Who doesn’t remember the first time he/she fell in love? While I am happily married now and would not trade that for the world, nothing can compare to my first. I was 19 and maybe a bit of a late bloomer. I also spent most of high school being invisible to the guys.
Then came college. I think my parents had been gone for all of 15 minutes or so when I started dating. Or something like that.
Yes, I fell in love. It was glorious. My body began to behave in ways I never knew that it could. Let’s just say I became a woman rather quickly. And I started actually living for another human being and began to build hopes and dreams around him. And I let someone see the side of me that was previously only for behind closed doors. Previously, the line “I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch” was one that applied to me. But I started being able to feel, and boy did I touch too!
Sadly (or maybe correctly) it was not meant to be. And the heartbreak was excruciating. This was definitely not something advertised when I fell in love! And even to this day, that breakup still hurts me a little bit, even though I consider myself a (mostly) happy, well adjusted adult in a great relationship. But the lessons (and the scars) from that first experience of falling in love still remain, and will probably remain for a long, long time.
As I have stated in my previous entries, it turns out that Roland Deschain is actually human and has feelings…who knew? Do cold-blooded killing machines fall in love and experience heartbreak? Do they experience intense sexual desire for another person that is born out of genuine attraction, as opposed to a simple need for release? It turns out that they do. Or at least the one we call Roland Deschain does. And the story of his first love, from the initial meeting to the torrid affair to the truly sad ending makes my experience of falling in love and breaking up for the first time seem like a ride on the kiddie roller coaster.
So strap in, and get ready for the ride of your life, as I review The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass.
Wizard and Glass begins where the cliffhanger in The Wastelands left off: Roland and his friends are aboard Blaine the Mono, a sentient train that has also gone insane. Roland has challenged Blaine to a riddling contest, as Blaine loves riddles. If Roland and his friends lose the contest, Blaine will commit suicide and take the ka tet with him. If Roland and his friends win the contest, Blaine will spare their lives. It is revealed that Blaine is cruel and loves to hurt other living creatures.
Each member of the tet takes a turn at asking Blaine a riddle. Blaine easily answers all of them. Eventually, Jake, Eddie and Susannah run out of riddles and Roland takes over, as riddling contests were something Roland participated in as a child. However, even Roland is unable to stump Blaine, and the tet becomes more sure of the death that awaits them, with each passing mile.
During the riddling contest, Eddie becomes lost in thought. And to the surprise of his friends, especially Roland, it is Eddie who figures out how to stump Blaine: jokes. Blaine’s programming cannot handle jokes (which are still a form of riddle). Eddie begins to tell Blaine jokes, and Blaine is unable to answer these kinds of “riddles.” Eventually, the jokes cause Blaine’s systems to short circuit, leading to his “death.” The tet steps off the train to continue on in their journey.
Much to the surprise of Eddie, Jake and Susannah, Roland and his friends encounter a world that is eerily similar to “the real world” once they step off of Blaine the Mono. There are signs indicating that the tet has entered Topeka, KS, which does not “exist” in Mid-World. Roland and his friends also find vehicles and newspapers, both of which are not found in Mid-World. However, this world differs from the world of Eddie, Jake and Susannah in one very important way: 99.99 % of the population has been killed off by the “super flu“, making it more similar in its nature to Mid-World, as it also has appears to have “moved on.” Roland informs the rest of the tet that they have entered a “thinny“, a sort of gateway between worlds that has formed due to the deterioration of reality. Roland also begins to remember the thinny he encountered in his childhood, and realizes that he must tell the tale to his friends, and soon.
Roland and his friends come to a stop and set up camp. Roland then begins to tell the tale of his childhood, and his first love, Susan Delgado.
We learn that Roland was the youngest to ever best his teacher, Cort, and earn the title of gunslinger. However, Roland has made an enemy in Marten Broadcloak after he wins his guns, as Marten committed acts of adultery with Roland’s mother Gabrielle, in the hopes of angering Roland into taking an early test of his manhood. Marten hoped that Roland would fail the test, and be sent West as punishment. Roland was indeed angered, but Marten’s plans went awry when Roland became the youngest ever (age 14) to pass the test and earn his guns. Roland’s father Steven becomes concerned for his son’s safety, and sends Roland and his friends Alain and Cuthbert to Meijis, under assumed names, in an attempt to protect them all from Marten’s evil schemes.
Roland and his friends arrive in Meijis under the guise that they will be taking an inventory of everything in Hambry, including horses. Roland almost immediately notices that the number of horses in Hambry is extraordinarily high for a town of its size. Roland also almost immediately notices a young girl by the name of Susan Delgado, who is very beautiful. And the attraction between Roland and Susan is mutual even upon their first meeting. However, Susan hints to Roland that she is promised to another, and Roland does not pursue her. We also learn that Susan is promised in marriage to Mayor Hart Thorin by her greedy aunt, Cordelia Delgado.
King also introduces us to a group of men called The Big Coffin Hunters. This group includes a man named Eldred Jonas, who appears to have once been a gunslinger. These men appear to act as bodyguards of sorts for Mayor Hart Thorin. Roland and his friends become almost immediately suspicious of them, and Eldred and his friends return the favor.
We are also introduced to a woman known as Rhea of the Coos. She is known in Hambry as the local witch woman, and is described as a crone. Eldred and his friends entrust with the guardianship of a mysterious pink crystal ball that they refer to as “Maerlyn’s Grapefruit.”
It does not take long for Jonas and his friends to clash with Roland and his friends. Cuthbert comes to the defense of a mentally disabled man named Sheemie one night at a bar, and draws the ire of Eldred Jonas. The altercation is broken up by local law enforcement, but both sides quickly become suspicious of each other’s true natures.
Roland and Susan try their hardest to stay away from each other so that Susan may fulfill her contract to Hart Thorin, but the mutual attraction is too powerful, and they begin a torrid affair. They attempt to keep the affair a secret, but Roland’s friends quickly realize that their leader has become lovestruck, and begin to question his decisions, as they fear that danger is coming to Meijis. And they are right to fear danger, as it is revealed that Eldred Jonas and his friends are secretly working for someone named The Good Man, who is anything but good and intends to destroy the Affiliation and the way of life in Roland’s world. Rhea of the Coos also discovers the affair between Roland and Susan, via Maerlyn’s Grapefruit. Cordelia, Susan’s aunt, becomes suspicious of Roland and her niece, and passes these suspicions on to Eldred Jonas. Jonas uses this information in an attempt to begin the demise of Roland and his friends.
Roland, Alain and Cuthbert soon come to blows over Roland’s behavior and what Cuthbert feels to be poor decision making on Roland’s part. However, the three also come to realize that Susan is part of their ka tet, and that she will be involved in whatever plans that are made to take on Jonas and the others working against the Affiliation. Roland, Susan, Alain and Cuthbert meet, and agree to set fire to the oil patches in Hambry on Reaping Day, as that is when Jonas has planned his attack. The four know it will be risky, but are willing to take on the challenge. Roland also promises Susan that he will help her escape from Hambry, along with Sheemie, as they will be considered fugitives if the attempt is successful.
In the meantime, Jonas schemes with the mayor’s sister, Coral Hart. Mayor Hart is then murdered by Jonas and his friends, and the murder is pinned on Roland and his friends. Roland, Alain and Cuthbert are then arrested by Sheriff Avery, and are thrown in the Hambry jail, so that Jonas and the Good Man may continue with their plans.
Susan is able to free Roland, Cuthbert and Alain from jail, with the help of Sheemie. The two reunite with Roland and his friends, so that they may carry out their plans to set fire to the oil patches and stop Jonas and the Good Man.
Roland leaves Susan alone with Sheemie in a hut outside of town, and he, Cuthbert and Alain begin to set fire to the oil patches, which causes quite a few explosions. However, Susan is discovered by Jonas, who was in turn aided by Maerlyn’s Grapefruit. Susan is arrested for treason and taken back into town to face her punishment.
Roland and his friends are successful, and are able to defeat Jonas and most of his men. The encampment set up by the Good Man and his cohort, George Latigo, is burned to the ground by Roland, Alain and Cuthbert. Roland also captures Maerlyn’s Grapefruit from Jonas, and experiences visions while trapped within the glass. Roland realizes that the Dark Tower itself has become corrupted, and that he must embark on a quest to save the Tower.
However, Susan Delgado is not so lucky. Susan is burned alive for treason by a mob led by her Aunt Cordelia. Roland witnesses this in Maerlyn’s Grapefruit, but is powerless to help Susan. Susan’s last words before her death are those expressing her love for Roland.
Roland, Cuthbert and Alain then head back to Gilead, leaving the destruction of Meijis behind them. Roland is still under the influence of Maerlyn’s Grapefruit even as he and his friends leave Meijis, and has become a changed man, in more ways than one.
The story then returns to the present. Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy continue on The Path of the Beam but encounter a strange sight: there is an image of what appears to be the castle in the Emerald City of Oz. Roland and his friends then head into the castle and are given red shoes of various styles to fit their personalities. Even Oy is given red booties.
The tet then encounters some familiar faces in the “castle”: Andrew Quick and Randall Flagg. Andrew Quick is shot in the head and easily dispatched. However, Randall Flagg is not so easily disposed. Maerlyn’s Grapefruit makes another appearance, and this time traps Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy.
Eddie and the others are then subjected to one last vision of Roland’s past. They learn that Roland committed one of the worst sins: matricide. Rhea of the Coos followed Roland back to Gilead, and was able to trick him into (accidentally) murdering his mother, as she was seeking forgiveness from her son for her indiscretions with Marten Broadcloak. This is something that Roland had been keeping secret from his new friends, but is brought to light by Flagg in an attempt to break up the tet and convince them to abandon their quest. However, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy refuse to give and swear their loyalty to Roland. The castle then disappears, and the tet wakes up about 30 miles away from their previous location.
The book ends with Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy again pointed on the Path of the Beam, continuing their quest to seek the Dark Tower.
So many thoughts on Wizard and Glass. In fact, maybe too many thoughts. But I will try to keep it brief (ha!).
Before I go into the love story, Roland’s past, etc, let me give some credit where credit is due. And that credit needs to go to my main man, Eddie Dean. After all, he saved the day. When things looked bleak, Eddie was able reach deep down inside himself, gather up his reserves and…tell a few silly jokes! But those silly jokes are what save the day, as they destroy Blaine and save the ka tet from certain death at the hands of an insane mono. Roland was right to want kiss Eddie’s feet (not really, but I did get that feeling), as Eddie was the only member of the tet to come up with a solution. And for that, Eddie deserves much commendation.
In the previous books (The Drawing of the Three and The Wastelands), I discussed the fact that Roland the cold blooded killing machine seemed to be developing a bit of a personality (his love for Jake and his vulnerability being two great examples of this). But Wizard and Glass will always be the book where we see major growth in Roland. The story of his childhood in Meijis provides a lot of that growth. But don’t discount Roland’s interactions with his companions, who have really become his peers at this point in the journey. Roland shows even more vulnerability, especially when telling the tale of Susan Delgado and when the circumstances of his mother’s death are revealed. Roland’s reaction and apologies to Eddie when Eddie rescues the tet from certain death on Blaine the Mono are also evidence of his humanity, and demonstrate how his new friends have humbled him. All of this serves to emotionally invest the reader as well in Roland’s quest. His quest not only becomes the quest of Jake, Eddie, Susannah and Oy, but also becomes the quest of the reader as well.
In case you can’t tell from the above paragraph, the best part of Wizard and Glass was the romance between Roland and Susan. No, really! Romance when its in a Stephen King book is not like other romances…its a a cool romance!
Seriously, the romance between Roland and Susan is one of my favorite parts of this book. And that includes almost everything about their relationship. I loved how they met and were almost instantly attracted to each other, but still tried to stay away from each other, even as the tension kept building. And boy, does that tension build!
But Roland and Susan are unable to stay away from each other, and finally the tension snaps. And that snap has to be one of the hottest, sexiest snaps in anything I have ever read, far better than certain, other popular romances
Fifty Shades of Grey, you have nothing on the master. Not only is the relationship between Roland and Susan incredibly sweet (the image of the hardened gunslinger kissing away his love’s tears always gets me. Every. Single. Time.), it is also incredibly erotic and passionate. Roland is not only capable of kissing away Susan’s tears, he is also capable (almost in the same breath) of kissing her on the lips until her lips bled. And he is able to illicit sexual feelings in Susan almost from the moment they met (I loved the image of Susan “taking care of herself”, so to speak. Its rare that female sexuality is addressed in literature, especially in a book that is supposed to be a mix of fantasy, horror and western). Really, does any mortal man jackass Christian Grey sure doesn’t have anything on Roland the gunslinger? Whew, time for me to take a cold shower!
I mentioned that I loved almost everything about about the romance in Wizard and Glass. But what I didn’t love was the demise of Susan Delgado. I just can’t imagine being burned alive by a mob. And that mob included her own aunt. And Roland could do nothing about it, except watch in the same manner people watch car wrecks because they can’t look away. But the part that got to me the most was Susan declaring her love for Roland as she is being burned alive. When I first read that part in the book, I was introduced to the concept of the “ugly cry.” Only people with ice water running through their veins could not be affected by the death of Susan Delgado.
Wizard and Glass is also rife with bad guys. Eldred Jonas, George Latigo and Blaine the Mono are a few. But lets pay homage to a baddie that does not get nearly enough press.
Yes, Rhea of the Coos. I am talking about you. In the past, I envisioned you as this lady:
Hey, don’t knock it, she even has a pink dress, and I understand that pink is a very special color for you!
Although some people may have this image in their minds:
Rhea of the Coos is horrible. And manipulative. Evil. I can’t think of any redeemable qualities. None at all. In other words, a perfect villain. One of King’s most underrated villains, in this blogger’s humble opinion. And when King describes her “relations” with her pet snake and pet cat (and they are mutants…gross much?), I shudder. Even the image of Rhea herself is frightening, especially when King describes her appearance after the obsession with Maerlyn’s Grapefruit has taken over her life. I love to be scared, and Rhea of the Coos fits that bill quite nicely!
Ah, young love. There is nothing quite like it. And nothing quite so painful when it ends, as Wizard and Glass reminds us all too well. But its still fun to revisit that feeling, if only to be reminded that some experiences are more painful that others (Wizard and Glass also drives that point home).
Well, be prepared for an interlude…
No, not an interlude from this blog, silly! I am going on vacation soon, but I will still be visiting the world of the Dark Tower, as my next book to read and review will be The Wind Through the Keyhole, where our favorite tet will be taking a break from their journey for more story time from Roland himself!
Tune in next week…same bat time, same bat channel!
Here we go again. Some of the connections to King’s other work that I found in Wizard and Glass:
-After Roland and friends leave Blaine the Mono, they encounter a thinny that seems to lead into the “real world”. However, this world has been decimated by the super flu. This world is none other than the world of The Stand. The tet also sees graffiti referencing The Walkin’ Dude and Mother Abigail, both of whom are the major characters in The Stand.
-The tet also encounters a deserted park in what is Kansas in the world of The Stand. The park has a children’s ride that is actually a train eerily similar to the train in the book owned by Eddie, Susannah and Jake. In the book Cell, the main characters also encounter a similar ride in what is also an abandoned theme park. Roland remarks that the deterioration of The Tower is likely responsible for such maladies as the super flu. In Cell, the malady experienced by the world in that book was known as The Pulse, which caused anyone using a cell phone to turn into a zombie. This is interesting, as it implies that Mid-World, the world in The Stand and the world in Cell may actually be very close neighbors on The Tower, as all three have “moved on” in similar fashion.
–Wizard and Glass is the first book to discuss the concept of a “thinny” or a deterioration between worlds that allows people to travel between worlds. This is a concept discussed in several other King novels and short stories. King’s most notable work featuring a thinny is the novella The Mist, where a doorway between worlds (a thinny, in other words) is accidentally opened up in a secret military experiment, and allows monsters from another dimension to invade that world, killing off most of the population.
–Henry Dean is mentioned to have a friend by the name of Skipper Brannigan. Skipper Brannigan is also mentioned to be an enemy of Dinky Earnshaw in the short story Everything’s Eventual. This implies that Henry, and therefore Eddie, grew up in the same neighborhood and time period as Dinky Earnshaw.
-Sylvia Pittson is mentioned in Wizard and Glass. Sylvia Pittson was the mad preacher woman who helped turn the town of Tull against Roland in The Gunslinger, causing him to kill every single inhabitant of the town, including women and children.
-Rhea of the Coos is also mentioned in the book Eyes of the Dragon. This seems to confirm that the world in Eyes of the Dragon is the same world that Roland inhabits.