Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson

Review of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson

… Consisting of Lord Foul’s Bane, The Illearth War and The Power that Preserves.

Well, Donaldson is my favourite author and this is his most famous work, but for me this is his least enjoyable work. The Thomas Covenant books are heavy going: lots of long words necessitate frequent trips to the dictionary, and Donaldson’s trademark intensity is not as effective as in later books (especially the Gap series). There’s something a little too overdone about it; a bit self-important perhaps, though not exactly pretentious. But on the other hand, it’s Stephen Donaldson! He’s an intelligent writer who makes little allowance for delicate sensibilities (his main character is a self-hating, rapist leper, for instance). The reason I haven’t rated the middle book as highly is that a third of it focuses on Hile Troy – Covenant is off doing other things – and Troy just isn’t a very interesting character, although he comes to life a little when his back’s against the wall.

These books, published shortly after Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara in 1977, contributed to the boom in modern fantasy. While they can be categorised as part of the (stereo- or arche-)typical good-versus-evil breed of fantasy, the presence of such a complicated character as Covenant sets them apart.

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