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The chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the unbeliever (original 1977; edition 1993)

by Stephen R. Donaldson

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7481612,439 (3.81)31
Member:tcarter
Title:The chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the unbeliever
Authors:Stephen R. Donaldson
Info:London : Fontana, 1993
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Covenant, fantasy, trilogy

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The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) by Stephen Donaldson (1977)

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When Vamplit Publishing offered to take on my book they likened my style to Stephen Donaldson Author of the Thomas Covenant Chronicles and others. Now I have never heard of Stephen Donaldson so that meant little to me. I have now however acquainted myself with the author’s work and stand perplexed. Does my publisher really think that I right like the creator of Thomas Covenant?

Some people do not like The Thomas Covenant Chronicles because of the self-pitying angry anti-hero. I for one do. The writing is so fluid and descriptive in ways that many authors could only envy. If the questers are following a river the prose keeps pace with the flowing waters. You feel the bite of the stinging rain and cloying grasp of the living darkness. There’s a spring in the earth that you can feel in every breath that the land takes. The land that is truly living and beautifully rendered as indeed are its varying indigenous peoples.

I was never bored reading this book, of which I have now completed the first part of the trilogy. I’ll tell you nothing of the story whatsoever. To tell you anything of the plot will tarnish it in your mind. Read it and let it polish that dulled, tarnished metal that has encased so many reader’s minds over innumerate years as you have been fed endless trite as excuses for fantasy. This is classic fantasy. Not the fuzzy teddies on a picnic but a visceral festival of extravagant prose that demands a reader’s attention. This is not the likes of Harry Potter, Twilight or any of the modern urban brigand. This is the work of a skilled raconteur, a teller of high tales and bard of lost lore and legends well remembered.

Before I knew where I was I had strayed 80 pages into the sequel just for mild curiosity. If you like your fantasy high and classic like that of Tolkien then you will enjoy this. But as for whether I write like the author or not I never dare to mount such a lofty pedestal.

So, Thomas Covenant has returned to his own world only to become even more hated just for being alive and having an illness that will eventually kill him if the residents don’t first.

With his mind reeling at the intrusion of his ‘dream’ Covenant begins to unravel. Not surprising. He spends three weeks battling with reality and the growing rejection of his own world until an accident renders him unconscious and he wakes up once again in The Land. This time however the stakes are much higher, so to defend himself Thomas Covenant builds his barriers even deeper to keep the unreality from seeping in. The Land is thrust into the titular Illearth War from which, somehow, Covenant must escape intact.

He quickly surmises that either he or the one who summoned must die in order for him to escape back to his own world. Therein lies the greatest emotional turmoil that the cowardly Covenant has to face. I’ll not give any spoilers no review ever should, but his choice is would not be easy for anyone to make.

The Ravers are ravaging the land. War is everywhere. A second person has been summoned to The Land from Covenant’s world but he is only too willing to take up his place and fight for the good of The Land. War is everywhere, death surrounds all but still a demand is placed on Thomas Covenant that he cannot resist – ah Unbeliever what is the truth of your heart? That is the deepest question the Thomas Covenant must answer if, indeed, he can.

Yet again Stephen Donaldson has produced an outstanding work that flows straight on from the first. The rich tapestry that makes up The Land is continually woven with ever increasing majesty. Though at times I found myself reaching for a dictionary and then wishing that simpler, more down to earth words had been used. Not once was my enjoyment spoiled by my limited vocabulary, the story is too strong for that.

Battles ebb and flow like a ceaseless tide across the pages that must at times be read thoroughly so as not to miss the slightest passion of the writer. Take your time when reading the world of Mr Donaldson, his are not the comfort books of Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, his are works of art there to be admired and beheld.

Another book deserving of full marks.



The Power that Preserves is the third part of the Thomas Covenant series and the end of the first trilogy. Simply put: a great book. The Unbeliever comes of age at last and accepts that he has a purpose in life other than to survive. He confesses his love for the Land into the face of lord Foul the Despiser and then simply tells him that it does not exist. Thus he unlocks the paradox to the wild magic.

War is everywhere in Land but everywhere that Thomas Covenant goes he is faced with the memory of those that he, in his own eyes, has slain. Those that he loved, cherished, and abused to meet his own need and denial of the Land. And it would seem that the Land itself believes in Thomas Covenant to the point where it ensures that he fulfils his declaration to destroy Lord Foul. At some point or other every place that means anything is assaulted and destroyed by Foul’s Ravers until only Covenant remains standing amid the protection of his unbelief. When Covenant and Foul finally stand toe to toe and duel for the very existence of the Land we are treated to one of the most spectacular magic battles ever written. The power in the passages that depict the final confrontation make Lord Voldermort pale into insignificance. Here is magic running wild, pure evil battling the paradox between love and denial with a conclusion so satisfying that I doubt anyone will better it.

There is movie called Avatar that borrows heavily upon the themes in the series, so much so that I find it impossible to believe that it was not the foundational influence for that tale. In the Land people ‘see’ one another; they see the heart, the wholeness, the power, and the deep truths. They are all one with the Land, a land that is sentient. There is the One Tree, the one forest and the great spirit – the Creator. Too many things that work in the same way to be coincidental. But Stephen Donaldson tells it with much more detail and passion. It’s as though he walks the land and ‘sees’ its people. He is a writer that lives his stories and thus brings them to life.

In summation, the trilogy is a triumph of storytelling: epic in its truest sense.

A thoroughly deserved 10 out of 10


( )
  MathewBridle | May 4, 2015 |
I first read these books in high school. I read them many times; the strength and intensity of the story blew me away. I was reading Lord Foul's Bane the first time it occurred to me that I wanted to write fantasy. Took me a while to come round to that, but the memory is still vivid. ( )
  ftmckinstry | Apr 22, 2014 |
It turgidly goes on and on. ( )
  LamontCranston | Dec 6, 2013 |
When this trilogy came out, I was a young adult sharing an apartment with my brother. He and I went to our separate jobs (thank goodness, he worked nights, I worked days) and read. Got to the end of the first book, took deep breaths, thanked whoever responsible that the three came out together, and started on the next.

We've read a lot of the same books (more then than now) and never have come as close to fighting over who got possession for the time it took to get another cup of coffee.

They are powerful, disturbing, and wonderful. ( )
  cek2read | May 9, 2013 |
Donaldson's first Thomas Covenant trilogy is quite creative, but has one of the most annoying heroes in fantastical literature. ( )
  wanack | Jul 3, 2010 |
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The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever is Stephen Donaldson's first trilogy, originally published in 1977 as three separate titles: Lord Foul's Bane, The Illearth War, and The Power That Preserves. There are distinct LT works for each of these titles individually; please do not combine individual titles with this LT work for the three-volume trilogy. Thank you.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0006473296, Paperback)

The acclaimed fantasy epic, together in one volume.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:33 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Ten years after the death of Thomas Covenant, his one-time companion, Linden Avery, returns home to discover her child building images of the Land with blocks and is once again summoned to take part in an epic battle against evil.

(summary from another edition)

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