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Showing 1-10 of 29 reviews(5 star). See all 43 reviews
on 18 May 1999
When I was 12, Lord Foul's Bane was published in the UK. Donaldson's debut and subsequent novels hooked me so completely that I've been looking for a repeat of that 'pure reading' experience ever since. Periodically, my search takes me to the latest 'hot' new multi part fantasy (Jordan, Feist, Goodkind, Eddings etc) but only Tad Williams' books have come close to the extraordinary sensation of reading the Thomas Covenant story arc. With the other (endless) sagas, I've never been able to get past the first couple of instalments before their derivative and formulaic hack work; same story - different names, becomes too much.
Donaldson's books remain apart. The central characters have a complexity and humanity that makes them properly three-dimensional and their heroism becomes utterly convincing because of it. These books have everything you want from fantasy; a literate prose style, emotional engagement, character development, awe and wonder, impossible odds, fear, glossaries and cool characters (Vain, the Haruchai...wow). Most of all, while you always know that these kind of books end in a showdown with 'Evil', the journey to that moment is never predictable, never implausible, always gripping.
I read the books as the were published through my school years. And I've read them again, first when I was at University, and again about 5 years ago in Nepal, relaxing after a month long trek. Each time I 'consumed' the two trilogies in a matter of days - barely stopping for food. Each time Donaldson transported me back to the Land, a fantasy realm for grown-ups.
Last year I got married. It had to be with a white gold ring....
I urge you to read these books
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on 18 February 2017
Great value for money and delivery time was excellent
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on 26 August 2017
Brilliant Value
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on 28 May 2004
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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on 20 January 2005
This is a true treasure for those that, like me, enjoy high fantasy. Let me explain high fantasy, it doesn't give picture card impressions and it doesn't have to come up with endless plots and subplots. It leaves open spaces for the reader to fill in the blanks. It moves us not for what is written in it but what our heart and head tells us could be there. Donaldson manages to pull us in to what is far more than just an adult version of Harry Potter. I read this book in 1994 and practically lived this book, as I took it everywhere to use every free minute to read on.
After Tolkien opened up a new area of fiction now commonly known as "Fantasy" many have tried but few have managed to add new features to the genre. Unfortunately many authors nowadays see the genre as a way to fill their writing career by keeping us in suspicion about the end for more than 11 volumes. Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles sofar consist of seven books (the first book of a third and final series is just out). And this book conveniently combines the three volumes that together make up the second chronicles. As these are the second chronicles I would strongly recommend to read the "First Chronicles of Thomas Convenant" first. But if you would like, you can read them separately as they stand by themselves. For those that read the first chronicles, the second chronicles have a very clear change of tone. No matter how bad it got in the first chronicles there was the always the sense of optimism. The second chronicles start with a strong sense of desperation and ill feeling. But don't despair and read on because you will be rewarded by a reading experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Other reviewers have commented on what's in the book and I agree with them that this makes a GREAT read. So let me consider the book itself. Being three volumes in one, it is somewhat heavier than a regular paperback but it is still handy enough to carry along. The spine is flexible and wont crease unless you really "break" it. And generally the styleful cover art and gilt titles make it stand out in any collection. In fact it is the only paperback that sits on my "good" bookshelf among (leatherbound)hardcover books.

Other recommended "high fantasy" books: Magician by Raymond E. Feist, Mythago Wood series by Robert Holdstock, Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake and the Amber series by Zelazny.
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on 24 May 2004
I read this series years ago when I was at school, I felt like I was sucked into the world written in the book, the characters became some of my friends, I shared their pain and enjoyed their triumphs, It was a book about people and events that you can relate too. The way it is written is what's what makes it special.
I'm very, very relieved book 1 of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is due in October this year.
I think Stephen Donaldson joins the ranks of other talented people who were born and/or raised in different countries like Thomas Dolby and JRR Tolken, It's just a personal observation.
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on 6 January 2009
One of the reviewers of this series states that Donaldson is a storyteller rather than an author; this could not be closer to the truth. The stories are brilliant, well thought out and very well written. Covenant is an objectionable sod at first - well - at last, too. The characters leap out of the pages at the reader; the giants are - well, giants. Larger than life characters who could not be nicer people: articulate, erudite, creative and above all, faithful to the death. In the second chronicles, when Covenant meets the Giants of the search, he is so overcome with emotion, and the description of his emotion is such that I wept with him.
The Haruchi, the Bloodguard, are so stoic, so unyielding, that you wish you could shake a little humanity into them, yet in the end, they are far more human than could be imagined. There is total good in his books, just as there is total evil. Every extreme of human emotion is laid bare.
One book I read, yet never see advertised, is Koric's tale, an out-take of the First Chronicles. It really is quite short, but serves to give the reader an insight into the personality of a superb character; a major character, yet one who loses out in the first trilogy, whether to a shortage of space at the time, or because he was, very mistakenly, ruled out as a major player when the book was first written.
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on 7 July 2014
It’s rare that a book comes along that you could truly call genre defining. Unfortunately, in the science fantasy genre the popular myth is that the genre-defining book is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Not so in this reader’s humble opinion.

In this tale, Donaldson takes the whole genre and turns it on its head. The lead character is not your friendly, loveable hobbit. Thomas Covenant is very much the anti-hero. A leper who finds himself transported into a world he refuses to believe is anything more than a dream, a man who’s fierce need to protect himself appears to do nothing but damage those around him.

Without giving too much of the plot away, it’s fair to say that this is, at the very least, a science fantasy story for grown ups. Dealing with dark emotions, real world issues like disease and trust, and spinning it all into a fast paced adventure, while creating a believable landscape in which the plot unfolds.

So whether you’ve only got time to read one epic science fantasy story, or whether you’ve read a hundred, do yourself a favour and take the time to immerse yourself into the world of Thomas Covenant.
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on 28 June 2001
I read the first chronicles many years ago and thought they were brilliant. You couldn't get much better... How wrong I was. I bought this set a few years ago and I can still read them all again and again with excitement. This series is unparalled and a wonderful piece of work. Depth, scope, diversity.
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on 1 May 2012
This is a book that I have read before, this time it was as three books in one.

The book was first published in 1977. The author has a strange way of writing using three words instead of one, which leads to a very long read. how it was done at the time. You may also need a dictionary by your side as some of the words are, to say the least, unusual. It helps if you have read the first three books of the series.

Thomas Covenant is a Leper and it is rather rammed down your throat, of course he has to save the world. Using his 'magic' white gold ring. He is a very vulnerable hero slipping in and out of a different timeline every time he is ill.

All in all a good book to take away on holiday.
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