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STEPHEN DONALDSON – THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT, THE UNBELIEVER. 1977 to 1983  

 

Poor Thomas Covenant discovers that he has contracted leprosy, but this is only the beginning of his troubles. His medics condition him to the belief that he can never be cured, but that with due care and attention, he will be able to keep his terrible condition in check. For the first quarter of the first book of the first trilogy, Lord Foul’s Bane, Thomas Covenant struggles to come to terms with his illness. In its early stages he loses a finger. Then, trying to save the life of another person, he finds himself transported into a fabulous Tolkienesque fantasy world. Just as he is coming to terms with this, he discovers that the magical properties of the land have cured his leprosy, though the fingers he has lost on one hand do not come back for him. 

 

 From his stringent survival conditioning, Covenant is convinced that a cure is impossible, so he concludes that the land of Illearth, ((Sick Earth) itself is a figment of his imagination while his minds is affected by his disease. He leads a fantastic series of adventures against the evil Lord Foul (the name itself a reflection of the corruption Covenant sees to be drawn from his leprosy). At one stage he rapes one of the women, though he comes to regret the action later as the people forgive him for it,a nd his son there willbecome a powerful enemy against him. 

 

Covenant  is assisted and hampered by a host of wizards, giants (like the brilliantly evoked Saltheart Foamfollower) and fantastic characters. Many in Illearth see Covenant as a powerful wizard due to his Golden wedding band. He will ultimately use this power. Covenant proves to be a reluctant hero, and he makes terrible mistakes. He unwittingly raises an army of zombies who keep him and his allies pinned down during a castle siege.  One of the most original and startling concepts ever used for a fantasy novel sequence. Three lengthy books make up each of two sets of Chronicles. The first is magnificent. The second is marred slightly in that Covenant returns to a corrupted land (Lord Foul having risen again), with a friend from his own World, Linden Avery. This makes the notion of the land potentially existing only in Covenant’s mind obsolete. Avery is nevertheless a fascinationg character, troubled bythe euthenasia she had to commit on her aging mother, and terified that any action she takes will only make maters worse. The shock of the second story is that Avery finds that Covenant may actually now be dead in the real World, and now one with the Land. This may not actually be the end however as decades on, a new Chronicle has been issued. A stunning work that puts an ordinary man in extraordinary situations, both with his leprosy (almost a novel in itself) and in being drawn reluctantly into a Tolkien fantasy realm that Donaldson makes very much his own. Titles – 1st Chronicle - Lord Foul's Bane, The Illearth War and The Power That Preserves 2cd Chronicle - The Wounded Land, The One Tree and White Gold Wielder. There is also a novella called Golden Fire, which is a spare chapter from The Illearth War. http://isfdb.tamu.edu/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?Stephen_R._Donaldson

 

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