As per usual with Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books, I couldn’t wait for this latest tome to come out. It was a good two or three years since the last one, which is a long time when you’re in the middle of a storyline. Against All Things Ending is the third book in the latest series of Thomas Covenant books which is called The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. The fourth book is apparently the book which will wrap up the series and this storyline. I had been under the understanding that the third book was the last one. Not so.
I would actually have liked for this book to be the last one because I am tired of all the angst that the main characters, Covenant and Linden, are always expressing in their thoughts. It really is a labor to get through sometimes. If I had done this, then that wouldn’t have happened. If I hadn’t been so bad, if I hadn’t been so insufficient, if only I hadn’t let everyone down. Blah, blah, blah. There is just too much introspective self-talk in this book (and the other Covenant books) which serves to pad the book’s page count and slow down the action so that everything happens in a Matrix-like time dilation.
But that’s the only downside for me. I can wade through the characters' piteous non-verbal and verbal monologues because in the main, I care about them. Donaldson creates characters that you care about and root for. And his story is interesting, unusual, and imaginative as well.
In a nutshell, the whole Thomas Covenant series of books deals mainly with Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery, two people who live in the United States, and occasionally find themselves translated, against their wills, to a place called The Land. It is a place kind of like Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings. Middle ages technology along with giants, wizards, orc-like creatures, omniscient horses, elves, and Earthpower, which is something like “The Force”, etc.
But Donaldson has created a deep and coherent world in The Land which has a history and a cast of characters, races, and beings that it is hard not to love, even if the angst of Linden and Covenant can be a drag on the story sometimes.
This story starts out (after Donaldson provides a refresher chapter to remind everyone what has taken place in past books, a handy feature since the first of these books came out in the 1980s) where the last book left off, with Linden Avery desperate to do something to retrieve her adopted son who is held captive by Lord Foul’s minions. She is again flying by the seat of her pants, and not seeking input from her friends because she is sure they’ll say no or disagree with her, and try and stop her. This is the modus operandi of both her and Covenant throughout the series - sort of going rogue. She has brought Covenant back to mortality, from the Arch of Time where he had been the keeper of Time since his last battle and defeat of Lord Foul. Her act has upset her friends in The Land, and all the other beings of power as well. In fact, this “desecration” has set into motion the End Days by awakening the Worm of the World’s End, a creature that while it is sleeping gives the world its power and vitality, but when awakened seeks to destroy all of the Earth by eating everything and hence snuffing out existence.
She had hoped Covenant would help her find her son and perhaps defeat Lord Foul and his minions again. She also loved him and wanted to be with him. But he is a spirit stuffed back in a mortal body. He is nowhere near whole, or helpful to her in his present, flawed condition. Now they must defeat evil and try to stave off the end of the world as well. A tall order for two reluctant and flawed heroes.
The book is worth the read, especially if you are a fan of the Thomas Covenant books. If you haven’t read them, you could read this book and enjoy it, and even understand it thanks to the refresher chapter. But for the best experience I would read at least the first two books of this series starting with The Runes of the Earth. Enjoy!
Thus begins the long wait for book 4, The Last Dark.
The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
The Runes of the Earth (2004)
Fatal Revenant (2007)
Against All Things Ending (2010)
The Last Dark (20??)