Bewildering Stories

Change the text color to: White | Purple | Dark Red | Red | Green | Cyan | Blue | Navy | Black
Change the background color to: White | Beige | Light Yellow | Light Grey | Aqua | Midnight Blue

Book Review:
Stephen R. Donaldson, The Runes of the Earth

by Jerry Wright

The Runes of the Earth
Author: Stephen R. Donaldson
Publisher: Putnam Publishing Group (October 21, 2004)
Hardcover: 532 pages
ISBN: 0399152326
Price: $26.95

Stephen R. Donaldson is a powerful voice in the field of fantasy. His novels of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever are loved and hated with extreme passion. People stumbling across Lord Foul's Bane or White Gold Wielder are moved. Some are moved out of state. Nick Lowe, for example, had many cutting things to say about Donaldson and the Covenant books in an article in Ansible. However...

There is a notable power in Donaldson's writing. He did, for example, use the word "clench" way too often, as well as "fey" and "anile". Despite that, his Covenant books became classics, and Covenant's creations; the Land, the Giants, the Ranyhyn, and oh so many others became real to the readers as they devoured the books.

The last of the Covenant books to see print--White Gold Wielder--ends with the death of Covenant both in the Land, and on our Earth. Now, after a hiatus of twenty-some years, Donaldson returns to his premier creation. Why did he take so long to finish what he is calling "The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant"? He answers that in an essay found at Amazon.Com, wherein he comments that "the Second Chronicles taught me that I needed to become a much better writer before I tackled The Runes of the Earth and the rest of the Last Chronicles.

Did he succeed? Well, I found this book a major improvement over, say, White Gold Wielder. For at least the first half of the book, Donaldson was able to restrain himself from an overuse of his favorite words. In fact the phrase "fey and anile" doesn't appear once in the whole book, and "clench" appears only once, although in the second half it does get a bit overused. Thanks to that cloddy Lowe I am now sensitized to it. Ah well.

The book is very well written, and Linden Avery, "the Chosen" of the second Chronicles carries the weight of the book well. The Land is damaged, mad Joan Covenant and her son are tools of Lord Foul the Despiser, and Linden hears Covenant in her mind occasionally.

Once again, the characters are real, and the damage to Donaldson's wonderful "Land" is almost painful to behold. But wait, there's more. Yep, three books more. And perhaps Covenant returns. In the last ten seconds of this, the first book.

Do you need to read the first six books of the series to enjoy The Runes of the Earth? Actually, no. There is a "what has gone before" that is very well written, and brings us up to speed rapidly, although perhaps when the series is finished, the reader will want to go back, and read, or reread everything from the beginning.

Copyright © 2005 by Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

Return to top

Home Page