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The Runes of the Earth (Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) Hardcover – October 14, 2004
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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.
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I read this when it first came out as I loved the first six books. I never finished the series though and decided to do so after reading Mr. Donaldson's new book Seventh Decimate. I remember now why I stopped now.
I don't find Linden a compelling heroine. She dithers and then tends to just fly off in a direction despite advice to the contrary. The new characters are mostly too impressed by her stature from her previous stay in the Land to argue with her. They seem to be mostly ciphers representing their various races.
Since we stay in parts of the Land already visited, there's no new worldbuilding so to speak. The plot starts out fine with Linden grappling with Joan's madness and Roger Covenant's ire before she is hurled back to the Land. Then the story bogs down. She travels and she dithers for most of the rest of the book. Not all that much happens to advance the story besides the quest to find the lost Staff of Law until the very last paragraph of the book. I admit, it's a great cliffhanger so I'll go on with the series, but in my honest opinion this book could have been compressed into a couple of chapters at the start of the next book.
OK a bit more seriously, I'm a huge huge Donaldson fan of the first 3 books. I read them when I was 10 or 11 and the realism, the grittiness of Covenant as an anti-hero, as pretty much an a-hole just really hit home for me. It was something I had not experienced before in a fantasy book where the hero tended to be painted in broad white and gold gilded strokes of altruism. The 2nd trilogy was very good, but I never quite fell in love with it. Maybe I was older, maybe I felt the 2nd trilogy was a bit disjointed and too fantastical. But I still loved it, just never fell in love. Now with the 3rd set of books it just seems like Donaldson is trying too hard to get that anti-hero feel from characters who have already been proven to be true heroes. They ponder, argue with themselves, loathe themselves, act depressed and miserable and eschew any form of happiness that is possible for them. When there is action it is great, and I can once again see the Donaldson of old come back. But the action doesn't last long and is unsatisfying because instead of victory we get more self loathing and depression.
I'm mostly through the 2nd book of the 4 and feel the same way, more so about the 2nd book although that one has a few great action scenes. I'm hoping against hope that the last 2 books improve and the story moves along more quickly, or at least with a little less deprecation on the part of the protagonists.
Oh by the way Scott Brick does an excellent job narrating, it almost makes me forget you have to pay an exorbitant amount for the 2nd audiobook as he somehow kept the rights to it and it's only available on his website. He's nowhere as good a narrator as Michael Kramer, but he still does an excellent job. He adds a sense of urgency to every passage, which is perfect for when its appropriate, but can be a bit comical during those passages when the characters are completely over the top dramatically in the most mundane scenes. Still, I highly recommend the audiobooks.
This book also rekindles memories of my own coming of age and discovery of the SciFi/Fantasy world. I read "Lord Foul's Bane" in 1979 at the age of 13 during a month long summer road trip with my parents. This was after reading "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and failing at my first attempt of reading "Dune". I bought this book and was captured immediately by this world and the moral struggles that were strewn across the pages. I was hooked and couldn't get enough. As I read through this book, many memories sprung back to me from the story and from my journey that summer with my parents. So my enjoyment of this book and this review is stained with the fondly remembered adventures of a teen.