I can see why some people may not have liked this book. It is very long and strays away from the path of the beam. This book picks up right where the Cliffhanger of The Waste Lands leaves off with the resolution of the whole Blaine the Monorail story. After this stressful event our Gunslingers take some time to rest and reflect. It is finally time for Roland to come clean about his past. Eddie and Susannah have asked a few times in previous books and Roland just answers with, it's not the time.
Flashing back to the days of Roland's teen years we get to find out exactly how Roland became a gunslinger and how he was the youngest to reach this honor. There is trouble in Roland's family and shortly after reaching Gunslinger status he walks in on his mother with another man. Torn with rage he goes to his father who just tells him that he knows. Roland is sent out to check a small town to keep him out of harms way. Little did his father know that there was more danger waiting for Roland and his Ka-Tet in this quiet little town that if he'd have stayed in Gilead.
I loved this book because I loved the history of Roland and the glimpse into what his world was like before it moved on. I will admit that this is a slow build once the Blaine story is over but I was hooked from the very beginning to the last word. I loved watching Roland come into his own and meet his friends. However, the best part of this book was watching Roland fall in love. This book may show up on every Horror list I have dug through looking for Halloween reads, but this is more of a romance than anything else. Roland falls in love with Susan Delgado, a young woman with problems of her own to contend with. Roland and Susan may have some hurdles to get over with her being promised to another, but with a witch, and a dishonored gunslinger plotting against them even Shakespeare would have said give the kids a break.
The reviews I have read either love this book or hate this book. So many of them are negative because of the 6 year wait before this was published, to end up with a flash back novel. I didn't read these till after the final book was published so I didn't have to deal with this frustration. I also love an origin story so I wasn't to upset to take this little detour. I fit in with those that loved this book. I had my issues but even on a second read I still hung on every word no matter what. I don't have this one in illustrated edition so no pictures to share for you but I will give this a 5 out of 5 rating and recommend if you haven't read this series you should. Also, when you get to this book, keep an open mind and just enjoy the ride.