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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tolkien for Adults!
I can't remember what made me buy this book, but I am eternally grateful to whoever recommended it to me. As some of the other reviewers here have said, I found it difficult to get into at first. This is because alot of things need to be explained about Covenant and the Land, but stick with it! It's MORE than worth it.
After the first three or four chapters you...
Published on 23 Jun. 2000

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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intensity and purple prose.
I read these books as a teenager and loved them - they were refreshing and absorbing. The Land was beautiful and inspiring, something you couldn't help yearning after. The central character, Thomas Covenant, was conflicted, bitter, wracked and harrowed. His moral depths, his self-flagellation and what sometimes seems like deliberate perversity all combined to make him...
Published on 10 Oct. 2002 by santinix


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tolkien for Adults!, 23 Jun. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever: "Lord Foul's Bane", "Illearth War" and "Power That Preserves" (Paperback)
I can't remember what made me buy this book, but I am eternally grateful to whoever recommended it to me. As some of the other reviewers here have said, I found it difficult to get into at first. This is because alot of things need to be explained about Covenant and the Land, but stick with it! It's MORE than worth it.
After the first three or four chapters you find yourself completely immersed in the rich, beautiful world Stephen Donaldson has created. This is one of the few series of books you can really lose yourself in. You become part of the story, and from then on, you can't put it down.
I will be buying all the other books in the series and any others I can find by Mr. Donalsdon.
"A trilogy of remarkable scope and sophistication."
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83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost without Lord of the Rings Films?, 28 May 2004
By 
Mr. M. Keen (Malvern, Worcestershire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever: "Lord Foul's Bane", "Illearth War" and "Power That Preserves" (Paperback)
If you're up for reading another book (or six), may I heartily, enthusiastically and any other adverb infinitive you can think of, recommend "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" by Stephen Donaldson. Donaldson is a great American author, who I would put in the class of "story-teller" rather than just "author". The comparisons between Donaldson and Tolkien are many, but like JRR, he tends to paint images with words rather than describe events. He uses words in a way that transcends mere language and like I believe any good book should do, you are there amongst the action, not merely reading descriptive passages.
"Thomas Covenant" also adds another dimension to story telling that challenges the reader. You do care about Covenant in these stories, but the reader's first reaction to him is to dislike, even loathe him. Donaldson then takes all the typical actions of a fantasy hero and turns them on their head. Where as Lira threw herself in to the action (rightly or wrongly - and I liked that treatment), Harry Potter rises to the challenge of being a hero, as does Frodo, or Aragorn standing tall and proud and fighting his cause come-what-may; Thomas Covenant does all he can to get away from his situation. Many times he has the opportunity to change the course of events, and when things look like they couldn't get much worse; he does a damn good job of making things sink to a new dismal low!
Sounds depressing? Actually, it is at a surface level, but somehow Donaldson manages to make you "care" about Covenant, so the reality is that despite wanting to throw the book at something very breakable in frustration, the reader is driven on to find out what the hell happens next. There is a lot of landscape description and epic journey type stuff that Tolkien is known for, but with Donaldson's writing, like Tolkien, it's not merely padding to make the books the thick volumes they are, it's the stock that makes the soup, the pure water that makes a good ale, the nitrogen in the atmosphere we breath. You don't actually think about it too much, it's all part of the atmosphere of the story.
Someone said to me that if I liked the Potter stories, then I'd like the Dark Materials trilogy - it was described to me as the "next step on, intellectually from Harry Potter, that added a new and darker dimension to its stories". I think I agree with that. If this statement was generally the case, the "Thomas Covenant", is the grown up version, the adult treatment and a natural progression from those two series. There a useful comparisons to be made between Lord of the Rings and Thomas Covenant, though TC doesn't have the wealth of lore and the rich history of LOTR. It has some, but some folks found LOTR heavy going because of all that. TC has enough to make you care about the land in which the story is set (another Tolkien-esque concept), but doesn't overburden you with too much.
The plot is that TC is in this world - in present day - a man suffering from leprosy who is feeling more than a little sorry for himself. In a way not entirely described (and not really required), TC finds himself in a world where he is not only cured, but is seen as some sort of messiah (another old and familiar concept). TC wants none of this and despite doing everything in his path to avoid things that seem to have become his responsibility, is steadily driven in to being the hero whether he likes it or not. Donaldson does a masterly job of using the reader's preconditioning to this type of story and twisting it in to unexpected directions, that I can compare with jumping in to the sea. It's cold and a shock to the system at first, you really want to get out and wish you'd not bothered, but slowly, as you become accustomed to the temperature, it turns in to a wonderfully relaxing luxury. Donaldson does exactly the same, but keeps chucking buckets of cold water at you for good measure!
There are six books, "The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant", and surprise, surprise, "The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant". Each book has it's own individual title and starts with "Lord Foul's Bane". I won't give too much away, but there are very strong Tolkien overtures in this first book. Lord Foul, you won't be surprised to hear, is the baddie. The first three books can be read without the second three, but not, I would suggest, the other way around, despite the addition of another main character. Having read all six, I would also suggest that it would be a great shame to miss the second three. They are uncomfortably different to the first three, despite being set in the same world etc. But then, I'm sure that's the idea. I won't give away the ending, save to say that Donaldson delivers his climax in a way that doesn't disappoint. There's much more I'd want to say once you've read it (if you read it! or if you read it and don't slash your wrists half way through as TC fails AGAIN!), but as much as I could enthuse about these books, you'd have to read them yourself. They are traditional fantasy, more Pullman than Potter, and I'd say that a cross between His Dark Materials and Lord of the Rings is probably a good comparison.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy for grown-ups, 27 Oct. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever: "Lord Foul's Bane", "Illearth War" and "Power That Preserves" (Paperback)
Of the many fantasy novels that have appeared since Tolkien, the two trilogies by Donaldson are perhaps the best. Tad Williams or David Eddings may clutter up the shelves in bookshops, but this is the real thinking-person's fantasy series. It is, dare I say it, fantasy for grown-ups.
The setting is The Land, a mythical world which of course resembles Middle-earth in many ways. Like Tolkien, Donaldson depicts a largely rural, agrarian society, but unlike Tolkien the inhabitants are mostly humans (the creatures of folklore, while present, are slightly thin on the ground - not a criticism by the way). The threat to the Land comes from without, but Donaldson seems most interested in the interior landscape of his protagonist, the leper Thomas Covenant.
This is the thing that elevates the novels above the bulk of fantasy fiction: a bitter, self-pitying main character who, being shunned by human society, has lost in faith in the goodness of people. His despair is the subject of the book; when he is transported from our own world into an idyllic world where he is not just accepted but needed, he cannot believe in its verity and so cannot be the saviour the people so desperately call for. The Land is the exact opposite of the uncaring world he has known, and his despair makes him reject the friendship and kindness he meets with, selfishly spurning those who offer friendship, causing pain to those who put their trust in him. Covenant is interesting because he has psychological depth. As a hero he is flawed, all too human, and the plot centres around his painfully slow acceptance of his role in a world he does not really believe in: to be its saviour, to offer its people the very things that have always been denied him: friendship, faith and love.
The books are moral, in the broad sense, and seem at times to echo Christian beliefs of charity and kindness. The second trilogy evokes Adam and Eve's expulsion from paradise, as Covenant, plus female companion, enter a wilderness where the Land used to be. In the middle book of the second trilogy, the giants, perhaps Donaldson's most memorable creations, accompany Covenant on a sea voyage into fabulous new places, recalling, amongst other things, the Greek myths. What manages to sustain our interest through all six volumes is Covenant himself, his slow evolution from unbeliever to believer in the existence of goodness, and his attempts to make reparation for the evil he himself has wrought. Lord Foul, the novels' Sauron, is merely a device, though an effective one, and Donaldson is more interested in the darkness within us. It could be argued that Lord Foul is Covenant himself, or more particularly his own darkness, and it takes him two attempts, and a lot of self-knowledge and moral growth, to finally banish him for good. All in all, there is enough here to satisfy people who do not usually get enough out of fantasy novels.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thomas Covenant series, 7 Mar. 2009
This review is from: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever: "Lord Foul's Bane", "Illearth War" and "Power That Preserves" (Paperback)
It was so many years ago that I first read and became hooked on the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I had a hard-back version of the first trilogy which actually fell apart after what must have been the tenth or so read. The second trilogy was all paper-backs and they went the same way. There was also an out-take called Koric's tale which I had, but which for some reason, seems to have ceased to exist. I'm on the end of Fatal Revenant, the second book of the last chronicles now, and I've ordered the first two trilogies again. They are superb novels, and once you get past Donaldson's penchant for obscure words, (actually, sometimes I wonder if he makes some of them up) the books truly are a cracking read. The characters bounce out of the pages, larger than life; the giants especially, and while Covenant plays the total anti-hero, he comes back with the goods, making the supreme sacrifice in order to do so.
I love good fantasy - and this series rates among the best.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite books - EVER, 20 Jan. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever: "Lord Foul's Bane", "Illearth War" and "Power That Preserves" (Paperback)
I started off with Lord Foul's Bane when it first appeared, and eagerly awaited the publication of each successive book. As each new one appeared, I re-read all of the earlier ones before reading the new one, so I have now read Lord Foul's Bane 6 times, The Illearth War 5 times... etc. After a break of some years, I'm now about to start them all again, but the early ones have fallen apart, and I'm going to have to buy new ones! I wasn't so hooked on the Gap series, but the Thomas Covenant ones have everything for me - complex characters, adventure, mystery, goodies, baddies, .... Donaldson is a bit too keen on using words I have to look up in the dictionary, but these books are the best I've ever read. (and will continue to read)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A land of chaos and imagination, 1 Sept. 2003
By 
S. Reid "happy_daze" (Liverpool) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever: "Lord Foul's Bane", "Illearth War" and "Power That Preserves" (Paperback)
I have just returned from holiday and purchased this book to take with me, thinking it would sustain me for the duration of my two week stay. How wrong I was. It lasted just under a week, I was so enthralled - it was a relentless page turner.
Not at first though. "Lords Foul's Bane" I found abit turgid to start off with. Plus Covenant is hardly a likeable central character, in fact his self pity is downright annoying at times.
But stick with it. This is a great book with a world that is fully realised in great detail. The myths, legends and pre-history of The Land are all told in stunning detail.
Its a great narrative that never flags and avoids alot of the predictable subplots that dominate this genre of writing. I really, really enjoyed it.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Restoring your belief in a tired genre, 11 Oct. 2005
By 
Adam "Say something about yourself!" (Dunton, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever: "Lord Foul's Bane", "Illearth War" and "Power That Preserves" (Paperback)
Disillusioned with all those doorstep tomes with helpful maps, countless characters with tongue twisting names, plots and sub-plots that go nowhere, and no sign of a resolution by book 10?
Here's the antidote. Adult, intelligent and gripping, Donaldson's novels have the page turning compulsion of the tightest thrillers with characters and dilemmas that convince and compel, and an imagination that soars.
Thomas Covenant is a writer struck down by leprosy that he fails to spot in time. As the disease progresses, his wife leaves him taking their son, and he becomes a pariah. Walking into town to pay his 'phone bill in person to reassert his dignity, he's hit by a speeding Police car, just after an old beggar warns him to "be true." He wakes in "The Land," a world in plight through the machinations of Lord Foul. Foul has called Covenant to deliver a message of Doom to the Lords of the Land. Though he is convinced that he in a fever dream, Covenant is compelled to follow his quest.
This tension between Covenant's unbelief and the Land around him is the dilemma on which these magnificent tales turn.
The borrowing from Middle Earth is obvious and undisguised, but Donaldson's "Land" is his own. Donaldson seems to be saying that Tolkien started this genre, and his references are homage. That he gets away with it is down to his power as writer and storyteller.
Read Donaldson's 'Unbeliever' saga and be as enthralled and hooked as you can be by Fantasy fiction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A shaft of bright light!, 27 Sept. 2005
By A Customer
I have only read up to the second book of the first chronicals before my dissertation was calling my name but felt that the central character was one so intense that i haven't come across the like before. The unbeliever seems dark and bitter but as his disbelief at his new suroundings becomes less, his hard exterior begins to fade. I can imagine in later parts he will become more relaxed and emotional to the surroundings and the other characters in the tale.
I did find the dark lord's (or whatever) minion in the first book slightly dissapointing as he didn't present a big enough challenge to the "goodies". However, I will definately go back to Donaldson's trilogy's as he has an extremely strong central character who's development will be very interesting to follow.
Rates next to Tolkien and Robert Jordan but has a very different take on the fantasy genre!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the foundation works of modern fantasy..., 6 May 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever: "Lord Foul's Bane", "Illearth War" and "Power That Preserves" (Paperback)
This is quite simply one of the best "epic fantasies" ever written. The breadth and scope of the story certainly distinguishes it from other multi-volume (read: never ending) fantasy works. When I tell people about these books, I always frame it as "dark fantasy in a high fantasy millieu." I recommend this, along with George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series, as just about the only fantasy masterwork published in the last 30 years.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read over and over again..., 14 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever: "Lord Foul's Bane", "Illearth War" and "Power That Preserves" (Paperback)
I have bought this book from Amazon (and the second chronicals) because the first one wore out and fell apart from use. If you like fantasy with with a bit of bite I suggest you read this. A fantastic read (literally) with depth, scope, amazing vocabulary (I guarantee you won't know every word he uses and will need a dictionary to hand to appreciate the full meaning of his text) and complicated plot.

Each time I have read it has been at a different time/place in my life and this is reflected in the new and ongoing enjoyment I get out of his (same) writing each time. Each decade I read them I find something new to enjoy based on my own experiences and increasing age. The books have been passed around the family.

This fantasy has rules. Life still isn't easy. Magic (if you can call it that) is hard. There are always consequencies. The creative descriptions are full, rich and colourful with wonderful language and lives/characters that reflect the complications and inadequacies of our own lives. He doesn't cheat or make his stories easy for the people in them. Covenant (the main character) is ill, inadequate, intelligent, crippled with disease and irritatingly real. He's not some sappy hero that brandishes a sword and does what you want. He does what he wants and has to do. The planet he visits is beautiful, full and rewarding (until it is savaged) - you will feel real grief and loss for Land (and our own). Great if you can let go, understand the emotional journey and accept that individuals make decisions based on their own agenda(s). Not a book to read if you like easy story lines and 'Lord of the Rings' style fantasy. It's not silly... it's serious stuff.

Donaldson obvously writes for his own reasons (he didn't produce this on a whim or overnight). He writes because he has to - you can feel that in the books. Worth the effort - a life experience I have gone back to again and again. But not for the light reader!
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