Review: The Gunslinger & The Drawing of the Three, Dark Tower 1 & 2 by Stephen King

With all the buzz about the TV adaptation of The Dark Tower series, I decided it was finally time that I get around to reading it. It’s not been quite what I expected, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The series features a protagonist who is hard to understand, sometimes easy to dislike, yet complex and intriguing beyond measure. He’s a very vague sort of fellow, whose actions and thoughts only very slowly reveal who he is. His name is Roland Deschain, and he is the last gunslinger trying to get somewhere he thinks may do something good for his world.

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I’m going to try and review both books without going into too much plot detail. First up is The Gunslinger. Now, I read it awhile ago as part of a read-a-thon, which is to say I read it pretty much all in one day. While not action packed, it was a great way to ease myself into the still somewhat incomprehensible world of the series. Things about characters and the place they find themselves in are presented in pretty vague terms, likely intentionally, leaving us to figure out and kind of build the world ourselves. We get snatches and pieces here and there and can eventually piece a pretty good worldview together, and it’s not a happy one. In this book, the main objective is to meet Roland, and to follow him on a quest to find the mysterious Man in Black across a vaguely Western landscape. A lot of why he wants to find the Man in Black and where he goes from there is left to you to figure out. If you like sci-fi/fantasy, King Arthur (trust me on this one), quests, intriguing worlds, or westerns, you may want to give it a try.

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After reading The Gunslinger, I immediately requested The Drawing of the Three, because the ending of the first left me intrigued about the second. The second book brings in additional characters, who were somewhat easier for me to relate to than Roland. Seeing them interact with him and hearing what they think of him really provided unsettling context to possibly coming to an understanding of him as a person. Realizing the depth of the characters as I read is what really got me invested. The characters are real people, with real world problems, and we really learn about Roland, even if we aren’t quite sure how we feel about him. Like The Gunslinger, I really wasn’t sure with this one if I could stick it out for all 463 pages. I did get a little bored in the middle with how long some parts of the story seemed to go, but when it got back on track and picked up, I couldn’t put it down. This novel will interest you if you liked the first, which is fairly necessary to understanding this one.

All of that being said, I will not be reading the third book right away. As I discovered when reading on the Internet about The Gunslinger, this series is meant to tie many of Stephen King’s works together into one comprehensive story. As someone who is pretty militant about reading EVERY book in a series in ORDER (“xxx reading order” is one of my favorite Google terms), I found this a little dismaying, especially as the first reading order post I came across suggested reading all of the related texts BEFORE The Gunslinger, which I had already read (and I read the unrevised version, which will make my continuity falter, which is a whole separate post). Thankfully for my peace of mind as a reader, there does exist another suggested reading order, which I found right here. In that order, after reading the first two Dark Tower books, the next step is to read The StandThe Eyes of the Dragon, and The Talisman before moving on to The Wastelands (Dark Tower III). So, dear readers, that is what I likely will do. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I began this series!!

Have you read the series? What do you love/hate about it (no spoilers, please)?

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