Wolves of the Calla is the fifth book in the dark tower series and is another corker. This one is Alex’s favourite! Where the last book took inspiration from the Wizard of Oz, this one is heavily influenced by The Seven Samurai, it’s western (literally) remake The Magnificent Seven and also Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy. With Roland being based on Clint Eastwood that’s pretty apt really!
So after facing Roland’s past and the wizard at the end of the last book, the wizard’s glass took our ka-tet back to the path of the beam and their journey to the tower. On the way however they are approached by residents of a nearby village who need help!
This is what Gunslingers do…….apparently. I mean honestly up till now they’ve not exactly helped a lot of people, remember Tull?!
However, Roland assures the ka-tet that having been asked for help they are honor bound to do so and it would be impossible to carry on towards the tower without rendering aid.
What trouble do these poor people face? Well they keep having twins,that’s not the problem per-se (although it kinda is), the problem is the Wolves of Thunderclap who once a generation come and take one of the twins from each pair and return them roont. That is they return simpletons who grow freakishly large and who often die horribly from this. They don’t know why the children are taken, but thanks to Andy the messenger robot (many other functions) they have warning when the Wolves will be coming, and it’s soon!
The main focus of the story is the fight against the Wolves but as usual there’s a lot of other things going on and it’s all against the clock!
First, and most importantly, Susannah is pregnant! Worse, it’s not Eddie’s but the outcome of holding off the demon from the speaking ring Jake entered through. A new personality is also surfacing in Susannah. Mia or Mother, is taking over Susannah for night time foraging missions to feed the babies unnatural appetites. She is a ticking time bomb and the whole ka-tet knows it, Susannah included. Facing the Wolves before she gives birth or loses control of herself adds urgency to an already tense situation!
Secondly, there is a man in Calla Bryn Sturgis by the name of Donald Callahan, or Father Callahan. He came to the Calla for a town called Salem’s Lot (yes that Salem’s Lot) after having a run in with some vampires and learning to travel between worlds all the while being chased by mysterious red eyed creatures (yes you read that right), and he wants Roland and co to take something from him. Under his church he has black 13, the most dangerous and powerful piece of the wizard’s rainbow.
Third, said piece of the wizards rainbow is sending Eddie, Suzannah and Jake toadash, a kind of flux state between Rolands world and New York, where the rose is in more danger than ever. So much danger that before the Wolves come, Eddie and Callahan must brave using black 13 to cross worlds and persuade a recalcitrant Calvin Tower to sell them a certain vacant lot he owns, before Eddie’s old nemesis Balazar can force him to sell to agents of the crimson king.
While these things are building in the background, the ka-tet focuses on the defeat of the Wolves. Roland has some suspicions about them, and as Eddie would say, old long, tall and ugly has a habit of being right! When his suspicions are confirmed by an old resident who once killed one of the Wolves the set about training the Sister of Oriza. Women who are skilled with the Oriza’s, a ceremonial razor edged throwing plate. Together they make up our magnificent seven who will fight the Wolves and protect the children. They must be careful with their plans though, because there is a traitor in their midst who needs to be found before the Wolves attack.
The Wolves themselves I can’t say much about, except they all ride the same colour horses, they attack with sneetches (little flying balls of death ripped from the Phantasm films), and lightsabers……I’m sorry, energy swords, he was probably worried about being sued. Also the town’s friendly but slightly creepy robot Andy always knows when the Wolves are coming and gives the residents advances warning, but this has never been able to stop the Wolves who always find the children.
This story is a great slow builder, gaining tension throughout and climaxing with the confrontation with the Wolves. While this story sounds pretty simple, show up and fight some bad guys and carry on, there is as always a lot going on.
Eddie, Susannah and Jake are starting to find things in Roland’s world a little too 19! That is certain things keep happening that are too similar to be coincidence and 19 keeps cropping up everywhere. Jake also is torn between having a new friend his own age and being a child, and being the young gunslinger with the weight of responsibility that brings. All the while the ka-tet is in danger of falling apart by keeping secrets about Susannah’s baby. One the one side Susannah knows something is not quite right, and on the other side the others know about Mia and are keeping her existence a secret. The problem is to be a true ka-tet, to have a chance of winning they need to be honest with each other. Then there is Father Callahan, his story of coming from another world is going to be important and when part of Tower’s demands are that they save his rare books, Callahan stumbles upon Salem’s Lot in the collection and learns he is a fictional character. This understandably gives the poor man a real existential crisis! Black 13 is as important as anything else in the story, may in fact be the way to the tower! As it is it is sleeping right now, and is still strong enough to send them between worlds. The danger is it could also wake anytime and conceivably do anything. This is Steven King, you know it’s not going to wake up at a good time!
The narration by George Guidall is good, he has the right kind of voice for Roland and he does a good job, he’s not Frank Muller though and all the returning characters always seem dulled down to me in this book for the first couple of hours till you are used to the new narration and then you are kind of used to it. He in no way does a bad job, but it is a downgrade nonetheless.
Overall this is an excellent entry in the series. It’s entertaining, tense and for a book I’ve called a slow builder it doesn’t have many dull spots. The story moves well, is delightfully outlandish and very Steven King, with him bringing in characters from other stories and weaving them into the dark tower story like they were always meant to be there. The series is ramping up and the closer we get to the tower the higher the stakes are getting, with the next book (probably my 2nd favorite) really upping the ante! Two more books to go, one of the best and the final chapter!