs and I despaired with them in their losses. It was truly a wild ride and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I really don’t know what to do with my life now, though… I’m totally at a loss for what to read next!

– Kathleen

King, Stephen. The Dark Tower series.

Best Reads of 2017

As we did last year, we went through all the graphic novels we read and reviewed this year to give you a Top 10 list – the best of the best!

RoughneckNancy: Roughneck is a beautifully told standalone tale of a brother and sister’s quest to reconnect with one another and their cultural identity written and illustrated by the talented Jeff Lemire. Lemire handles the storyline of Derek and Beth’s Cree heritage with grace and respect. The reality of native families becoming disenfranchised from their cultural heritage, is mirrored in the excellent book The Outside Circle, which also deals with First Nation individuals whose circles of community were broken which led to fragmenting generations of people with no connection to their tribe anymore. The ending is open to interpretation, and while I at first looked at it one way, re-reading it I saw a more melancholy but poignant way of concluding the story.

 

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Kathleen: A review of this book is upcoming, but last week I read this graphic memoir, Lighter Than My Shadow . The illustrations were all drawn by hand by the author, who suffered from anorexia when she was younger. This is the story of her recovery, and all the difficulties and choices that came with it. I don’t want to spoil my own review (edit-added link!), but suffice it to say for now that the illustrations are among the most beautiful and effective that I’ve seen this year.

 

Nancy: This graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s story, Kindred, was extremely well done. Butler’s original novel, published in 1979, was a ground breaking story that liberally dipped into historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy within a time traveling framework. The author herself called the story “a kind of grim fantasy”, and this adaptation shows just that. This was a heartbreaking story, and through the juxtaposition of Dana’s (the main character) experiences in two different centuries, this fantasy novel actually gives a highly realistic view of the slavery era.

 

 

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Kathleen: Beauty is an adult fairy tale in graphic novel form. It tells the story of Coddie, a fishmonger, who wants nothing more than to be beautiful so she’ll stop being the laughingstock of her small village. When a fairy grants her wish, however, she quickly learns that she can now have whatever she wants – at a steep price. The child-like art belies the serious messages and themes within. The figures are loose and almost caricature-like. The writing is phenomenal, with unconventional characters and fairy tale tropes turned slightly askew. If you like your fairy tales with more of a brothers Grimm than Disney flavor, this is perfect for you.

 

Nancy: Although the Superman: American Alien has Superman in the title, it is really Clark Kent stories. The seven stories are chronological and fill in the gaps in the Superman canon. We start with Clark as a boy learning how to fly, move through his adolescence, and finally settle in his early years in Metropolis. Every story is strong, and fits in seamlessly with what we already know about Superman. I highly recommend this book, for it humanizes Superman. The seven stories are all excellent, and they flow and connect into one another, to form the larger picture of who Clark Kent is and who he will be. A must buy for Superman aficionados!

 

5820769-21Kathleen: Unfortunately, DC Rebirth has been a hit or miss for me, but the one story that I’ve consistently loved is Wonder Woman. Bringing Greg Rucka back to her title was the best decision they could have made! After discovering that she’s been tricked into thinking she could return to Themyscira at will, Diana sets out to discover the truth of herself and who has deceived her once and for all. She is vulnerable and human here, and I’ve cried shamelessly as she struggles to figure out the truth – her own truth, the truth of who she is. Greg Rucka is without a doubt one of the best writers of Wonder Woman. The art is nothing to sneeze at, either, beautifully detailed as it is!

 

Nancy: Vision- Little Worse Than A Man is as far from a superhero story as possible. While grounded in the Marvel universe, with cameos by other Avengers and villains, this book is about our definition of humanity. This quietly ominous story had such power, and felt especially moving to me to read at this time when I worry about our nation’s future. I feel some in our country have embraced a bullying rhetoric, and turn a blind eye to facts and justice for all.

 

 

 

 

91epsqx38slKathleen: The memories of her childhood ice-skating days became the subject of Tillie Walden’s graphic memoir called Spinning. The uncertainty of moving to a new city, starting middle school, and discovering her body and her sexuality make Tillie’s ice-skating routine comforting to her – until she starts questioning that, as well. The art is fantastic: only purples and yellows are used, and yellow quite sparingly, to highlight important parts of the story. Great blocks of deep purple around a single figure illustrate Tillie’s loneliness and uncertainty more than her words could.

 

 

Nancy: Briggs Land is an absolutely riveting new series about “an American family under siege” by both the government and their own hand. Set in rural upstate New York, Briggs Land is a hundred square mile oasis for people who want to live off the grid. Established in the Civil War era, the Briggs family would give sanctuary to those who wanted to live a simple life, but this anti-government colony has taken a dark turn in recent times. The village that grew within it’s fences has morphed into a breeding ground for white supremacy, domestic terrorism and money laundering. The second volume is scheduled to be released in late January, and I dearly hope it stays as strong as it’s debut volume was.

 

 

gunslinger-rebornKathleen: Like the rebel that I am, I read the graphic novel adaptation of The Dark Tower series titled The Gunslinger Born before I started the books. But let me tell you, it left me desperate for more and started my new-found obsession. The young Roland sets out with his two best friends to Mejis, where they are sent by their fathers to stay out of trouble. What they find in that sleepy little town is a conspiracy loyal to the Crimson King – and Roland’s true love, Susan, who may doom them all. I can’t say enough about the art in this book. I was in love with the stark contrasts and the way the figure’s faces were usually in shadow, leaving the reader to guess at their true intents. If the seven book series scares you, try reading the graphic novel first and seeing how fast you devour the books after that 😉

And there you’ve got your must-reads of 2017! We spanned several genres and publishers, and each of us had a DC and Marvel choice. Surprisingly Image didn’t make the cut. Here’s hoping 2018 brings us many more excellent graphic novels… we don’t think they made it hard enough for us to choose ;D

– Nancy and Kathleen

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born

Roland Deschain, better known as the Gunslinger, became that legend at the age of fourteen. He defeated his teacher and earned his guns, two years younger than his own father did. All to kill Marten, his father’s friend and a powerful magician whom his mother is having an affair with. His father, recognizing the danger Roland has found himself in, seeks to get him out of Gilead. Together with his friends Alain and Cuthbert, Roland is to go to Hambry to find out if their Horseman’s Association is still loyal to Gilead. Seems pretty straightforward. But what no one expected is for Roland to meet the gaze of Susan Delgado… and the fate of these star-crossed lovers is entwined with the fate of Hambry, of Gilead, of all of Midworld itself.

Wow. Just… wow! This graphic novel was fully engrossing, and completely sucked me in. The tension of the story doesn’t let up until the very last page. The world of The Dark Tower is mysterious, dark, and violent – and the art reflects that perfectly. The lighting is sparse: characters are often silhouetted, or have their features mostly obscured by shadow. This adds to the tension and mystery, leaving us to guess at the character’s expressions and intents. I just! Loved the art!! So much!!! Multiple plot threads are started, and only some are resolved by the end, as it’s a tie-in to book 4 of the series. But for someone like me who has not yet read the books, the story and ending are complete and will only stimulate an intense curiosity for the novels – which I’m going to go read right now!!!

– Kathleen

King, Stephen, Peter David, Robin Furth, Jae Lee, and Richard Isanove. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born. 2007.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Bromances

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

This week, it’s all about the dudes! And their friendships!

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5. Roland and Eddie – The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

I know this one’s a little out there… but let’s be honest, this whole series is a little out there =P Roland and Eddie meet in the second book, when Roland essentially enters Eddie’s mind and helps him successfully (depending on your point of view) complete a heroin smuggling. Eddie gets sucked into Roland’s world, and though they definitely don’t start out as friends, they do come to a sort of understanding. Really, it just makes me laugh whenever Eddie throws out some word or phrase common in the ’80s and Roland becomes confused XD

(Plz no spoilers in the comments, as I’m maybe halfway through the third book =3 )

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4. Cadvan and Saliman – The Pellinor series by Alison Croggon

The main character of this series, Maerad, finds out she is a Bard when she stumbles across Cadvan in the keep where she lives as a slave. Cadvan becomes her mentor and companion throughout the series, and is just as interesting and complex as a character as Maerad. Cadvan’s good friend Saliman plays a large role in the series as well, and we get to know him better in the third book. Both Cadvan and Saliman speak highly of the other, and reminisce on their younger days when they learned the ways of Barding. Though they are apart for much of the series, you can tell they have a strong bond.

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3. Harry and Ron – Harry Potter

Ever since Ron asked Harry if he could sit on the train with him on their first ride to Hogwarts, these two boys have been best friends. Sure, they have their ups and downs, and periods they don’t speak to each other. But they have a special bond. Ron was Harry’s very first friend, and they’ve stayed together through thick and thin. You can’t really go on a quest to defeat the Dark Lord without becoming BFFs anyway.

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2. … Everyone – The Lord of the Rings

There really isn’t one bromance I’d pick over another when it comes to LoTR. It’s the whole thing. There’s Frodo and Sam, of course, whose rock-solid friendship is at the core of the series. Merry and Pippin are a lively duo, and are just as steadfast to the rest of the Fellowship as they are to each other. Legolas and Gimli each overcome the prejudices they have for the other’s races to become the best of friends. And there are many more besides. In a trilogy full of bromances, it’s very hard to pick just one! =P

(Also see my last sentence for Harry and Ron, ‘cuz it’s equally true here)

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1. Hawke/Inquisitor and Varric – Dragon Age II/Inquisition

Listen… Varric is the bestest best friend in a video game to ever exist. He’s definitely my favorite character in the entire series. Varric is a storyteller and a merchant prince of the Dwarves. He first appears in Dragon Age II, when he offers Hawke a place on his excavation of an abandoned dwarf settlement in the Deep Roads. Hawke and Varric are betrayed and left for dead underground by Varric’s brother, Bartrand, and Varric swears revenge. Hawke and Varric develop a fast friendship; underneath Varric’s storyteller’s swagger and wily ways, he has a heart of gold, and in some ways acts as Hawke’s conscience. It’s easy to fall in love with him as a character, and I was overjoyed to have him as a companion again in Dragon Age: Inquisition. My Inquisitor is probably no match for Hawke… but I hope she’s earned his friendship all the same.

Any of these bromances your favorites, too? =P

– Kathleen

The Dark Tower

Now, I want to preface this review with a confession.

I’m not a Stephen King fan.

I just can’t read horror! I can’t! I spook wayyy too easily. But the man has written some incredible work and accomplished a great deal and for that I tip my hat to him.

A friend tried to get me into the Dark Tower series ages ago, and to be honest, I was turned off partially because Stephen King wrote it. Anything he writes has to have large quantities of blood and creepy crawlies in it, right??? So I tried The Gunslinger, but didn’t get too far before I called it quits.

Then… just a few weeks back, I read the graphic novel. AND IT WAS AMAZING. It was so good I immediately picked up The Gunslinger again. I wondered why I ever put it down the first time!!! I devoured it in three days (the fastest I’ve read a book in a long, long time), and I’m currently on the second book. I was interested in the movie from the start because it stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, both great actors, but I was more keen than ever to see it. So I roped my friend who’d tried to get me to read the books into seeing the movie with me =P

The movie starts with a boy named Jake Chambers. He has some disturbing dreams, and he draws all of them: a commune where children are gathered, a dark tower, and most frightening of all, a man in black. New York City has been suffering from quakes, and no one knows why. Experts are baffled. Jake does know why, though. The man in black is using the children to attack the dark tower, and if it falls, the world will end in darkness and fire.

No one believes him. His mother sends him to shrink after shrink, thinking he’s suffering delusions brought on by the grief of his father’s death. His stepfather wants to send him away to a special school for troubled kids. But Jake is not crazy, and he is telling the truth. In fact, he’s just found a house in Brooklyn that he saw in his dreams. Inside, he finds a portal. He steps to the other side to find himself in the world of his dreams – as real as he knew it would be. He sets out to find another man he’s seen, someone whom he thinks might be able to help – someone called the gunslinger.

The movie is only based on the novels, so there are inconsistencies between the two media. I only caught a few, while my friend who’s read all the books caught more. There were a few elements of the story that could have used tightening or reworking, especially near the end. Roland’s character seemed off to me, but that was due more to the writing of the movie vs. the books then Idris Elba’s performance.

In fact, my favorite element was the dichotomy of the gunslinger and the man in black as portrayed by Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. Both are incredible actors, and brought force to both their characters and the eternal clash of good and evil they are caught in. Their performances were stellar.

I was a bit pleasantly surprised to see minimal special effects. Well, they are there, but only a few sequences used them heavily. I guess I would say… this movie wasn’t in your face about the special effects like a lot of other movies are these days. Probably not a big deal to a lot of people, but I thought it refreshing and worth noting.

Overall, it’s still an enjoyable movie. I wasn’t awed by it, but I definitely wasn’t bored, either. I do agree with my friend, who said that if you had little or no previous knowledge of the books, you’d enjoy it more. As a standalone title, it does the job. If you think about it as a tie-in or continuation of the books, you’re taking a lot of the enjoyment out of it for yourself.

– Kathleen

Arcel, Nicolaj. The Dark Tower. 2017.

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