First published back in May of 1987, ‘The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three’ formed the second instalment into US bestselling author Stephen King’s epic ‘Dark Tower’ series. The novel continues on from where the first instalment ‘The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger’ (1982) left off.
Awakening from his slumber on the beach, Roland of Gilead finds himself no longer in the presence of The Man In Black. And after sacrificing young Jake Chambers for the sake of his quest, Roland is now alone. But not entirely alone. On the beach is one of the savage beasts he has come to know as a lobstrosity. A strange mutated creation, half-lobster-half-scorpion, a good four foot in length, with vicious claws that can kill a man in one strike.
His fight with the powerful beast is not one without problems. In the ensuing melee, Roland becomes a victim to the gigantic creature’s razor sharp claws; losing two of his fingers and a toe. But the lobstrosity remains no real match for the hardened gunslinger and before long is duly slaughter. But the victory over the beast comes at a much higher cost. For left untreated, his wounds soon become infected, weeping with pus and the stink of infection.
In a feverish daze, Roland continues with his journey northwards along the sandy shoreline. Losing strength and near-delirious with his worsening condition, Roland stumbles across an oddly placed door standing unsupported and without any obvious sign of where it may lead.
Roland knows that if he is to succeed with his quest he will need to form a ka-tet (a tight group of companions bound together by the laws of destiny). And so he opens the door labelled ‘The Prisoner’ and enters the void within.
Within seconds Roland finds himself aboard a plane heading for New York, inside of the mind and body of a drug-smuggling heroin junkie named Eddie Dean. The situation quickly becomes apparent to Roland. Eddie desperately needs help. Firstly with his immediate predicament in smuggling a large quantity of cocaine through customs at JFK Airport. Secondly, he needs to be saved from the self-destructive downward spiral he is on. And so Roland does what he knows he must do. He helps the man, and then brings him back to the world he knows – his world. The world that Roland believes will save the man. Roland will then have his first companion of the ka-tet.
Back on the beach, Roland is on the pathway to recovery thanks to the much needed medicine together with the help of his new companion. Now feeling stronger, Roland discovers a second door labelled ‘The Lady Of Shadows’, which once again he walks through, leading him this time to a woman named Odetta Holmes. Strong-willed and prudish, the African-American woman has made a mission of her life to bring forth the growing civil rights movement. Although missing her legs, Odetta is still a force to be reckoned with and maintains her civilised but powerful stance. However, unbeknown to her, she has a split-personality. She shares her life with a violent and dangerously unpredictable personality who goes by the name of Detta Walker. A woman borne out of anger at the world, Detta is cruelty personified. And Roland must bring the two women back with him – to make them one again for his expanding ka-tet.
The third and final door that Roland must travel through has a different destiny behind it. Labelled ‘The Pusher’, Roland will come face-to-face with the man responsible for the crippling assaults on Odetta and the initial death of Jack Chambers. Able to control the movements of this sadistic killer named Jack Mort, Roland decides to change the course of events and instead secure a whole new fate for the thrill-seeking murderer. And in doing so, he potentially jeopardises the fate of his all-important quest. Some things were meant to be. And other things are destined to happen. Roland will draw the three companions into his ka-tet, or else lose everything...
For this second instalment, King begins to set down the main skeleton for the sheer enormity of Roland’s quest. Unlike with much of the first book, ‘The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger’ (1982), this second instalment starts to elaborate upon the beginnings of what is going on. What appeared odd and somewhat surreal in the first book, now begins to form a more solid picture and ultimately starts to sketch out the plot of Roland’s epic quest to find the Dark Tower. In a way this makes ‘The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger’ (1982) feel more like a scene-setting prologue to the entire series, with ‘The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three’ actually finally commencing upon the real quest (but only just). This opinion isn’t far from the truth, and has remained a somewhat popular thought by many readers.
The book is essentially a completely character-driven novel, with the introduction, saving and uniting of the initial members for Roland’s ka-tet forming the main backbone to the tale. As such, King goes to great lengths with the characterisation, mapping out complex personalities, detailed back-stories, and their individual importance in the whole framework of the series.
With the three separate doors comes three separate storylines, connected only by Roland’s presence in them. Even the pace and style of the story changes upon entering each door. Through the first door, Roland is transported into a fast-paced and action-rich storyline, with trigger-happy gangster shootouts and constant bursts of adrenaline pumping energy. King’s prose is accordingly quick, sharp and pace-driven.
For the next door King adopts a more cautious and atmospherically sombre style of writing. Odetta’s life is given a gritty and downcast treatment, with edgy and much more emotive writing adopted for the majority of this utterly downbeat chunk of the novel.
The final door offers up a style that is somewhere between the two. Packed with raw guttural emotion but more forcefully pushed forwards than the previous door, the pace of this final inner-section is energetic and gripping, with twists and impactful ramification taking a strong part to the substory.
There are a vast number of complexities that are set down in this second instalment, most notably with the clashing characters and their destiny-driven place by Roland’s side. Along with the numerous intrinsic aspects to the characters, King also brings in a number of important substories and directional decisions that will take a much more prevalent place in the series later on down the line.
Like with the previous instalment, Roland’s extraordinary quest is still only just getting underway at the very end of this second book. Although much goes on in the novel, no substantial ground is covered, other than the uniting of the initial characters for Roland’s ka-tet. However, this does not detract from the energy and draw of the story. It remains gripping and taut, with a wealth of intricate layers and open-ended questions to keep the reader completely enthralled by the early progress of the series.
The book includes an eight page introduction by King, written in January 2003 that also appeared in the first book in the series. Furthermore, at the end of the book there is a 10 page excerpt from the beginning of the third book in the series ‘The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands’ (1991).
The novel runs for a total of 400 pages.
© DLS Reviews