If you’re like me, you think of horror stories when you hear the name Stephen King and with good reason. Spinning tales of the frightening and horrific is one of King’s strengths. It is a talent that can be seen at play throughout his Dark Tower fantasy series - in his graphic descriptions, in the vivid details he employs, and in the horrific situations in which the main character, the Gunslinger, finds himself. Some of the books below have a similar writing style and descriptive choices; some, a similar setting or main character. See which ones may appeal to you and head over to your nearest Fairfax County public library branch to check them out!
The Dresden Files series – Jim Butcher [SF BUT]
If you like the character of the Gunslinger, Jim Butcher’s wizard and detective Harry Dresden may appeal to you. He may not spend his days crossing deserts and mountains on a quest that may or may not kill him and everyone he loves, but he is a character cut from a similar cloth. Dresden is a loner who trusts few and is strong and quick on the draw when it comes to wielding his weapon of choice, magic. You may also enjoy this series if you appreciate the way King approaches description. Storm Front is the first in the series.
The Alchemist – Paolo Coelho [FIC COE]
Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist is very different from the Dark Tower series in terms of plot and overall tone, but its desert quest to a mysterious object/destination may please those who enjoyed the first in the Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, in particular. Santiago, simply referred to through most of the novel as “the boy” travels from Spain to the Egyptian desert on a quest to treasure buried beneath the pyramids, facing numerous obstacles and obtaining help from a few interesting characters along the way.
Elantris – Brandon Sanderson [SF SAN]
Elantris used to be the city of the gods – and not just an unattainable city, far off in the distance physically or conceptually. Any person, be they beggar or nobleman, could be transformed by The Shaod at any time and move to the great city, being worshipped for the rest of eternity. That is, before this novel begins, at a time when The Shaod’s transformation results not in an eternity of greatness but rather a sentence of doom, as the victims are cast out of their homes and into Elantris to join the others who have fallen to the leprosy-like disease, with no hope of a cure. Can Raoden bring hope to the fallen?
Sandman series – Neil Gaiman [FIC GAI]
If you’ve been thinking about getting into graphic novels, Dark Tower fans may want to check out this series by Neil Gaiman. Like Dark Tower, this series blurs the lines between horror and fantasy, following the adventures of the Sandman, also known as Dream or Morpheus, as he returns to the world after being imprisoned for decades and has to gain back his power and deal with the nightmares that have been unleashed on the world in his absence. Preludes and Nocturnes is the first in the series.
The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien [FIC TOL]
In his introduction to the series, Stephen King acknowledges the ways in which Tolkien’s epic fantasy affected and inspired him, even going so far as to say The Dark Tower series was “born out of Tolkien’s” work. He is certainly not the only fantasy writer who found inspiration in this great work. The Lord of the Rings is well worth a reading, and even a re-reading, in its own right – but Dark Tower fans may appreciate the imagination that created the story, the sheer scope of the epic, as King did, and experiencing the world that inspired him. The Fellowship of the Ring is the first book in the series.
What other recommendations would you give to others who love the Dark Tower series? Leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!
-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library