Book Review: Wolves of the Calla

Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King, The Dark Tower #5

Roland Deschain and his ka-tet are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World on their quest for the Dark Tower. Their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis. But beyond the tranquil farm town, the ground rises to the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is stealing the town's soul. The wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to. Their guns, however, will not be enough....

So my journey has brought me to the fifth book of the stunning The Dark Tower series. A few weeks ago I was again taken by my enthusiasm of this series. As I said in all my reviews, this series of Stephen King is my favorite. The books that The Wolves of the Calla follows up on are The Gunslinger, The Drawing of Three, The Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass

What has happened so far in the series? The Gunslinger introduced us to Roland Deschain, one of the last gunslingers alive. Roland has one quest, that of reaching the even illusive Dark Tower, a place full of answers. In the Drawing of Three, Roland drew two people to join his ka-tet, well they came through him through doors. Yes they aren't from Roland's time but from New York in different time frames, here we met with Eddie Dean and Odetta Holmes, both a troubled pair, Roland wasn't able to draw the third person though. This happened in the third book, The Waste Lands, where Jake Chambers joined the ka-tet as well. This completed the group and now they were all set for Roland's quest, that of finding the tower. In every book they have encountered perils, lobstrosities, a guardian of the Beam: the bear named Shardik, the terrifying streets of Lud, gasher and the tiktok man, and many many more horrors like Blaine the Mono. In the fourth book a side trip was made into Roland's past telling the story of his first true love and his task in Mejis and the encounters with the Coffin Hunters, Rhea of the Coos and the Wizard's Glass. 

Now the story has gotten to the fifth book, which actually picks up more after the events of book three instead of four. The introduction of Wolves of the Calla doesn't pick up with the focus on Roland but on the folk of Calla Bryn Sturgis and a messenger robot named Andy who brings bad news... when I first read the book I didn't know what to make of it but with the re-read I knew what to expect. After this introduction the focus is once again on Roland and his ka-tet who are slowly in the path of the Beam and times seems to be acting weird, the overall morale of the group isn't that high either. What Roland and his friend don't know is that they are actually nearing civilization. They are in the near of Calla Bryn Sturgis, a farming community. But what Roland is unaware of at that time is that the folk of Calla Bryn Sturgis are in desperate need of help. As I said, Andy has brought bad news, the wolves are coming. This is something that happens every twentyish years or so. The wolves are fearsome humans/machines/or even more that come to the Calla to take one half of each twin, why the wolves comes remains to be answered. The wolves do bring the children back but in a ruined state, they grown big but that is all, they can't think and can carry out only the basic tasks... Just with the arrival of Roland there are only a few weeks left before the wolves come, perhaps unfortunate for his ka-tet, Roland is obliged by his oath of gunslinger to help people in need, and thus can't refuse the help. Now the race is on for Roland to find out just how he can defend the Calla against the wolves, who carry sneetches, glowstick and other deadly weapons, oh and by the way they wear heavy armor that can withstand frontal bullets... As the days become less and less, Roland and his fellow gunslinger start to make more and more truth about everything and why the past raids of the wolves have been so successful, there is a traitor in the Calla, will the ka-tet be able to sniff it out?

This part in defending the calla is only the first storyline in the book. Roland meets up with a priest in the Calla, Father Callahan, does that ring any bells? Father Callahan was the main character in one of Stephen King's other books, Salem's Lot. Father Callahan plays an integral part in the book and his backstory is completely told, his encounter with vampires, his highs and his lows and many more. This storyline is more than just a simple side track, it is elaborate and fully detailed and worked for me very well in picking up the pace of the series once again. The fourth book wounded down the story a bit, well the story of following the Beam, instead of fully lying the focus on picking up where it was left, the story is slowly picked up. Plus father Callahan makes up for a most interesting character!

I have been praising this series for the world building that Stephen King has done. With already the fifth book in the series you might think is it necessary to build the world further? Well the answer that Stephen King will give you is yes. The world of The Dark Tower is ever in motion and with each footstep that Roland and his ka-tet make places them in new territory, for everyone. And this is actually a really smart move as it allows Stephen King to constantly trigger the the reader with new and interesting things to read about and imagine. Calla Bryn Sturgis is a farming community that is famous for it's rice harvest. They have a famous song which features Lady Oriza (Oryza sativus is latin for rice), there is a nice scene in the middle of the book where Stephen Kings takes a heavy plunge into the story just showing the rice song, it build up so much atmosphere in the book, it gives that homely and lovely feeling. Another thing for me that made the world in Wolves of the Calla once again mighty interesting was the concept of the wolves, what they wanted with the children and of course how to beat them. I won't spoil how it is possible but I will spoil something else. I am a big Harry Potter fan and when I first read that there were sneetches in this book I had a big grin on my face, it was cool and they are by far very different from the sneetches in a quidditch match I tell you. The other weapons, the glowstick that the wolves have are weapons that Eddie knows about, they are lightsabers from the popular Star Wars series. one that Jake wasn't able to watch... They both are clueless as to who Harry Potter is though. 

Just to mention briefly the side trip of Father Callahan in a different year from where Eddie Dean, Odetta Holmes and Jake Chambers came from and his particular view with seeing the vampires due to the encounter he had in Salem's Lot also added heap of flavor. I am really impressed with how Stephen King has been able to intertwine his stories with that of The Dark Tower.

If you look over the course of the books that have been written before Wolves of the Calla, the tone is a bit different. However, this doesn't take away that the series has lost it's flow. Not at all, Stephen King has once again introduced to big and bold idea's in this story to once again make a very unique entry for this magnus opus series The Dark Tower. I do think that as a reader you have to be open for it. This isn't your standard run of the mill fantasy story. It's fresh and highly addictive. And you all should have read it by now. There must have been other authors who have written about AI's, but Andy, I would have liked to smack him in his tin face... Sadly though, The Dark Tower is coming to a close soon, only two book remain: Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower. Stephen King did leave Wolves of the Calla on a cliffhanger with Mia and the chap, let see what ka has in store for our gunslingers in the next book!

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