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The Runes of the Earth (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant #1)

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  4,196 ratings  ·  187 reviews
The last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever; Book 1
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published October 14th 2004 by Putnam Adult (first published January 1st 2004)
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Old review from 2011 below. Although still the weakest tome of the Last Chronicles, a re-read grandly improved it. (~2014)


Uh...where should I even start with this? As much as I love the First and Second Chronicles, this just felt like trying to chew ten meters of sodden carpet and a barrelful of old tires. Granted, the beginning wasn't bad and during the few, final stretches the story gained some of that panache I've learned to expect from Donaldson's works, but...the middle, by all the s
OK, lookit. Surgically attaching a thesaurus to your hip does not make you a brilliant writer. When I was younger and reading the first two trilogies it was easier for me to assume that behind the turgid prose was some great mystery that I was just too stupid to figure out. Turns out -- nope, just turgid prose. (And I hear that he took time off between the last series and this one to *improve his writing*? Uh, FAIL.) Donaldson is a crap writer, with characters who revel in their own self-imposed ...more
Ok - this stands out against my other Donaldson ratings because this is the most frustrating piece of "agony-read" I've suffered for a long while.

"Agony read" is having to persist with a book to the very end despite it being painfully awful - I have one rule with books: "finish what you start" - and in some cases this has proven worthwhile (eg. I hated the first 50 pages of WEAVEWORLD by CLIVE BARKER, but after that it really kicks off!)

Anyway, this book contains all that was miserable and terri
Can you accomplish good by doing evil? It’s a conundrum as old as the Adam and Eve narrative and that one clearly answers in the negative. Stephen R. Donaldson takes us back to “the Land” of the original six books of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever and offers us layers of nuance on the question. What if your society needs the stability represented in a commandment (in this case, represented by an artifact known as the Staff of Law) but the only way to re-establish this commandme ...more
Branwen *Blaidd Drwg*
"No one makes you what you are. You have to choose."

"Good cannot be accomplished by evil means."

It has been ten years since Linden Avery was last in the Land. Ten years since her beloved Thomas Covenant died defending the Land from Lord Foul. Linden has picked up the pieces of her heart and carried on with her life, content with her job as a doctor at a mental hospital and with her adopted son, Jeremiah. But the Land is not quite done with Linden. And when unspeakable evil reaches out its hand a
When it was first published I flicked through and decided to wait until the final volume was published. It seemed slow, repetitive, dull at times...such a contrast to how I eagerly devoured the first series. Now that the last volume is winging its way to me, I have started what now feels like an obligation, not a delight. It is indeed slow, repetitive and mainly dull, but does have flashes of the former brilliance.
What a shame. I still have shivers when I think of the utterance "Nom".
Paul Darcy
Steven R. Donaldson. You either know this author’s works, or you should. And yes I am totally bias. He is second on my list of all time epic fantasy authors, right after only Tolkien himself. So, take this review, if you will, with a pinch of hurtloam.

The Runes Of The Earth is the first book in his “Last” Chronicles of Thomas Covenant which will comprise four volumes when complete. And, though seemingly a slow read, is packed with classic Donaldson wonders, inner turmoil, outer conflict and insi
Tobin Elliott
This one should be subtitled Arrogance because almost every major character shows it at some point.

As a starting point for the four-book Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, it does its job adequately. We're shown the main characters and taken back to the Land. However, once there, very little happens, and Linden Avery, on at least two or three occasions, reminds us that this big, sprawling book takes place over a few days. Now that most of the characters are met (though I suspect we still need t
In my distant youth, I found the Thomas Covenant books to be quite intense which, combined with my frustration with Covenant and his self-doubt (more than any other characteristics), made for a challenging read. (Well, 6 challenging reads plus, I think, a re-read of the first trilogy.)

I debated long and long (internally, of course) about picking up the new series but backed off, due to the above paragraph, as well as not wanting to get trapped in endless waiting for the subsequent tomes. Then I
Jul 13, 2009 Mitchell rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mitchell by: Pleasant Grove Library
Those who have read the first two series may be familiar with the anti-hero Thomas Covenant. He was my favorite protagonist to hate. All through the first 3 books his Unbelief was entirely unacceptable to me. I hated him and loved Donaldson Stephen R. for creating such an absolutely amazing character. One whom I ached to see accept his role and do what he needed to do.

With this book author:Donaldson Stephen R.|426806] has returned to The Land with another cast of characters that are just as rich
Sep 03, 2008 Muzzlehatch rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: fantasy
How depressing. Donaldson keeps going downhill in his writing, with ENDLESS interior monologues that are as repetative as anything in Robert Jordan or Terry Goodkind. It's a shame, the first chronicles was really quite original in many ways and though overwritten, never lost site of the compelling storyline. The second series had more of the writing faults so manifest here, but the core concept was pretty interesting and kept me going. This on the other hand took me a year and a half to finish; ...more
Victor T
Way back in the 80's I discovered Donaldson and Thomas Covenant, unfortunately it was in the initial publication and I had to wait between books to continue the storyline. It was a enjoyable wait. Then I discover that there has come a third trilogy, but as the major character was no more, it continues with an offshoot in the persona of Linden Avery. I detested Linden in the second trilogy, she whined, she moped, she made me truly dislike her.
Now Mr. Donaldson was always a bit of a word whore, ma
Loved it 100% and now need to find Book2 real, real soon.
I love characters that are allowed to make mistakes and where the reader can try and second-guess the character because the process is so expansive. Know-it-all heroes that are whiter than white are boring and horrible to bear. Transporting real (and therefore flawed) people into a strange environment where they have to learn what's happened and make horrible mistakes that come back to bite only much, much later is far preferable to books
As a fan of the first 2 Thomas Covenant Trilogies, I was excited to find the first 3 books of the "last chronicles" of Thomas Covenant in a used book store. However, my joy started to diminish about 70 pages into The Runes of The Earth. It was kind of tough going. I understand the concept of the anti-hero--Donaldson's Thomas Covenant is nothing but--however, turning his partner in the last series, Linden Avery, into a weepy Hamlet of a character lost me a little. Add to that the fact that she im ...more
T. Edmund
I struggled with the one star rating for this book, because I have a soft spot for the Thomas Covenant series - unfortunately this book didn't live up to either expectations or to the standards of good epic fantasy.

Firstly there is a paucity of events - the beginning sequence in the 'real world' is suitably violent and horrible but at least compelling. Once we're in The Land however, time slows to a stand-still and vast majority of the remaining book is Linden arguing with the various current in
Coralie Bourne
This is definitely one of my favorites. Thanks to Rob for recommending it. I loved the anti-hero Thomas and plot. Great character development. A must read series.
Brad Wilcox
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant has a special place in my heart when it comes to fantasy literature. It was one of my favorite series that I read in high school. I was enthralled with the anti-hero, trapped in his unbelief, making horrible choices and yet somehow finding his way through to save himself and the Land. After those first three, I had to jump into The Second Chronicles and although they weren’t quite as brilliant as the first series, they were still brilliant and the writing was su ...more
Jul 17, 2009 Alex marked it as to-read
I've just fallen out of love with Stephen Donaldson. Both this and the Gap series are filled to the brim with ideas, and when he's on it - such as the first 10 or so pages of this book - his writing can be incredibly compelling.

Yet, inevitibly his work gets bogged down with by obsession with sadistically tortured female viewpoints. Not that i mind this so much, but every other page of the book is written with this "why is this happening to me"??? kind of internal monologue which you've ehard onc
Aug 24, 2009 Benjamin rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Die-hard fans of the series
Not as disappointing as the second chronicles, which were predictable and anti-climactic. The Land still feels deeper and more fleshed out than the 'rest of the world' that Linden and Covenant visit in the second series. Instead of creating a society with culture and tradition that became engrossing, Donaldson just wrote a series of hoops for the protagonists to jump through on the way to snuffing the Bane Fire, creating a new Staff of Law and foiling Lord Foul.

In the 'final' chronicles Donaldso
Donaldson returns with the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant after a twenty-one-year hiatus - and, overall, he does not disappoint. I must admit it's a bit peculiar to read a Covenant book in which Covenant is not the protagonist, but his presence is definitely felt throughout, and it doesn't feel like a "let's throw a different character in this universe and see what happens" sort of story.

Indeed, one of the best things about Runes is that is just seems like it flows perfectly from the last tw
Daniel McGill
Despite the fact that most of the action of this book takes place up and down the same 100 yards or so of scree slope it nonetheless has much of the same grand tour feel as The One Tree. We get to see and check in on most of the peoples and races from the series, and a lot of old friends and enemies and some of the beings which have only been mentioned in previous volumes finally come on stage.
Donaldson has always written with a thesaurus close at hand especially in this series but in previous
T.I.M. James
Over twenty years ago it seemed as though there were not many fantasy books on the bookshop shelves. Mostly it was Science Fiction, but there, alongside Tolkien, were one or two, and some of these were the Thomas Covenant books by Stephen R Donaldson.

A series of two trilogies, The first bracketed under Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever, the second dropped the Unbeliever. They were superb, in some ways having similarities to Tolkien, in others being something new and different, still standing out in
Steve Roach
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rick Piatt
I read the first Covenant trilogy when it was originally published and thought it outstanding. Later, when the second Chronicles was published I found it hard to finish that set because so many things had changed in "the Land" that I had previously fallen in love with. But I did complete it and enjoyed that series as well, just not as much as the first series. When Donaldson started releasing this "Last Chronicles" I was both intrigued and disturbed that this might just be away for him to grasp ...more
Brian Schwartz
As a stand alone book, RUNES OF THE EARTH one does not stand well. One has to remember it is an installment in a much larger story and Donaldson’s volume one is but a table setter for the story to come. There is scant story in this first volume. Much of it is dedicated to developing new characters and to putting players where they need to be to get the story rolling. The character development without plot developments makes for slow, sometimes tedious reading.

In the 20 years in between visits to
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in August 2005.

For those who have for a long time now been fans of the original Thomas Covenant novels, the announcement of a new chronicle caused a simultaneous quickening of interest and awakening of apprehension. The latter is not so much a fear that the whole series might be ruined by a sub-standard sequel or one which would become an anticlimactic finale. Interest is raised by the high standard of Donaldson's writing, even though this has not stopped him
Mathew Bridle
Thomas Covenant Chronicles: Runes of the Earth
Book seven in the saga and … it is very different. For a one there is no Thomas Covenant. Instead the dilemma of the white gold is taken up by Linden Avery which was obvious after the last book as Covenant had died in his own world.
10 years later and Linden Avery now has an adopted who was one of the children used to summon Covenant to The Land last time around. Roger Covenant is all grown up and seeking to take control of his stricken mother, Joan.
Michael Hall
The Thomas Covenant Chronicles has always been the standard that I've judged all other 'epic' fantasy by, so it was a nice to see Donaldson return to the world of The Land. Even though I did like this book, it must be said that this was not an easy read. Linden Avery is not the anti-hero that Covenant was in the first two series. Her knowledge and love of The Land which gives her the motivation to be the hero does not have the same feel that Covenant's unbelief had, and I miss that most of all. ...more
Apr 18, 2010 Gill rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I really can't imagine!
Recommended to Gill by: Some bookclub hoping I'd buy the other 8 volumes!
Shelves: other
Slow going - it's a big, big book!

Oh dear, oh dear! Many reviewers here rave about Donaldson's enormous vocabulary, but there is a thin line between poetic genius and pretentious use of unusual words and to me this book is not in the first category. Just occasionally his prose paints a picture, but he cannot match Tolkien (despite the cover reviewer's phrase 'Comparable with Tolkien at his best' which just makes me say "Well he is obviously not at his best") nor come anywhere close to such word
Definately worth another read. It's been a few years since I'd read this book.

It's really quite unique, with some really good concepts which are expertly put together and inter-woven.

This may be the best female lead I have ever read, as it really does get into the personal struggles, doubts, strengths, and personality of the character. Granted, I picture the character of Anele a bit like Golem ;) But, it's a really well written story with no shortage of strongly written characters; Linden Aver
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Stephen Reeder Donaldson is an American fantasy, science fiction and mystery novelist. He earned his bachelor's degree from The College of Wooster and master's degree from Kent State University. He currently resides in New Mexico.

Stephen R. Donaldson was born on the 13th May 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, James, was a medical missionary and his mother, Ruth, a prosthetist (a person skilled i
More about Stephen R. Donaldson...
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