Beginning ten years after the end of the acclaimed series and after the death of Thomas Covenant, his one-time companion, Linden Avery, returns home to discover her child building images of the Land with blocks and is once again summoned to take part in an epic battle against evil, with Thomas Covenant at her side. 175,000 first printing.
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.
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION:
Stephen R. Donaldson was born May 13, 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, James, was a medical missionary and his mother, Ruth, a prosthetist (a person skilled in making or fitting prosthetic devices). Donaldson spent the years between the ages of 3 and 16 living in India, where his father was working as an orthopaedic surgeon. Donaldson earned his bachelor's degree from The College of Wooster and master's degree from Kent State University.
Donaldson's work is heavily influenced by other fantasy authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Roger Zelazny, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, and William Faulkner. The writers he most admires are Patricia A. McKillip, Steven Erikson, and Tim Powers.
It is believed that a speech his father made on leprosy (whilst working with lepers in India) led to Donaldson's creation of Thomas Covenant, the anti-hero of his most famous work (Thomas Covenant). The first book in that series, Lord Foul's Bane, received 47 rejections before a publisher agreed to publish it.
PROMINENT WORK: Stephen Donaldson came to prominence in 1977 with the The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which is centred around a leper shunned by society and his trials and tribulations as his destiny unfolds. These books established Donaldson as one of the most important figures in modern fantasy fiction.
PERSONAL LIFE: He currently resides in New Mexico.
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 victimization and alienation and whose best course of action, more than searching out any arcane remedy, would be to enroll in some good old-fashioned cognitive behavioral therapy.
The needless and incessant self-hatred and self-flagellation is really old and tiresome now, and I no longer have the slightest bit of patience for it -- especially because it is of the characters' own making. I want to slap Linden on just about every page. And as far as the vocabulary goes, a five-syllable word is not inherently better than a one-syllable word, especially when it smells like it's been yanked out of the thesaurus just to up the page count. If I have to hear the word "puissance" again (I listen via audiobook, and you can hear the embarrassment in Scott Brick's voice every time he has to say that word -- I understand that he is not narrating an audiobook version of the 2nd book in this series and I hope it is because he refused to read any more of this pap) -- anyway, if I have to hear it again, I might go postal and start stabbing my car CD player. Dear Scott Brick, I enjoy your readings of other works, because you know how to heighten melodrama just enough to still keep it interesting without making it apparent what poor melodrama it is. It is not your fault that this series makes it impossible for you to pull that off. I am sorry you had to put up with this dreckitude. Please come back to the Pendergast series; we miss you over there.
I don't put up with people who needlessly wallow in self-imposed victimization in real life, so I don't see why I should waste my all-too-sparse leisure time doing so either. Unfortunately, I like the Land, so I will probably stick out the series to its conclusion just to see how things are resolved. I don't have high hopes, however, which is unfortunate.
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 seven hells and fiery damnations, the middle... Seriously, I groaned, swore under my breath, tried and tried and tried to plough through the endless gyres of repetition and boring, tumid descriptions, hoping against hope the plot would resurrect itself and go somewhere. Gah. At one point, I almost thought I was reading Chris Paolini or bad fanfiction, especially due to the cardboardy flavor of the characters (Seriously, what happened to the complex, dark anti-hero Linden of the Second Chrons?? Squashed into the body of a dull Mary Sue...).
I'm earnestly afraid I'll never encounter such wonderful personalities as Pitchwife or Foamfollower in these later installments. However, I'm going to proceed onward with Fatal Revenant to see whether the story actually finds a tolerable pace and a proper red thread to pursue. This book might've worked if edited hard-handedly; a good hundred and fifty pages could be discarded just by gouging out all those 6785667 depictions of mountains and how wonderful aliantha tastes like.
Why are all my favorite authors disappointing me lately.
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 terrible about the second series of the Thomas Covenant books - the constant internalising of tortuous decision making processes...
"shall I do this? shall I do that? Er..let me think about it some more? Er...maybe I won't think about it some more...actually, I will" etc etc ad infinitum for 500 bloody pages.
Nothing exciting happens - most of the book involves various humanoids scrabbling up a scree slope in search of a nice, big stick which, although magical, our heroine may (or may not) decide to pick up / use / shove up the a*se of Lord Foul etc (depending on how pensive she is)
Dull and witless. Fantasy? No.
I'm am genuinely disappointed that I feel this way - there are two more books promised in this 'Final Chronicles' series - but Mr D has quite literally lost the plot.
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 himself? The guy is dead, afterall.
Nevertheless, Donaldson navigates at least he first installment of this now overextended trilogy of trilogies with aplomb and, just as he did with The Wounded Land, he’s actually doubled down on the idea of making the sequel that you didn’t expect and giving us everything we didn’t know we didn’t want. If the original conception of the leper racist – the outcast, the sinner, the unbeliever – can’t ever be matched, don’t worry because Donaldson is keen to find yet more ways to put his cast of characters through the ringer, experiencing more existential crises than you can count on a half-hand.
Of course, the focus is on Linden this time around, ten years in the future which, we know, is about to become a billion years into the Land’s future. The opening scenes are a delight as we meet the somewhat unsavoury Roger Covenant and his vegetating mother Joan. We never get a chance to enjoy quiet time with Linden and she’s quickly plunged into a nightmare that sees Donaldson creating something more shocking than in previous installments openings (though nothing near Gap-level) and he brilliant throws the momentum of the story into the Land as mystery piles upon mystery and new faces drawn from old mythologies time and again prove to not quite be what they look like and Linden is unsure who to trust or how to get what she wants. The Land, of course, is facing another crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before, and whilst the Sunbane was the high point of Donaldson’s imagination in this regard the new – shallwecallit – situation will delight fans of the series and the pages turn themselves in a bid to reveal just what’s going on.
It’s amazing that after 730 pages the book left me on yet another mystery I’m keen to get answers to. If there’s a criticism of the work, well, aside from the fact that it is definitely a little too lengthy and it left me at points lacking faith that there was an ultimate direction of travel as opposed to a wander, it’s that Donaldson is so much in plate-spinning mode that we never get to settle in and have an adventure. He almost doesn’t trust himself this time and he’s so desperate to prove these books worthy and worthwhile that he’s perhaps eschewed some of the worldbuilding these books are well known for. Another slight gripe is Lord Foul the bad guy. Sure, he’s a little different this time around but in my head he’s becoming this recurring comic-book villain “surprise, you defeated me twice, but I’m baaaaack and this time I’m totally destroying the Arch of time busters!”
I don’t like to ruminate or rate too much on a book 1 of 4 since there’s so much left to tell. As a start to a new series though I can only say that I’m pretty damn impressed so far.
- Odd review from 2009 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 heard once, you've heard 1,000 times. Morn Hyland killed her dad, got raped, got raped again, had her son taken by aliens why why why??? There's enough intensity in just letting those events happen - stop telling the reader that we're supposed to care. Of course we do.
I was hoping that Runes of the Eatrh would lead us down another route, but Donaldson seems content to litter the pages with "Lord Foul has taken my son" exclamations every other page. There's a lot going on this story, so much so that it's difficult to take it all in - if he'd breeze through it a bit more and give you a chance to enjoy the history of the land and the central conflicts that are emerging, this'd be a cracking read. But I'm bored with the histrionics, so I'm quitting half way through... for now. Still curious to see where this goes, though.
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 commandment was to initially go against the commandment (in this case, it would risk the architecture of time itself in order to guarantee that time would continue—don’t ask, just go for the ride) in order to eventually establish the commandment? What would you do? Donaldson reveals some of his suspicion of institutional religion (I would see this even if he hadn’t verbalized it to me at a World Fantasy Convention one year) in the way he presents characters (in this case the Haruchai) who are so committed to the Law (like the worst cases of Pharisees, Puritans, or Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims) that they miss the purpose of the Law in terms of enhancing life and relationships (both with the divine and the merely human). He also presents people (perhaps, like Donaldson’s self-sacrificing medical missionary parents) who are so devoted to “duty” and “service” that they never really seem to have the chance to live. All believe that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, but they may be missing the valued life in front of them. And if you haven’t read any of the Thomas Covenant stories, I highly recommend them for people who are intrigued by dynamics between what we know as empirical reality and what is perceptual reality. One gets the feeling that all of the protagonists in these stories which move from our world to “the Land” are psychologically unbalanced in some way. Does “the Land” represent mental health? Does it represent a healthy ambition for vision for life and accomplishment? I’m not positive. Donaldson seemed stunned by my suggestion that “white gold,” the source of “wild magic” in these tales, might be a metaphor for faith. At first, he seemed to resent it because he identified faith with the institutional church. When I explained that just as “white gold” represents “commitment” and “relationship” in these stories (even though it is the symbol of failed relationships in most, if not all, of them), faith is not possible without relationship and just as the “wild magic” doesn’t always work like Covenant expects, faith isn’t tantamount to magic because those wielding faith can’t really control the results. They are dependent upon the relationship. I’m sure I didn’t convince him, but he conceded that the notion was intriguing if not forced too far. This was a very brief discussion at a convention, so please don’t take my side of it as definitive with regard to what this great writer was hearing as I tried to express what I’ve just written. “On further review,” he might have decided I was a religious crackpot and that what I perceived as interest was the fastest way to get rid of me. (smile) Still, I find myself fascinated by the relationship between the bookend narrative that takes place in the familiar world we know and the high fantasy events within “the Land.” What is Donaldson trying to tell us? Is it that we all have destructive and formative powers within us? Is it that we need to trust ourselves more than tradition without cutting ourselves off from tradition and that we need to trust ourselves to use the power (social, economic, political, spiritual) at our disposal without allowing the hubris to abuse it? It seems like these novels speak to me of all of these and more.
One more thing before I offer the summary (which will be very short lest I risk spoiling the story). Not since I first read William F. Buckley, Jr. have I encountered a writer who forces me to learn new words. In The Runes of the Earth, the protagonist has need of a febrifuge (easy to discern in context) and, at more than one point, experiences formication (with an “m” not an “n”) as in having ants or insects crawling over or under the skin. Revelstone Keep was also said to have had “groined ceilings,” which I had to look up and discover was the combination of two vaults at right angles to each other. I also marked the following: “Covenant had once said, There’s only one way to hurt a man who’s lost everything. Give him back something broken.” (p. 342)
Although labeled “The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant,” these are really the stories of Linden Avery the Chosen (Covenant’s beloved colleague in the second trilogy) because Covenant died at the close of the second trilogy. In what represents “our reality,” Avery has never quite dealt with her grief over the death of Covenant and she resolves part of it by caring for Covenant’s demented ex-wife and an adopted son who was tortured as part of the ritual summoning Covenant to the land during the last trilogy. Frankly, I don’t think this series is going to mean much to the reader or make much sense if one hasn’t read the first two trilogies.
In this installment, Covenant’s biological son Roger precipitates the action which causes the transmutation to the land. Yet, the health of the land isn’t the only issue. Linden Avery must save the land in order to save her adopted son. Yet, the land is affected by both a physical blight and a spiritual one. Those who were once dedicated to protect the land are now party to an ignorance that threatens the “Land” more than Lord Foul’s Bane himself (or are they in league with the Despiser?). The Staff of Law is missing and the rigid structure which has taken its place may be more dangerous than the despair it staves off. As a result, Linden Avery tries to heed her dreams and apparently voices from the dead spoken through a possessed individual in order to both do something unexpected and to trust in herself. Do something unexpected? Trust in yourself? It sounds like reasonably good advice and I would wager it’s a recurring theme throughout the books.
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 insidious underpinnings. A fantastic start.
To get you up to speed on what is what, Donaldson gives wonderful written account of all major events which took place in the first and second chronicles. Suffice it to say you should experience them in full and not rely on the synopsis provided, but if you don’t you will soon get the gist of what has transpired in the past. Basically Thomas Covenant is dead, but the Land is in more trouble than ever before.
The main character is Linden Avery, whom we are familiar with in the second chronicles or the synopsis as having been in and had a huge part in saving the Land in the past. Strange things begin to happen to her in the real world which leads her to believe there is once again trouble in the Land, and that Lord Foul and now even fouler things are stirring again. I don’t want to give anything away really since it is so well worth the read.
So - general impressions. Hella good read, very imaginative with ample mystery and familiarity wrapped into the appropriate Donaldson package. And, the author did it to me again, after the last chapter I was shaking my fist and cursing his name - in a good way - then immediately scouring the internet to find out when volume two was coming out.
My only hint, if you haven’t yet read it - is, why do you think this series is called the “Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant”?
Are you still hear reading this - run, run now and buy, then consume this book. You will not be sorry you did.
End of bias ravings - much more and I may create a caesure . . .
"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 and tries to take what she loves, she must find the strength in herself to go back and set things right.
This is the first book in the Thomas Covenant series that doesn't actually feature Covenant at all. Linden takes center stage as she is transported back to the Land in search for her son. Danger and various perils assault her, as well as the burden of Covenant's white gold ring and the quest to find the Staff of Law. I liked this book quite a lot, especially when compared to the previous books in the series. This is definitely one fantasy series which seems to get better and better as the story progresses. Linden has come such a long way in terms of her growth as a character, and love her or hate her, you still have to admire her strength of character and everything she has to go through. The beginning hundred pages and the last hundred pages were filled with action and intense emotion, but there were some places in the middle of the book which seemed to drag on and on, unfortunately. The book could have honestly been edited down another 50-100 pages and not lost anything really important. But other than that I don't have any complaints and thought this book was very enjoyable!
My heart has rooms that sigh with dust And ashes in the hearth. They must be cleaned and blown away By daylights breath.
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. And Linden's passivity, and her utter inability to make a decision (everything's always done TO her), has always driven me nuts. I'll stay with the series because I loved the older books far too much to let this go - but I really hope it gets better!
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 wolves, Demondim-spawn and cryptic evils, but also in an adventure of blindness and discernment, birthright and betrayal, and Law and Earthpower; in a wonderful, epic beginning of the end.
For three and a half millennia since the triumph over the malison of the Sunbane, when Lord Foul’s designs of destruction – afflicting the realm through his dark dreams of retribution – were foiled, redeeming it from its plight, and allowing the healing to begin, the Land has been restored to its former glory and loveliness, giving back to its people again the grasp of their lives; yet now, with the Despiser to have not relent by his defeats, setting other forces in motion to bring the fruit of his endeavours and to certain his freedom, a shroud has cloaked the Land, Kevin’s Dirt: a thick, acrid smog of wrongness that pollutes the fundamental Law of its nature, leaving it blind and defenceless to new evils – but Linded Avery, having spent ten years since her return to her old life after Thomas Covenant’s self-sacrifice, taking on the seat of the Chief Medical Officer at the newly-build Berenford Memorial Psychiatric Hospital and dedicating her days to the need of her patients, has been wishing for Roger Covenant to go away from her office. Explaining repeatedly her commitment towards his long-term catatonic mother, Joan, trying to make him understand the law and the moral obligation that prevents him from taking her away from her care and to put an end to his unreasonable insistence, Linden will accede to allow him his first visitation, and to prove to her his justified demand. However, with her suspicions of his hidden intentions to have revealed her a terrible truth, putting her in a great dilemma and filling her with terror and fury, when Roger – possessed by a malicious existence – threatens to deprive her the very meaning of her life, and his mad designs transport her beyond the boundary of realities in a world much different from the one she knew, Linden will find herself along with an old man with a broken mind amongst a company of friends and foes, seeking through time and space for the only instrument of power that will bring her before a horde of long-forgotten creatures of visceral dread – an ancient, dark horde which, if she fails to vindicate her purpose to her nominal allies and prove to them her irrefutable right, could mean the end of the hope as much for the Land as for the one whom her heart yearns.
Having put the last chapter of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant aside for more than twenty years in search for new directions, wanting to explore other genres, hone his skills in different stories and become a better writer before finally tries to tackle it, Stephen R. Donaldson returns triumphantly in the series that marked his career, taking us in The Runes of the Earth into a much different era, where now the Haruchai – defined by the devotion and faithfulness, and prodigious skill and unyielding judgment of their people – have taken upon the guardianship of the Land, swearing in its preservation against Corruption and the encouragement of any exercise of Earthpower, and making themselves before all the Masters of the realm; to Mithil Stonedown, where the Stonedowners – having been denied their birthright through the sway of the Masters – live in ignorance of the larger issues of the Land, constricting them to the limits of their community, and maiming them from the history and lore of their ancestors; and to the Verge of Wandering, where in the rich grassland the Ramen – having served the proud Ranyhyn for millennia – have made their northernmost sanctuary after their fleeing from the reach of the Sunbane, observing once in each generation for the end of evil over the Land, and waiting in vigilance for the day that will allow them to come back to their home. But also to Revelstone, where the ancient stone castle – once in ages long past the promontory of the Lords’ defence, and later the fortress of the Clave’s malice – has now become an empty place, preserved only by the Masters and their few servants, and leaving behind nothing but unused passages, echoing stairs and uninhabited walls.
A first novel in which Donaldson, making again a leap in time similar to the Second Chronicles, introducing a new cast of characters that keep the series constantly refreshed and expand the history and lore of his world more and more, raises the bar higher, creating through his fluid prose and poignant writing an epic story that balances with an experienced skill between self-reflections, surprising plot twists, and high-intensity action. A beginning which, narrated solely from Linden’s point of view, bringing to the forefront her concern and frustration, and fears and limitations, showing her conflicting need towards her loved ones, her friends and her companions, as well as towards the Land, delves once again into the adult themes and moral dilemmas that characterized him among the circles of speculative fiction, and delivering a wondrous adventure of scope, sophistication and imagination that leaves you in suspense for the sequel.
All in all, the The Runes of the Earth is a welcome return to the Land, with Stephen R. Donaldson – raising the bar higher – to take the last chapter of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant in a different era, bringing new characters and challenges that however delve into the adult themes that made the first trilogies a wide success, and creating through his writing and imagination a wonderful adventure that marks the beginning of the end of a great series.
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, making pains to use a five syllable word where a three would do just fine. In "Runes", he out does himself. Between the volume of excessive prose, character self-loathing, and incomprehensible trust tossed about like waves in a storm it makes my head hurt. Covenant was loved and hated by those he dealt with, and abused faith and trust by his simplistic disbelief in the Land, but he remained a character to be reckoned with. Linden Avery just makes you wish to smack her in the back of the head. A lot. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a Donaldson fan. I will finish this, as well as the rest of the series. But, and I stress that, do not jump in to this here. Read from the First Chronicles, and if you can come to love Thomas Covenant, you'll be able to tolerate Linden Avery. Hope this helps.
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.
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; SRD regularly and continuously exhibits faults that should have been ripped out of him when he was in grade school; there is a passage near the end of the book describing a trip through time that he devotes a dozen pages to, without really describing anything beyond Linden Avery's tortured feelings, and this is all too typical. The ending in Revelstone offers a tiny bit of redemption; the scene in the Close between Avery and her group, and the "Masters" (the deathless Haruchai from previous books) reminds me of a few earlier, similar monologues -- but on the whole this is the most overwritten, hamhanded piece of fantasy writing that I have ever read, and I can't imagine that I'll be reading the sequels. Sad.
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. Stave in this book was for me like Covenant in the first series. I hated his denial and refusal and ached to see him accept what none of the Haruchai would.
Linden Avery returns as the Chosen, but this time it is her use of Power and her internal conflict that we must empathize with. Unlike Covenant and his conflict of Unbelief Linden has the conflict of two powers and whether she can accomplish good by evil means. An age old question. The conflict was not as resonant with me as was Covenant's but it is there. I look forward to the completion of this series and another journey with the Unbeliever.
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".
3.5/5 The story, prose, and lore are all solid and top-notch but with a book like this I really need to feel something for the main character be it love, hate, or even frustration but I really felt nothing for Linden Avery and that hurt the book and my enjoyment of it.
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 awhile to get around to reading them. Now is the time for Donaldson's sequel.
I will say I enjoyed this first novel, but there were a few issues. The most difficult hurdle was this: it has been 26 years since I read the first series. Quite frankly, the only characters I actually remembered were Thomas Covenant and Lord Foul. And there were many, many characters in this book. It took me quite a while to get them all straight. Thank goodness for the first part of the book, which takes place in the land we are familiar with (good old planet earth), and the story line here was easy to follow and gripping. It kept me going when Donaldson moved his characters into The Land and kept me grounded as that narrative wove it's way into the fantasy world. But it was tough going for awhile. The trick is to keep reading the books more closely to each other so you don't forget who the characters are and what the plot is. Thank goodness I intend doing just that this summer, and reading the remaining three books.
It was fun to reacquaint myself with this beloved series and I look forward to continuing the literary journey in the weeks to come. 3 1/2 stars.
Dark, complex, emotional, rich, and epic, this isn't any easy book to read. After 30 years absent from writing about Covenant and his companions, Donaldson is a different writer; the style of this book bears little relation to The First and Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. But at the same time, Linden Avery's plight is different than Thomas Covenant's. Where Covenant was struggling with the existence of The Land affecting his ability to survive as a leper (outcast, unclean) in our world, Avery is battling her sense of inadequacy in protecting The Land she has come to love.
The action here is more sparse than any of the previous 6 TC volumes and you might need a dicitionary close at hand. Donaldson has acquired quite a vocabulary in the las 30 years and he uses it quite liberally. But there are basicly only 3 or four words you may need to look up, (the rest are easily decipherable by context clues). More frustrating can be the relating of histories and tales with which the reader may already be familiar or that will send the reader scurrying to the Glossary that conludes each TC volume.
But for all this, The Runes of the Earth has an epic feel to that is worthy of the TC saga. It is filled to the brim with Donaldson's gift for charaterization and the majesty and beauty of The Land. For those readers who have been through Covenant's previous adventures, this volume will prove easier to digest than if you are a newcomer to The Land. But for those of you new to Donaldson's creation, the "What Has Gone Before" prologue remains one of his most useful tools.
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 where the reader has to catch up with the characters who already know everything and are all perfect or unimpeachable. Even the fantasy characters are flawed and it's great seeing how the conficts get resolved.
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, .
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 decided to replace obscure words with a preponderance of words. This book is badly overwritten. The 750+ pages cover a period of about a week and could easily have been covered in about half the size. Because of this the plot moves at a glacial pace, particularly the middle of the book.
Certainly, the final quarter of the book picks the pace up and sets up the story for the continuation in the next book - which is even longer at nearly 900 pages, so I am expecting that to be badly overwritten as well. However, Donaldson has built a compelling world over the course of this series, and those who have got this far are likely to want to continue to the end. It took me 3 months to read this book (I took several breaks along the way), so I don't think I will be starting the next one straight away.
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 fantasy section that surprisingly had both in stock, one of the few absences was Stephen Donaldson's two trilogies about that happy-go-lucky hero Thomas Covenant.
I had been through Tolkein already so my young mind had some vague idea of what fantasy was supposed to be like but Donaldson's two series were something else. Starring a literal outcast hero thanks to his leprosy, Covenant was abrasive and surly and extremely reluctant, convinced over and over that everything around him was part of some elaborate delusion (and there was sometimes evidence it might have been). The contrast between someone who was deeply cynical and the life-giving Land that he found himself in made for some fun tension, even if it ran the risk of being that guy who comes with you to the magic show and points out how every trick is done under his breath. It was a fantasy story featuring someone who didn't even want to be in a fantasy story and was doing his best to get out of it, and the fact that Donaldson was able to get not only one but two trilogies out of it is pretty amazing.
And both were good. Even if I don't remember the details, I remember them fondly and maybe part of it is in that magic hour drenched haze of my younger days when everything from back then seemed good, but heck, I'll take it. Even though it was draped in the trappings of epic fantasy, it seemed more "adult" somehow, despite featuring a villain named Lord Foul, which is like what kids in the locker room would call the kid with the chronic flatulence problem. Covenant, for all his faults, felt like a real person stuck in a bad situation and after realizing he can't get out of it, trying to make the best of it.
Thing is, the second trilogy seemed to cap things off nicely. Covenant traveled to the Land to save it one more time, assisted by new ladyfriend Linden Avery who developed her own special abilities. At the end he sacrificed himself to save the day and Linden returned to our world on her own, heartbroken but willing to carry on his memory.
It was a good place to leave it and then suddenly in 2004, twenty years after the last book was published, Donaldson decided to come back with a new four book series. By and large I tend not to read series books as they come out because I'm strange, but in this case I'm glad I got to it when I got to it because it appears it took nine years to publish the entire series (the first two trilogies took about three years apiece to appear) and I still somehow managed to miss the fourth book, so that's on my shopping list.
With all that said, is it possible for all of us to revisit the past. Could Donaldson recapture the blend of magic and surly grittiness that wowed my teenage mind? Would I still be receptive to it, now my brain is that much closer to becoming an ossified paperweight? I should point out in the interim I had read two other Donaldson series, and had mixed feelings on both (while "Mordant's Need" had its moments, "The Gap Cycle" was one of the few series where at several points I would have been okay with every character being horribly killed), but this was his baby, the original hit, the cheesy song you can never dislike because it reminds you of shopping trips with your mom when you were seven. I'm not going to pretend it was my favorite thing but its embedded pretty deeply. Like peak Phil Collins, I'm unable to be objective about it.
Alas, dozens of years and hundreds of books later, its a little harder to impress me than it once was and while this one works hard, I think its going to be an uphill battle. We open on Linden Avery ten years after the last series ended. Covenant is still pretty dead and while Avery is grieving she's tried to move on . . . devoting herself at work to a mental hospital she's opened up and directing her energy at home to raising Jeremiah, her adopted son who was traumatized into near complete withdrawal in the last series. Unable to speak or even interact he sits around mimicking Richard Dreyfuss in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", making structures that seem to evoke mountains and castles that Linden saw in the Land.
In the meantime she's dealing with Covenant's now adult son Roger, who wants to take his mother out of Avery's hospital and doesn't seem to have a dictionary with the word "no" in it. One thing leads to another and before you can say "Connecticut Yankee" Avery has endured the requisite major trauma and wakes up to find herself back in the Land once again. Quickly she discovers that since time runs faster than back home, thousands of years have gone by since her last visit and while things aren't Sunbane level bad, they aren't great either. The Land had turned into LA and been covered in sense deadening smog, the Haruchai have become "Masters" of the Land and basically outlawed history courses, and there's a weird guy without a memory that she soon discovers has "weird" as a baseline and only gets stranger from there. Oh, and Lord Foul is back in prime "moo-hoo-ha-ha" mode, which seems like a problem everyone should be taking care of, but no one is. Looks like its up to Avery! Except she can't make a decision. Oh geez.
I'll have to agree with the people who felt like could give good ol' winter molasses a run for its money in a footrace for last place . . . while my memories of the first two series are admittedly not pristine I certainly remember them being a bit snappier in execution, and its not like I was known in those years for my boundless patience. While the buildup to the return to the Land is gradually ratchets up the tension, it feels like Donaldson is going over old ground over and over again (and its not like he needs to, a "What Has Gone Before" section opens the book, and is pretty detailed), killing time until Linden is inevitably catapulted into the Land once again.
But even there things don't remarkably improve. The conflict, at least at first, seems kind of nebulous and we hear more about what jerks the Haruchai have become since her last visit, and how they won't let anyone have any fun. Amnesiac Anele spices things up with random crazy stuff, the Ramen get dragged in, followed by Magic Horses and before long it feels like a reunion thrown together at the last minute in the local park without anyone remembering to book a caterer or entertainment, and everyone is more interested in blaming everyone else than actually organizing anything. It would benefit greatly from a central protagonist who drove the action a bit more but Avery at least so far isn't that person. Covenant, for all his reluctant faults, had a sense of direction but Avery is more interested in reiterating to herself how much she wants her son back and waiting around until events make a decision for her. Being that everyone else is reacting as well, it makes for an oddly muddy experience, with everyone slogging through scene after scene that are clearly struggling for forward momentum even as the book seems to be actively working against them. Avery doesn't know what to do (admittedly, I wouldn't know either, but at least she's been there before), the Masters don't want to do anything, Anele has no idea what the options are and everyone else is waiting on Avery. Not a great combination for exciting action, but if you like circular introspection, this may be the book for you. It does fall in line with how Donaldson treated his main female protagonists in both "Mordant's Need" and "The Gap Cycle", neither of whom were excellent at standing up for themselves. Maybe Avery was always like this but I didn't notice back then, or maybe Covenant's spiky attitude masked it.
Its not like we need her to be the stereotypical kick-butt action hero, but it'd be nice if someone stood out if she's not going to. She seems to have a literal crowd following her around but throughout the book everyone seems to be speaking in monotone and various shades of greyscale, and while sometimes a battle breaks out or they fall into a timehole to break up the pondering it doesn't really feel like anyone is going anywhere except where the book wants them to. And the book isn't concerned if they get there quickly. It needs a little more zip, which does happen but rarely, mostly when moody adult teenager Esmer shows up to both help and harm in equal measure. He may not make much sense in the scheme of things but he sure does liven things up.
And that what can make this frustrating. There are strains of interesting ideas here and there, and snippets where the story threatens to take off into a true adventure. But its like everyone is staring at a huge map of possibilities and are more concerned with figuring out how many dots per inch the paper is holding. No matter how hard it tries to climax or spark itself, its working with damp wood and nothing catches fire. Even a chase and battle that should be exciting seems to be described almost obliquely, like we're being sent postcards from the front lines while we're standing on the frontlines. The recovery of an important object should be fraught (and might have been the central plot of the book in the good old days) and tense but comes across as one more thing on the checklist, resolved about as easily as I go to the grocery store.
Now its a four book series, and he's playing with a lot of threads here, but after five hundred pages you'd hope that something would emerge from the morass as a definite direction. It doesn't quite happen, although a surprise appearance toward the end (from someone I half expected at some point, it was just a question of when) may give the series a much needed injection of fire. Longtime fans are going to want to see where he goes with this but anyone just stumbling into this cold may wonder what all the fuss is about and perhaps, even worse, call into question anything I ever praised as a teenager. As if.
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 because the first series in particular is so unique, Donaldson deserved to be given the chance to resolve the story. The ending brought many strands together with a feeling of near-completion, but unfortunately his style ruined the last four books for me.
The first six books affected me powerfully. They were the first fantasy novel that I had read that treated the reader like an adult (much more so than Lord of the Rings). It’s adult in several ways. First, the language. Donaldson uses advanced vocabulary unsparingly that requires most readers to keep a dictionary (app) handy. He doesn’t dumb it down for “young adults” or even for adults for that matter. He challenges you to use your brain, and as a child who joined Mensa and was constantly solving puzzles and playing complex games like Dungeons & Dragons, I ate up the challenge. I felt more mature reading it.
The second most obvious quality that struck me as different from all the other fantasy novels that I had read, is that the main character was radically unsympathetic. Antiheroes were not unknown to me at the time—I had read quite a bit of Michael Moorcock by this point, including Elric of Melnibone and the Cornelius Chronicles. But your typical anti-hero has redeeming qualities that are appealing to read even while they behave in “anti” ways. For example, they are usually charismatic. Or clever. Or unafraid. Whatever causes them to commit questionable acts, we enjoy reading their exploits, and they end up saving the day even if only for selfish reasons. Well, here’s where Donaldson parts ways the most dramatically. The main character is not only a bad person, but he is an unlikeable person. Thomas Covenant is irritable and difficult and unfunny. He is furious at the world because it treated him harshly. He’s bony and angular and diseased and anti-cuddly. He’s a cactus of a person. And on top of that, he commits a despicable act that makes him seem unredeemable. It happens in the first novel, Lord Foul’s Bane, and I don’t consider it a spoiler because I think anyone who goes into reading it should know about it in advance. It’s a central conundrum of much of the series, how do we as the reader respond to it and how do we feel about the author’s treatment of the topic. Thomas Covenant is sucked into the fantasy world known only as The Land, and he believes it is only a grand hallucination of some sort. He feels he’s gone insane. Enraged by his lack of control over himself and his situation (which is particularly acute for him because he has leprosy and his only real-world survival method is to remain in complete control of his interactions with his environment), he takes it out on a friendly young woman trying to help him by raping her.
This act brings up the ethical question of whether cruelty in a dream is real. Covenant believes (at that time) that The Land is a dream of some sort although it’s certainly not a typical dream. But if we are willing to accept that premise then how do we feel about violence toward a dream figure? How do we feel about rape in a story, if we want to look at it metafictionally? Over the course of the series, Donaldson touches on how the assault act psychologically harms the rapist. Covenant later can’t forgive himself and carries his own self-hatred with him for many years. He frequently seeks to atone for this action that he regrets. Yes, his victim suffers from the event but in what I would describe as stereotypical ways. The focus was never on her point of view. Which isn’t to say Donaldson dismisses it, but it’s not really his strong suit. He’s clearly an Existentialist of sorts, and we as a reader come to realize that whether the world is a grand hallucination or another actual dimension doesn’t matter—Covenant is defined by his choices. From a Buddhist perspective, all of existence is a dream. All is nothingness. And yet within this nothingness, our choices still matter. The act of rape degrades the actor as well as injures the victim. A contemporary feminist critique of the storyline might analyze the events from a different perspective. While personal agency and “responsibility” are not attributes to be utterly dismissed, the decentralized and abstract self is part of a social environment. And in fact, it is society/culture/civilization that permits rape to occur. Yes, we can and should punish criminal acts, but it’s our political and cultural environment that allows it to exist, and what is required to change is not “interior” but is instead social. This brings up what could be seen as a weakness of The Chronicles and Donaldson’s treatment of rape and other issues. In the world of The Land, it’s relatively devoid of politics. There is no political economy—no Capitalism to turn people, time, and materials into products. Society is relatively egalitarian between men and women with almost no patriarchy. Struggles tend to be either between evil and good—the forces of Lord Foul (the force of “despite” or despair) versus everyone else (who mean well but may unwittingly help Foul); or the struggles are between “races.” The entire story struck me as not quite racist but racialist. Tending to give each racial group common attributes in contrast with others. He’s somewhat essentialist in his creation of races. The Hurachai, the Ramen, the Giants, the Stonedowners, the Demondimspawn, the Elohim, etc. While there is disagreement between certain members of each group, Donaldson tends to emphasize similarities. At times, for example, I became uncomfortable that all the Hurachai were inscrutable, unemotional martial artists of supreme skill (and unifying telepathic abilities). It struck me as an Asian stereotype—like they were all Bruce Lee clones.
The violent sexual assault, an incestuous relationship (which isn’t portrayed as healthy but also isn’t utterly condemned), and lastly the focus on morality throughout the Chronicles are the other additional elements that made the series a truly adult story that never coddles the reader. We must wrestle with our own responses rather than simply accept the story as it is. Many readers may even just quit reading it and that is certainly a valid response. Or, just as Donaldson positions Covenant as the only man who can save The Land due to his possession of a white gold ring (the wedding band from his ex-wife) which gives him tremendous, dangerous magical powers…are we stuck with the book because it’s hard to put down? Because we grow to care about The Land too? More than we care about Covenant?
In the first two trilogies, Donaldson exhibits a dramatic writing style that walks a tightrope between grand and grandiose that is not balanced by any humor. Either you accept that emotions and dangers are always turned up to 11 or you become put off by the style, and he comes across as melodramatic and bombastic. For me, it worked (mostly) through the first two trilogies. When you get to book seven, he goes off the rails.
The last four books struck me as a parody of his own style. In book nine, the word “god” is repeated 131 times. Hell gets 140 mentions. Damn gets 73. The word “mien” (you know, instead of “expression”) gets 9 mentions in book nine and 25 in book ten. Book ten finds “hell” repeated 181 times, “god” 168 times, “innominate” gets 5 mentions and “We are Giants” is spoken 14 times. Not to mention “We are Haruchai” or “We are Ramen.” Heavy handed much? Throughout the final four, Donaldson dedicates a tremendous volume of dialogue toward justifying and rationalizing the plot. He seems to complexify things in order to create barriers and challenges to raise the stakes but then feels the need to put a lot of effort into explaining them. Too many unnecessary details parsed…much like theology.
Covenant and the other main character, Linden Avery, who joins us in the second trilogy, are always plagued by self-doubt. But by book eight, the self-doubt becomes unbearable. It may authentically represent a struggle that most of us face but for fuck’s sake I don’t want to read about characters constantly doubting themselves. It’s beyond tedious. And the romance between Covenant and Linden is not epic, it’s cloying and saccharineBoth of them struggle with power and feel unworthy of it. They feel that if they accept too much power then they become dangerous. They fear responsibility and must overcome their fear of using power in order to succeed. This strikes me as a thematic concern out-of-date with our times. It feels like a meaningless abstract Existential crisis. “I have so much power I’m afraid to use it.” I keep coming back to the fact that our current struggles are about the “everyperson” being faced with a deficit of power. Corrupt figures like Trump and McConnell have no qualms about using their power. They have no inner struggle. The rest of us humanity are oppressed. So who could possibly relate to this premise of having too much power and being afraid to use it? It seems like an irrelevant out-of-date intellectual debate occurring repeatedly throughout the story.
How does Donaldson reflect on religion in The Chronicles? In general, I’d say ambiguously. I did a little research and found an interview with Donaldson where he talks about being raised as a Fundamentalist Christian and so he understands that mindset well. He said that aspects of that way of thinking remain with him, and he considers himself a “missionary for literature.” Personally, I find Biblical symbolism to be rather pompous in literature, but at the same time I find blasphemy to be generally amusing and entertaining. When fiction uses Biblical stories in some fashion to simply retell the myth (let’s say Aslan in the Narnia Chronicles is Christ returned to save humanity) then I call that proselytizing and indoctrination. But what about when the story falls somewhere in between praise and blasphemy? Thomas Covenant is a Christ figure. He’s resurrected several times in various ways. He actually has leprosy and is healed (periodically) of his condition. Christ is described as curing leprosy. His very name—Covenant: a binding religious commitment to the gospel. And he’s called “The Unbeliever” due to his refusal to believe The Land is real. A facile interpretation might pose that this unlikeable rapist asshole is a representation of “atheism,” and he doesn’t become tolerable and accept his role until he admits The Land is important—even if he never quite knows if it is real. It may all be in his head, but he becomes a better person when he cares about it and acts based upon that. Christians might call this “faith.” I would quibble that Covenant never really becomes likeable. He sacrifices and risks himself repeatedly, but I never found myself on his side. I was on the side of The Land and the supporting characters pulled in his wake.
The religious symbolism is profligate throughout. Lord Foul is our Satan. The Creator is God, Donaldson makes the Creator generally weak and ineffectual although he’s responsible for setting Covenant and Linden Avery on their paths into The Land. The Creator is a fairly clear embodiment of the aspect of Christian story that has Jesus crying, “Why have you forsaken me?” The Creator sets the ball rolling then poof—he gone. The Land is a fallen paradise, with much beauty yet corrupted by evil and plagued by toxins. There were actually times when the themes struck me as almost, vaguely environmental. The poisonous “Sunbane” that inflicts the land is like global warming. The Sunbane is fed by cruelty although they are tricked into believing they are doing it for the good of humanity. Much like we work to buy houses, clothes, electronics, and so on to give our families comfortable lives. And yet all that comfort comes at a price for our species. Humans were seduced into chopping down great swathes of the “One Forest” which subsequently allowed Lord Foul’s forces to increase their strength. There is no technology anywhere in the land, only magic and physical prowess, and so that which “pollutes” the land is driven by our Satan figure. These implications are never stated directly, but they begin to chip away at the too-obvious metaphor of Covenant “saving” humanity. The battle in his soul to avoid despair is what permits him to act and attempt to save the natural world. There is one particular scene that problematizes a simple Christian view of the story. Covenant returns to the “real world” and stumbles into a Christian revival service under a tent. Due to his leprosy, the church rejects him as diseased and literally throws him out. He finds no solace from the Earthly church, only eventually by returning to the fantasy realm and overcoming self-doubt does he find purpose. In the end, Covenant’s covenant is not religious, but it’s a commitment to action in pursuit of Good. His quest is Existential not religious. The Biblical elements seemed to me more stylistic attributes. The framework for a morality play that is about love and friendship and self-sacrifice and overcoming despair for the good of others.
I will comment briefly on the ending in a spoiler tag.
In total, The Chronicles is a groundbreaking series that confronts us with a plethora of moral questions. The adventure story that goes along with it was compelling through the first six books at least, but fell apart for me in the last four. It’s not completely true that I regret reading them all. The OCD in me is pleased to know how Donaldson wanted it all to end.
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 not thought much of them during the first reading. So, it opened me up to a lot of things that were going on within this book, that I might have just skimmed over while reading it the first time, or missed them altogether. So after the reread, I now have a better appreciation and understanding of this book. And, there’s a heck of a lot going on! This book is much more complex than any of his previous Thomas Covenant books. I feel a reread is almost necessary to make sure that you get all of what is happening. This is a great read, and I'm excited about the next three books!
Now, you can find out about the story in other reviews, but I will say it follows the same themes as before: Anti-hero, despair, and saving The Land. But, this is supposed to be the final confrontation with Lord Foul, so this time it is really saving The Land for good. And, I will say that the despair is worse than ever. So, it's not a happy story, but none of the previous books in this series have been happy (the slaughtering of the Giants, for example). Fascinating stories, yes! But, not happy stories. Donaldson usually shows you how beautiful everything is, then he destroys everything that was beautiful, and only then can Thomas or Linden overcome Lord Foul, and save The Land. So far, it looks to be the same, but even more so. Also of note; through his previous books, the mistakes made by the characters, with good intentions, always come back to bite them in a future book. It is also the case with this book. It's the same type of book as the other books in this series, but this one is much more complicated.
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 was lent the book, and the die was cast.
Admittedly, I do not use a dictionary and tend to just get the impression of what the author may mean, so that did not slow me down... as, since I doubt that I would add most of the words to my vocabulary, I tend to travel fast when I read (it's that or read the ending first).
As for the book itself, a decent re-entry in The Land, setting up a lot, with a helpful summary of the past at the beginning of the book. I don't recall particularly liking Linden in the 2nd trilogy and found her hard on the head still with her angst and anxiety and obsessions (some warranted this time around), but some good and loyal companions, and a dramatic change in The Land and its people (a great loss) so room for the story to go. Seems to have some promise.
It gets better on a second read after completing the series.
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 second chronicles got me into the final chronicles, at last!
I enjoyed the opening scenes, but when we got to the Land I was a little unsure. It felt like more of the same and a little contrived, but as the story unfolded I got drawn right back in and having to use the dictionary again to look up words whose meaning I had forgotten from the other chronicles.
I read the last quarter in one sitting - that's where it really ramps up into a cracking finale.
I'm going to keep going this time and hope that the story continues at this pace. Inchoate, cymar, argent, puissance and all!