The Dark Tower is a series of seven books by American writer Stephen King that tells the tale of lead character Roland Deschain's quest for the "Dark Tower." The Dark Tower is often described in the novels as a real structure, and also as a metaphor. Part of Roland's fictional quest lies in discovering the true nature of the Tower. The series incorporates themes from multiple genres, including fantasy fiction, science fantasy, horror, and western elements. King has described the series as his magnum opus; besides the seven novels that comprise the series proper, many of his other books are related to the story, introducing concepts and characters that come into play as the series progresses.
The series was mostly inspired by the poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning, the full text of which was included in an appendix to the final volume. In the preface to the revised 2003 edition of The Gunslinger, King also identifies The Lord of the Rings, the Arthurian Legend, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as inspirations. He identifies Clint Eastwood's "Man with No Name" character as one of the major inspirations for Roland. King's style of location names in the series, such as Mid-World, and his development of a unique language abstract to our own, are also influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien's work.
 Plot summary
In the story, Roland is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers. The world he lives in is quite different from our own, yet it bears striking similarities to it. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West, as well as bearing magical powers and the relics of a highly advanced, but long vanished, society. Roland's quest is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to either be, or be located at, the nexus of all universes. Roland's world is said to have "moved on," and indeed it appears to be coming apart at the seams — mighty nations are being torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish from the face of the earth without a trace, time does not flow in an orderly fashion; even the sun sometimes rises in the north and sets in the east. As the series opens, Roland's motives, goals, his age and even the color of his shirt are unclear, though later installments shed light on these mysteries.
For a detailed synopsis of the novels, see the relevant article for each book.
 Characters in the series
King created a language for his characters, known as the High Speech. Examples of this language include the phrase Thankee, Sai ("Thank you, Sir/Ma'am."), Dan-Tete ("Little King") and Can-Toi ("Low man/men"). In addition King uses the term 'Ka' which is the approximate equivalent of destiny, or fate, in the fictional language High Speech. This term originated in Egyptian mythology and storytelling and has figured in several other novels and screenplays since 1976.
- The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (1982)
- The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (1987)
- The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (1991)
- The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (1997)
- The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2003)
- The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah (2004)
- The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (2004)
 Origins and publishing history
Each book in the series was originally published in hardcover format with a number of full-color illustrations spread throughout. Each book contained works by a single illustrator only. Subsequent printings of each book in trade paperback format usually preserve the illustrations in full, except for books I and IV. Pocket-sized paperback reprints contain only black-and-white chapter or section header illustrations.The illustrators who worked on each book are:
- Michael Whelan, multiple award-winning science fiction and fantasy painter. The Dark Tower is among his early notable works.
- Phil Hale, the only Dark Tower illustrator who created a second set of illustrations for a later printing of the book he illustrated.
- Ned Dameron.
- Dave McKean, graphic designer noted for working in many media, including photography and film. The only Dark Tower illustrator to work in photocollages.
- Bernie Wrightson, established illustrator for 1960s and 1970s horror comics.
- Darrel Anderson, the only Dark Tower illustrator who used digital illustration techniques.
- Michael Whelan, returning more than 20 years later as the only recurring Dark Tower illustrator.
The Washington Post's Bill Sheehan called the series "a humane, visionary epic and a true magnum opus" that stands as an "imposing example of pure storytelling," "filled with brilliantly rendered set pieces... cataclysmic encounters and moments of desolating tragedy." The Boston Globe's Erica Noonan said "there's a fascinating world to be discovered in the series" but noted that its epic nature keeps it from being user-friendly. The New York Times' Michael Agger was disappointed with how the series progressed; while he marveled at the "sheer absurdity of [the books'] existence" and complimented King's writing style, he said preparation would have improved the series, stating "King doesn't have the writerly finesse for these sorts of games, and the voices let him down." The San Francisco Chronicle's Michael Berry, however, called the series' early installments "highfalutin hodgepodge" but the ending "a valediction" that "more than delivers on what has been promised." 
 Other media
 Offshoot books
The series has prompted related books by authors besides King. Robin Furth has published the two-volume Stephen King's The Dark Tower: A Concordance, an encyclopedia-style companion to the series that she originally wrote for King's personal use. Bev Vincent has published The Road to The Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus, a book containing back story, summary and analysis. Stephen King has endorsed both books.
 Prequel comic series
A prequel to the Dark Tower series, set around the time of the flashbacks in The Gunslinger and Wizard and Glass, has been released by Marvel Comics. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born is plotted by Robin Furth, scripted by Peter David, and illustrated by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove. The project is overseen by King. The first issue of this first arc was released on February 7, 2007. A hardcover volume containing all 7 issues was released on November 7, 2007.
The next arc in the Dark Tower comic series being released by Marvel Comics is called The Long Road Home. It is set for a worldwide release in March of 2008.
 Film adaptation
IGN Movies has reported that a film adaptation is in the works; whether it is for a movie or a television series is unknown. J. J. Abrams, who has been behind shows such as Lost and Alias, is supposedly attached to produce and direct. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, also affiliated with Lost and J. J. Abrams, have optioned the Dark Tower series from King for a reported nineteen dollars, which of course, is the infamous number from the Dark Tower series of novels. According to issue #923 of Entertainment Weekly, King "is an ardent supporter of the desert-island show and trusts Abrams to translate his vision" into a film franchise with Lindelof being "the leading candidate to write the screenplay for the first installment." Multiple mock trailers have popped up on Youtube. Also, the official Grand Prize winner of Simon & Schuster's (King's Publisher) American Gunslinger contest , "Roland Meets Brown" , can be found there.
In King's 2007 film The Mist, the main character David Drayton can be seen painting a movie poster of what is assumed to be Roland in the center, standing beside a rose and a black tower, further fueling rumors of an adaptation.
 Connections to King's other works
The series has become a linchpin that ties much of King's work together. The worlds of The Dark Tower are in part composed of locations, characters, events and other various elements from many of King's novels.
The following is a list of specific connections between books. Note that all Dark Tower books are connected to each other chronologically.