Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of The Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson

Review of The Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson

The Runes of the Earth is the first book in The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, a four-volume series that the author predicts will take him another nine years to complete. The first two Thomas Covenant series were published in the late 70s and early eighties to great acclaim, and this is a continuation of that story.

If you’ve read the earlier books you might be asking How? given that Covenant died at their conclusion. Well, don’t forget that the Laws of Life and Death were broken, too. That said, the eponymous anti-hero only plays an oblique role in Runes; it’s Linden Avery who takes centre stage for this tale. The new novel sees Covenant’s former lover tackling new threats from Lord Foul, obstruction by the Land’s new Masters, a danger to the Arch of Time, not to mention the prospect of rescuing her son.

Given the amount of back-story and its influence on the current narrative, you probably won’t want to read this unless you’ve read the previous six (!) books. If you have, and you liked them, then you’re in for a treat, because Runes is more of the same (although, with Covenant’s absence, it feels like a prologue to the forthcoming story).

If, like me, you think that Donaldson’s SF Gap series is the finest thing he’s done, you might consider his new book to be a step backwards. It’s written in a close approximation of the style of the earlier books, but is not quite as verbose (and requires fewer trips to the dictionary). However, there is still a lot of agonised soul-searching, slightly tedious travel, and a preponderance of telling over showing.

As a Donaldson fan, I don’t know whether to feel disappointed or not; I enjoyed Runes, just not as much as I’d hoped. Finishing the book felt a little anticlimactic, but I was definitely aching for more.

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Categories: Literature, Reviews
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  1. 30 October 2007 at 3:44 am

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