Wolves of the Calla: Less than the sum of its parts

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Stephen King The Dark Tower 4. Wolves of the CallaWolves of the Calla by Stephen King

In Wolves of the Calla, the fifth novel in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, Roland and his posse defend a village from monsters. King borrows the great ideas of a variety of favorite stories, yet his final product is ultimately less than the sum of its parts.

Calla is a farming village preyed upon by the Wolves of the Thunderclap. The Wolves come once per generation, take children, and return them “roont,” mentally handicapped and destined to grow gigantic before dying young. Should the village continue to live with this curse, or should they stand and fight? Enter Roland and his band of gunslingers, the last of Mid-World’s heroes.

King’s focus is divided between the primary Calla storyline and advancing the overall quest to reach the Dark Tower. It turns out that there’s a rose in 1977 New York that needs to be saved, and we quickly learn that Susannah is pregnant with a demon child. As if the Crimson King destroying the universe wasn’t enough of a challenge! How can Roland keep up?

King steps in to rescue his heroes. The Dark Tower novels form a hub around which Stephen King’s universe revolves. We have already seen a few glimpses of King’s infamous villain, Randall Flagg. Here, Father Callaghan, last seen in King’s vampire novel Salem’s Lot, shows up. Thank goodness, Callaghan has a magic ball that might just be enough to help our gunslingers save the day.

If King has been restrained in his homage up to this point in the series, he really lets loose in Wolves of the Calla. In addition to drawing upon his own novels, King borrows liberally from Marvel’s comics, Asimov’s robots, Star Wars light sabers, and J.K. Rowling’s snitches (which are explosive). However, these are all minor allusions compared to the plot itself. Wolves of the Calla is based on the classic western film, The Magnificent Seven, which was in turn based on Kurosawa’s film, Seven Samurai. Both films feature a slow burning plot that ends with a climactic showdown. The same holds true for Wolves the Calla, and readers will have to deliberate whether the final fight warranted so many turned pages.

Although Wolves of the Calla is a mid-range story from Mid-World, few readers will turn their back on Roland’s quest to reach The Dark Tower at this point.


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RYAN SKARDAL, on our staff from September 2010 to November 2018, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

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