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Lord Foul's Bane

(The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  48,105 ratings  ·  1,719 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 June 1977)
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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 fant…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)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Todd Peterson No, it does not get better. I suppose we are left on our own to ponder the ethics of the rape in a world that he doesn't really think is real (which, …moreNo, it does not get better. I suppose we are left on our own to ponder the ethics of the rape in a world that he doesn't really think is real (which, other than a couple of mentions, isn't really clear. I suppose that we're supposed to realize that he doesn't think this is real every time he shouts "I'm a leper!" Well, that and the whole naming himself "unbeliever" which I guess we're supposed to keep in the back of our minds. Donaldson over-explains parts that need a good dose of the "show, don't tell" axiom of good writing, while other things are extremely hard to follow/just plain obtuse.(less)

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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Start your review of Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #1)
*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 revolv
Nov 18, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one.
Recommended to Misha 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
May 17, 2014 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
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this during the Trump Presidency. 'Nuff said?

THIS is a book for folks who often find life Tough. Maybe you’re one of em? That has been My life for sure!

When I was 20, I started swimming against the Tide. I had discovered Value in my life!

I was gonna hang on to it for dear life...

The only other available option was sheer outrage.

So, naturally I made new friends - the pleasers. They sought to lull me with their nice, pleasant lullabies, and dropped pleasant leading gambits...

Whenever in a
Feb 17, 2011 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
Jun 14, 2013 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
Aug 20, 2007 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
Apr 10, 2013 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
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
**** 2020 re-read

I first read this 1977 publication early in HS, so probably in the neighborhood of 1982 or 1983. I blazed through the books and then had to wait for the sixth novel, White Gold Wielder, to come out and I bought that book in hard back, a rare extravagance for me back then. I recall being so caught up in the world building, it was fantastic but also very different from Tolkien or the Narnia tales.

My first thoughts now is how dark the story was. Donaldson has crafted a magnificent
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
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 08, 2009 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.
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
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 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 28, 2007 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 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.
Apr 18, 2009 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
Sep 20, 2007 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
Graeme Rodaughan
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Those who like some vicarious rape and a 'hero,' filled with doubt
This is me doing a drive by review of this series. Which I have read in full, once, and I bought all the books in hardcover, or trade paperback - and then subsequently passed them on to 2nd hand book shops - because I knew I'd only ever read them once.

This book is basically about a rapist who has to redeem himself by believing that a fantastical land that he has been transported to is "real."

This is a lot like,

[1] You discover a wardrobe that leads to a magical world with ice queens, and talking
Daniel Martin
Jul 19, 2007 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
Charles  van Buren
Apr 08, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A most repulsive main character,

Verified Purchase
This review is of the Kindle edition
Publication date: May 16, 2012
Publisher: Del Rey
Language: English

This book has a large number of fans. I, however, dislike it intensely. Early in this novel the main character, Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, rapes a young girl who has helped him and believed in him. I read on but never regained any sympathy for Covenant. Several reviewers say that readers like me don't understand the book, that
Nov 24, 2007 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. ...more
Dec 02, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016, sff
Hated it. 1.5 stars. Terrible characters, info-dumping, purple prose, gratuitous rape, and a frequently offputting word choice. I couldn't connect to any of the characters and I at no moment felt concern or anxiety for anyone's well-being. I would have loved for Covenant to die but he's the crux of the series and no other character had an iota of personality so I didn't care about them. I couldn't make myself care about the quest. Donaldson is a pale and pathetic shade of Tolkien and I'll never ...more
Oct 27, 2007 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. ...more
C.T. Phipps
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: grimdark, fantasy
I feel kind of bad because my fellow author, Michael Suttkus (who helped write I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER and LUCIFER'S STAR) swears by this series. I knew getting into them that they were either "love" or "hate" but I feel like the big problem for me was I didn't think they were very good. There's a lot to unpack here about the books but the majority of negative reviewers seem to focus on the INFAMOUS incident (spoilers ahead) versus the cliche setting, cardboard characters, and the fact Thomas i ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of my earlier fantasy novel books that I attempted to read this depressing novel. I've tried twice, but never finished it. I cannot recall much (it is a good thing actually. I am forgetting some bad moments of my life) but I like to share my opinion here: the main character is not likable based on his POV. People in the story respect him because the prophecy and he has distinctive physical traits that can prove he is The One. The depressing inner thought of character hardly ente ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didnt-finish

I'm sure there is a beautiful story arc where Tomas Covenant becomes a good person... but I didn't want to needlessly subject myself to this story at this point.
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
Syl Sabastian
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Don't be put off by the appearance of this series being somewhat similar to Lord of the Rings. Yes, there are certainly similarities, but, consider them genre only. The series is an excellent read, with the trials and tribulations of The Unbeliever taking many surprising twists. Certainly one of the better fantasy series. I enjoyed the idea of the series being an alternate reality extreme variation, only barely recognisable from its origin inspiration.

I wish to touch on another aspect of the boo
Jul 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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

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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