26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Lord of the Rings,H. Potter, His Dark Materials, What next?,
This review is from: The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Wounded Land / One Tree / White Gold Wielder (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.