BookBrowse Reviews The Runes of The Earth by Stephen R. Donaldson

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The Runes of The Earth

The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Book 1

by Stephen R. Donaldson

The Runes of The Earth by Stephen R. Donaldson X
The Runes of The Earth by Stephen R. Donaldson
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2004, 560 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2005, 560 pages

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Stephen Donaldson continues his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

The first six books in the Thomas Covenant series were published between 1977 and 1983. The 'First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant' comprised Lord Foul's Bane, The Illearth War and Gilden Fire; these were shortly followed by The Wounded Land, The One Tree and White Gold Wielder, which together formed the second trilogy titled the 'Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant'.  Twenty years later, Donaldson is back with a new four part series: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant', that begins with 'The Runes of Earth'.

A brief update of the story so far: All the action in the First Chronicles, and most of the Second Chronicles, takes place in a region known only as 'the Land', where the people live in harmony with themselves and the Land, but are in constant battle with the great enemy, Lord Foul the Dispiser, and his armies.  Our hero is Thomas Covenant, an unexceptional man who finds himself mystically and unwillingly transported to the Land just when Lord Foul's plans are about to reach fruition.  Conveniently, his wedding band of white gold (a metal not found in the Land) turns out to be a powerful talisman that he can use to fight against the Despiser.  However, his self-loathing, confusion, skepticism and anger at the world in general, combined with the fact that he has little control over the white gold, makes him a danger, not just to the Dispiser, but to his own friends.  

So far, this sounds like fairly standard sci-fi/fantasy fare, but what sets the first two trilogies apart is the psychological makeup and flawed humanity of Covenant himself.  At the start of the series he's not just reluctant to become a hero but entirely unwilling to even believe in the reality of his circumstances; in fact, as a reaction to his circumstances (his family have recently left him after he contracted incurable leprosy) he's abandoned all hope and become ruthlessly clinical and emotionless.  However, over the pages of the first two trilogies he slowly transforms from a loathed and self-loathing pariah and learns to put his faith in his friends, and to love and trust again.  

If you're not familiar with the first 6 books, don't despair - my husband says you don't have to have read the first 6 books to enjoy this one - he hasn't and he did!

Selected Reviews:
'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.' - Booklist

This review first ran in the September 1, 2005 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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