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Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever #1)

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  32,856 Ratings  ·  1,200 Reviews
He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in the strange alternate world in which he suddenly found himself.

Yet the Land tempted him. He had been sick; now he seemed better than ever before. Through no fault of his own, he had been outcast, unclean, a pariah. Now he was regarded as a reincarnation of the Land's greatest hero--Berek Halfh
Mass Market Paperback, 480 pages
Published November 1989 by Del Rey / Ballantine (first published 1977)
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PaulESchilling According to an interview with Donaldson, he chose that style of writing because he was trying to prove to literature professors and critics that…moreAccording to an interview with Donaldson, he chose that style of writing because he was trying to prove to literature professors and critics that fantasy should be taken seriously. I don't know if it worked or not. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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*Soul-saddened SIGH*.....Damn, damn, can really be full of suck.

This book really torched my hopes and dreams. NOT because it was nightmarishly horrible (which it wasn’t) but because I wanted it to be so brimming with steaming chunks of mouth-watering awesome that I could write a stinging, snark-filled “anti-anti-Thomas Covenant” rant against the ranters.

I suspected I had a excellent chance of really liking this story because most of the criticism of the series revolves
Nov 18, 2008 Colin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one.
Recommended to Colin by: someone who later changed his mind.
I've often lamented that five-star rating systems, such as the one used by GoodReads, don't allow for ratings lower than one star. Were it possible, I'd give this book negative stars; I think it actually sucks the quality away from books shelved near it, and generally makes the world a less joyful, less intelligent place to be.

You might assume from the previous statements that I dislike this book. Given that "dislike" is a pretty mild, milquetoast term on the sliding scale of affection, you woul
Dec 27, 2010 Gertie rated it did not like it
Wow. I really didn't like this book.

I think it was in large part due to the fact that I found the main character so utterly unlikable. Heck, he's even despicable.

Some people can read and enjoy a book despite not being able to empathize with the characters; I'm not one of those people. I actually like to care about my fictional characters.

It's pretty hard to give a flying fickle about some cranky jerk who rapes a woman in the first book. I didn't bother reading more to find out if things improve
Feb 17, 2011 Brad rated it it was amazing
I read Lord Foul’s Bane once in grade seven (the same year I first read Macbeth and Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and The Lord of the Rings for a second time). It was a good year for me and reading. And an important year for who I would become. But I didn’t know until now how important Lord Foul’s Bane was to all of that.

This story has stuck with me in the most amazing ways. After nearly three decades, I recalled an amazing amount of detail in the pages I reread. I remembered minute details about Thom
I am (albeit slowly) removing my reviews from goodreads since it has become Amazon. For more on why that bothers me and should bother you, please go to my profile and also here:

What I learned from this book.

Don’t agree to read the book Robert tells you is the best book in the whole world ever just because he invited you over to watch the best film in the whole world ever (Close Encounters) and you slept through all but the first ten minutes.

You know you ar
I live in a smallish room with roughly a couple of thousand books. They are everywhere. I love the books, but I also hate the books. I'd have space if it wasn't for them, when I moved it would be easy if it didn't involve carrying what feels like an endless amount of heavy boxes packed with them. They are everywhere. The bookshelves are all double stacked. There are books on top of the normally shelved books. There are piles of them everywhere. They fall over. They are in the way. Mooncheese lik ...more
Two years after my run in with the fallen nun and the c-word, I had a near run in with our new vice-principal (not the man, thankfully, who'd given me the strap), Mr. G---.

Our school was trying to teach us study skills before we reached high school, so we wouldn't waste our spare periods playing video games or flirting with girls or role playing or whatever else kids did to waste time in the eighties. They gave us a course called "Study Hall" and put our VP in charge.

It was a nightmare.

And I w
Bob Aarhus
Jun 09, 2008 Bob Aarhus rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 17, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it
This isn't so much a review of the book as a response to other reviews I have read by people who hated it, and hated it specifically because they see the protagonist, Thomas Covenant, as unlikeable -- weak, whiny, and self-pitying -- and/or because of the rape scene included in it. My position is essentially this: You can hate a character for many good reasons, but having no clue who he really is, is not one of them.

Some readers seem to want to excuse Covenant to some extent as an anti-hero, but
Oct 07, 2015 Brad rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
OMG that was a rather difficult book to get into. I mean, most of the time I had keep re-shifting the gears in my head to see what might be valuable and good about this book, and for a great 200 pages I was wondering if I had stumbled into another Eddings slogfest full of completely predictable situations and heroes, with only the main character being a bit out of the ordinary.

And then I had to remind myself that this came out in 1977 and the cult fantasy favourite (as opposed to the mainstream
Jun 30, 2007 Chazzbot rated it it was ok
It's not so much the story--in itself, this is a well-crafted fantasy world, complete with noble horse-riding peoples, stern giants, and delicate elven-folk on a quest of profound importance against an enemy of world-shattering magnitude--as much as Donaldson's overwrought prose that makes this series something of a drag to read. Donaldson wants his tale to carry all the mythic import of Tolkien, but he doesn't quite have the poetic flair that makes Tolkien's characters live and breathe for us. ...more
Aug 19, 2007 Holly rated it did not like it
So many people love this series. Not sure why. The hero is a leperous (no, not lecherous) rapist and incredibly whiny. The bad guy is named Lord Foul, ferchissakes. I hated everything about the first few chapters of this book. Once the main character forced himself on a girl, and then the author tried to make it a sympathetic moment (for the perpetrator), I hurled it at the wall in disgust and never finished reading it.

Right around the same level of arrogant sexist manhood as Piers Anthony.
Sep 20, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The Thomas Covenant books have always held a special place in my heart. I freely admit that the series is not for everyone; the singular nature of the protagonist turns a lot of readers away before the first book (this one) is halfway finished.

Compared to other heroic fantasy, I find the Covenant books to be somehow more believable, and to have more emotional impact. The theme of redemption, present throughout the series, resonated with me when I first read the books twenty years ago, and contin
Mike (the Paladin)
Jun 08, 2015 Mike (the Paladin) rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dan Martin
Jul 19, 2007 Dan Martin rated it really liked it
The first thing you have to know about this series, and this is the real pivotal point in whether you want to read them or not, is that Thomas Coveenant is NOT A HERO. Like, in any sense. There are a couple really fantastic heroes in this book, but all of the chapters in the 1st book, and the majority thereafter all center around covenant, the unbeliever.
The story of the book is honestly a little trite. An evil lord threatening a beautiful land. Covenenant has an important ring.
But! Thomas, oh
Aug 12, 2013 Evgeny rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Thomas Covenant had it all: a good family, his first book was a New York Times bestseller, his second book was in the progress. Suddenly he developed leprosy, his wife left him taking his son with her, people avoid any kind of contact with him turning him into a self-loathing bitter whining person. He is a leper outcast unclean.

Some high powers brought him to magic land where he is destined to either help fight Great Evil, or destroy everything - the choice is his. The problem is: he does not re
Apr 18, 2009 Manny rated it did not like it
A Swedish friend told me I just had to read this series - it was like Tolkien but better. I borrowed the first three, and dutifully read them, waiting for the point to dawn. It never did. Tolkien, to me, is all about the language and the names, and Donaldson's names ranged between uninspired and downright moronic. ("Berek Halfhand". Bleah.) It just grated.

To add insult to injury, I managed to drop one volume into the bath while reading it, so I had to buy a new copy to return to him. I've not lo
Jul 21, 2007 Rob rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 24, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing
At first I wasn't sure that I liked this novel. I had a hard time with the idea that Thomas Covenant is the ultimate anti-hero, with none of the redeeming qualities of an average anti-hero. He is a sniveling, irritating, coward who has to be prodded every step of the way. The only thing that makes him likable is that he is acting in a very human way in a very inhuman circumstance. I had to let go of wanting Covenant to shape and act like a hero. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.
Well that started off a lot better than I thought it might. And it ended... a lot worse than I hoped it might.

My full (and this one is very full!) review can be found over on my blog.

However, the brief summary version would be: this is a fascinating Calvinist (though the author left the faith of his parents) reimagining of Tolkienian neo-Romantic fantasy, with a rich (but in my opinion not yet absurd) use of language, dozens of fantastic lines, and a deep and calculated ideological-theological s
Oct 27, 2007 Thomas rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Warning: Readers should not expect the main character to show up, draw a magic scimitar or lightsaber, and slice through the enemy. In this series, the bad guys are just part of Thomas Covenant's problem. He is also fighting enemies within himself. Be prepared to feel troubled over his plight and occasionally frustrated by his unwillingness to accept his situation and to fight. There's still plenty of excitement and all the elements of well crafted fantasy. But there's so much more.
Jason Olson
May 11, 2013 Jason Olson rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I had just read lord of the rings, and I was searching through my dad's books for something else to read and I found this...

I remember thinking at the time that for as much as I liked the LOTR, the bad guys just weren't bad enough. The good guys were a little too good. For as much as I loved middle earth, I felt like the world Tolkien built was much grander and complex than the characters that inhabited it.

Lord Foul's Bane answered those issues
Jun 05, 2007 Alex rated it did not like it
I picked this up because I was told that it was quite good. I was disappointed to learn that it is exactly the opposite of that. If you can get past the ridiculously generic fantasy place and character names, you're left with a flat, poorly-written story and an unbelievable character that the author has desperately try to pad out with some dark attributes that just don't quite fit.
Aug 10, 2014 Werner marked it as started-and-not-finished
Since I only read a relatively short way into this book, I wouldn't presume to review it; this is simply a short note to explain why I didn't finish it. For me, the fact that the "hero" is a rapist (he rapes a girl he's basically just met, after she befriended him) is a total deal breaker. I can identify with and root for flawed protagonists with some baggage, who don't/haven't always made perfect choices; but for me Thomas is across the line, big-time.
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
If I could give a "bomb" rating, I would, because this turkey deserves it.
I had read a lot of positive and an equal number of negative reviews of this series, so finally I decided to take a plunge into this series. After finishing first book of Chronicles of Thomas Covenant I am basically undecided as to how to rate this book, because neither is the book fantastic nor is it that bad to stop reading the series altogether.

Some of the strong points of the book are

Donaldson's paints a pretty picture of Land.
Different races in Land.

Some of the weak points of the book are

Oct 16, 2010 Ethan rated it did not like it
This book hasn’t aged well. Perhaps back in 1978 when it was published, it was amazing and interesting because there was nothing to compare it to. Unfortunately, the world has moved on and left this poor guy in the back of the used bookstore, where he sits and twiddles his dusty laurels and hopes for some sucker to read him. That sucker was me.

Minor spoilers here, so turn away if you must, but honestly I don’t think it will alter the reading experience a whole lot…so here goes.

The main character
Jul 11, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
First of the Thomas Covenant series. My husband remembers this was all the rage in 1976. I started reading this series much later. Everywhere I went with this book people told me they had read it and how good it was. I was doubtful at first but my roommate's boyfriend told me it got off to a slow start but not to give up. He said it was worth it to keep reading and boy, was he right! I think Stephen R. Donaldson became a better writer as he went through this series. I had read a couple of his la ...more
Feb 01, 2015 C.W. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5-4. Thomas Covenant is a bitter, lonely, self-centered, self-loathing, cowardly, quick-to-anger, selfish, impotent leper. Thomas Covenant is not an anti-hero...he's no hero of any sort. He leads no one, champions nothing, and does nothing right. He is ripped from this world - a world that hates him (Leper outcast unclean! - this is what everyone says and thinks about him) - by an evil unknown to him, called Lord Foul. He's then lead on a quest across "The Land" - the tolkienesque/Narnia-ish w ...more
May 05, 2014 L. rated it really liked it
Wow. To say this book is not what I expected just does not cover it. I think I enjoyed it? I'm not sure yet. I am having trouble putting how I feel about this book into words. I really like this review of the book, and particularly these sections:

"Thomas Covenant himself has stuck with me. He is frustrating, spiteful, ugly, tormented, cynical, dark, brooding, and infuriatingly self-pitying. He is every bit the Unbeliever he names himself. And Stephen R. Donaldson wants him to be that way. He nee
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Donaldson compared to Tolkien 9 40 Dec 30, 2016 08:16AM  
The Raven's Writi...: Third done, Covenent must be related to twilight characters. 4 6 Sep 26, 2016 07:58AM  
Wondering if I made a mistake 19 246 Feb 20, 2015 01:15PM  
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Stephen Reeder Donaldson is an American fantasy, science fiction, and mystery novelist; in the United Kingdom he is usually called "Stephen Donaldson" (without the "R"). He has also written non-fiction under the pen name Reed Stephens.


Stephen R. Donaldson was born May 13, 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, James, was a medical missionary and his mother, Ruth, a prostheti
More about Stephen R. Donaldson...

Other Books in the Series

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (3 books)
  • The Illearth War (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #2)
  • The Power That Preserves (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #3)

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“We didn't make the world. All we have to do is live in it.” 18 likes
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