On its own, THE DARK TOWER is a train wreck. Much like SONG OF SUSANNAH, it's all over the place, and meta-as-fuck. Because of this, my review of book seven will cover the series as a whole. Say sorry. Say thankee, sai.
I read the first three books (THE GUNSLINGER, THE DRAWING OF THE THREE, and THE WASTE LANDS) when I was thirteen. When WIZARD AND GLASS came out, I read that one, and hated it. I still hate it, even after three reads. In 2003, I reread the first four books in anticipation of the release of the final three, which King announced early that year. Then, when it came out, I read WOLVES OF THE CALLA, and in 2004 I raced through SONG OF SUSANNAH (which I hated only slightly less than WIZARD AND GLASS) and, eventually, the seventh and final book, THE DARK TOWER. Ten years later, King released THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE, I blew through that one and found it a pleasant bit of storytelling. That's the history. Now onto the 2014 reread.
In April, Dan of Dantastic Reviews, posted on Booklikes that he would be rereading the series, one book a month, and asked if anyone wanted to join him. Since it'd been a decade since I finished Roland's quest, I jumped at the chance, hoping that this time I'd enjoy it more. Overall, I did. WOLVES was far better the second time around, as was TOWER, but I actually hated WIZARD AND GLASS even more this go around, and found my feelings hadn't changed whatsoever where SONG OF SUSANNAH was concerned. I also reread THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE between WIZARD AND GLASS and WOLVES OF THE CALLA, as King intended. In the end, I laughed, I cried, I mourned the loss of close friends, and would still recommend the series to anyone who enjoys epic quests, crazy-original monsters, meta-fiction, and amazing world building.
With the Dark Tower series, King does here what King does best: character development. You come to love every member of Roland's ka-tet, and, even when the series starts going down hill at the rate of a cinderblock dropped from the tippy-top of the Empire State Building, you're compelled to continue reading because you have to know how everything character's story ends. In fact, their fates are the best part of the entire series, and the most touching material King has ever written. Come the halfway mark of THE DARK TOWER, the tears begin, and do not let up until the final page. Strangely enough, the last sentence of the final book makes me want to start reading the entire thing all over again, but I won't, at least not for another decade, probably when my daughter's old enough to enjoy reading through it with her old man.
Highlights of the series include: All the fantastic set pieces throughout the series, the battle of Tull, Jakes fall (only because it's so well done), the incomparable originality of THE DRAWING OF THE THREE, the shoot out at Balazar's place, the end of Jack Mort, Shardik's attack, every bit of the mad dash through Lud, Blaine's riddling (even though I'm one of the few who loved that insane train), the end of WIZARD AND GLASS (because, you know, it does finally end, and that's a great feeling, the fact that it's over), the titular part of THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE, the return of Father Donald Callahan (the disgraced priest from the tragic town of `Salem's Lot), the slaughter of the Wolves, the return of Sheemie (the only good part of WIZARD), Roland, Susannah, and Oy's time on Odd Lane, the thing under Castle Discordia, the final fates of Eddie Dean, Jake Chambers, Oy, and Roland, the circle completed.
Low points of the series include: the lackluster ending of THE GUNSLINGER, the insta-love between Eddie and Susannah, WIZARD AND GLASS (the entire book, plus the plagiarism of THE WIZARD OF OZ), the bloated nature of WOLVES OF THE CALLA (seriously, that book could have been at least two hundred pages shorter, but that can be said of all King's book since FIRESTARTER), Stephen King writing himself into the series, 95% of SONG OF SUSANNAH, Walter/Flagg's disappointing death, part one of THE DARK TOWER (which should have been the end of SONG, and I still have no idea why it wasn't), the anti-climactic fate of Mordred, the description of the Crimson King (Santa Claus... fucking really!?), the dickhead move of complaining about how readers don't understand that storytelling should be about the journey and not the destination, and how King basically says he only wrote about what Roland finds inside the dark tower because he didn't want to hear people's shit, and, finally, the fact that the series is over, that Roland's quest is finished... kind of.
Important bits that are missing from the series: Roland and the last of the gunslingers' final fight against Farson's army (my rage boner throbs epically because we get every single boring detail of Susan and Roland's bullshit love story, but King only mentions the fight with the Good Man in a brief flashback in WOLVES), the period of time when Jake becomes a complete and utter badass (he goes from being a scared kid in THE WASTE LANDS to taking on the Wolves as if his spine were made of iron and his sack roughly the size of a bowling ball, the fate of Ted Brautigan (he of HEARTS IN ATLANTIS).
In summation: Yes, there are a lot of craptastic parts about this series, and plenty of unanswered questions, but, other than THE LORD OF THE RINGS, this is the only fantasy series I've ever been able to finish. I've attempted A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, THE WHEEL OF TIME doorstops, Moorcock's Elric Saga, and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (a.k.a The Bible featuring Greek Mythology) and couldn't finish more than two books of each. If nothing else, read the first three books in the Dark Tower series and skip the rest. WIZARD is a complete bore, SONG is incomplete, TOWER is a rushed train wreck, and WOLVES is filled with loads of superfluous information, yet the Dark Tower tale as a whole is a definite five-star read, if for no other reason than my unfaltering love for every character. Some of the best friends I've ever known in life live between the pages of these books, and I miss them already. Say thankya, sai King.