The Illearth War (First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Series #2)

The Illearth War (First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Series #2)

by Stephen R. Donaldson

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reissue)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345348661
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/1987
Series: Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Series , #2
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 55,018
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 4.10(h) x 1.17(d)

About the Author

Stephen R. Donaldson is the bestselling author of the series The Gap Cycle, Mordant's Need, and the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, including Lord Foul's Bane and The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant; and other works, such as Daughter of Regals and Other Tales and a mystery series under the pseudonym Reed Stephens. He is the recipient of the first prize of the British Science Fiction Society and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Read an Excerpt

ONE: The Dreams of Men
By the time Thomas Covenant reached his house the burden of what had happened to him had already become intolerable.
When he opened the door, he found himself once more in the charted neatness of his living room. Everything was just where he had left it—just as if nothing had happened, as if he had not spent the past four hours in a coma or in another world where his disease had been abrogated despite the fact that such a thing was impossible, impossible. His fingers and toes were all numb and cold; their nerves were dead. That could never be changed. His living room—all his rooms—were organized and carpeted and padded so that he could at least try to feel safe from the hazard of bumps, cuts, burns, bruises which could damage him mortally because he was unable to feel them, know that they had happened. There, lying on the coffee table in front of the sofa, was the book he had been reading the previous day. He had been reading it while he was trying to make up his mind to risk a walk into town. It was still open to a page which had had an entirely different meaning to him just four hours ago. It said, “… modeling the incoherent and vertiginous matter of which dreams are composed was the most difficult task a man could undertake.…” And on another page it said, “… the dreams of men belong to God.…”
He could not bear it.
He was as weary as if the Quest for the Staff of Law had actually happened—as if he had just survived an ordeal in the catacombs and on the mountainside, and had played his involuntary part in wresting the Staff from Lord Foul’s mad servant. But it was suicide for him to believe that such things had happened, that such things could happen. They were impossible, like the nerve health he had felt while the events had been transpiring around him or within him. His survival depended on his refusal to accept the impossible.
Because he was weary and had no other defense, he went to bed and slept like the dead, dreamless and alone.
Then for two weeks he shambled through his life from day to day in a kind of somnolence. He could not have said how often his phone rang, how often anonymous people called to threaten or berate or vilify him for having dared to walk into town. He wrapped blankness about himself like a bandage, and did nothing, thought nothing, recognized nothing. He forgot his medication, and neglected his VSE (his Visual Surveillance of Extremities—the discipline of constant self-inspection on which the doctors had taught him his life depended). He spent most of his time in bed. When he was not in bed, he was still essentially asleep. As he moved through his rooms, he repeatedly rubbed his fingers against table edges, doorframes, chair backs, fixtures, so that he had the appearance of trying to wipe something off his hands.
It was as if he had gone into hiding: emotional hibernation or panic. But the vulture wings of his personal dilemma beat the air in search of him ceaselessly. The phone calls became angrier and more frustrated; his mute irresponsiveness goaded the callers, denied them any effective release for their hostility. And deep in the core of his slumber something began to change. More and more often, he awoke with the dull conviction that he had dreamed something which he could not remember, did not dare remember.
After those two weeks, his situation suddenly reasserted its hold on him. He saw his dream for the first time. It was a small fire—a few flames without location or context, but somehow pure and absolute. As he gazed at them, they grew into a blaze, a conflagration. And he was feeding the fire with paper —the pages of his writings, both the published best-seller and the new novel he had been working on when his illness was discovered.
This was true; he had burned both works. After he had learned that he was a leper—after his wife, Joan, had divorced him and taken his young son, Roger, out of the state—after he had spent six months in the leprosarium—his books had seemed to him so blind and complacent, so destructive of himself, that he had burned them and given up writing.
But now, watching that fire in dreams, he felt for the first time the grief and outrage of seeing his handiwork destroyed. He jerked awake wide-eyed and sweating—and found that he could still hear the crackling hunger of the flames.
Joan’s stables were on fire. He had not been to the place where she had formerly kept her horses for months, but he knew they contained nothing which could have started this blaze spontaneously. This was vandalism, revenge; this was what lay behind all those threatening phone calls.
The dry wood burned furiously, hurling itself up into the dark abyss of the night. And in it he saw Soaring Woodhelven in flames. He could smell in memory the smoldering dead of the tree village. He could feel himself killing Cavewights, incinerating them with an impossible power which seemed to rage out of the white gold of his wedding band.
He fled the fire, dashed back into his house and turned on the lights as if mere electric bulbs were his only shield against insanity and darkness.
Pacing there miserably around the safety of his living room, he remembered what had happened to him.
He had walked—leper outcast unclean!—into town from Haven Farm where he lived, to pay his phone bill, to pay it in person as an assertion of his common humanity against the hostility and revulsion and black charity of his fellow citizens. In the process, he had fallen down in front of a police car—
And had found himself in another world. A place which could not possibly exist, and to which he could not possibly have traveled if it did exist: a place where lepers recovered their health.
That place had called itself “the Land.” And it had treated him like a hero because of his resemblance to Berek Halfhand, the legendary Lord-Fatherer—and because of his white gold ring. But he was not a hero. He had lost the last two fingers of his right hand, not in combat, but in surgery; they had been amputated because of the gangrene which had come with the onset of his disease. And the ring had been given to him by a woman who had divorced him because he was a leper. Nothing could have been less true than the Land’s belief in him. And because he was in a false position, he had behaved with a subtle infidelity which now made him squirm.
Certainly none of those people had deserved his irrectitude. Not the Lords, the guardians of the health and beauty of the Land; not Saltheart Foamfollower, the Giant who had befriended him; not Atiaran Trell-mate, who had guided him safely toward Revelstone, the mountain city where the Lords lived; and not, oh, not her daughter Lena, whom he had raped.
Lena! he cried involuntarily, beating his numb fingers against his sides as he paced. How could I do that to you?
But he knew how it had happened. The health which the Land gave him had taken him by surprise. After months of impotence and repressed fury, he had not been prepared for the sudden rush of his vitality. And that vitality had other consequences, as well. It had seduced him into a conditional cooperation with the Land, though he knew that what was happening to him was impossible, a dream. Because of that health, he had taken to the Lords at Revelstone a message of doom given to him by the Land’s great enemy, Lord Foul the Despiser. And he had gone with the Lords on their Quest for the Staff of Law, Berek’s runed staff which had been lost by High Lord Kevin, last of the Old Lords, in his battle against the Despiser. This weapon the new Lords considered to be their only hope against their enemy; and he had unwillingly, faithlessly, helped them to regain it.
Then almost without transition he had found himself in a bed in the town’s hospital. Only four hours had passed since his accident with the police car. His leprosy was unchanged. Because he appeared essentially uninjured, the doctor sent him back to his house on Haven Farm.
And now he had been roused from somnolence, and was pacing his lighted house as if it were an eyot of sanity in a night of darkness and chaos. Delusion! He had been deluded. The very idea of the Land sickened him. Health was impossible to lepers; that was the law on which his life depended. Nerves do not regenerate, and without a sense of touch there is no defense against injury and infection and dismemberment and death—no defense except the exigent law which he had learned in the leprosarium. The doctors there had taught him that his illness was the definitive fact of his existence, and that if he did not devote himself wholly, heart and mind and soul, to his own protection, he would ineluctably become crippled and putrescent before his ugly end.

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The Illearth War (First Chronicles Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
TimeChaser More than 1 year ago
A better second novel Once I had finished the first book, Lord Foul's Bane, I was very eager to jump right into this one. The opening chapters are crucial, helping to make Covenant more sympathetic as we see his utter isolation from human contact as everyone around him fears him as if he were the worst evil in the world. I think what helped make this book even better was the introduction of Hile Troy, a character who is in every way Covenant's opposite: brave, bold, and ready to accept the Land without question and come to its defense - a much more heroic character. But when the situation begins to spiral out of his control, his presence becomes a mirror through which the reader comes to understand that, no matter how much we may want Covenant to be the hero of the Land, his rejection of it and of his untapped power is his only way to ward off total despair if he were to take responsibility and yet still fail. But with Foul pulling the strings from behind the scenes, it seems that no matter what path Covenant chooses, he is doomed to remain in despair. I believe that is the real attraction of this series. We want to continue to follows the lives and trials of Covenant and the people of the Land in the hope that one day everything will work out, but knowing that such hope may not be possible. I think people who give up on this series too soon are missing out on a rich and complex story.
eewdad More than 1 year ago
I read the first three books when I was a kid back in the late 70's and bits and pieces of it would pop in my head once in awhile over the years. I have rediscovered why it left an impression on me. The main character leaves a lot to be desired...definately not your normal hereo. He whines and blunders through events, he hurts people, yet as the series progresses, you start to pull for him. The Land is rich and full, the people who live there are good. The character development is very indepth for many of the players in the stories. A very worthwhile read.
SuspenseJunky More than 1 year ago
The author is very good at weaving a nice tale, but I wish he didn't think that he had to use words that make you keep a dictionary nearby. I'm all for learning new words, but let's keep it to a new one every few pages instead of three or four per page. It makes it hard to get through and keep your sanity. If you don't mind the big words, his Thomas Covenant series is very good. I will say that Covenant can be a little whiny at first, but it's still good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow! I read Lord Foul's Bane with pleasure and happiness. I then read The Illearth War with passion and excitment! The first Covenant book introduced the readers to, the Land. In this sequal, Donaldson takes it to a completly new level during Covenant's second journey there. Not only do you fall in love with the features of this amazing world, but also with the people. The Elohim, the bloodaurd, the Lords, the giants and thier tragic story. But specificly High Lord Elena, Lord Morhom, Hile Troy, and Bannor. A must read for all who enjoy Covenant's anti-heroic attitude and mindblowing battle scenes. Two words: READ IT!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think people are a little off track as to who is the hero. Covenant in my opinion is just the catalyst for the true heros of the land. Read this book and you will see that the real heros are the ordinary people who as an army go to extraordinary levels of courage and endurance to protect their land from the evil that besets it. The forced marches into battle endured by the Eoward, the unending strength and dedication of the Bloodguard, the indomitable personality of Saltheart Foamfollower, the skill and wisdom of the Lords council all add together to defeat Lord Fouls minions. Covenant just happens to be in the right place at the wrong time for his self destructive contributions. This is IMHO the truth of the book.
aball on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not bad, but Donaldson works really hard to build a hero you just don't like, and that's not my thing.
aethercowboy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Thomas Covenant series is something like Narnia meets Middle Earth, only instead of Pevensie children entering a wardrobe, a leper enters by accidentally striking his head against a coffee table.Once again in the Land, Covenant discovers that much time has passed since his last visit, though he was only away for a few weeks. This further solidifies in his mind that he is merely dreaming. A new set of Lords seem to know him by reputation, but the adversary is still the same old(er) Lord Foul. This time, he is harnessing the power of the Illearth Stones, which allow him to corrupt even the uncorruptable giants.Covenant and other real-worlder Hile Troy both work towards trying to defeat Foul. Troy through military tactics, and Covenant through ancient lore. Neither being as successful as they would have hoped.No epic fantasy written post-Tolkien can be without very heavy Tolkien influences. In this one, the heaviest tolkienoid aspect could arguably be the character of Caerroil Wildwood. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out if he's more like Tom Bombadil or Treebeard.However, to the discerning reader, Donaldson is much less tolkienoid than authors like Terry Brooks or David Eddings (whose Sword of Shannara and Belgarath the Sorcerer both read like poor retellings of Tolkien's Legendarium).Read this book if you love epic fantasy beyond all reason. Don't read this book if you're Tolkien's biggest fan and think that even Christopher Tolkien spoils his father's work.
dogrover on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At 13 years old, I'm not quite sure I was ready for this series. Re-reading it now, much older and more experienced, I still feel the bitter-sweet mix of pain and beauty. As a stand-alone volume, this book is powerful, but sometimes sacrifices clarity for message.
macha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
second book in this series of trilogies. this time the central figure's PoV remains so unpleasant that even the author can't stand it, and retreats to a new character (also unlikeable) and his PoV for long periods of time. there's a certain sick fascination to this stuff, which consists partly of wondering what the author is thinking. beyond that, it's a pretty standard setting and plot. i'll finish the trilogy, just on the off-chance something interesting might happen, but after that no more. please.
jveezer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Spurred on by having the first two books of his Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant on my shelf and knowing that the third and final should be out soon, I embarked on re-reading the first two trilogies, or Chronicles. Rather than review them separately, I thought I would treat each Chronicle as a whole, as I cannot concieve of not finishing any of the Chronicles once they grab hold of you. Although many disparage Stephen Donaldson¿s writing, I don¿t have any problem with it and like that I sometimes have to grab the dictionary to understand a work he has used. In fact, that is one of the joys of reading him as I like to be challenged with vocabulary while I read.The Land itself is an incredible creation that for me is one of the greatest joys of reading his Chronicles and an incredible achievement for Donaldson, on par with the creation of J.R.R. Tolkien¿s Middle-earth. The land and its inhabitants are alive with health and sentience; manifested in EarthPower. The people of the land can sense the right and wrong in rock, tree, water, and fire, as well as in themselves. When their earth-sense lets them down or where despite and evil creep into the land, it has some defenses of its own. This earth-sense is something that resonates deep in my soul and in that part of me that treasures our earth. I wish I had a little more EarthSense. He has also peopled The Land with many strange and interesting inhabitants, good and bad: the giants, the Ranyhyn, Forestals, the Bloodguard, Elohim, Sand Gorgons, Merewives, Ravers, Ur-Viles and the like.Were the books as good as I remember from reading them in my college days 20+ years ago? Suprisingly, yes. Although I still like the genre and read it occasionally, I have moved on from those times when this was my primary source of literary escape. But I found that the books have held up very well in the time since my last read. I would highly recommend them to readers interested in one of the early masters of the genre.In The Ill-Earth War, Covenant again is summoned to the land upon falling and striking his head on his living room table. In the 4 days it has been since he recovered from his last accident and visit to The Land; 40 years have passed there. Lord Foul is making war upon the land. The Lords are in dire need and have summoned Covenant back to help them in their extremity. Suprisingly, Covenant finds that Hile Troy, another person from his world, is in command of the Lord¿s armies. While Hile Troy meets the armies of Lord Foul, Covenant and the High Lord are again on a quest for the knowledge and strength to save the land and fight the Despiser. The novel builds to a suprising climax that has major ramifications for the future of The Land.Of the three books in the first Chronicles, this was the weakest for me.
iftyzaidi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This second book of the series picks up the pace and spends more time on the characters without being overwhelmed by the need to fill out the history and geography of the land - something that made the first book seem somewhat turgid and difficult to read.
Karlstar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The second book in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is just as powerful as the first though less controversial. Covenant and his allies struggle constantly against horrible odds, with surprising help. A complex, fascinating and very well written book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best series I’ve ever read!!! This is probably the sixth time I’ve read them and I never re-read books. The depth of the characters and the incredible writing just speaks to my soul. I’m so glad that Stephen has shared his great talent with us. Thanks again Stephen!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So this series is written horribly with details on everything except what you would like to picture. Nevertheless I wanted to try my best to get through it but after the authors blatant perversion in book 2 I am done. No amount of recommendations could make me want to struggle through more after reading about a "hero" rapist who wants his own daughter.
R_Hinshaw More than 1 year ago
I like that after a first book in which Donaldson challenges his readers with a protagonist not easy to like or identify with, he presents a possible alternative who would seem more palatable in Hile Troy. I like how Covenant is confronted with the legacy of his past crime in the person of the new High Lord. And how High Lord Kevin's choice still haunts the Lords so many generations later. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is the best thing I have ever read. I can't rank favorites between the three volumes. They are all of a piece.
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