Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

Posted June 24, 2018 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

Wolves of the Calla

Wolves of the Calla

by Stephen King

Series: The Dark Tower #5
Publisher: Scribner on November 4, 2003
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, Western
Target Age Group: Adult
Rating: ★★★½

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Wolves of the Calla continues the adventures of Roland, the Last Gunslinger and survivor of a civilized world that has "moved on." Roland's quest is ka, an inevitable destiny -- to reach and perhaps save the Dark Tower, which stands at the center of everywhere and everywhen. This pursuit brings Roland, with the three others who've joined his quest to Calla Bryn Sturgis, a town in the shadow of Thunderclap, beyond which lies the Dark Tower. Before advancing, however, they must face the evil wolves of Thunderclap, who threaten to destroy the Calla by abducting its young.


There are two things I dislike about Wolves of the Calla.

One: The pacing is insanely slow.  It’s one of the longest books in the Dark Tower series, and yet, it only needs to tell one story.  In fact, it almost feels like filler to pass the time as Susannah develops her little… problem.  That isn’t to say it’s not an interesting story, but it takes an awfully long time to get to the point.

Two:  At least 50% of Wolves of the Calla is a retelling and extension of ‘Salem’s Lot.  Why?  When we get to the Calla, we meet Pere Callahan – the Father Callahan from ‘Salem’s Lot – and Roland urges him to tell his story, because he feels that the Pere is destined to be part of their ka-tet and he would know his tale.  In ways, retrospectively, the emergence of this character makes sense.  But if you are reading through this story for the first time, it’s a terrible drag to have a ‘Salem’s Lot retelling stuck in the middle.  Unless, I suppose, you love ‘Salem’s Lot.  If so, good for you!

These are the two parts of Wolves of the Calla I struggle with, but on the other hand, I appreciate the break from the endless traveling.  When your hero’s quest only ends when they reach a destination, you find yourself passing through a lot of places and a lot of readers will lose attention.  Wolves of the Calla slows this down a bit.  We spend the entire novel physically in the same place, learning about another way in which the world has moved on.  We have scenes in Midworld as well as scenes in New York (remember the bookstore from The Waste Lands?  It’s back!) and even though the characters aren’t physically moving closer to the Dark Tower, the clock is still ticking and you feel so anxious for them to get where they’re going, because what if they run out of time?

While I enjoy Wizard and Glass the most, I would actually say Wolves of the Calla is the best of the series for the general reader.  I know that I will jump up and down about the whole series, but I do have to admit, it takes some patience to get through.  The audiobooks have two readers, and the reader of books 2-4 is a much stronger narrator… so it’s easy enough to lose interest at this point without a compelling story.  Fortunately, Wolves of the Calla is compelling.  Already we have our Dark Tower journey:  now we add the twist of Susannah’s new development, the preying “wolves” that steal the Calla’s children and why do they exist, Roland’s quickly developing arthritis that could bring their journey to a sudden halt if he cannot move fast enough to defend himself, the emergence of Black Thirteen, Pere Callahan’s vampires… there are so many new elements thrown into the story that don’t quite have a place yet, and we are waiting for them all to fit in.

After all, who ever said that a journey to the Dark Tower would be easy?  Since this is a re-read for me, I know that this is only the first handful of many obstacles the ka-tet will have to face.  The closer they get to their goal, the more twisted and dangerous things become….

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★ 1/2
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★
Narrator: ★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★

three and a half star rating


Have you read this book or anything by this author?  If so, did you enjoy it?  Tell me all about your experience in the comments!

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2 responses to “Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

  1. I’ve never read this one, but it sounds quite good. I’ve seen a lot of film adaptations of King’s novels but haven’t actually read any apart from Desperation I think.

    • Amber

      The film adaptations of King’s novels are reeeeeallly hit-or-miss. Either they’re AMAZING (a la The Green Mile or The Shawshank Redemption) or they’re just terrible (‘Salem’s Lot or, sadly, The Dark Tower). Wolves of the Calla is probably the only book in the Dark Tower series you could get away with reading without having read all the others, since it’s sort of a side-quest, but you’d definitely need a quick summary of who’s who and what the overall mission is before jumping it. It’s a long haul to get to this one, I’m afraid!