Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Illearth War (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #2)” as Want to Read:
The Illearth War (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #2)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Illearth War

(The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever #2)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  25,647 ratings  ·  405 reviews
After scant days in his "real" world, Thomas Covenant found himself again summoned to the Land. There forty bitter years had passed, while Lord Foul, immortal enemy of the Land, moved to fulfill his prophecy of doom.

The Council of Lords found their spells useless, now that Foul the Despiser held the Illearth Stone, ancient source of evil power, High Lord Elena turned in de
Mass Market Paperback, 527 pages
Published November 1989 by Del Rey (first published September 1978)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Illearth War, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Illearth War

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  25,647 ratings  ·  405 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Illearth War (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #2)
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Stephen R. Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane was a hot mess of dark fantasy, most notably as having one of the least likeable protagonists in literature, inspiring me to make comparisons with Nabokov’s H. Humbert.

Thomas Covenant is a leper, no fault of his own, but what he is faulted with is his tragic crime against a sweet and trusting young character. Covenant, a man of our world, strangely transported to “The Land” – rich, vibrant, healthy and alive – as a victim of leprosy, is in stark contrast w
Jan 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, 2016-shelf
I find myself in the unenviable position of rooting for Lord Foul Bane and his many loathsome minions. Maybe it's just the intentional feature of making all the good guys so perfectly good and forgiving and nonviolent and understanding, but Thomas Covenant DOES NOT DESERVE IT.

Therefore, I really want to see Lord Foul Bane corrupt every single one of those bastards solely for the purpose of rising up and smiting that worthless son of a bitch, the Ur-Lord Thomas Covenant.

If it wasn't crazy enough
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
To all those who hated Lord Foul's Bane -- hark! and be redeemed. Thomas Covenant gets yanked back into the Land, where 40 years have passed for its people, but only days for him. In his absence, Foul has amassed an immense army and is preparing to march. The Lords have learned virtually nothing new to aid them in their own defense. And Covenant, who still believes he's dreaming, finds himself lusted after by the daughter of the woman he previously raped. That is, by his own daughter. Salvation ...more
Aug 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Thomas Covenant is summoned to the Land once again. The said Land is in great peril - once again, and everybody's favorite leper is the only hope the people have - once again. Everybody is bending backwards in attempts to please Thomas Covenant and he does his best to appear a complete jackass to everybody. This is being done before, nothing new here, move along.

The good news is that around half of the book it is told from another person's POV which means we do not read about Thomas Covenant bei
"Thomas Covenant found himself once again summoned to the Land. The Council of Lords needed him to move against Foul the Despiser who held the Illearth Stone, ancient source of evil power. But although Thomas Covenant held the legendary ring, he didn't know how to use its strength, and risked losing everything...."

I’ll admit that book 2 is an improvement over book 1, but it’s a grudging admission. Having said that, Thomas Covenant is STILL an ass, but the improvement is that this installment isn
Graeme Rodaughan
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: No-one really
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.

I read this book when I had too much time on my hands to be doing something better...

Enuf said.

2 stars at best.
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another treasured edition to add to the extensive Thomas Covenant trilogy, that is an indisputable classic within the fantasy genre.

As a fan of Stephen Donaldson’s trilogy ‘the second chronicles of Thomas Covenant’ I was naturally keen to also read the first trilogy that started it all, being ‘the chronicles of Thomas Covenant: the unbeliever’ with this book (the illearth war) being the second volume following on from Lord Foul’s bane. I am constantly overwhelmed by how similarly to renowned au
Fuzzball Baggins
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
SO much better than the first book! I found the first book to be tedious, but this one I couldn't put down. It was a very rare type of book - a book which manages to be highly entertaining without sacrificing character depth/integrity, believability, or reducing the quality of the writing. An addictive read without relying on forced drama. In all the books I've read, only this and the Temeraire series have managed to achieve that. ...more
Roy Helge
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
I really had to force myself to read this book. And it is as bad as the first one. But to be fair I plugged on so that at least I can have a solid base for saying what needs to be said.

Not that I object to the three basic premises of the whole series:
1)the true anti-hero, the utterly unvilling and despicable character being the focal point of the story. Pretty good idead that.
2) The inanely stereotypical names (Lord Foul, T. Covenant, Rockbrother, Seareach) and plot devices (the quest) - That c
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
*For anyone reading my reviews, this is a cut-paste of my review of Lord Foul's Bane. I will write a separate review for the Second Chronicles, but for each of the first series, I will use the same review. Thanks*

Tolkien was not my introduction to fantasy fiction (neither was Donaldson); my first experience with SFF was RA Salvatore's The Crystal Shard. However, I immediately jumped into Tolkien, and afterward, Donaldson.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are as different from Tolkien's world as
More like 3.5*s, but I didn't like it enough to round up.

This book is a lot easier to read than Lord Foul's Bane, and there's a lot more going on. Without all the introductory stuff you're more straight into the story. And in terms of the former, there wasn't quite as much spent in the head of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever/Idiot with some changes of POV in there too.

Though, to be fair to T.C., he didn't come across as as quite as much of an idiot in this book. Maybe also because we're not in hi
Branwen Sedai *of the Brown Ajah*
"Not all crimes are committed by evil people. Sometimes a good man does ill because of the pain in his soul."

This is the second book in the Thomas Covenant series and takes place when Thomas is summoned once more to the Land. Even though it has only been a few months since he was last there, forty years have passed there. New Lords are in place yet the battle against the Despiser rages on. To aid them, Thomas must put aside his unbelieving nature and assist the High Lord Elena on a quest to find
Dan Young
Jan 16, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 08, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Thomas is back in THE LAND, though he continues to refuse to believe it's real and continues to cry (or even wail) woe is me, life is awful. In so doing he drags his feet and causes consternation, confusion, and frustration all around.

You know if I'm in a dream, even if I'm sure I'm in a dream I usually participate and don't run around in the dream refusing to participate...oh well. Enjoy, if you can. Not horribly written, but not (in my opinion) great either, certainly not worth the cost of adm
I'm about to move, so I am going through my books and deciding which will come with me and which will ... stay in a local charity shop.

This entire series will soooooooooooooo stay right here. It sure has to be among the worst, most boring and direst fantasy spectacles I have ever had the misfortune to buy and read. I hated this 15 years ago, and my feelings haven't changed. Except that these days I also find it terminally overwritten.
Oct 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Middle book of series. Covenant still struggling with magical legacy and skepticism. Donaldson has his version of Ents - powerful, wrinkled, old men (how they appear) coming out of copses, when territory is threatened. They do bad things to trespassers.
Christopher Selmek
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Overall this has been a satisfying book, even though some of the details are irksome. I think Donaldson’s intention is to describe the Land and illustrate its history, which he does very well and in complex detail.
This one is divided into three sections. In the first, where we are introduced to the main characters, Thomas Covenant’s real life picks up almost immediately after the end of the first book. It’s hard not to feel bad for him, because everyone in the town seems to want him dead only be
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jay Wright
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am rapidly becoming a big fan of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. He is an anti-hero. He returns to the dream world and it is 40 years after his last visit although in the real world it was only a few weeks. Lord Foul is up to no good and war is inevitable. Another visitor from the real world is present and he has become the head general. Most of the book is about the pre, during and post battle. Toward the end, Covenant goes in search for the seventh Ward. The ending is as hazy as in the first ...more
Tony Calder
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The second volume of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is very similar in structure to the first volume. Covenant is summoned back to the Land, only to find that 40 years have passed since he was last there. He continues to believe that he is dreaming and, although he continues to be an unpleasant character, he mellows somewhat due to events that take place in this book, so that by the end of the story he isn't the total arsehole that he was for the whole of Lord Foul's Bane.

Whereas the first bo
Beckie Tanis
May 13, 2020 rated it liked it
This one took me a while to get through. I didn't feel like it captured my interest.
Strong side characters kept me going.
Nov 12, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
marginally better than the last one because we had points of view that weren't grumpy mcwhineface ...more
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
At least he doesn't rape any children this time. ...more
Feb 19, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Wow, I think this is the first novel ever that I decided to leave unfinished. I had to create a new GR shelf for it anyway. Here's the (annotated) passage that broke the camel's back, on page 105. As you might have guessed, it's more whiny dithering over the "reality" of the Land:
He could not go on in this fashion. If he did, he would soon come to resemble Hile Troy -- a man so overwhelmed by the power of sight that he could not perceive the blindness of his desire to assume responsibility for t
Brian Schwartz
Usually, the second installment of a trilogy – be it books or movies – is the strongest. When one arrives at the second installment, the characters are established, so there is room for a great deal of plot advancement, new character introductions, and a cliffhanger to lead you into the third installment.

In my reading of Donaldson’s works, I’ve found that his second installments are usually the weakest. There are several shortcomings in THE ILLEARTH WAR of three books.

First is the introduction o
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I found Lord Foul's Bane to be a decent start to a potentially great and refreshingly original fantasy series. Unfortunately, the second book fails to deliver and has put me off reading book 3.
It's off to a good start and the build up to Covenants summoning and the transition from his world to the next sets a good foundation for the rest of the story.
It is a shame that the next 150 pages consists almost entirely of war council meetings, almost as if the writer was stalling to actually move the p
Michael Kelly
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When I first read this series many, many years ago, I recall that 'The Illearth War' was my favourite instalment. I had forgotten much of the detail, but rereading it has been a joy.

The story itself focuses upon the Lords' response to Lord Foul's great assault upon the Land, as his gigantic army, twisted and empowered by the Illearth Stone, marches to destroy them. The unfolding strategies and twists and turns of the conflict are fascinating to read. There are several side quests too, which enri
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'The Illearth War' is the second part of the 'Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever'. In this installment Covenant returns just a week later in real time, to find that 40 years has passed in the Land. Lord Foul is on the move and High Lord Elena has summoned him in the Land's time of need.
Part of the problem with the first installment, 'Lord Foul's Bane', was that Covenant was so bitter and unsympathetic. This time Covenant is basically absent for the middle section of the book, giving th
Lorien Conti
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
I found this book really frustrating. Covenant is really making it hard for me to care about him and in turn for me to care about the book as a whole. At the end of the last book I got the impression that he some what believed and cared about the land, so, when he went back I though he would be more pleased and amenable to the idea. Instead he spends his whole time whining and moaning, just get on with it!

There was a large section in the middle of the book which he wasn't in and I thought "grea
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, 2018
This series is really starting to grow on me. The world is much sharper and more alluring than in the first installment. Thomas Covenant, while still harshly cynical and sarcastic, actually begins to show his empathetic side and becomes at least tolerant of other characters. His growing relationship with the High Lord Elena gives his character much-needed depth.

I really enjoy how Donaldson is paying homage to Lord of the Rings through his high fantasy quest-style novels. What sets this series a
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Nonborn King (Saga of the Pliocene Exile, #3)
  • The Adversary (Saga of Pliocene Exile, #4)
  • The Golden Torc (Saga of the Pliocene Exile, #2)
  • Blood Trillium
  • Jack the Bodiless (Galactic Milieu Trilogy #1)
  • Magnificat (Galactic Milieu Trilogy, #3)
  • Diamond Mask (Galactic Milieu Trilogy, #2)
  • Sky Trillium
  • The Many-Coloured Land (Saga of Pliocene Exile, #1)
  • The King of the Swords (Corum, #3)
  • Black Trillium
  • Winter Be My Shield (Children of the Black Sun, #1)
  • Black Sun Light My Way (Children of the Black Sun, #2)
  • The Chronicles of Corum (Corum, #4-6)
  • The Faded Sun Trilogy (The Faded Sun #1-3)
  • Split Infinity (Apprentice Adept, #1)
  • Intervention (Intervention #1-2)
  • The Knight of the Swords (Corum, #1)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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)
  • Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #1)
  • The Power That Preserves (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #3)

News & Interviews

  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
35 likes · 10 comments
“Do not hurt where holding is enough; do not wound where hurting is enough; do not maim where wounding is enough; and kill not where maiming is enough; the greatest warrior is he who does not need to kill.” 11 likes
“It was the responsibility of the living to make meaningful the sacrifices of the dead.” 5 likes
More quotes…