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The Runes of the Earth (Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) Hardcover – October 14, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 244 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon.com Exclusive Content

Worth the Wait
More than two decades after he completed the Second Chronicles, Stephen R. Donaldson has begun a third series about the leprous Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. In this Amazon.com exclusive essay, Donaldson explains why The Runes of the Earth has been so long in the making.

From Publishers Weekly

Six fantasy novels featuring Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever appeared between 1977 and 1983, but Donaldson shows that his epic series still has the power to surprise in this richly imagined start of a final quartet. Covenant died at the end of White Gold Wielder (1983), and at this novel's outset so does his lover, Linden Avery, in a violent confrontation with Joan and Roger Covenant as they kidnap her son, Jeremiah. Linden awakens once again in the Land, where she finds Lord Foul scheming to escape the Arch of Time with the help of Joan and Roger while using Jeremiah as a pawn. The 10 years since Linden's last visit have been centuries by Land time, and in that interval Anele, with whom she teams, has lost the Staff of Law, plunging the world into chaos. Linden's only hope for saving the Land and reclaiming Jeremiah is to gather a crew from the Land's numerous races and surf a caesure, or time rift, to retrieve the Staff. Nevertheless, she can't shake her fear that all this has been plotted by Foul as part of his malignant design. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Series: Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 533 pages
  • Publisher: G P Putnam's Sons (October 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399152326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399152320
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (244 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
First, let me say: Bravo! Well done, Mr. Donaldson!

Next, I want to direct my comments to those readers who have never read any of the Covenant books, but are contemplating reading this book. Your main concern, undoubtedly, is, "How can I possibly enter a complex series at book seven? Won't I be so incredibly lost that it won't make any sense for me to buy this book and see what all the fuss is about Covenant?" Both questions are easily answered. Donaldson has taken extraordinary care to construct the beginning of this book in such a way that if you are entering the Covenant series at this late point, by the time you get to page 200, all that went before will be explained, and you'll (almost) feel as if you have read the first six books. He does this primarily in two ways. First, he has written a "What Has Gone Before" prelude, which succinctly wraps up the essential plots and dilemmas of the first six books into about eight pages. It is *superbly* done. Second, from almost the very beginning of the book itself, he meticulously and purposefully takes the reader back to prior events in the last two trilogies, while at the same time moving the story forward with the tremendous urgency of his past works. While someone like myself (who is probably more familiar with these books than I should be), can see what's happening as plainly as I can see that Shaquille O'Neal is a very large man, people less familiar with the work will not feel burdened or bludgeoned by what is, essentially, catching readers up. For reader like me, this will likely feel somewhat tedious as we know all of the legends of the Land. But for readers who are unfamiliar with the legends, you will find them to be like a drink from the source of a mountain spring.
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Format: Hardcover
It's a complicated equation: it has been 21 years since fans of Stephen R. Donaldson have been able to visit the Land with a new Thomas Covenant novel, 10 "real-world" years since an outsider has walked in the Land, and about 3,500 native years since the Land itself has seen an outsider. Now Linden Avery returns accompanied by 3 (or possibly 4?) others, including Thomas Covenant's mad wife. Once in the Land Linden must search for her son, who is threatened by Lord Foul--and Foul now has influence over one of two white gold rings that have come to the Land. Linden holds the other; it being the ring she took from Covenant when he died 10 years earlier. Sure, Covenant is dead, but that shouldn't worry fans--Donaldson has titled this "The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" for good reason. Through the course of the book we are reminded that the Law of Death was broken in the first chronicles, and the Law of Life broken in the second. Now it is the Arch of Time and the foundations of the Law itself that are in very real danger. To complicate matters, the Land is afflicted with a malevolent pall to rival the Sunbane and massive reality-storms known as "Caesures."
For Linden's return to the Land, Donaldson has marshaled many of the unique elements of the past six novels, reviving certain wonders that seemed to have disappeared forever from the Land. He also raises questions left open by the other books, questions fans may never have even considered. What ever became of the Ramen and the Ranyhyn, the ur-viles and Waynhim? What came of the Haruchai Cail's lust for the merewives? What use was made of the Staff of Law after Linden began the healing of the Sunbane, then left the Land? And perhaps most troubling is the transformation we see that has come to the Haruchai.
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Format: Hardcover
Let me start by saying that I disagree that this would be a good book for readers new to the Covenant series to start with. It's true that Donaldson does a good job of explaining events from the prior books as he goes along, for the benefit of readers who may have forgotten various details over the years, but these explanations would act as spoilers of the six prior books for new readers. It would be much better for new readers to start with Lord Foul's Bane and read the first two series through first, rather than to start with this book and find that the first two trilogies have been ruined for them.

The Runes of the Earth lacks both the scope and the imaginative detail that Donaldson's writing displayed, in particular, in the second Covenant trilogy. The action is confined to a relatively small part of The Land (and to one small area of the "real" world), and takes place over a very brief timespan from the point of view of Linden Avery, the main character.

There are of course some new concepts introduced, and a new threat from Lord Foul. But too much of Runes merely recycles old themes and characters and peoples from the first two series. In the second Chronicles, Donaldson was not merely content to rehash the first trilogy. Instead, he brought us Elohim and Sandgorgons, venom and Sunbane, Bhrathrair and the Clave - and Linden herself. Runes offers nothing comparable to the shock which The Wounded Land presented to readers familiar with The Land.

Even the new characters are too dependent on the prior series. Linden's son, Covenant's son, even Cail's son and Sunder's and Hollian's son. Why not somebody brand new? 7,000 years after the first trilogy, we are still seeing Stonedowners, Haruchai, and Ramen.
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