Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson
I tried and tried and tried to slog through this garbage but had to stop at page 100 of The power that preserves. I....just.... couldn't...take...it. Pure torture. Unbalanced. Endless pages of pure black with no white--translation: all prose, no dialog. 90% prose, 10% dialog.
This is writing 101 folks, if you want to create memorable characters that you can get inside of and identify with, you need to have them alive! Show, don't tell. I want to hear from the characters, not have you tell me what they think. Heresay doesn't cut it.
Granted, when Donaldson wrote this he was just cutting his teeth in the world of writing. A newbie. He doesn't bear all the blame, I blame the editors, too. Every single paragraph, without exception, goes into some lengthy anthropomorphization. Dammit, just tell me that the woods was unpassably thick, don't go into some 5 sentence description of how the trees seemed like withered old arms of people trying to hold him back from passing, laughing and clawing at him like a deranged crowd of stick-people as he ran as though chased by an angry spiri---- AHHHHHH!!!!! I just can't stand that crap!
I just don't understand how, when seeing at least 5 of these drug induced metaphors per page, the editors didn't step in and tell Donaldson to get a grip. It's kind of like talking to a person who says "I mean" or "ya know" in...every....single....sentence.
Also, when a 25 cent word will do, Donaldson dug deeeeeeep into the thesauraus to find the most expensive word he could find. Contrived is one word that sums up his prose.
Give me Tolkien, Brooks, hell, even Salvatore, any day.
Submitted by Anonymous
Lord Foul's Bane is one of my top 3 books of all time that I have read. That may not sound impressive to many people but I have probably read over 200 books so far in my life and I am only 18. Although I am not a professional in reviewing books I enjoyed the series of Thomas Covenant the Unbeleiver because of how crewl and tragic Thomas Covenant is. I have yet to find a series that tears at my heart like this one does when I read them.
Submitted by Andrew
This series is by far the greatest fantasy series of my lifetime. And i arrived at reading it completely by accident. I went to my local library one day and found the first book in the series, Lord Foul's Bane, being sold for 25 cents. I had no clue what the series or the book was about. I picked it up out of curiosity. From the very first moment I began reading the book I could not put it down. Every page I read left me wanting for more.
The anti-hero of Thomas Covenant completely drew me into the book and the first series. When Thomas Covenant entered the land for the very first time I expected him to become the typical hero who shoots out of nowhere to save everything. I was completely wrong. Instead of embracing the health and vitalization of the Land he discarded it as a threat to the way he knew his life to be and himself to be. It was a threat to the life of leper which he had embraced as his only way to survive. The inner conflicts in Thomas Covenant alone are enough of a reason to read this series. He is unique in his actions and decisions. He regrets the power and responsibility thrust upon him instead of allowing it to take control of him.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever focus on Thomas Covenant's trials and tribulations in the Land which all lead up to the spectacular conclusion of the series. He grows menatally and learns that his greatest weakness has given him the strength to defeat the evil upon the Land.
Overall this series is a perfect exampe of how the main character of a story holds the key to it being successful. The attitude of loving to hate Covenant makes him unique in every sense of the word. He is the hero which you can neither accept or deny. Stephen R Donaldson has fashioned a series which ranks with the greatest fantasy novels of all time. I give this series my full recommendation.
Submitted by Michael
At the end of the first book of his Gap series Donaldson writes an essay about his writing, the Gap series draws from Wagner's Ring Cycle, and it is quite visible in the Covenant books as well, though in different ways. Tolkien was not the first to write about an all powerful ring. Similarities with Wagner include the overall dark tone and the "overblown" writing style - although I think the latter, which Donaldson gets criticized for from time to time, works for him, especially in having a fantasy world subject to the unbelief of the main character. It is not appropriate to mimic Hemingway. Wagner's characters can also spend a lot of time talking about their motivations! And there is more one could say, but most of all Donaldson has his own grand concept, his own themes and with great courage does it his own way.
I started this series by picking up The Illearth War in a library, then switching back to the first book when I was already hooked, and Lord Foul's Bane is probably where Covenant is most likely to put people off reading further. Donaldson dares you to hate him and put the book down, if you keep reading it will be most likely that you stay because the overwhelming goodness of the other characters and the beauty of The Land is something you want to see justified.
Take a good look at The Land in Lord Foul's Bane, as you struggle to stay with Covenant, he enters a nearly perfect world, but things are never that good for anyone ever again. Donaldson, like the Despiser himself, kills off, tortures or casts into despair almost all of those you as a reader would find easier to like. The evil characters in this book take relish in the sufferings of others in a way that makes one feel there is something really at stake. This pays off for the reader when Covenant finally begins to turn.
Then in the second series, Covenant returns to The Land and it is already ruined when he gets there, and the manner of his former victory over evil is the reason why.
I have read these books many times since my teens, as I have LOTR. While Tolkien writes an epic of the struggle of good and evil, I think the core of his work, where his interest lies, is in the power of stories, histories and legends themselves and how they interact with the here and now of his characters, in a book written to read almost as if it could be a legend from our own past. Donaldson is more challenging on the issue of good and evil, all his characters must struggle within and without, and some fail, but unlike some fantasy authors who also blur the lines between good and ill, he believes in beauty, that there is something worth fighting for.
Submitted by Louis
I was only 16 when I first read Donaldson's book Lord Foul's Bane. It was a first edition (I'm 43 now) and it literally changed my life. Up until then I'd been reading Dahl and Bloom or an occasional thriller: then I stumbled upon this at a Waldensbooks in California. I've read many books over the years (I'm 43) and have enjoyed a great many of them for various reasons, but The Chronicles of Ur-Lord Thomas Covenant brought to me the world of fantasy. And for that I shall be forever grateful.
The series isn't perhaps the best written, nor the most exciting, yet it remains an excellent example of how fantasy prose can express the noblest traits of humankind through the use of anthropomorphized beings such as we find inhabiting the Land. From the gentle and jovial Giants to the intransigent and dignified Harachi to the proud and beloved Ranyhyn, who amongst us were not moved to love these characters? Yes, Covenant is an anti-hero, capable of inflicting great harm and suffering in his own right, but as the people of the Land are willing to accept and forgive Covenants flaws, so shall I. Drama is conflict, and in Donaldson’s created Land we find this played out starkly and uncompromisingly; the classic good and evil opposition, with a bit of grey (Covenant) thrown in, which anyone who’s lived more than a few years knows is more like reality than fantasy. Lord Foul’s Bane, and the episodes that follow, are a fine example of the promise that the fantasy genre tries to attain. This series is one of the few I recommend for newbies to the genre. This to get them started into the world that has meant so much to me.