There's a heck of a lot of good stuff in this book. About 400 pages-worth, which is roughly the length of each of the first trilogy. The only thing is, this book is 743 pages long. So we have 400 pages of action that moves the story along, decent introspection and analysis, character study, and 343 pages of Linden whining.
Although I couldn't say Linden Avery's ever come close to cracking my top 10 list of favourite Covenant characters, I've never been a hatah. Until, I'm sad to say, now. Sadder than I can express, actually, because ever since discovering the first and second trilogy at the same time, in the mid-80's (they screwed up my "O" level revision), the Chronicles have been my favourite set of books. Ever. And when I heard about the Last Chronicles coming along, well, I was a very happy chap.
The Runes of the Earth: great. Fatal Revenant: excellent. But now that I've finished reading Against All Things Ending I am, for the first time, wondering if Stephen Donaldson's lost his mojo. If you look on the US Amazon site you'll see a lot of reviews which express similar sentiments: Linden. Bloody Linden. Why is the whole thing about LINDEN?! And I agree with them. The *constant*, never-ending, repetitive, boring, circular self-doubt, self-hatred and whining. The almost wilful misunderstanding of people's motives. The need always to bring things back to me, me, me. I'm so wicked. I killed my mother. I watched my father die. I'll never live up to Covenant. Give. It. A. Rest.
At times Donaldson seems to have completely lost the feeling for his own characters - this quote from page 625: "What remained, except to pray that she and her friends had not made a terrible mistake by surrendering their fate to the Ranyhyn?" Oh, you think? Her reaction to Covenant's post-resurrection disorientation and pain? She sees it as a rejection of her, that she's been abandoned. "To hell with you" she even thinks, at one point. And later, "Covenant was still alive: in effect, Infelice had said so. Other issues were more important." The last time I looked, it was still the Final Chronicles of *Thomas Covenant*. She's what you might call an unreliable witness, so can't be objective about things - fine, but come on. She wasn't *this* bad before. She may have second-guessed (and even third-guessed) herself, but in this book she's just interminable.
Oh, and the Giants. Since when did they ever describe themselves using language not far short of "Heh! We're Giants! We're absolutely bonkers, us! You'd have to be mad to work here! We're ker-rayzee"? Joy in the ears that hear, certainly, but Foamfollower and the Search always reserved a fundamental, grave dignity. There was never the feeling that our current band are projecting of "hey, who cares where we're going? Who cares what we're up to? As long as it turns into a good story, right?!"
The best example I've seen of fantasy that ties up motivation, struggle (internal and outward), action and heart-in-the-mouth pace is The Illearth War. Go back and read it. It's majestic. When you stumble on the name of one of Linden's gang, trying to remember who is being described (because they're all similarly heroic and self-sacrificing), marvel at the way Donaldson managed to elegantly juggle Elena, Hile Troy, Mhoram, Covenant and Bannor. All different and distinctive, all memorable.
Three stars. A lot of good stuff (everything involving Covenant, basically), but several hundred pages of wallowing, self-pitying drivel from Linden Avery.