Customer Review

92 of 109 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best modern fantasy I've found, January 7, 2000
This review is from: Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
"Lord Foul's Bane" has many strengths to recommend it. It also has a number of shortcomings I would be remiss in not mentioning. I personally loved the series, moreso the second time around.

Donaldson's hero, Thomas Covenant, is a leper and an outcast in his own world. He has resigned himself to his life of disease (there was no cure for leprosy when this was written) and solitiude, and desires nothing more than to be left alone to live out his sentence. After an accident in town, he finds himself transported to a fantastical place known only as the Land where his disease is cured, and the most evil being in the Land challenges Covenant to stop him from destroying the world. Much of this first book in the series is spent on making Covenant as contemptible as possible, making him cowardly, a rapist, selfish, and inconsiderate, but most of all disbelieving in the world he has found himself in. Although Covenant just wants the nightmare to be over, he finds that people see him as a reincarnation of a long-dead hero, and put their faith in him. But in his contemptiblity, Covenant is pitiable. It's hard not to feel bad for him at times when people blame him for things that aren't his fault, or refuse to understand his remorse at things that are.

The weaknesses of the story lie in Donaldson's reliance on his Thesaurus and the fact that a contemptible character scares a lot of readers off. As to the language, he does at times go into a pointless string of synonyms, using words that no normal person uses in conversation. I think of this as a weakness in the novel, but not one that affects my overall view of it. More of a quirk of the author.

I've thought about the question of whether or not Covenant was actually taken to a fantasy Land or just imagined it in his diseased brain. Most readers I've spoken with believe that we, the readers, are to accept that the Land exists independently of Covenant and that he is simply taken there because he is their legendary hero. I feel, however, that there is no evidence to back this up, and there is a great deal of evidence to support the idea that the Land is all in his head, and all the people and parts of it are metaphorical representations of aspects of Covenant's mind.

Either way, the story is a great epic fantasy series, and I encourage people to put personal judgement of the character aside (he's SUPPOSED to be despicible!) and enjoy the series for its own merit.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 18, 2011 10:29:44 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 18, 2011 10:51:40 AM PDT
Garth 6 says:
A careful reading of the chapter where Covenant rapes Lena in Lord Foul's Bane will reveal a short passage written from Lena's point of view. It's a sentence or two, no more than a paragraph, but the perspective is definitely Lena's. I don't know if this was intentional on Donaldson's part, but it immediately implies that the Land and its people are 'real.' Donaldson also independently published "Gilden-fire," a chapter from The Illearth War that he had at first removed at Lester Del Rey's request. Gilden-fire is the story of the Bloodguard Korik's mission to Seareach. It is written completely apart from Thomas Covenant's perspective.

Most importantly, the old beggar in the ocher robe that Covenant encounters early in the story is the implied Creator of the Land! At the beginning of the chapter entitled "A Question of Hope," the old beggar appears in Covenant's dream, watches him "anxiously and beneficently." Of course he was anxious, the fate of his creation was at stake.

These three things alone, if not others, imply the Land's 'reality.'

Posted on Aug 18, 2011 10:39:49 AM PDT
Garth 6 says:
Besides, I've been there. That Saltheart dude, what a card...

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 6, 2012 10:39:21 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 6, 2012 10:41:32 AM PDT
I've read Gilden-fire. I believe it was in the collection DAUGHTER OF REGALS. I'm not sure, but I think Donaldson mentioned taking it out specifically because it had another person's point of view.

But yes, I agree that you can find arguments for the Land being real, most obviously the second series. But I think that in both series, the state of the Land reflects the psyche of the protagonist (first Covenant, then Avery) so strongly, you might even argue that the mysterious "Creator" only allowed Covenant access to the construct, but the Land in the state Covenant found it was created as a metaphor for Covenant's own (and later Avery's own) mental state at the time.

And I haven't read the third series yet, so I don't know if any of that is proven or disputed by it.
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