The Illearth War The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever an Epic Fantasy
By Stephen R. Donaldson
The Illearth War is the second in a trilogy of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. I read the first Lord Foul’s Bane a while back and struggled through the first half and flew through the last half. It was a love/hate relationship and I would/will read it again (and probably again).
Thomas Covenant is a modern day leper who in the first story is pulled into “the Land” in a near accident and called to bring a message to those who dwell there about an apocalypse that is threatened. Covenant is the image of a long-gone her, Berek Half-Hand, who had rescued "the Land" before. His white-gold wedding ring he wears, even though divorced is a powerful magic that could save or betray the land. Covenant struggles to maintain his safe practices that he must follow as a leper to keep his body from becoming more ravaged, while struggling with the appearance that while in “the Land” he finds health returning. He questions his sanity and distances himself from the good people who would do him honor and give him friendship.
In the second book we find that four days after Covenant’s return to the “real world” he is pulled back into “the Land” where forty years have passed. Lord Foul marches on Revelstone with intent to waste everything, to kill and destroy the beauty and health that is “the Land” and the fair and honorable people who live there.
Covenant finds that some of his acquaintances remain, although wearied and aged. Some have died. And there are two new people who will affect him dramatically although he tries to remain set apart. The first is the new High Lord, Elena the young (by comparison) leader of the people whose task it is to lead the people against Lord Foul. The second is more surprising, another person from the “real world” who has also been pulled into “the Land.’ A man called Hile Troy, blind from birth. But not just blind, blind beyond blind having no eyes, no hope of sight in the “real world.” But in “the Land” able not only to see, but to see better than, farther than the inhabitants. He becomes their Warmark, their army’s general, with a battle plan to save the people. Troy embraces and loves the land as much as Covenant remains cautious and distant.
I don’t think I am that great in the area of book reviews. I don’t know how to compel someone to desire to read something that has moved me. I can tell you it is a great book. Donaldson is a poet. His language is a loom and his stories are tapestries. His writing forces me to a dictionary. Something that doesn’t happen a lot anymore. I rarely find myself challenged when reading by actual words, perhaps because I don’t read challenging enough books (but I don’t think that is true) but mostly because it seems most authors choose accessible language and that is often a good choice. Donaldson choose beautiful words with texture and palette. Reading his work can be an exercise.
If you are at all a fantasy fan, if you love Tolkien, Herbert, Zimmer-Bradley books, and haven’t read this trilogy, I highly recommend giving these books a try. Be forewarned and prepared that my initial response was not positive. It is a heartbreaking story.
Donaldson's three books in the trilogy The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever were published in 1977 . My husband, my DCG informed me that more has been added to the series. The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were published between 1980 and 1983. The three novels are: 1. The Wounded Land (1980) 2. The One Tree (1982) 3. White Gold Wielder (1983). Another book The Runes of the Earth was published in 2004. And more may be forthcoming.
The Illearth War was on my reading list for Katrina’s Spring Reading Thing. Go visit her blog, Callapidder Days to grow your list of must reads!!