I finished reading the last page of The Dark Tower series on a flight into Bangor, in 2004. I cried. I had come to know Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy very well over the course of my teenage years it was like losing a friend. The ending is so complete I never thought I’d chance to see them again. But you can never say never with ol’ Uncle Steve. He’s got a lot of tricks in his bag, that one. This is just to say I was quite happy to hear he’d written another novel set in the Dark Tower universe.

The Wind Through the Keyhole fits, chronologically (though, chronology in the DT world is not what it used to be) somewhere between books 4 and 5. Roland and his ka-tet have just left the Emerald City and are heading along the path of the Beam toward Calla Bryn Sturgis when their precocious four-legged companion, the billy-bumbler, Oy, begins to act skittish. The animal senses a “Starkblast,” a super-storm that will shortly freeze the surrounding countryside. They seek refuge inside an old building and there, to pass the time, Roland tells them the story of the time he and his pal Jamie went in search of a shape-shifter that was killing lots of folken years ago. But there’s more. Within that story of the hunt for the shape-shifter, we are treated to a fairytale about a boy named Tim who must go on a perilous journey to save his mother’s eyesight. It’s a story-inside-a-story-inside-a-story, the Inception of the Dark Tower saga. And it fucking rocked my socks off.

One little spoiler for longtime fans: we get to see the man in black again, in all his evil glory.

I’ve said it before and I stand by it: King is at his very best when he’s writing about the Dark Tower. There are no boundaries to that world because it’s an entire universe he’s created within his head, a universe of King stories. It’s King at his most free.