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The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever #1-3)

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  11,477 Ratings  ·  246 Reviews
The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever are the first three novels in what would become a larger 10-book series. They were followed by another trilogy, The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and finally a tetralogy, The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

Thomas Covenant, an embittered and cynical writer, afflicted with leprosy and shunned by society, is f
Paperback, 0 pages
Published October 28th 1983 by Ballantine Books (Mm) (first published January 1st 1977)
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Sep 27, 2007 Seth rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: existentialists, crossover fantasy fans, almost any fantasy fan
This series is somewhat infamous: it's widely regarded as brilliant (which it is), it's widely considered depressing (which it can be), the hero is often unappealing (which is the point), and many find the trilogy at least 25% too long (which is true). Plus, the follow-on trilogy tells almost the same story with almost the same point to it.

So, what's the fuss about?

Covenant isn't "Tolkien with the serial numbers filed off." That it holds together with a complete fantasy story in a clear, magical
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 27, 2014 Mike (the Paladin) rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy fast and far don't get caught in this book! I had to finish the first trilogy (for some reason) once I started, and I was miserable! I picked up the first book in the second trilogy and it was again "Oh woe is me. My life is awful, I dare not believe anything good. I will make everyone around me miserable. I will bemoan my fate constantly no matter what...." I threw it away. A friend recommended another completely different series of books by Mr. Donaldson and said "oh no it's not like ...more
Feb 16, 2013 Szplug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

It's unfortunate that Donaldson opted to conclude the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant as he did—for it reduced the showdown between the titular protagonist and Lord Foul the Despiser, which should have been epic, to one bordering upon the ridiculous. Indeed, I would have to look to David Eddings' reductio ad absurdum—in which the evil god Torak is defeated, more or less, by (Bel)Garion taunting him with the fact that Ye'll never be loved, gasb
Mar 06, 2012 Jack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Existentialist fantasy.
Cleverly written.
Brutal and dark.

That's all you really need to know before tackling these novels. That and the fact that this is one of the finest trilogy's ever penned, period.

At a surface level, these fantasy novels would appear as nothing out of the ordinary - outcast get's cast off into a fantasy world, is the only one who can save the land, is destined to destroy great evil threatening it yada yada. But Thomas Covenant is a bitter leper, and refuses to acknowledge
Jan 28, 2008 Dantalion64 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great, amazing books. Turns romantic, sylvan fantasy on its ear. Many people complain about these books because it moves slowly, or because the main character is reprehensible. The only thing I can say is “Deal.” When you have a series of books centering on the salvation of a lost and embittered man, he’s not going to start out being a nice guy! If you want your fantasy heroes to be handsome, valorous, strong, and virtuous, go re-read Tolkien. These books are not about saving the world from evil ...more
Tim Hicks
Sep 16, 2013 Tim Hicks rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I read this years ago, but I found and old note to self. All you really need to know about this series is that in the 13-page first chapter of the first book, Donaldson uses these words: spavined, desuetude, turgid, condign, gratuitous, dyspeptic, melanoma, immedicable, improvident, lambent, immanence, celerity, preterite, abnegation, carious, and exudation. Now I have a 99th-percentile vocabulary, and it includes a lot of those words, but I know that most readers don't and I am sure that Donald ...more
“Part of him wanted to weep... but his purpose was rigid within him. He felt he could not bend to gentleness without breaking.”

And part of me wanting to dive out a window. This was one of the least satisfying, uninspired and ponderous series Ive had the misfortune and stubbornness to slog through. Anti -hero's should be written in a way that the reader develops some shred of empathy or understanding for, otherwise you're left with a story centered around a character that you don't give a damn ab
Jul 08, 2008 Katilian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, library
These books were a reread, although I was a teenager when I first encountered them and didn't remember too much of the plot. Honestly, I have admiration for the concept of this series more than I have liking for the actual books. On the one hand, you have a main character who is a complete jackass--probably the first antihero that I ever encountered, now that I think about it. It's not that he doesn't have a reason to be a jackass; he is, after all, battling leprosy. It's that he doesn't do it w ...more
Chrystal Hays
Nov 11, 2012 Chrystal Hays rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in high school, and it made quite an impression.

I liked it very much. It has big bones, like Tolkein's work, but is more gritty, more morally complex.

The main character is a strong anti-hero (something I had not encountered much before), deeply flawed, and the structure of the alter-universe lends itself well to the notion of a free-will world.

Like a darker, infinitely more grown-up cousin of The Chronicles of Narnia, this lends itself well to discussion of theology. However, it s
Aug 05, 2010 Tessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am one of those who love love love this series, and I think one of the reasons is that it is so dense and unappealing. We don't like the main character, but we're not meant to, we can't really understand the Land because of barriers put up and it's inherent strangeness but then there are the parts that linger, the phrases and ideas, you find yourself mouthing along as Foamfollower repeats "joy is in the ears that hear" or Mhoram's dread declaration that "in dreams i hear him laughing"

the story
Richard Benoit
Apr 19, 2011 Richard Benoit rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I first read all the glowing reviews for this series, I thought I had found a winner. I purchased all of the first three books of the initial trilogy. I assumed with so many great recommendations I couldn't go wrong. Boy was I wrong! The hero?, Thomas Covenant ( a leper), whines, cries and rages his way thru page after page after page. Covenant is one of the most despicable characters I have ever come upon. A quarter of the way into the book a young, innocent girl of 16 tries to befriend Co ...more
This series, famed for its vocabulary, offers a twist on the familiar person transported into an alternative fantasy existence. Here instead of the usual blasé acceptance the hero can't believe what has happened to them and won't believe what has happened to them. The doubt is established that everything might be a figment of the hero's imagination. The author encourages the doubt by having each of the hero's three visits to the fantastical 'The Land' precipitated by an accident in which the her ...more
Feb 20, 2008 Felicia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: epic-fantasy
I've tried. And tried. And it will never happen. I will never like this series. I made myself read the first trilogy last year, in order to get past the infamous first scene (You know what I'm talking about). I hated it. So, put it in the "life is too short" category! Some people love this series. So, try it if you'd like.
Aug 01, 2007 Todd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The entire Chronicles by Donaldson is one of my all-time favorites. Such a fascinating concept, to give us a main character who is not heroic but must in the end redeem the sacrifices made on his behalf. Out of all the fantasy I've read I think Donaldson is the best writer I've come across in the genre.
Dr M
Mar 29, 2008 Dr M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Stephen Donaldson's epic The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever doubtlessly belong among the classics of fantasy literature, and at least among fantasy readers of my own age, they are considered part of what you are expected to have read. Now I finally have.

It begins well, with the unlikely protagonist Thomas Covenant -- a best-selling author fallen victim to leprosy who is thrown into a parallel world -- arriving in the Land, a place that cannot possibly exist and which Covenant refus
Rob Hermanowski
A great, epic fantasy series, second only to Tolkein, in my opinion. It has a similar depth and background that Tolkein brought to his universe. Not always an easy read, but it rewards patience. A great hero/antihero is born in Thomas Covenant!
So this is a review of the Audio Book, which was unabridged by Scott Brick who also was part of the ensemble who did the Ender's game and Ender's Shadow books within the Ender Universe.

It had been about 25 years since reading the first Chronicles and I had forgotten just how good these books are.

First on stories themselves followed by the audiobook.

Covenant is the ultimate Anti-hero. There are some that come close (Croaker in Glen Cooks the Black company series) but nothing quite as low. Quite
Aug 14, 2012 Tamara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I bought all 3 but only read book one. I am planning to take them all to the used book store before I drop my guard, forget how awful book 1 was, and try book 2. I would hope I don't hate myself enough to continue reading about the most miserable, awful, hateful character I have ever encountered. I don't mean he is a bad guy, there are lots of bad guys I have enjoyed reading about. I mean Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever was probably an accidental shortening of the real title: Thomas Covenant the ...more
Jimmi Zito
May 03, 2012 Jimmi Zito rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I cannot say enough good things about this series. From beginning to end the series does not disappoint. I am looking forward to the conclusion of the series.

A word of caution though. This is a dark series, and it is extremely hard to read at times. It will make you angry, I mean really angry. This is not just a story of one man against evil, this is a story about redemption. The main character again, and again tries to overcome and make-up for unspeakable acts of violence that he himself has pe
Feb 21, 2012 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I could give this series of 6 books (I am including the following trilogy) a great many more stars - I would. I first read these when I was 18, first year at college, in hospital for an appendectomy, needed something to read, as a treat my parents got me these - well the first three anyway. I have loved them ever since and have reread them nearly as many times as I have Jane Eyre (yes I know, that's a strange combination). I love Thomas - I love that he is flawed and selfish and horrible at t ...more
Ice Bear
Feb 08, 2011 Ice Bear rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
There is a tendency to compare fantasy fiction using Tolkien as a benchmark. Often themes are repeated and the mix of characters similar. However some books mark new ground, and for me, this was one of those series that did so. As often is the case, I found the first triology was the best, even if the last one is not yet ended. If I was to have a sub category of 'books you cant put down and end up reading all night' this is one of them.
Steve Nobel
Aug 16, 2013 Steve Nobel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best fantasy books of its kind. I think it is unfair to compare any books to Tolkien but this trilogy is pure genius. Stephen Donaldson is a master world builder and so brilliant in weaving believable characters into a world known as "The Land." The plot and dialogue is masterful and the hero is quite out of the ordinary. Tough and gritty in parts. I was gripped from start to finish. Pure magic.
Feb 15, 2014 Stuart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: epic-fantasy
This was an excellent dark fantasy series, remarkably original, particularly for its unlikeable anti-hero Thomas Covenant, a man with leprosy who finds himself thrown into an epic conflict in a fantasy world which may be a dream following a terrible accident in the "real" world.
Feb 28, 2015 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
Read this ages ago... loved it. Many people call it depressing and the character unappealing because he is so awful. I saw him as a struggling soul and was rooting for him.
Ron Ecklebarger
Thomas Covenant had leprosy. We don’t hear a lot about leprosy these days, but the mere sound of the word still conjures up images of deformed and mangled flesh. What leprosy does is kill the nerve endings so you lose all feeling. When you can’t feel pain, you can easily overlook a small injury, which can then become infected and cause big problems. That is how he lost his right pinky and ring finger. Such was the reality of Covenant’s life.

Even though the progress of his disease was halted and
Oct 21, 2015 Mary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Of course Donaldson can write, he can tell a tale, but I gave this book only one star because of my own preferences. I need to connect with characters. Even if they are somewhat dark, I have to have at least a pinch of compassion or a fascination with their story. The main character in these books is a completely unlovable, nasty rapist who tries to justify his actions with his disability. He has no redeeming features and grumps his way through the books saying and doing and thinking ugly things ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Jack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Is without doubt my favourite series of books and this is where it all began. It was my brother who first recommended the book to me and insisted that I read it straight away. Is the only book where as I was reading it I felt like the boy, Bastian in 'The Never ending Story'. From the first to the last page I was in The Land. Without waffling on about how amazing Donaldson is as a writer and how criminally underrated his books are, I will share my view on the positives and negatives(I even like ...more
Jan 13, 2009 Saga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably not the best fantasy book out there, but certainly different in an interesting way. I picked it up after reading somewhere that the main character is not the usual shiny hero type, but, as it turned out, a half-mad leper sometimes so arrogant you want to smack him. But that is the point. As the Chosen One Thomas Covenant is a Stu of sorts, but also human enough with all his flaws and madness that the reader can feel actual sympathy towards him.

I'm giving minus points to this book due t
Edward Llewellyn
Haven't finished this, don't think I will my main problem is relating to the main character who is very troubled, and I have a very hard time putting myself into his shoes.

The fantasy world is pretty interesting, as is the Giant he meets, but I've had enough of Mr. Covenant, and will give him a miss.
Erik Graff
Jan 04, 2010 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Donaldson fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
At the beginning this read as a dark (which is to say honest) psychological fantasy about one Thomas Covenant, a disaffected leper in our world who escapes his condition and this world into another. The back-and-forth between his degraded condition here and his dream-like adventures there was quite intriguing.

As the trilogy unfolded, however, there was less of this world and more of the rather-typical fantasy world. My interest flagged and I did not follow the subsequent series. A fantasy-advent
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Is the new trilogy worth reading? 4 52 Apr 16, 2014 07:40AM  
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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)
  • Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #1)
  • 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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