Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Runes Of The Earth - by Stephen Donaldson

The Runes Of The Earth is the first volume in The Last Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson. I'd read Donaldson's first and second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever when they were published back in the 1970s and 80s so this was pretty much a "must read" for me. Here's a brief summary of the plot…
10 years have passed since the events leading up to the defeat of Lord Foul the Despiser when Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery remade the Staff of Law and saved the Land from destruction. Covenant died in that final encounter and now Dr. Linden Avery lives quietly with her adopted son Jeremiah and runs a small clinic where, mong other things, she is responsible for caring for Joan Covenant, Thomas's wife, who was driven mad by Lord Foul.

Now Covenant's son Roger has turned up and forcefully removed Joan from the clinic at gunpoint and events ensue that lead to Linden, Joan, Roger and Jeremiah being plunged back into The Land, the parallel world where Linden and Covenant defeated Lord Foul, or at least thought they had.

About 3,000 years have passed since she was last there and The Land is still recovering from the effects of the Sunbane. The Haruchai now call themselves Masters of The Land and the Staff of Law has been lost. A miasma of wrongness pervades the atmosphere and the land is plagued by destructive rifts in space. On top of all that, Linden gets messages from Thomas Covenant telling her to find him and to remember that he's dead.

The first thing to say is that you really have to have read the earlier chronicles to be able to follow this and appreciate it. There are constant references to people, places and events from those books throughout this one so I doubt if a Covenant virgin would be able to pick this up and enjoy it. That aside I enjoyed both this story and trying to remember about all of those references. It almost makes me want to read them all over again.

A couple of things annoyed me and that was Donaldson's use of certain words. One was "percipience", which I'd never heard used before in place of the more widely used "perception" but Donaldson uses it on almost every page or two. The other was "caesures". Yes it's in italics in the book and, as far as I can see, it's not in any dictionary and I tried a quite a few, but he uses it like it's an actual word and as if we were supposed to know what it meant.

The above aside, I think any fans of the original stories will like this one as well and this first volume has certainly started things off pretty well as we're left with several unanswered questions like "is Covenant alive or not?" and "what is Roger's part in this?" I guess we'll just have to wait until volume two hits the stores.

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy.
ISBN: 0-575-07612-7
My Rating: 8/10

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