A (mostly) spoiler-free reader’s guide to Stephen King and Richard Chizmar’s ‘Gwendy’s Final Task’


If you have even a passing knowledge of the interconnectivity of Stephen King universe, you’ll probably know something’s up with the pocket cover of Gwendy’s Final Task — the conclusion of a trilogy of novels co-written with Richard Chizmar.

The bowler hat, the field of roses, the monolithic structure looming in the background…it all looks pretty familiar, doesn’t it? While the hat has become an unofficial symbol of Gwendy series as a whole (appearing in one form or another on the hardcover and paperback editions of all three novels), the flowers and castle-like building come directly from the pages of King’s magnum opus, The dark tower. This begs the question: how much of Sai King’s other works will you need to have read to appreciate/understand Gwendy’s Final Task? Fear not, Constant Reader, because we’re here to break it down for you.

Luckily, there’s no “right” way to prepare. Final task; your homework depends more on the type of reading experience you want to have. Are you mildly curious and just hoping to figure out the raw plot mechanics without having to study too much? No problem. Or perhaps you are a more encyclopedic student, hoping that your hours spent poring over The Dark Tower: A Concordance will yield the equivalent of a wicker basket of Easter eggs. It also works.

Either way, we have several recommended reading categories for the above two types and everything in between. With Gwendy’s Final Task now available in paperback, read on and find out where you land (and what you need to catch up).


The minimalist

Nothing

Believe it or not, you could get into Gwendy’s Final Task completely cold and still understand what is happening. Although this is the conclusion to King and Chizmar’s trilogy, they effectively catch you up not only on what the 64-year-old protagonist has been up to since the second book, Gwendy’s Magic Feather, but about everything that happened in the first two stories. From his reception of the mysterious (but possibly destructive) button box of an enigmatic man named Richard Farris in his baby girl to his adult career as a writer and senator, it’s all there as a sort of literary equivalent of a “Previously On…”

What’s more, the two authors approach the recap with elegance, distributing snippets as they go during its escapade in space. Considering Gwendy’s interstellar journey and a health issue that we won’t spoil here, it makes sense that the show’s hero is in a somewhat reflective state.

Don’t get me wrong, this might not be the most rewarding way to read. Gwendy’s Final Task; the climax of her journey is sure to be more emotionally resonant if you’ve spent more time with her than just reading a quick (but expertly told) summary. And that’s not to mention the links to other King books. But you’ll still be able to follow the plot with relative ease.


The occasional fan

What’s in your briefcase? Gwendy’s button box, Gwendy’s Magic Feather

As we said above, reading the first two books is not completely necessary to understand the basic narrative of Gwendy’s Final Task. But it will certainly make the novel more satisfying from a character perspective.


The expansionist

What’s in your briefcase? Gwendy’s button box, Gwendy’s magic pen, and the seven novels of dark tower series

Alright, now we get into weeds (or, more accurately, devil’s weed). From the first pages of Gwendy’s Button Boxit was clear that the series was going to have at least some minor ties to The dark towergiven that Richard Farris (aka “RF”) might just be one of the most important characters in King’s Western fantasy epic.

But Gwendy’s Final Task has even more explicit ties to the Mid-World and beyond, from its images to its real reason for going to space to a prominent phrase that hits differently if you know its origins. The problem is that the dark tower novels aren’t exactly self-contained, and if you’re addicted The gunslingermight as well finish the whole saga.

To be clear, by no means do you need to read seven books outside of the at Gwendy’s series (and maybe The wind through the keyhole if you are feeling ambitious) to enjoy Final task. But it will make the fairly airy novel all the more epic.


The Maximalist

What’s in your briefcase? Gwendy’s button box, Gwendy’s magic pen, the seven novels of dark tower series, The stall, dragon’s eyes, Thisand Hearts in Atlantis

If you have read the dark tower series, you know that everything serves the beam. Or rather, all of Stephen King’s works are tied to the story of Roland Deschain and his ka-tet (more on that in a bit). That being said, some books have stronger ties to the Tower than others, and in Gwendy’s Final Taska handful of books adjacent to the tower feature somewhat deeper in the plot.

Although you received a lot of RF in The dark towerit plays an even more central role in The stall and dragon’s eyes. Also, the main plot of the old ties to a real-world event featured in Final tasknot to mention he reveals where RF may have gotten the specific alias he is using in the Gwendy trilogy. As for Thislet’s just say that its main frame features prominently in Final task. And Hearts in Atlantis should be familiar with terms that might appear as “circuit breakers”. Certainly, you will hear this word several times in the dark tower books, but it’s about building on what you already know. With the maximalist approach, you’re basically making sure you’ll understand every last King reference in Final task.

You might be told to read too Insomnia (where you get more than Tower tradition and location of This) and the dark tower– paralleling The talisman and black house. And about ‘Salem Bundle? Which brings us to…


The Completer

What’s in your briefcase? Everything Stephen King ever wrote.

Stephen King had started binding his books in various ways long before 2004. But that was the year that saw the release of The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannaha novel that, through the introduction of a startling new character, literally connects everything the man has ever written.

So for the finalist, the ultimate reading experience for the end of the Gwendy trilogy (or whatever King wrote) means reading everything that came before it. A daunting task, to be sure. But hey, many of you have probably already done this.


Gwendy’s Final Task is now available in paperback today via Gallery Books. Order a copy here.

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