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I was given the first book of the original trilogy of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever ("Lord Foul's Bane") when I was staying at someone's house, and I was really bored. The boredom was soon gone,let me tell you!! Then, I had to go and buy the next two books ("The Illearth War" and "The Power That Preserves") When I bought those, I found that there was another trilogy, aptly named The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever. The books are called "The Wounded Land", "The One Tree" and "White Gold Wielder"
Stephen Donaldson is from Ohio, but lived in India as a child. While he was there, his father worked as an orthapedic surgeon, and worked extensively with lepers. This gave him the idea for the main character of the books - Thomas Covenant - who I'll call TC from now on, just for sheer laziness.
So, the basic plot of the story is that TC is a leper. Before he discovered he had the disease, he was a sucessful writer, but when his illness was discovered his whole life fell apart. His wife left him, taking his son away - this was out of concern that they might also contract Hansens Disease. He had two fingers amputated, to try and halt the spread of his condition, and spent six months in a leprosarium, learning how his life would be. The nerves in his hands and feet have started to degenerate, and so he is at constant risk of infection. On his return home, he is ostracised by the community, to the point that his groceries are delivered (whether he pays for them or not) and someone starts to pay all his bills, so that he doesn't need to go into the town for anything.
At this point, I felt quite sorry for TC, as all this seemed really harsh. Anyway, he makes his way into town, as his payment for his telephone bill has been returned to him unopened. It's this desperation for human contact that continually leads him into trouble, as you'll see later on.
In town, he meets an old man in robes, who he thinks is a beggar. Shortly after, he collapses in front of a police car, which he believes has hit him.
He awakes in a cavern, with an evil cavewight named Drool Rockworm dancing over him. He believes that he is dreaming, but he has in fact been summoned by an evil force to The Land. The cavewight is only a minion of the great evil, who is called Lord Foul the Despiser. He is transported from the cavern to a tower of rock, some 4000 feet over the ground, where Lord Foul speaks to him and tells him to deliver his message to the Council of Lords at Revelstone. TC thinks still that this is a dream, but if he keeps moving, he'll eventually wake up.
He is rescued from the tower by a young girl, Lena. She takes him to her home, and her family are hospitable. It turns out that the wedding ring he still wears is a symbol of great power in The Land, and even his amputated fingers give im a resemblance to a hero of legend - Berek, the Lord Fatherer. The Land is a wonderous place, where even his leprosy can be healed and all living things are visibly healthy. TC cannot cope with the new feelings he is experiencing, and one of his first acts is to rape Lena. She conceals this from her family, but this act returns to haunt him again and again. This is where I started to dislike him quite a lot, and although it wears off, every now and again, the reader is reminded of his obscene, ungrateful, selfish behavior.
So, the journey across The Land begins. I'm not going to go into all the ins and out, because then you won't need to read the books.
The one thing that slightly annoys me is the symbolic ring of power thing - this is done in the Lord of the Rings, which was first. But this aside, the books are ace. There are many different characters in the books, and each of them arouses emotions in the reader. My personal favourites are the Giants, who are faithful and true in the service of The Land. There are evil cavewights, ur-viles and ravers ( a bit like the Nazgul in LoR) as well as good wraiths, waynhim, giants and people. Of course, there are bad people as well, but that's true wherever you go.
The Second Chronicles cover TC's travels through the rest of the world, but I can't say too much about this, as it will be a spoiler for the end of the first trilogy.
These books are engrossing, and unputdownable. There's lots of magical things and also some moments of light relief, which are very welcome, as the story itself is quite somber.
Lord Fouls Bane was first published in the UK in 1977, and the trilogy has won Mr Donaldson awards, including best new writer, British Science Fiction Convention 1979. If you like The Lord of the Rings, this will probably work for you too - priced £5.59 per book at Amazon.co.uk or £10.49 for a book containing the whole trilogy - bargain, but I bet it's huuuuge.
Good op. I loved these novels. Though two things. 1) i would have liked to know a little more about how you felt about the novels. But then that's probably just me. 2) buying the 1 volume books is dangerous as the first 30 pages fall out after you've read it for the 4th or 5th time. So Convenant lovers beware!
beatlemanic 22.08.2003 12:40
Good synopsis of several books - must have been tricky! I enjoyed the two trilogies, but got a bit frustrated with them. I think after LoTR everything is a let down! Jo