Summary and book reviews of The Runes of The Earth by Stephen Donaldson

The Runes of The Earth

The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Book 1

By Stephen R. Donaldson

The Runes of The Earth
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2004,
    560 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2005,
    560 pages.

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Book Summary

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 the Earth, Stephen R. Donaldson returns with a quartet of new Covenant novels that are certain to satisfy his millions of fans, and attract countless new followers.

In the original series, a man--living in our world and in our time--is mysteriously struck down with a disease long since believed to have been eradicated. He becomes a pariah in his small town and is abandoned by his wife who departs with their infant son. Alone and despairing, Thomas Covenant falls and, while unconscious, is transported to a fantastic world in which a battle for the soul of the land is being waged. Christened "The Unbeliever"--for he is convinced the world is only an illusion, a dream--he finds himself slowly forced to accept the role that seems to be his destiny: savior of the Land.

At the end of the sixth book, Covenant is killed, both in the real world and in the Land, as his companion, Linden Avery, looks on in horror. His death is both the ultimate sacrifice--and his redemption.

At the opening of The Runes of The Earth, ten years have passed. Linden Avery comes home one day to find her child building images of the Land with blocks, and senses a terrible foreboding. She had thought that she would never again be summoned to the Land--nor ever again see her beloved Thomas Covenant. But in the Land, evil is unmaking the very laws of nature. . . .

Prologue
Chapter One: Mother's Son

"No, Mr Covenant," she repeated for the third time. "I can't do that."

Ever since he had entered her office, she had wished that he would go away.

He gazed at her as if he had not heard a word. "I don't see the problem, Dr Avery." His voice cast echoes of his father through her, flashes of memory like spangles off a surface of troubled water. "I'm her son. I have the right. And it's my responsibility." Despite the differences, even his features dragged a tangled net across her heart, dredging up aches and longing. "She's nothing to you, just a problem you can't solve. A burden on the taxpayers. A waste of resources you could use to help someone else." His eyes were too wide-set, his whole face too broad. The flesh of his cheeks and jaw hinted at self-indulgence.

And yet--

If he were clay, only a slice or two with the sculptor's tool, only a line of severity on either side of his mouth, and his cheeks ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

The main character is realistic, but flawed - not very heroic. Not even very likeable, which is in itself unusual. Her motivations and decisions are often disturbing, so reading the Runes of Earth is not a particularly comfortable experience. This blend of action and discomfort is perhaps what makes the book compelling, and clearly raises it above the majority of the good-versus-evil fantasy/horror books.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Donaldson's saga has transformed tremendously since initial volumes offered startlingly original antiheroic fantasy resonating with echoes of both Tolkien and Philip K. Dick, but the engaging humanity of his characters still compels attention. A new generation of readers may find this episode's midstream plunge into the saga bracing, while fans of Covenant's past chronicles will welcome a return to the Land.

Booklist - Roland Green

Filled with splendid inventions (occasionally described to the point of prolixity), this book promises extremely well for the future of the end of the Covenant chronicles. Expect readers to swarm.

Reader Reviews
Maudlin

The Runes of the Earth
Donaldson's lead character struggles constantly with the inner turmoil of her situation, just like the many conflicts Thomas Covenant dealt with in the first two series involving the Land. The many complexities of the character make it difficult to ...   Read More

Stephen McDonald

Just finished reading this one. It had a bit of a different feel to the previous six books. Perhaps this reflects that both the author and myself are twenty years older! I was a little disappointed in aspects of the book - for example, certain ...   Read More

JohnNWFS@aol.com

OH MY Lord, what a story. I wish I had the luxury to read this one straight throug. I had just re-read the 1st book of the series and was about half way through the second when I saw "Runes" come out. This story is very well thought out ...   Read More

Al Camire

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 I understand her self-doubt already. That being said, I am looking ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

When asked why he waited two decades before starting The Last Chronicles Donaldson says that he's had  the story in mind for at least 25 years but that he wanted to prove to his readers and himself that he could write other types of stories, and write them well; plus he admits to being afraid - 'At my first glimpse of "The Last Chronicles," I knew that it would be astonishingly difficult to write; that as a narrative exercise it would make the previous "Covenant" stories look like a stroll in the park. If this last story is done right, if it fulfills my intentions, it will complete and unify the entire saga. But in order to accomplish that goal I'll have to go far beyond my known abilities, both as a story-...

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