Roland Deschain, followed by his ka-tet mates Cuthbert "Bert" and Alain, have finally returned home to his father's Castle. Roland has hoped to give his father Maerlyn's Melon, but his experiences with the Eye have given him an addiction to it, one that makes him make excuses as to why he didn't give his father the orb. In one, he wants to protect his father from falling victim to the effect of the orb, but in reality he knows why he's making the excuses- he's addicted to it and wants to hold onto it.
His ka-tet are troubled by Roland's actions, but are very glad to be home. Home isn't without its irritations, however. Even as they ascend to the title of "Gunslinger" themselves, the boys who stayed at home are angry that Alain and Cuthbert are getting their just deserts so soon. They think that Alain and Cuthbert should have to face off against Cort, the man who trains all the Gunslingers, just like Roland did. The other boys think Alain and Cuthbert coasted along into the Gunslingers on Roland's coattails. Alain and Bert know better, but they can't convince the other boys.
After welcoming his son home, Roland's father Stephen goes off with a group of his men to find Farson's men. Meanwhile, Roland's mother prays in a monastery run by a group of nuns for forgiveness. Her crime was falling in love with another man and sleeping with him, thus betraying her husband. He is willing to take her back, but only after she has expiated her sin with the nuns. However, when she goes in to make her final confession, the man she is confessing to turns out to be Marten Broadcloak, her lover. He asks her if she still loves him, and it is obvious her answer is yes.
He convinces her that the only way the two of them can be together and be happy is if she helps him kill her husband. He's already working for Farson, and reluctantly, she agrees to do the same. She may be in love with Marten, but she still has some feeling and affection for her husband. So even as she agrees to kill him, she's not 100% happy with the idea.
Back in the castle, Roland hasn't emerged from his room since he got home. Not to eat or anything. He lies in bed, clutching the Orb like a lover, his mind filled with visions of the coming of a hag who will sneak up on his father from behind and kill him. This angers and worries Richard greatly. He still loves his father and wants him to be safe.
Also at the castle is Cort's niece, Aileen Ritter. Cort has been raising her, and against the rules of the Gunslingers, he's been teaching her how to shoot, ostensibly because she needs to know how to protect herself, but in reality because he can't deny her what she wants to know. And, she's good with the guns. Real good. Now, Aileen has stolen the key to the armory from her uncle, and challenges a group of boys to a shooting contest. They don't want to, but eventually agree just to shut her up. But when she actually ends up beating them at shooting, they are shocked and angered.
Cort remonstrates with her, but at the same time, he's secretly happy with how well she has done. Even so, he realizes that there is no future for her as a gunslinger, and he's hoping to marry her to Roland, as he is the only man worthy of her. Aileen isn't in any way sure that she wants to be married. Yes, she has been in love with Roland for years, but what she really wants to be is a gunslinger, and she can't do that if she marries.
When Roland's father returns from his sortie against the group of Farson's men, he is going to throw a celebration for Roland's return. But he's shocked at the changes in his son, in how pale, thin and drawn he looks. Alain and Bert have made him return the melon to his father, as they are afraid of the changes it has already made in Roland, and Stephen Deschain knows better than to touch it too long or look into it, and locks it away in one of his safes. Not only will the feast be tonight, but Roland's mother has returned to her husband and son, who greet her.
Roland is still worried about his father and the hag, and the disposition of the Melon. He's with Alain and Bert's disquiet over the fact that they will meet the women their parents have chosen to be their brides during the celebration. They are young enough to not want to be married, and view the whole thing as a bad job. But Roland, of course, still wants to do the right thing by Aileen and explain to her why he can't be married- he already met the love of his life, and now she's dead. He can't let the wound heal and give his broken heart to another- it wouldn't be fair to Aileen, and he just can't do it. The wound will never heal.
But even as he attempts to explain this to her, there is a commotion in the hall, and Roland runs to his father's room, to find the Melon gone. Someone has stolen it. He feels someone creeping up behind him just like in his visions of the death of his father. But when he acts to counter the threat, will he end up precipitating another tragedy?
This graphic novel follows right on the heels of "The Long Road Home". The threat is (Mostly) over for the boys, or is it? Despite his best efforts, Roland has become addicted to using the melon, and he can't pull himself away from it no matter how hard he tries. He spends most of his time in bed, naked, his body jackknifed around the orb. But while he withdraws from the world, new threats come forward to engulf him, and his own mother may be one of them. Is she the hag that he's seen in his visions who is coming to kill his father?
My only complaint about this grapghic novel is that it spends a lot of time setting up the final pages of the book and the scenario, and abruptly ends right after the big scene. I know this was probably, and almost certainly dictated by the episodic nature of the comics involved, and it sure made an interesting end to the book, but I wanted to find out what happened next, and was foiled because the library doesn't have the next volume, and while I might be willing to pay for one, none of the comics shops near me carry it. Ah well, such is life.
This seemed like a much more sedately paced book than "The Long Road Home", because in reality, while just as much stuff is happening in this volume, more of it isn't happening to the three main characters. It's in the new characters who carrying their plots and plans mainly offscreen, so to speak. But just because it isn't happening to or around Cutherbert, Alain and Roland doesn't meant that there isn't tension in the story. In fact, the tension starts pretty high when Roland doesn't tell his father about the orb, and keeps building from there.
I found this a tense and entertaining story that really drew me in. But it's not one that should be read on its own out of the blue- you should definitely read "The Long Road Home" first if you can. At the end, it had me wanting to read more, and I did enjoy the less physical but more psychological tension of this story. Well done and recommended.