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VINE VOICEon 1 December 2010
"Against All Things Ending" seems to be a bit of a marmite book - you either love it or hate it. In fact the whole Last Chronicles is a bit like that.

I have been reading & enjoying Covenant since the late 1970s. The first trilogy was astonishingly brilliant. The second was just as good. So I was looking forward to this latest (and last) trilogy. The trouble seems to be that it consists of 4 books. This means that each book is sonewhat slow & padded out. Read some of the other (very well written) reviews here & you will see that the consensus is that the pace is wrong, the book is too long & Linden features too much & is too busy self-flagellating.

However, it is still a Covenant book. The number of words which I have never heard before (a regular feature of all the Covenant books) is particularly high, making the meaning of some of the passages pure guesswork. But I can live with that. There are still bits where you despair of the characters & want to give them a slap - this is typical Covenant. There is a complete absence of humour - also typical Covenant. There are bits where you raise your fist in the air & shout "yes!" - unfortunately unlike the earlier series, they tend to be telegraphed in this one.

I still love the Chronicles. I will still read the last book when it eventually comes out. However, there is no doubt that the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant overall have been somewhat diminished by the Last ones. Sadly, in some ways I wish Donaldson had stopped at the Second Chronicles...
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on 21 January 2011
Having read all of the Thomas Covenant books I looked forward to The Last Chronicles. I have just finished this the third book of four and I am left with a definite feeling of disapointment. Linden Avery's self pity and non forgiveness dominates the storyline to the point where it detracts from what is truly good, i.e Liands devotion to her, the transformation of Stave the harauchi and the involvement of the ur viles and the wahynim. (No spoilers here). The self pity and her utter devotion to Jeremiah take up a fair portion of the story especialy in All Things Ending. For goodness sake I got it in the first book The Runes OF The Earth. The result was a lot more page skimming than I like to do when reading a book but you just got the feeling, here we go again. I will buy The Last Dark when it is available simply because I have read all of the others but it is not due until 2013 which seems a heck of a long time between books in a series. So all in all the basic storyline is as good as the previous Chronicles but oh, that self pity, anger and devotion from Linden are too much. Oh yes and where is Mr Donaldson finding some of these words he uses, even the Kindle dictionaries can't find them and I sure as hell don't know what they mean.
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on 12 December 2016
Even speed reading this took too long. I gave up
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if you've been reading the series then you have to read this to prepare for hopefully the final climax in this series. yes it is in places damn hard work but it is worth it eventually and yup another bloody cliffhanger
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on 6 January 2012
What a way to wrap it all up! Thank you, thank you, thank you Stephen Donaldson for this epic adventure that started in my childhood in the Seventies and that has now finally resolved itself. Bravo! :-)
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What can I say?

Others have written accurate and true reviews, and I thought I'd add my tuppence worth.

Linden Avery utterly RUINS this series and especially this latest book in the series.

She ruined the 2nd Chronicles, and after reading The One Tree and White Gold Wielder I wished I'd never set my eyes on this rubbish character ever again, but alas, Donaldson has decided to give us an overdose of her in this series ((I think The Gap series was also ruined by a similar female character))

There is some action at the beginning of this book as it carries on from the previous one, and it flows nicely, (though still spoilt by Linden Avery) - the action comes to a sudden halt and then.......and then.....oh God!! I had to skim so much as it was worthless, useless tripe,...basically we find ourselves reading page after page after chapter after chapter of dung - Linden this, Linden that etc etc where nothing happens and all the characters act as if Linden and her whims and selfish desires and wants are the only important things.

And eventually near the end we're treated to blissful brilliant writing as it's ALL Covenant with Linden nowhere in sight!

That's what saves the book, the action at the beginning, the other bits of actions where things actually happen (rather than the other bits of action which weren't even worth putting pen to paper for) and especially Covenant - the whole reason to be reading this series for and whom the series is named after (though it should've been called "The selfish @$$##$$5!! Linden" - yes, Covenant and the brilliant last few chapters SAVE this book!

As a series, it IS worth reading IF you're a fan of the original and The Land.
The reader is treated to bouts of excellent story telling, and Donaldson's writing IS excellent (when he wants it to be), the reader is able to explore and find out more of the Land, it's history, characters, legends etc and this in itself is reason enough to pick it up and give it a star or two.

Roger is quite a character, as is The Harrow and The Theomach, we're also treated to others out of the lands past and it's all good thus far.

All of Covenants parts are excellent, but it all boils down to the fact that it all is ruined by probably the worst character I've ever come across in ANY genre - Linden Avery, I hope she ends up with the Bubonic Plague, Rabies and Ebola all at once right at the beginning of the 4th and final book and is done away with - that's how tedious, annoying, and utterly rubbish she is!
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on 6 February 2011
The Good News is that I finished Against All Things Ending, this morning. The bad news is that having waded through the first 2 books in this, the last chronicles of TM, I naively expected this to be the last book in the chronicles only to discover that there is a 4th book which will be out in a couple of years.

To echo other's sentiments, the first two chronicles were superb! SD's writing style was never a problem in the first two chronicles - in fact it was commensurate with the complexity of the story line. It was essential to build in the reader's mind, a detailed profile of all the characters which would sustain the reader's understanding of events to come and the parts each character had to play and the way they influenced the event outcomes. Much of these character profiles evolved as the "action" took place. This enabled the story to move along and maintain a balance between 1) something physically happening and 2) the thought processes and emotions of the characters involved. SD was polished in the writing of these two important facets and adept at integrating them in such a way that left the reader hungry for more of both. A testament to the success of this formula (or style) is the fact that I read the first chronicles in one weekend - for 2 days I was totally consumed.

As I approached the end of Against All Things Ending, I was beginning to feel self congratulatory. This is, I am afraid, a poor indictment on the book and to a slightly lesser degree the previous two books. I was thinking "I'm nearly there; I've finished it; I won't have to read ALL the books yet again to remind myself what has already transpired". The fact is - this was hard work! The only reason I stuck with it was out of some kind of loyalty to the previous chronicles and an increasingly forlorn hope that "it would come good"

In conclusion, SD's protracted and repetitive soliloquies damaged what would otherwise have been a very good book indeed. I can't begin to imagine what has caused SD to labour so, the emotional conflicts and self doubts of one, increasingly irritating Linden Avery. It is inconceivable that any of the characters in her motley crew put up with her for so long. In doing so however, we the readers were obliged to do the same.

Enough said. My deepest wish is that soon, a Bannor or Foamfollower character will enter SD's life and give him a gentle tap and convince him to "get a grip" (pretty much what I would have liked to have happened to Linden in this book).
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on 11 May 2015
Firstly let me say that I've previously been a great fan of Stephen Donaldson - I thought the first two Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were amongst the best fantasy novels (of a thousand or so) that I've read. However this is a deeply flawed and disappointing sequel. I've now trudged, in ever deepening gloom, through all four books and, as they're effectively a single seamless tale, this review covers the whole sequence rather than any individual book.

Basically, the whole thing is simply tedious. The characters continually restate the plot and their relationships to each other - presumably intended to increase tension, but after a few dozen occurrences it just becomes mind-numbing padding. The worst instance is a single conversation at the start of the 3rd book that lasts over 120 pages, but there seem to be repetitive internal monologues of angst and inadequacy every few pages. There are still some flashes of brilliant writing, but one is so exhausted by the preceding drudgery that the pleasure of finding them is quite numbed. It would be a much better novel for being half the size - 3000 pages is far too long for the events it contains.

One gets the impression that much of the plot was based on a tick-list of characters aimed at bringing back the complete crowd-pleasing cast of
haruchai, stonedowners, ramen, ranyhyn, giants, lords, sand-gorgons, forestals, ur-viles, elohim, lurker, cavewight, raver, waynhim etc from every previous book. With the breaking of various laws it seems that even death is no barrier to having at least a walk-on part - even the illearth stone makes an appearance. About the only thing I didn't spot is repeated use the phrase "roynish barking" which previously seemed compulsory whenever the urviles appeared. It seems more like a cram-everything-in fan-fic homage to the originals rather than the work of the same author.

The time-travel element seems completely out of place with the tone of the other novels and is presumably there to allow the author to complete the tick-list of characters and enable more exposition regarding the origin of the lands various features and historical characters. Linden's various excursions to the past seem largely aimed at demystifying the back-story to the original books - quite deflating really since they fit much better with the fantasy setting as myths rather than step-by-step explanations of how things came to be. We really didn't need to know the story of the Guardian of the one tree, how Berek discovered Earth power, why the viles went bad etc - such things may be of interest to true Covenant completists but to those of us simply looking for an excellent story they're extraneous.

There are far too many deus ex machina episodes, often involving powerful pop-up characters who appear unheralded to offer some wisdom or perform a function then are disposed of once their role is over. Some use of these devices is generally acceptable in fantasy since the author needs to construct a background without a real world to provide context, but they are over-used ad nauseum here to the point where the main characters actions often seem to have little point because someone/something will drop in to either create or solve a problem for them. The ur-viles are a particularly ominpresent get-out-jail-free card, apparently tailing around after the main cast invisibly then uncloaking whenever a problem is seems unsolvable. One particularly delating occurrence is when, after being told for a couple of thousand pages how unstoppable sand-gorgons and the skurj are, both are wiped out cleanly in a paragraph by Covenant shouting mystic words. A similar things occurs earlier when the unbeatable demondim are demolished instantly by a pop-up character, and at various points both the escorting haruchai and giants are nearly wiped out only to have unexpected save-the-day reinforcements drop in apparently out of the blue. The cumulative effect of all these excursions from plot continuity is to remove any sense of buy-in one might have regarding the fate of the characters - leaving residual warm-feelings from the first two trilogies and gritted-teeth determination as the only reasons to finish the saga (when, alas, the finale continues in the same "Eh? What happened there?" disappointing vein).

If I had Linden's time travelling ability then I'd create my own caesare and send a "don't read these books" message to myself. The conclusion of the 2nd Chronicles was one of the most powerful endings in the fantasy genre and really needed no sequel - especially not one that falls so far short of that standard.
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on 3 December 2010
I finished this book today and was very interested to see what other readers thought of it. This is a more of a response to the other reviews than anything else.

The main criticism, which has been much repeated, is how annoying Linden Avery's self pity, doubt and hatred is, particularly when it consumes such a large number of pages. To some extent,I agree with this: it's not a lot of fun and it undermines the credibility of the story to some extent - why does this character, who inspires such tedium in the readers, inspire such loyalty in the other characters? However, I think it fair to balance the criticisms with two other considerations.

First: lengthy, whingeing navel gazing is hardly a new feature of the Chronicles. Why should this be any different? Also, much of the criticism seems to be personally directed at Linden Avery as if Thomas Covenant had not filled hundreds of pages in his time with dour introspection.

Second: Linden is a developing character. This should be made clear by the symbolic transformation of the Staff of Law, even if you managed to miss the fact that this mortal, flawed and fallible woman has been under a spectacular degree of stress lately (how would you like it if you had to ba a character in a Stephen Donaldson book?). Such a deep transformation absolutley requires a long and deep inner process, and that, ultimately, is the purpose of all those tortuous pages.

The other most repeated criticism is about Donaldson's absurd vocabulary. Like, the navel gazing, this is a prominent feature of the landscape and if you really don't like it then I'm genuinely surprised that you've come this far. Besides, this is what dictionaries are for.

I have my own deep reservations about this book, which I have not seen voiced by others though.

One is that the theme of catatonic impotence is overused. Anele's madness is frustrating but it is at least interesting because of his veiled destiny and his vulnerability to possession. When Covenant becomes catatonic, there is some interest in his transition from timeless immortality to present mortality but the catatonia theme is already starting to strain. Then when Linden vanishes up her own *******(don't know what the profanity rules are for Amazon but I'm guessing I should be fairly discrete)it's just annoying.

The other theme which is over stretched is the deus ex machina (sorry, dont know what the proper Latin plural sould be). Every major action sequence involves a whole host of characters who seem able to sense events from far away in space and time and then either show up in person or otherwise influence events. To be fair, in some cases Donaldson handles this like an escalation between balanced forces like a well balanced chess game, but in general I felt that the super abundance of forces that transcend space and/or time placed a heavy burden on the narrative.

My third criticism is that much of the dramatic tension comes from the ongoing moral debates within and between characters, a good example being the debate between Stave and the Humbled, the outcomes of which determine much of the unfolding of the narrative. Indeed, it could be said that this theme is one of the main strengths of Donaldson's works. However, there are times when I feel unconvinced that his understanding of philosophy and of human psychology are sufficient to make some of these debates feel authentic. The characters make difficult choices, forever fearing to tread on ground where the Despiser has long since maneouvered them. The story approaches some interesting and deep ideas about which paths serve despite and which paths lead away from it but I feel less than convinced by Donaldsons arguments on this point.

My fourth reservation is that in terms of narrative coherence, I am concerned that in this story, much rests on the party trusting the wisdom of those who have already proven susceptible to Despite. What have the Ranhyn learned since Kelenabanal's futile sacrifice that qualifies them to combat Lord Foul now?

My fifth criticism is fairly minor. The parallels between Donaldson's works and tolkien's are easy enough to draw (disembodied malevolent adversary, magic rings, etc)and generally to forgive but I found the events on the bridge to be so reminiscent of the bridge at Kazad Dum as to be offputting.

My final criticism is that neither the 'What has come before' section, nor the glossary contains sufficient information for me to keep up with all of the story's characters. Like another reviewer, I started reading the Chronicles when I should have been revising for my GCSEs more than 20 years ago and I just don't remember some of the references that seem to inform this current plot.

But it must be said that this book has strengths too, and they are great ones. When, from time to time, something happens, the action is both electric and epic. As always Donaldson creates people and places of astonishing beauty, which are all the more moving when they are sacrificed: the fates of Liand and Elena particularly impacted me more powerfully than most fiction has the power to, indeed little has impacted me like that since the deaths of the giants in the Illearth War.

Finally I wish to emphasise that this book does not stand alone. It cannot. I can certainly say that this is the weakest book of Donaldson's that I have read (and I've read them all) but ultimately, I stand behind it and eagerly await the conclusion of a truly epic tale when I anticipate that the costs of reading this book will be amply repaid.
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on 8 November 2010
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.
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