Book Cover
Title Lord Foul's Bane
Author Stephen R. Donaldson
Cover Art Michael Herring
Publisher Del Rey - 1992
First Printing 1977
Book Cover
Title The Illearth War
Author Stephen R. Donaldson
Cover Art Darrell K. Sweet
Publisher Del Rey - ???
First Printing 1977
Book Cover
Title The Power that Preserves
Author Stephen R. Donaldson
Cover Art Michael Herring
Publisher Del Rey - 1979
First Printing 1977
Book Cover
Title Gilden-Fire
Author Stephen R. Donaldson
Cover Art Michael Whelan
Publisher Del Rey - 1983
First Printing Underwood Miller - 1981
Category Epic Fantasy
Warnings None
Main Characters Thoman Covenant, Lord Foul, Prothall, Mhoram, Bannor, Foamfollower, Elena, Hile Troy, Korik
Main Elements Wizards, giants, demons

Click to read the summaryLord Fouls' Bane

Click to read the summaryThe Illearth War

Click to read the summaryThe The Power that Preserves

Umm, wow...not sure what to say here. My brother gave me this book back when I was high school which must be about 15 years ago. I know I read it then, I recall the white gold, the Ranyhyn, but little else. So for years my brother was asking me to read the series and finally I decided to give in and try again, especially Donaldson came out with four more books.

And I discovered why I didn't remember much of my first reading...

First lets start with Thomas Covenant, the main character. He lives in our world, just a regular guy who gets infected with leprosy at which point his life falls apart around him and he becomes and extremely bitter man. An anti-hero. I could go for that, certainly and interesting premise when he gets tossed into a world of magic and fantasy and for some unknown reason, his white-gold wedding ring seems to be the key to saving the gentle people that live there from Lord Foul.

Yes, Lord Foul...and Lord Drool...can I say cheezy names? Anyway, the villains later.

The problem with Covenant though isn't that he's an anti-hero, it isn't that he doesn't want to believe in the world, it isn't that he's a completely unlikeable protagonist. It's the way he reacts to things, he has these mental meltdowns from time to time. Sometimes he'll stop eating for days. He'll not remove his boots when its clear they attract a dark and evil power. He just spites everything and for no logical reason. I mean, ok, he's not happy, but he keeps torturing himself, and while this starts to get tedious for the reader, there are moments when you can't understand what the **** the character is doing and why. I don't need to agree with him, but I at least need to understand him a little, otherwise you just end up scratching your head thinking him a complete lunatic. I can understand him not wanting to believe in this strange world, a normal reaction, but then if you believe it to be a coma induced dream why not have fun in it? Somehow this ties into his leprosy, that by allowing himself a fantasy he might ruin the effort he put into accepting his disease but I didn't really buy it (or as I mentioned before, understand it).

And what was with him telling everyone he's a leper, almost to the point where it because a lame excuse not to do something, and not a SINGLE PERSON asked him what a leper was. If someone kept throwing a word around that I didn't know I'd might inquire what it meant.

On the positive side, he didn't instantly learn to use his power, nor was there any insta-love. I've read too many books where a character is tossed into a strange new world and adapts within a couple chapters. Covenant isn't big on adapting.

Now it's not that I can't handle a big, heavy, complex epic. I read and LOVED Dune (another of my brother's suggestions and that series I didn't put down once I started it). I read and LOVED Lord of the Rings. Heck, I've read and very much enjoyed The Silmarillion. I can't quite say what it is that didn't draw me in as much, it just didn't.

Ok, back to the villains. Unimaginative names aside, Lord Foul is Sauron. I don't mean he has the part that Sauron fills in Lord of the Rings, I mean every epic fantasy needs a big bad villain, that doesn't make the book unoriginal. No, I mean he is an incorporeal evil power that is for all intents and purposes an angel or lesser god. Oh, and I did mention the white gold ring? The *one* ring? There were quite a few other instances which my brain just lit up with LotR associations. Now as a review I read pointed out, this book was written in 1977 when there weren't any George R.R. Martins, Robert Jordans and a whole plethora of other big epic fantasies, so at the time it might have been a bit more groundbreaking. Especially the unusual medical state of the main character which is unique to this day.

It had a lot of promise, it just didn't come through.

So I don't recall what I thought of this book when I first read it. I've read a lot more good and bad stuff in the intervening two decades. I don't recall not liking it, but clearly it wasn't worth remembering more. Will I continue with the series? Well, I bought them all so I guess I will. Seeing as the most recent books came out within the last few years I'd be interested to see if Donaldson's writing style evolves to something that makes a modicrum of sense and doesn't bore the reader to tears with "songs" (songs in quotes because without music they are just poems and always come off as bad poetry to me, LotR is no exception either)

The Illearth War & The Power that Preserves (April/May 2014)
The Illearth War one was better than the first, but I think the reason for that is because about two thirds of the books is told from the point of view of Hile Troy, another very flawed character, but at least one that appeared to be mentally stable so it wasn't so confusing having him narrate. But then Covenant was back and confusing again, and Elena wasn't all that much better. And Covenant's relationship with Elena was for the most part sort of creepy. The Power that Preserves switches between Covenant and Mhoram (I really like the latter so I enjoyed reading about him) and finally Covenant gets his butt in gear and starts to get involved...only took him over 1000 pages before he started acting a bit like a human being. Mind you, its still depressing, and there are still really bizarre moments, and its still got a million Lord of the Ring allusions (i.e. bringing the "ring" to the "volcano"). So while this series will never win a big place in my heart, I guess in the end I can take them for what they are.

Now I have all three books for the second Thomas Covenant trilogy, and since I started, might as well finish! There is hope that Covenant has finally loosened up and will stop doing nothing but whining, manipulating, raping, complaining, having fits of madness, in the books to follow...

Posted: February 2014


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