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The Runes of the Earth

(The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  6,757 ratings  ·  298 reviews
The triumphant return of the New York Times-bestselling, critically acclaimed fantasy series that has become a modern classic.

Since their publication more than two decades ago, the initial six books in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series have sold more than 6 million copies and have been published in ten countries around the world. Now, starting with The Runes of th
Hardcover, 533 pages
Published October 14th 2004 by G P Putnam's Sons (first published October 2004)
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Start your review of The Runes of the Earth (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, #1)
May 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
David Firmage
Mar 14, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I am barely reading a chapter a week, just cannot get into it. A step too far Lord Foul has won.
May 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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 Sedai *of the Brown Ajah*
"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
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

With more than two decades since the publication of his first two classic fantasy trilogies that gave him a wide critical and commercial success, selling millions of copies across the world, and a number of other works that expanded his imagination to other horizons, Stephen R. Donaldson returns to the Land for the last time, taking us in The Runes of the Earth, the first of four instalments of the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, in a story of Masters, nomads, great horses, giants wolv
May 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
2020 Thoughts

Donaldson’s output over the years has not exactly been prolific, I’ve always got the sense that he’s the kind of guy who will only write a series of books on his own terms. When he wants to and when he’s got a strong idea for one. Still, when this third chronicles of Thomas Covenant was announced back in 2005 I still had this overriding feeling that it was a cash-in and destined to be fucked up. Afterall, what more was there to be said not just about The Land, but Thomas Covenant hi
Paul Darcy
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Victor T
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
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
Danie Ware
Jul 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Gods, this was a struggle. A thirty-plus year love of the Land kept me reading to the end - but six hundred pages of nothing happening would try anybody's patience. It was lovely to see all the character types and what had become of them, but it just had no story. It was a purposeless dither of too many variables - like everything from the past had been thrown in together, with no real idea what any of it was doing.

Love him or loathe him, Covenant never lacked for fire, fury or forward motion.
Dec 07, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: hardcore Thomas Covenant/Stephen Donaldson fans
This book is not total garbage. It's an interesting coda to White Gold Wielder. But it reads like a collection of old ideas and plotlines about the pre-history of the Land that Donaldson decided to cobble together in a time-travel framework. Maybe he needed to pay for an addition to his house? The result is a novel that just doesn't have the life or power of the earlier books. And the prose! Wow. So, so bad. Jump in, Donaldson fans, but it's a tough slog. ...more
Oct 27, 2013 rated it liked it
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".
Stephen R. Donaldson's The Tales of Thomas Covenant was my initiation into the world of Fantasy/Science Fiction many years ago when the best-selling six book series was published. Since that time I have enjoyed a number of different books within that genre, and I have Stephen R. Donaldson to thank for it. I was excited a few years ago, when I discovered that Donaldson had decided to write a sequel series - The Last Tales of Thomas Covenant - but as with most books I'd like to read, it takes me a ...more
Jan 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: donna
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
Christoffer Lernö
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
First time I read this book, it was long after reading the first two chronicles.

Unfortunately, that hampered my enjoyment of the book more than I would have expected.

This time around, I read it after rereading the first two, and suddenly I saw it in a different light.

I would definitely recommend this classic to anyone enjoying the first two chronicles.

And make sure you recently read the first chronicles to fully enjoy this one.
Coralie Bourne
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Tony Calder
May 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
After a break of some 20-odd years, Stephen Donaldson returned to The Land for the Final Chronicles of Thomas Covenant who, it should be remembered, (view spoiler).

This time around Linden is not so filled with self-loathing as she was in the previous trilogy, so that's a good thing, and does make the book easier to read. Also, Donaldson is no longer referring to his thesaurus every 3 or 4 paragraphs, also a plus. However, Donaldson seems to have
Michael Battaglia
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to a compulsive need to own nearly every book I ever want to read, at one time or another pretty much every book that I read during my formative years has found a place somewhere on my bookshelf (and probably stayed there, I only just the other day added Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's "Darksword" and "Rose of the Prophet" trilogies to the donation pile, so its not exactly a merry-go-round on there). But thanks to a job throughout my teenage years at the local public library, and a fant ...more
David Katzman
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review is for all ten books in the series. My re-read of the first six books was colored through the lens of nostalgia. The first two trilogies affected me a great deal as a youth—I read them at some point during high school. When I saw that Donaldson had completed the story arc with The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, a four-book tetralogy, I decided to return to the originals and read them all in sequence.

I regret the decision, but now at least I’ve completed them. I do believe that b
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is my second read, as I wanted to catch up before reading the second book. Now, the first time that I read the book, I didn’t care that much for the story. The ending got me juiced up, but I felt that the book was just setting up the story for the series, so I wasn't that impressed.

With the second reading, I gained a better appreciation of the book. Some of the smaller parts in this book, became more relevant, and I now understand their positioning within the story. Whereas, I might have n
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
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't quite know why I waited so long to read this. I've read the first chronicles twice and the second thrice. I love those books so much. So why did I wait?

At first I was simply unwilling to start another series before they were finished. I've done that before and it's a pain. Are you listening GRRM? Then I kind of fell out of reading much other than in audiobook format, which AFAIK this first final chronicle is only available abridged. Why do they even do that?

But a recent reread of the se
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
To read Thomas Covennt Chronicles is to love language and the use of words. While the conversational language is terse, the descriptions and inner emotional thoughts are lyrical.
It has ben. 10 yrs since Linden Avery returned from The Land without Covenant and she has attempted to build a life for herself honorjng his sacrifice and memory. Now his estranged son is forcing his wishes on her. Linden the Chosen One recognizes the hand of Lord Foul in the young man's actions. When he kidnaps her son
Nov 01, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, I give up. I can't take any more of this author's self- loathing & self-doubting "heroes". I read the 1st Covenant series & it was great. I read the 2nd, which became great in the middle of the 2nd book. I also read one more. That didn't become great until the last (4th) book. A self-loathing hero is their common denominator. I must be too old to wait for Linden to wake up this time. Also, Donaldson is in dire need of an editor. Really, he's another one who must be getting paid by the word. ...more
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
I just finished reading this one.It took me several days longer than most books of similar length. Although I enjoyed being transported to "The Land" once again, I was reminded of the Second Chronicles by the slow pace. There is a lot of imagination in the book, but a lot of the book is filler explaining what has gone before. That being said, I am looking forward to the next book which I plan on reading next. ...more
Jonathan O'Brien
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have read this book before, but I am continuing with my re-read of the entire series. I have only read the Last Chronicles one time, though--right after each book came out. I recall not really liking them that much, though I did think The Last Dark wrapped up the series effectively. On this re-read, I can say that I enjoyed this book far more than I recall enjoying it on the previous read. I think that because I have read the entire series much more rapidly, I have gotten a better sense of the ...more
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This novel is the first in a 4-book series that concludes the Thomas Covenant saga. Ten fictional years have passed in "our" world since the events of White Gold Wielder, the last novel before this one, and as usual, more than three thousand have passed in the Land. But also, more than 20 years had passed between the publication of the last book and this one, and more than thirty since the first time I read the original two series. When I saw that Donaldson had returned to the Land once again, I ...more
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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 Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (4 books)
  • Fatal Revenant (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Book Two)
  • Against All Things Ending (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, #3)
  • The Last Dark (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, #4 )

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