The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

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Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson

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Thomas Covenant is an author who has contracted leprosy.  He has been abandoned by his family and shunned by society.  One day he appears to have a car accident and is magically transported to The Land.  The Land is a world full of health and people dedicated to the preservation of life and The Land.  Covenant is convinced The Land is a dream after he is treated with a mysterious substance called "hurtloam" and his damaged nerves begin to heal.  He refuses to believe in The Land thinking he is dreaming and dubs himself the Unbeliever.

But Covenant is the incarnation of The Land's greatest hero, Berek Halfhand (Covenant had two fingers amputated due to his leprosy).  He also bears a magical talisman; his wedding ring made of white gold.  White gold is not found in The Land and is supposed to be a substance that commands wild magic.  Covenant has been warned by Lord Foul, who more or less represents Satan, that The Land will come under his control within 49 years.  Covenant journeys to warn the Lords of The Land who are wielders of great magical power.  The Lords wish to enlist Covenant's help (wielding the magic of the white gold) in defeating Lord Foul, but no one knows how to make use of the white gold.  Will Covenant learn to use his power in time to aid The Land?

The first part of the novel contains an excellent explanation of leprosy and how lepers must protect themselves from injury.  You want to feel sorry for Covenant, but he is a very dark character who is difficult to care about.  Upon recovering his health, he loses his self-control and rapes a young girl.  Covenant is definitely not going to be voted "Man of the Year."  However, stick with the series and you will eventually learn to care about him.  This books mainly covers Covenant's struggles to deny that The Land exists and avoid learning how to use his power.

The mythology that surrounds The Land is well thought out, but is refreshingly simple.  I was unable to put this book down the first time that I read it.  The story moves along at a brisk pace.  This book pays a lot of homage to Lord of the Rings, but is in no way a copy of that venerable work.  Assuming you like this book, save yourself some time and trouble and buy the other five Covenant novels.  I guarantee you will want to read the entire series multiple times.

Reviewed by: Alan

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The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson

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Thomas Covenant has only been back in the "real" world less than two weeks when he is summoned to The Land once again.  There, 40 years have passed and the Lords have been preparing for war against Lord Foul.  They are certain his army will be on the march soon.  They feel they have been unable to master sufficient lore to defeat Lord Foul, so the High Lord Elena has summoned Covenant to ask him to use the power of the white gold to fight Lord Foul.  But Covenant is still uncertain how to use the white gold.

The armies of the Lords are lead by a blind strategist named Hile Troy.  Five years earlier, Troy was summoned from Covenant's world in a failed attempt to bring Covenant to The Land.  Covenant agrees to go with the Lords and the army when they go forth to meet Lord Foul's army in battle.  Outnumbered by at least ten to one, the army of the Lords faces a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.  Will Covenant find a way to aid them?  Is Hile Troy up to the task of pulling off a seemingly impossible victory?

Most of the first half of this novel focuses on Hile Troy and the Lords as they face Lord Foul's army.  The action is exciting and the battle sequences are very well written.  Hile Troy is another dark, flawed character, but he is a bit easier to empathize with than Covenant.

The second half of the book deals with Covenant accompanying the High Lord Elena (actually his daughter from his despicable act in the first book) in search of powerful lore that may help defend The Land.  Covenant's struggle to come to terms with the rape he committed and to develop a relationship with his daughter makes for fascinating reading.  Donaldson does a superb job of character development with Covenant in this book.

Reviewed by: Alan

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The Power That Preserves by Stephen R. Donaldson

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After only a few days back in the "real" world, Covenant is again summoned to The Land.  This time though, he resists the summons.  High Lord Mhoram pleads with Covenant for his assistance, but Covenant refuses, since he was on the verge of saving a little girl from a snakebite in his own world.  Mhoram lets him go.

Covenant goes back and carries the little girl to her family.  But just as he gets there, he is summoned back to The Land by Triock, the lover of the girl he raped 47 years before.  Covenant finds that Lord Foul's armies are on the march again and that the Lords and their armies are besieged in their keep.  Covenant, along with a few companions from the other novels, decides to take the fight directly to Lord Foul in his lair.  However, Foul's lair is many leagues away and Covenant still needs to somehow master the use of the white gold.

In this novel, Covenant finally begins to believe The Land is real, or at least he believes he must aid the people of The Land to end his mad fantasy.  He finds reserves of inner strength that he didn't know he possessed in his efforts to assail Lord Foul.  I finally began to empathize with Covenant in this novel.  Again the battle scenes are exceptionally well crafted.  This novel provides a very satisfying conclusion to the first trilogy.  Onward to the second trilogy...

Reviewed by: Alan

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