The Runes of the Earth by Stephen Donaldson

It’s been a long, long time since I read any of the Thomas Covenant novels. I started the original trilogy back in the mid-80s while I was supposed to be revising for my O-levels. I found all three books far more interesting and exciting than maths and physics, but despite my lack of revision I still managed to pass some of my exams.

The second trilogy similarly interrupted my A-levels two years later. Once again I somehow managed to pass my exams but I often wonder how well I would have done had I not been too busy enjoying the excellent writings of Stephen Donaldson.

The first six books in the Thomas Covenant saga are among my most favourite of all books. I was hopelessly drawn into the trials of The Land, even if the subject matter was often somewhat downbeat. Covenant was the ultimate anti-hero and unlikely subject for a fantasy series – a rapist novelist with leprosy and a mad wife.

The third chronicles seem certain to be a quadrilogy, the final book of four not being released until 2013. It seems an awfully long time to wait between books but the wait will be worth it – the first entry, Runes of the Earth, is just brilliant.

It takes a little while to get going. Linden Avery, doctor and healer of The Land in the previous trilogy, is the point of focus for this book. She’s been caring for Thomas Covenant’s ex-wife Joan while bringing up her adopted son Jeremiah. The story introduces Covenant’s son, Roger, and circumstances deteriorate in spectacular fashion returning Linden Avery to The Land.

It seems that Lord Foul has somehow transpired to capture Joan (with her wild magic inspiring white gold wedding ring) along with Linden’s son. Queue much misery, such is the way of Stephen Donaldson’s writings.

There are some astonishing scenes during Linden Avery’s search for her son. I can hardly wait to read the second book, Fatal Revenent, but I may wait until the paperback comes out. With the third and fourth books not yet published I may as well catch a few more novels before leaping back into the story, even if Donaldson did leave the storyline teetering on the brink of disaster/redemption in an extremely masterful way.

Donaldson’s prose is sometimes a little too wordy but his plotting and characterisations are quite wonderful. This novel is as good as anything else in the series and I can heartily recommend it.

By rutty

Tall. Likes brass bands. Tests your software