Monday, October 21, 2013

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Ranked

Post updated here.


Anonymous Bluntfist said...

I agree the first trilogy doesn't hold up well – very formulaic in hindsight – which leaves me torn between the second and last. I don't think I could do a ranking though, without an objective distance from the Last Dark.

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

I too need a distance from The Last Dark (and a second reading), but I'm pretty confident about where I place it. It's really tied with White Gold Wielder -- I think the strengths and weaknesses balance each other.

Blogger Dave Baxter said...

I've just started reading LORD FOUL'S BANE for the first time - I've never read any Covenant books and decided to finally begin.

But it is bloody AWFUL. The rape of Lena is, I agree, the standout scene of the book (I'm 50 pages from the end, but enough of the way through to figure where we're going). Though even here I feel that Covenant, as a character, is extraordinarily ill-defined and bizarrely motivated. I can see how having an "rapist asshole savior" (to paraphrase you) is unique, and a splendid idea in concept. But Convenant in this first book is just a cipher. Donaldson writes a lot about how he "can't afford to" do one thing or another, or how Convenant feels horrible, drained, panting, spasming with anger, etc. but there never seems to be much reason why Covenant feels any of this, especially due to the events and people surrounding him at those moments in time.

It's like we just have to accept that Covenant reacts these ways with zero logical impetus, even trying to follow emotional logic. The idea that Covenants short time as a leper on Earth has somehow created this individual that has ceased responding to any single thing in any rational way imaginable is downright beyond my ability to suspend disbelief.

Especially considering the book is written in an omniscient voice, I'd expect more insight into such a landmark fantasy hero. Instead, we're just hit with lots and lots of descriptions of feelings that seem to come from absolutely nowhere. Blech.

But I've heard a lot about the second Chronicles. Let's see if I can make it.

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

I hear you, Dave. And the tragedy is that many readers don't go beyond Lord Foul's Bane. It's bad news when the first volume of your series is so weak (especially by today's standards).

But hang in there, it gets much better, especially in the next book. For all my complaints about the first trilogy, The Illearth War remains a stand-out. And yes, the Second Chronicles are a work of art.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still love the first chronicles (except maybe the second half of The Illearth War). The book I consider by far the worst book Donaldson ever has written is The One Tree. Sea voyage books are always formulaic and awful IMHO as they feel like a way to tack short stories together. The Kasreyn section I like, but the rest of the book is a chore. I felt like I was re-reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader (or even the Odyssey). My top 2 are TPTP and TWL though I'm not sure of the order.


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