The passage through the castle is dim, sensed by few and walked by only one. Flagg knows the way well. In four hundred years, he has walked it many times, in many guises, but now the passage serves its true purpose. Through the spyhole it conceals, the court magician observes King Roland -- old, weak, yet still a king. Roland's time is nearly over, though, and young Prince Peter, tall and handsome, the measure of a king in all ways, stands to inherit the realm.
Yet a tiny mouse is enough to bring him down, a mouse that chances upon a grain of Dragon Sand behind Peter's shelves and dies crying tears of fire and belching gray smoke. A mouse that dies as King Roland does. Flagg saw it all and smiled, for now Prince Thomas, a young boy easily swayed to Flagg's own purposes, would rule the kingdom. But Thomas has a secret that has turned his days into nightmares and his nights into prayed-for oblivion. The last bastion of hope lies at the top of the Needle, the royal prison where Peter plans a daring escape...
This book is a departure from Stephen King's typical horror writing. He wrote this story so his 13-year old daughter could read one of his books. I think he succeeded in writing a delightful fantasy story that can be enjoyed by both young and older readers. There is strong theme of Good versus Evil and a struggle to "do the right thing". As the story progressed, there really weren't any surprises, but while not unexpected, the ending was satisfying.
I listened to the audiobook and thought the narrator did a great job. Flagg's evil was palpable, including a hissing speaking voice. I liked the way the "storyteller" spoke to the reader and hinted at things to come. And as the story came towards the end and the suspense amped up, the chapters were very short. It was like we couldn't waste any time; it made the end come very quickly.
Fans of fantasy stories with distinctly good & evil characters. It can be read by middle school students and above. (Note that many fans of Stephen King did not like this book.)