Book 2 of one of the most original, imaginative and best Fantasy series’ out there
I have given this four stars because I believe that Tolkiens work is beyond the star rating and this series is below the rating I would give to Jordon’s Wheel of Time series (so far up to book 4) and Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. However I was extremely impressed with Donaldson’s original and imaginative fantasy world.
Donaldson does a very different take by creating such an unusual hero as Thomas Covenant, the Leper (and you don’t forget this throughout the books). Donaldson has created a fantasy world that you can begin to visualise and become immersed in – a sign of excellent fantasy. Covenant is from the real world and is transported into this other fantasy world, which was refreshing for a change. This world is dark, bleak, depressing and there seems to be little hope for it. In fact, you can draw parallels with it and the life of Covenant, who is a leper.
Thomas Covenant finds himself in another world whenever he becomes unconscious, which he therefore thinks is just a dream and refuses to admit that the world is real. He is seen by the inhabitants as some sort of incarnation of a past saviour of their world and revered despite the fact one of his first acts is to rape an innocent young women that has helped him. Covenant’s wedding ring is made of white gold and in this dream world it is the source of “wild magic”, a great power that even the most powerful being in the books is afraid off. However, Covenant does not know how to unleash this power, whenever it is unleashed it is not through deliberate self-will. Covenant’s continuous moaning and self-pity does not endear the reader to him.
Throughout the books you begin to feel the desperation of the world and people who are trying to defend themselves against the domination of the ultimate evil force, Lord Foul. You don’t actually come across Foul till the last book, but since even his minions are so terrifying and powerful you begin to get a sense of an ultimate struggle between good and evil of world and universal proportions, but where “Satan” is much more powerful and the Creator is constrained and has to work through VERY WEAK intermediaries. The three “Ravers” are Lord Foul’s main henchmen (like Suaron’s Black Riders in the Lord of the Rings). The Writer is able to effectively portray them as powerful, depraved creatures that are single-mindedly following their master’s destructive bidding. (these nasty pieces of work you definitely would not like to meet in a dark alley; even if you had all your mates with you).
The Illearth War
Is the second book in the first Trilogy/Chronicles. The book deals primarily with the War, 40 years after the time Covenant was last there, although in the real world only days/weeks have elapsed. You are introduced to another character from the real world, Hile Troy. He has a much more positive view of this world because he was blind but can see here. I slaughter of the Giants is such a tragedy and you know something awful is going to happen as a result of the the Bloodguard keeping a piece of the Illearth Stone, at the close of the book
I am surprised... in fact, shocked that there are so few reviews out there about this series of books. Donaldson’s world building is vivid and powerful through the creation of so many peoples, creatures and history. I especially enjoyed the reference to the historical events and characters of the world. This is powerful writing and imaginative and I would recommend any fantasy buffs out there who have not read the series, to do so.
It is definitely one of the best fantasy series’ out there today.