Thu
Aug 3 2017 1:00pm

The Romance Reader’s Guide to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Idris Elba in The Dark Tower

We've all seen the trailers. Sexy Idris Elba versus “Alright-Alright” Matthew McConaughey in a dystopian, fantasy battle royale touted as GOOD vs. EVIL. In the trailer, Idris is all noble, dusty, and sexy. He growls about shooting from his heart, and my heart pitter patters. McConaughey looks sharp in his black suit and Evil Guy Grin. They banter, they try to kill one another, there's a big Mordor-like tower.  In other words, how could I resist? Stephen King's epic Dark Tower fantasy series is coming to theaters as The Dark Tower, so like any good nerd, I picked up the first book, The Gunslinger, at the airport for some pre-movie reading.

It was definitely not what I expected. At all.

And I have a lot of feelings. Feelings about the story, feelings about how the movie looks nothing like the book, feelings about the style of writing. Basically, I need to join a book club just for this series so I can talk about my feelings. Let me know if you're interested.

SEE ALSO: The 10 Best Romances in Stephen King’s Novels

Romance fans, let's just get this right out of the way: if you like your fantasy with a side of love story, this isn't the book for you. Roland, the “hero” of the book, is a gunslinger, and like our beloved Doctor from Doctor Who, he too is the last of his kind, and that's made him a bit of an antihero in some ways. Remote, cold, determined, the gunslinger hunts the man in black, tracking him through deserts and mountain, demons and danger, drought and famine. And for part of that, he's accompanied by Jake, a young boy from New York City, and haunted a bit by his past.

Basically, the book is NOTHING at all like what the trailer promises: big epic gun battles, big dark towers, New York. Most of the book is Roland walking through the desert and tracking his enemy. Which sounds boring on paper, however, the book is incredibly readable and accessible...but maybe not in a way a romance reader will be used to. It's often stylistic, heavy on narration, light on dialogue, so let's drill beyond the differences and into what you, my dear romance reader, can expect from the book.

A Compelling Hero

Roland isn't some paragon of good. He's a juicy character who struggles with his quest, with his own mind, with his past and his actions. In other words, he's not boringly noble. At the same time, he's also not some asshole character. Depths, my friends. He's got depths.

The Worldbuilding

King creates a world rich with details, at times it reminded me of the epic fantasies I loved as a child like LOTR, at times it reminded me of Mad Max. Some things you'll recognize (Man Jesus, trains, hamburgers), other things will make you desperate for more (mutants, magic, the history).

A Finished Series

When I finished The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger, I immediately went to the store to buy the next book in the series, and after reading the foreword in my book, all I can say is thank god the series is complete. King notoriously took 30 years to finish his Dark Tower series, and I'm pretty sure the wait would have killed me. There's something very comforting about coming into a series that is ready for you to binge read.

Because you can bet that I'm going to binge it. Hard. Was it an easy romance reader crossover read? No. Just from a plot and writing standpoint, The Gunslinger didn't feel as commercial as my previous Stephan King reads, and going into it, I did have to readjust my expectations, but it definitely sucked me in. And now I'm very nervous about the movie...


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Lizzie Poteet is a hopeless romantic who appreciates a good kilt and a sexy Scottish burr. Even if she can hardly understand it. She studied abroad at the University of St. Andrews on the off chance she would fall back in time and meet her own warrior soul mate. Sadly, she didn’t and now lives in New York with her dog Mr. Darcy where she watches a lot of TV by night and working as a literary agent by day. You can follow her @lizziepoteet.

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2 comments
Maranda Daniels
1. Myrendal
As a King fan, and most especially a "Dark Tower" fan, I'm always pleased when someone reads the books for the first time. Not knowing how far you've gotten in the series, I'll just tell you to have a large box of tissues at hand. As far as the movie goes, I'm not planning on seeing it until it comes out on dvd/bluray, and possibly not even then. I feel there is no way to squeeze this epic tale of love, friendship, loss, and redemption of 7 books (8 if you count "The Wind Through The Keyhole") into a 90 minute movie.
I'm hoping you'll let us know what you think of the story once you're done, as well as what you thought of the movie.
Marsa
2. Marsa
I've read most of the Dark Tower series, as well as almost all the connecting books and short stories to the series (yes, many of King's other works connect in some way to the series). I've also seen the movie. The movie is purely an interpretation. It is not a straight based on the first Dark Tower series book, but it's not entirely trying to shove all 7 (or 8 if you count the later addition) books into it either. I'd seen the movie explained as a sequel, which is actually impossible considering how the series has, from my understanding, a definite end that would not include anything that happened in the movie. The movie has is good points--Idris Elba is a great casting choice even though Roland is described in the books entirely different and Matthew McConaughey does a great job as the Man in Black. But there are the disappointing parts as well--parts of the whole story are smushed together and twisted around. However, that is only noticeable to anyone who has read all or even just a part of the series (along with the other connecting books). I went with someone who had never read any of the books and they really liked the movie though they wish it had more background on what the tower was. All in all, it was a decent effort all things considered for such a large, and complicated, series. If you are going to read the series, I highly recommend you also read all the connecting stories. In particular, read Insomnia, The Stand, 'Salem's Lot, Hearts in Atlantis, and The Talisman/Black House set. The movie captured more of the feel than I expected, and once I figured out what they were doing, I could suspend what I knew to enjoy the movie for itself. If you do read all the series and eventually see the movie, just don't go in with expectations of seeing either one book or the whole series at once. Take it more in line with "there are other worlds than these"...
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