This series is somewhat infamous it s widely regarded as brilliant which it is , it s widely considered depressing which it can be , the hero is often unappealing which is the point , and many find the trilogy at least 25% too long which is true Plus, the follow on trilogy tells almost the same story with almost the same point to it.So, what s the fuss about Covenant isn t Tolkien with the serial numbers filed off That it holds together with a complete fantasy story in a clear, magical fantasy world and you never once want to compare it to Middle Earth is a good enough start to recommend reading it Covenant is a fantasy The Stranger, taking a disaffected character who denies all responsibility in his life and feels completely disconnected from the world around him and giving him the power of life and death The character Thomas Covenant is definitely unappealing I put the book down and had to restart it 3 times after a scene in the first book where he refusing to believe that the woman he was with was anything other than a dream committed a rape The morality of how you treat not real people is a regular theme of Donaldson s and this is his first and harshest demonstration of the subject It s not easy to read and it s not easy to go on with a protagonist like that.Watching him slowly learn guilt, remorse, and repentence takes the next two and a half books As many people comment, that portion of the story is a downer Alongside the moral tale we have the fantasy epic a modern American man returning to a fantasy world The Land several times seeing the consequences of his involvement in their epic battle against their own satan figure Lord Foul, who wants to break the Arch of the World and release himself into our universes.Everyone in The Land believes that Covenant is the White Gold Wielder who carries power strong enough to break the arch or to stop Foul This sets up the fantasy action story, where the people of The Land try to convince Covenant to learn to use his powers and to use them for the greater good and Foul tries to get the power.Since Covenant only visits The Land when he s suffered a head injury or some other strange type of sleep, he believes The Land is a fantasy of his own imagination The people in The Land don t understand why he doesn t believe in them, but they do see how broken he himself is and realize that he won t be able to help them unless he heals from his personal traumas and builds some positive self concept It s a strange twist on the apprentice who just needs confidence trope and his mistakes during the early period are all theappalling because he doesn t feel guilty.Throughout the book, there is not one scene in The Land that doesn t include Covenant At the end, we are left with no proof one way or another that The Land is a real alternate world where Covenant travelled Perhaps his Unbelief at the beginning was correct The existential element of the story asks why we care which is real he does what he does and the morality comes from his making the choices.That s heady stuff for a lightning bolt slinging fantasy series and it s not for everyone It isn t modern dark fantasy with supposed anti heroes who are just ashamed of being good at heart, it s real fantasy where the character development is on as epic a scale as the good vs evil plot This isn t bus reading and no book is right for everyone, but it s an audacious and brilliant series that flexes fantasy s power to drive character It s also a fun read with the single scariest magical nasties in the genre the Reavers.The second series It s different on the moral tale while following the same general plot arc, showing how the character involved changes the story Not worth reading for everyone, but worth a shot if you like the first or if you are interested in the structure of fiction. Since Its Publication In , Stephen Donaldson S Award Winning Trilogy Has Become An Indisputable Fantasy Class, Hailed By The Critics And Loved By Millions Of Readers Around The World Now All Three Books Are Available In One Paperback Volume For The First Time Thomas Covenant, An Embittered And Cynical Writer, Afflicted With Leprosy And Shunned By Society, Is Fated To Become The Heroic Savior Of The Land, An Alternate World In The Novels, He Struggles Against The Satanic Lord Foul, The Despiser , Who Intends To Escape The Bondage Of The Physical Universe And Wreak Revenge Upon His Arch Enemy, The CreatorStephen R Donaldson S Works Are Infused With Psychological Undertones Involving An Exploration Of The Darker Side Of The Protagonist Thomas Covenant Whilst Preserving Strong Humanist Ideals The Contextual Richness Of The Land S Varied Geography, Races, Cultures And History Enables All Three Series Of The Chronicles To Explore And Expand Upon An Increasingly Diverse And Storied Environment THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILAGE UP THE YING YANG.It s unfortunate that Donaldson opted to conclude the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant as he did for it reduced the showdown between the titular protagonist and Lord Foul the Despiser, which should have been epic, to one bordering upon the ridiculous Indeed, I would have to look to David Eddings reductio ad absurdum in which the evil god Torak is defeated,or less, by Bel Garion taunting him with the fact that Ye ll never be loved, gasbag Nyaahhto find a greater disappointment in the endgame of a multi volume work of fantasy The spectral presence of personal favorites, like Foamfollower and Mhoram, went a ways towards alleviating my disappointment but it was only modulated a disappointment it remained Fortunately, in the Second Chronicles, to which the character of Linden Avery was enjoined with TC, Donaldson s climax got everything right and so, considering the pair of trilogies as one cohesive unit, it s the third best such series that I have ever read Split them in twain The second, though stronger, cannot match the pure wonder and introductory thrill that was to be found in the opener Lord Foul s Bane, The Illearth War, and The Power That Preserves rocked my youthful world and were powerful evidence that Tolkien did not, in fact, have the final word to say in the field of heroic fantasy.Perhaps anti heroic appliesaptly here for Thomas Covenant is one peculiar choice for the redeemer of an idealistic world from the nihilistic designs of hatred incarnate In the real world, Covenant was an author with a happy marriage and a newborn child who was diagnosed with leprosy, resulting in the amputation of two of the fingers on his right hand, and the cleaving of his family life as wife absconded with child out of fear of contagion Embittered, reclusive, Covenant learns a series of mantras and rituals that will allow him to survive his disease and also prove pretty darn handy when, upon suffering a series of accidents, he is summoned to a mysterious earthen realm known as The Land, an idealized version of our Earth, wherein wood and stone are vessels of an innate Earthpower that can be accessed by humans with the requisite skills Covenant discovers that therein he is regarded as the reincarnation of Berek Halfhand, first of the High Lords who ordered the affairs of humans within the Land in harmony to the Earthpower of living Nature, defeated the insidious destructive influence of Lord Foul, and received the friendship allegiance of the stone skilled, expert sailor Giants, the Haruchai, who, in the Bloodguard, form a personal, death defying corps of protectors for the High Lords, and the Ranyhyn, great horses of the plains Alas, Lord Foul is a timeless spirit, one who reflects the collective self hatred and loathing that exists, in some measure, within every man, and is thus impervious to actual death After unleashing despair among the High Lords, Lord Foul convinced High Lord Kevin to invoke the Ritual of Desecration which, as apocalyptic rites undertaken in desperation are wont to do, fractured the Land but good Lore, lives, and love was lost and now, with the diminished remnant of the High Lords tentatively ruling from their Keep in Revelstoke, it appears that Lord Foul, ensconced within his Creche of a lair, is once again making a play to enact the utter destruction of the Land and engender his escape from imprisonment within the Arch of Time.Sound familiar There are some fairly standard fantasy tropes at play within The Chronicles what makes it work so well are Donaldson s fertile imagination his blending of European mythology with that of the Orient his rich vocabulary and confident writing style married to his dark, bleak themes and, most of all, his creation of Covenant, a thoroughly unique and unlikeable figure who is thrust into a position of power and responsibility that he neither desires nor believes in Indeed, refusing to accept the regeneration of his nerves when he awakens in the Land, his first act, one of violent, lustful negation, is the rape of Lena, a young Stonedowner girl From this abhorrent, impulsive response is set in chain a cataclysmic series of events and currents that will play out across the trilogy notwithstanding the guilt that Covenant bears for this gentle, damaged woman from that point after, if affects his standing as the reincarnation With his wedding ring revealed as a puissant artifact of White Gold, the source of the Wild Magic that not even Lord Foul can defy, Covenant must make his way to Revelstoke, announce his existence to the High Lords, and undertake to defeat a dark enemy who stands revealed,and , as potentially an avatar of the part of Covenant that loathes all that his diseased self has become a leper, an outcast, unclean, a man who drove the woman who loved him to flee in horror from his disfigured form Guilt is the primary fuel for this trilogy s engine, and not just as engendered and driving within Covenant himself It spreads from his malformed extremity like the streams of the Wild Fire he allegedly controls and in the spectacular Illearth War, the second and strongest of the books, it is revealed that the dread tendrils of corruption may reach even unto such stalwarts as the Giants and the Bloodguard Things will get messy and nasty ere the great war brewing has been settled by the expulsion of Foul s armies from the stricken realms of the Land.Fortunately for Covenant, at heart he is not a bad man He pays for his violation, and pays dearly He also befriends the Giant Saltheart Foamfollower, easily the best character in the trilogy, as well as High Lord Mhoram, a lore rich member of the Revelstoke rulers who has the most understanding of this unusual, six fingered individual who frequently raves and rages and treats those who strive to assist him with a ragged refusal to believe And while, in lesser hands, Covenant s distancing from the Land could become a tiresome and overplayed trope, Donaldson incorporates it adeptly within Covenant s diseased life and loss back on Earth, together with his remorse for assaulting Lena and the mounting toll of lives claimed in service to what he supposedly represents and refuses to accept And then there s Lord Foul, who, right up until that regrettable conclusion, is a wickedly rendered figure, oozing contempt, speaking pure venom, lashing the beings he hates beyond measure with eyes of coruscating despite Foul is assisted by the Ravers turiya Herem, moksha Jehannum, samadhi Sheol a trio of brotherly spirits of a similar bent to their master, seemingly born with an animosity to the living trees of the land, and, through their capacity for possessing fleshly beings, capable of wreaking subtle and long undetected harm as the Despiser maneuvers Covenant towards that final confrontation Together with wholly unique creations like the Ur viles, Demondim, and Waynhim, Donaldson imagined a fantastically inveigling supporting crew for the three books, ones that span a vast period of time within the Land during the interludes when Covenant at the end of each volume has found himself returned to his leprous self in our reality Further, that the entirety of the Land is not, in fact, a richly detailed, heatedly psychological instantiation of the currents that fuel his dreams is something that is never quite settled to the reader s satisfaction But what matter that kind of truth Whether figment of the imagination, or Platonically idealized realm of higher earthen existence, the Chronicles, as they unfold across that Land, are fast moving, fully fleshed and formed, and magical, mystical, and marvelous enough to stretch the boundaries of the fantasy genre even while enriching everything about it that its fans love and require IMO, the end result and including the sequel trilogy ranks below Tolkien and Wolfe only as the best such type of story I have ever read. Existentialist fantasy Cleverly written Brutal and dark That s all you really need to know before tackling these novels That and the fact that this is one of the finest trilogy s ever penned, period At a surface level, these fantasy novels would appear as nothing out of the ordinary outcast get s cast off into a fantasy world, is the only one who can save the land, is destined to destroy great evil threatening it yada yada But Thomas Covenant is a bitter leper, and refuses to acknowledge the land a real because to do so would lead to the end of his own sanity It is this manipulation of fantasy conventions that Donaldson employs to creative a novel of intricate paradoxes and intelligent commentaries on how we deal with pain in our lives and the cost dwelling on our misfortunes Thomas Covenant is a despicable character, but his plight, andimportantly the lands is a compelling one Of course, all this wouldn t matter if the story was weak Lord Foul s Bane the first of the trilogy falters a little in this department, it lingers to long on certain aspects, and Covenant is frustrating to the point of wanting to make you throw the book across the room But it is worth persisting, because the two novels that follow The Illearth War, The Power that Preserves are incredible The scope and charters really come into their own far from the cliche s that they originally appeared to be Quite frankly, some of the moments in these two books surpass almost anything else I have ever read, their passion is truly inspiring The battle scenes that fill the books are also worth mentioning, unique and well written, they surpass many of their peers, putting great wars like those in Lord of the Rings to shame However, this may not be for everyone As I said, the first book is weak compared the rest of the trilogy and contains a scene near the start so repulsive that it might deter some readers from persisting Further, Donaldson s operatic style and elaborate language might also annoy some Finally, the brutality may be just too much for some readers, at it s darkest moments it will leave you feeling gutted in ways that other fantasy books skimpily don t In a genre full of happy endings, loveable heroes, simplistic plots and themes no deeper than good and evil The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant sticks out like a sore thumb It transcends it s genre, and firmly places itself amongst the ranks of one of the greatest series ever written It might turn some readers off but there is no denying this is nothing short of a masterpiece. I read this years ago, but I found an old note to self All you really need to know about this series is that in the 13 page first chapter of the first book, Donaldson uses these words spavined, desuetude, turgid, condign, gratuitous, dyspeptic, melanoma, immedicable, improvident, lambent, immanence, celerity, preterite, abnegation, carious, and exudation Now I have a 99th percentile vocabulary, and it includes a lot of those words, but I know that most readers don t and I am sure that Donaldson was aware of that Later on, Donaldson chucks in words that aren t even in my two volume Shorter Oxford Dictionary Telic, cymar, jerrids, In chapter four, I laughed out loud when he wrote, A grimace like a clench of intransigence knotted her mien That s just silly I am convinced that Donaldson wrote at least the first book on a drunken bet Stir in the repulsive Eeyore of a hero and it s evenlikely If you haven t read this steaming pile of excrement, don t get sucked into wasting your time with it Go get some Guy Gavriel Kay or Lois McMaster Bujold and read some GOOD fantasy. I loved Donaldson s works, but whether I d still love them is another story altogether I read the first novel of his most recent return to the world a few years ago, and found it incredibly thin and dull I won t read the sequel, but I m secretly hoping that the original chronicles were as marvelous as I remembered them to be.At the time I read the first trilogy, I d just re read Tolkien and was indulging in other high epic fantasy novelists, which were popular at the time Feist, Wurtz MccAffrey, Eddings, Brooks, Weis Hickman, and a few Forgotten Realms novels Donaldson, however, felt the freshest and most capable of these writers outside of Tolkien The reason was that Donaldson successfully challenged conventions of the high fantasy genre by utilising a true anti hero as the protagonist Thomas Covenant isn t just a leper he s bitter, self loathing and also loathes society He has lost all passion for life His physical condition in a way, is a very vivid representation of his tortured soul While the other fictional heroes at the time were at heart, good and just, Covenant s values were questionable for the most part Donaldson handles the leprosy well His father was a doctor in India who specialised in treating lepers, so the details feel authentic.Yet when Covenant the Leper is thrust into a fantastic world, where his physical scarring and symptoms vanish, he succumbs to the most unforgivable and heinous of acts, and commits rape How can you support an anti hero after that Yet Donaldson manages it, and this bitter, twisted hero makes for one of the great characters of epic fantasy In a way, I ve only seen George RR Martin handle flawed anti heroes as successfully Jamie s rise from tossing Bran off the balcony.I m hoping that these original chronicles are still being read I m hoping they haven t dated too much The details and layers made it farsophisticated than Eddings and Brooks at the time I m also hoping that Donaldson s latest additions to the series aren t reflective of the original novels but you never know.It s all about blind hope really, so I m not re reading the original trilogy just in case it spoils the memories Recommended for lovers of rich, tapestry like fantasies with a dark edge. Great, amazing books Turns romantic, sylvan fantasy on its ear Many people complain about these books because it moves slowly, or because the main character is reprehensible The only thing I can say is Deal When you have a series of books centering on the salvation of a lost and embittered man, he s not going to start out being a nice guy If you want your fantasy heroes to be handsome, valorous, strong, and virtuous, go re read Tolkien These books are not about saving the world from evil they re really about pain, guilt, redemption, and the consequences of cleaving to one s beliefs They re not for the faint of heart, and they aren t light reading, but they re an immensely satisfying, adult fantasy series I ve read these books at least a dozen times, and it s been a different experience each time. Part of him wanted to weep but his purpose was rigid within him He felt he could not bend to gentleness without breaking And part of me wanting to dive out a window This was one of the least satisfying, uninspired and ponderous series Ive had the misfortune and stubbornness to slog through Anti hero s should be written in a way that the reader develops some shred of empathy or understanding for, otherwise you re left with a story centered around a character that you don t give a damn about Thomas Covenant is a selfish and bitter character who s sole redeeming quality is that the reader be expected to pity him This story was depressing, bland and forgettable. I ve tried And tried And it will never happen I will never like this series I made myself read the first trilogy last year, in order to get past the infamous first scene You know what I m talking about I hated it So, put it in the life is too short category Some people love this series So, try it if you d like. These books were a reread, although I was a teenager when I first encountered them and didn t remember too much of the plot Honestly, I have admiration for the concept of this seriesthan I have liking for the actual books On the one hand, you have a main character who is a complete jackass probably the first antihero that I ever encountered, now that I think about it It s not that he doesn t have a reason to be a jackass he is, after all, battling leprosy It s that he doesn t do it with any grace, that he doesn t deal with the admittedly bizarre situation that he finds himself in, that he spends every second thinking of himself only, that he hasmood swings than a teenage girl he s hard to deal with Add to that Donaldson s swallowing a thesaurus and tendency not to either show nor tell enough, and you d think you had a disaster on your hands.On the other hand, you have a fascinating premise the main character is a leper, he s brought into a beautiful, magical world, he s impossibly healed, and he doesn t believe a bit of it He s the main hope of a group of people who don t, as far as he s concerned, really exist And those people are the ones that draw me in, make me want to read about them Lord Mhoram, who is both noble and totally human Saltheart Foamfollower, the loyal giant who struggles with his desire to turn against what he believes in Hile Troy, a man from our world who loves the Landthan anything Bannor, the unsleeping guardsman who constantly saves Covenant s life, much to Covenant s dismay These people and , plus the fascinating world of the Land, make the books worth reading even when you want to kick Covenant s backside and suggest he grow up a little.