Compelled step by step to actions whose consequences they could neither see nor prevent, Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery have fought for what they love in the magical reality known only as "the Land." Now they face their final crisis. Reunited after their separate struggles, they discover in each other their true power--and yet they cannot imagine how to stop the Worm of the World’s End from unmaking Time. Nevertheless they must resist the ruin of all things, giving their last strength in the service of the world's continuance.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Series:||Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Series , #10|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.90(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Stephen R. Donaldson is the author of the six volumes of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, a landmark in modern fantasy. Every volume, beginning with Lord Foul's Bane in 1977, has been an international bestseller. Donaldson returned to the series with The Runes of the Earth in 2004. He lives in New Mexico.
Read an Excerpt
Betimes Some Wonder
Linden Avery’s fate may indeed have been written in water. It was certainly writ in tears. They blurred everything; redefined the foundations of her life.
Standing in Muirwin Delenoth, resting place of abhorrence, with Jeremiah clasped in her arms, she felt emotions as extreme as the dismay which had followed Thomas Covenant’s resurrection and the rousing of the Worm of the World’s End; as paralyzing and uncontainable as the knowledge that she had doomed all of her loves. But there, in Andelain, the scale of her distress had seemed too great to be called despair. Here, in the company of bones and old death, her glad shock at Jeremiah’s restoration was too great and complex to be joy.
Stave of the Haruchai stood waiting with his arms folded, impassive as a man who had done nothing, and had never lost a son. Three Ranyhyn waited near him, watching Linden and Jeremiah with glory in their eyes. In the distant west, the sun drifted down shrouded in the hues of ash and dust, casting shadows like innominate auguries from the stone blades and plates which rimmed the hollow. Heaved aside by the deflagration of Jeremiah’s construct, the skeletons of quellvisks sprawled against the far slope of Muirwin Delenoth as if they sought to disavow their role in his redemption—or as if they had drawn back in reverence.
Such things were the whole world, and the whole world waited. But Linden took no notice. She was unaware that she had dropped her Staff, or that Covenant’s ring still hung on its chain around her neck, holding in its small circle the forged fate of all things. She regarded only Jeremiah, felt only him; knew only that he responded to her embrace. A miracle so vast—
I did it, Mom. For the first time in his life, he had spoken to her. I made a door for my mind, and it opened.
Joy was too small a word for her emotions. Happiness and gratitude and relief and even astonishment were trivial by comparison. A staggering confluence of valor and trust had restored her son. At that moment, she believed that if the Worm came for her now, or She Who Must Not Be Named, or even Lord Foul the Despiser, her only regret would be that she did not get to know who her son had become during his absence.
Somehow he had weathered his excruciating dissociation. In graves he had endured what the Despiser and Roger Covenant and the croyel had done to him.
She was murmuring his name without realizing it, trying to absorb the knowledge of him; trying to imprint his hug and his tangible legacy of Earthpower and his unmistakable awareness onto every neuron of her being. He was her adopted son. Physically she had known every inch of him for most of his life. But she had never met the underlying him until this moment: until he had arisen from his absence and looked at her and spoken.
The way in which she repeated his name was weeping; but that, too, she did not realize. She was no more aware of her tears than she was of Stave and the Ranyhyn and passing time and the ancient ruin of bones. Holding Jeremiah in her arms—and being held by him—was enough.
She had no better name for what she felt than exaltation.
Yet the exaltation was Jeremiah’s, not hers. He had become transcendent, numinous: an icon of transfiguration. He seemed to glow with warmth and health in her arms as if he had become the Staff of Law: not her Staff, runed and ebony, transformed to blackness by her sins and failures, but rather the Staff of Law as it should have been, pure and beneficent, the Staff that Berek Halfhand had first created to serve the beauty of the Land.
The gift that Anele had given Jeremiah elevated him in ways that Linden could not define. He had not simply become responsive and aware. He appeared to dismiss the past ten years of his life as if they had no power over him.
Such things could not be dismissed.
“Chosen,” Stave said as if he sought to call her back from an abyss. “Linden Avery.” An uncharacteristic timbre of pleading or regret ached in his voice. “Will you not harken to me?”
She was not ready to hear him. She did not want to step back from Jeremiah. He vindicated everything that she had done and endured in his name. If she withdrew from exaltation, she would be forced to think—
And every thought led to fear and contradiction; to dilemmas for which she was unprepared. No one could endure what her son had suffered without emotional damage; without scars and scarification. Yet she could not discern damage. In her embrace, he felt more than physically well. He seemed entirely whole, mentally and spiritually intact.
That Linden could not believe. She knew better.
“Mom.” Like hers, Jeremiah’s voice wept gladly. “Mom, stop crying. You’re getting me all wet.”
For his sake, she tried.
Long ago under Melenkurion Skyweir, she had forgotten the sensations of being a healer. Although she had cared for her companions in various ways, she had responded to their injuries as if her own actions were those of a stranger. But she had not forgotten what she had learned during her years in Berenford Memorial, tending the wounded souls of the abused and broken.
Training and experience had taught her that an escape from unreactive passivity was a vital step, crucial to everything that it enabled—but it was only the first step. When a crippled spirit found the courage to emerge from its defenses, it then had to face the horrors which had originally driven it into hiding. Otherwise deeper forms of healing could not occur.
She realized now that she was expecting a rush of agony from Jeremiah: the remembered anguish of every cruelty which the Despiser and Roger and the croyel had inflicted. That prospect appalled her.
But when she considered her son clinically, she recognized that the outbreak which she dreaded was unlikely. Immediate firestorms of memory were rare. More commonly, a new form of dissociation intervened to protect the harmed mind while its new awareness was still fragile. Full recall came later—if it came at all. Jeremiah felt whole to her because his worst recollections had not arisen from their graves.
For all she knew, they might remain buried indefinitely.
Why, then, was she afraid? Why did she contemplate anything except her son’s restoration? Why could she not be content with miracles, as any other mother might have been?
She could not because Lord Foul’s prophecies might still prove true, if the Despiser contrived to recapture Jeremiah—
—or if events triggered more memories than he could withstand.
She had failed to resurrect Covenant without his leprosy. Other restorations might go awry. With or without Lord Foul’s connivance, predatory pain lurked inside Jeremiah: she could not believe otherwise. Suffering as calamitous as his possession by the croyel might overtake him without presage.
For that reason, she needed to remain alert in spite of her gladness. But she did not know where to begin trying to identify the truths buried beneath her son’s presence.
“Chosen,” Stave repeated more sharply. “Linden Avery. I comprehend the force of your son’s awakening, and of your reunion with him. Who will do so, if I do not? I, who have lost a son, and may only yearn bootlessly for his return to life? Nevertheless we cannot remain here.
“It appears that the Falls have ceased. Yet should the Unbeliever fail in his quest, they will surely return. And the wider perils of the world will not await the culmination of your release from sorrow. The last crisis of the Earth gathers against us. Also the Ranyhyn are restive. I deem that they are eager to rejoin our companions, and that they discern a need for haste.”
Long before Linden was ready to release him, Jeremiah withdrew. For a moment, he gazed at her with gleaming in his eyes like the stars on the foreheads of the Ranyhyn. Then he turned toward Stave.
Linden was too full of other emotions to be surprised when Jeremiah reached out and hugged the Haruchai.
Although Stave did not respond, he suffered the boy’s clasp until Jeremiah let him go. But when Jeremiah stepped back, the former Master lifted his eyebrow as if he were mildly perplexed.
“You are much altered,” he remarked. “Is your condition such that you are able to remember Galt, who kept the fangs of the croyel from your neck?”
Jeremiah nodded. “I remember. He’s your son. He let himself be killed so Anele could get that monster off my back. So Anele could give me all this power.”
—the hope of the Land.
Linden watched the boy with a kind of awe. Some part of him must have remained conscious throughout the long years of his dissociation. Other aspects must have been evoked or informed by the croyel’s use of him. Otherwise he would not have been able to emerge so swiftly—or to know so much.
“Then,” Stave said flatly, “I am content that you are indeed restored.”
As if in confirmation, the Ranyhyn tossed their heads, and Hynyn trumpeted an imperious acknowledgment. From among them, Khelen came forward and nudged Jeremiah, apparently urging the boy to mount.
Jeremiah, Linden tried to say; but she had no voice. She did not know where to begin. Too many aspects of her relationship with her son had taken on new meanings.
Briefly the boy stroked the young stallion’s muzzle: a small gesture of affection. Then he turned back to his mother.
“Mom.” There were tears in his voice again, if not in his eyes. His grin fell away. With his halfhand, he pointed at the bullet hole over her heart. “I’m sorry. I never wanted you to get shot. But I’m glad, too. I needed you so bad—” For a moment, the color of his gaze darkened, hinting at black depths of pain. “I needed you to come after me. I was worse than dead.”
His pajamas remained torn and stained. The horses ramping across the tops were almost indecipherable. And Liand’s blood still soiled the tattered bottoms, in spite of Linden’s efforts to wash them. She could barely remember that the fabric had once been sky-blue. It would never come clean.
But before she could reply, Jeremiah shook his head hard; blinked until his expression cleared. Gesturing around him, he snorted, “Quellvisks. They were good for something after all.”
Something which Lord Foul had not foreseen. In a sense, the boy had reincarnated himself from the old bones of monsters.
Oh, my son. Linden needed to stop weeping. Really, she could not go on like this. When Stave said her name again, his tone had become more peremptory. And he was right. They could not linger here without food or water or their companions. The wonder of her son’s emergence from his portal was a small detail compared to the threat of the Worm. The world’s end would not pause for any instance of mere human exaltation and relief.
“Say something, Mom,” Jeremiah prodded. His tone suggested a teenager’s impatience. “Say anything. Tell me you heard Stave. He’s right, we need to go.” His next thought made him grin again. “And I want to see the Giants’ faces when they see me. They are not going to believe it.”
Linden tried to refuse. She wanted nothing except to concentrate on her son. Her thirst for the sound of his voice was acute. There was so much that she yearned to know about him. About what he had endured—and how he had endured it. It did not matter where she began, as long as she could search for the truth.
I never wanted you to get shot.
But there was something else—Something in Stave’s tone nagged at the edges of her health-sense.
She absolutely had to stop crying.
When she rubbed at her eyes, the emptiness of her hands reminded her that she no longer held the Staff of Law.
She felt strangely reluctant to retrieve it. It represented responsibilities which were too great for her. Nevertheless she was capable now of many things that would have surpassed her less than an hour ago. She was still the same Linden Avery who had raged and failed and despaired; yet somehow she had also been made new. And watching over Jeremiah was a task to which she could commit herself without hesitation.
To meet that challenge, she might well need every conceivable resource.
Unsteadily she stooped to reclaim her Staff.
As her fingers closed on the engraved blackness of the wood, another faint pang touched her nerves: an evanescent breath of approaching wrongness. Frowning, she raised her head to scent the air, extend her health-sense.
The atmosphere had a brittle taste, as if it were compounded of a substance that might shatter. She knew that the season was spring; but that fact seemed to have no meaning on the Lower Land. Hideous theurgies and slaughter had made a wasteland of the entire region. Muirwin Delenoth was as desiccated as its bones: it had been shaped by death.
“Mom?” Jeremiah asked; but still she did not speak.
Drawing warmth and sensitivity from her Staff, Linden considered the slopes of the hollow, the ragged plates around the rim. Then she lifted her attention to the declining sun and the tainted hue of the sky. The pall of ash and dust overhead was wrong in its own fashion: it was unnatural, imposed by some force beyond the reach of her senses. But it was not malice; not evil or deliberate. The almost imperceptible frisson of wrongness rose from some other source.
“Stave—?” She had to swallow hard to clear her throat. “Do you feel it?”
The former Master’s silence was answer enough.
Slowly she turned in a circle, pushing her percipience to its limits. She expected the disturbance to come from the vicinity of Foul’s Creche; from Covenant’s search for Joan. But she felt nothing there. When she faced northwest, however, she found what she sought.
It was faint, almost too subtle to be discerned. Yet it was thin with distance, not weakness. The fact that she could detect it at all across so many leagues bespoke tremendous power. As soon as she tuned her nerves to the pitch of this specific malevolence—and to the direction from which it spread—she knew what it was.
It was Kevin’s Dirt, and it came from Mount Thunder.
For the first time, Kastenessen was extending his bale over the Lower Land.
Repeatedly he had tried to prevent Jeremiah’s rescue from the croyel. Now he was sending the fug of Kevin’s Dirt to hamper Linden and the Staff of Law. When it spread far enough, his theurgy would numb her senses, and Mahrtiir’s, and perhaps Jeremiah’s. And it would aggravate Covenant’s leprosy. If Joan did not kill him first. With forces drawn from She Who Must Not Be Named, the mad Elohim strove to ensure that Linden and her companions would not survive.
A shudder like a chill ran through her. Her fingers clenched the Staff until her knuckles ached. Reflexively she confirmed that she still had Covenant’s ring. An old comfort, it had steadied her for years, until he had refused her.
—the last crisis of the Earth.
What People are Saying About This
“Donaldson builds toward a staggering resolution of love, endurance, and self-sacrifice.”—Tor.com
“[Donaldson’s] work is remarkably distinct in its hero, its themes, its relationship to the real world.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Donaldson’s landmark historical fantasy series marks a milestone of epic storytelling.”—Library Journal
Barnes & Noble Review Interview with Stephen R. Donaldson
My first encounter with the work of Stephen Donaldson occurred during a tenderly transitional time. In 1977, at age twenty-three, I was freshly out of my parent's home for the first time, midway through a slightly delayed college career. A seasoned reader of fantasy novels since encountering Dr. Seuss at age five, I was enthusiastic about the genre, but had been badly burned by bandwagon publishing's first wave of egregious Tolkien pastiches. So I picked up with a little trepidation the debut novel by a fellow whom naturally enough, in those low-hype, pre-Internet days I had never heard of: Lord Foul's Bane, by one Stephen Donaldson.
Well, I don't recall emerging from that book before I finished it. The uniqueness of the lead character, leper Thomas Covenant, and the depth of the Byronic Sturm und Drang, hammered home a reading experience unlike any other. Self-pitying, unlikable, confused, stubborn, in denial Thomas Covenant was no one's Mary Sue. And yet the readers were compelled by his passions and strength of character to follow him like loyal comrades into his various hells. His saga transfixed my just-barely- out-of-adolescence brain with a viselike grip. When the subsequent two volumes appeared, I dashed through those with equal pleasure.
But then, guess what? The long interval between the First and Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant undid me. Vaguely aware of the new cycle, I failed to make time to renew my youthful passion. And by the time The Last Chronicles commenced, I felt too out of the loop to dive back in. I suspect I am not alone in this sequence.
The appearance of The Last Dark, the capstone to the whole series, provided impetus enough to amend my lax ways. I started by rereading the first trilogy, finding new depths to the books that had previously eluded me, then raced on through all the other installments. Finishing The Last Dark, which lived masterfully up to my expectations, I was simultaneously ecstatic and sad. Happy for Donaldson and Thomas, sad for me. Like binge TV viewers, I had compressed decades of intense pleasure into too short a span, and now there would be no more.
But somewhere in a corner of my mind are still reserved the original unfaded pleasant memories of my first reading of The First Chronicles, and what it meant to the young fellow I once was. Stephen R. Donaldson joined me in a conversation via email, revisiting the entire series in the light of its grand finale. Paul Di Filippo
The Barnes & Noble Review: Before we indulge ourselves in a long look backwards at the whole vast saga that is The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, let me just ask how it feels to have finally finished with the project. What kind of emotions, both personal and artistic, are you feeling at this time? Exhaustion, elation, disbelief, trepidation, maybe?
Stephen R. Donaldson: Exhaustion, certainly. I spent more than twelve years (!) working as hard as I know how on The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. And trepidation, of course. I've set my readers up to expect a final book that will justify the whole saga, and I'm naturally worried that they might not feel the kind of satisfaction, or vindication, or pleasure that I wish for them. But I'm simply too tired for elation, disbelief, relief, or joy. Later, maybe?.
BNR: You've mentioned Tolkien as an early inspiration or guiding light for your own fiction. Perhaps less well publicized is your admiration for C. S. Lewis. The setup you employ, shuttling Thomas Covenant between two worlds, will inevitably remind readers of the Narnia books and other portal fantasies. Also, Covenant's disparity in his status from one world to the next is similar to the way Lewis's children are powerless in one venue and powerful in another. But portal fantasies are generally regarded in today's marketplace as out of favor. What are your thoughts on the continuing uses and advantages of this mode?
SD: The portal structure is simply a technique: it is neither necessary nor unnecessary, except as the writer and the story make it so. In the case of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, it was absolutely necessary to my intentions. I could not otherwise dramatize the essential relevance of magic and monsters, heroism and black evil, to characters whose moral and psychological dilemmas are rooted in the real world. Other than that-well, the biggest disadvantage of the portal structure is that it requires a greater "suspension of disbelief" on the part of the readers than more self-contained fantasies do. The biggest advantage is that it solves a long list of exposition problems. It gives readers a way in.
BNR: You mention your dedication from adolescence to becoming a writer, and your early conception of Thomas Covenant's sage. Did you ever have a fallback plan, had you failed? What would that alternate-world Stephen Donaldson be doing now?
SD: Sadly, the "alternate-world Stephen Donaldson" would be teaching English at a community college if he hadn't already succeeded at drinking himself to death. The life I'm actually leading is probably the only one that could have saved me from myself.
BNR: You've stated your admiration for Joseph Conrad. Would you say that you derive your moral vision from his work?
SD: Not in any literal sense. No, what I derived most from Conrad was the knowledge that it's possible to explore a moral vision within a story which is full of excitement, suspense, and action. Conrad demonstrated that a tale of adventure can serve the highest literary purposes; and his example gave me, well, let's call it permission to pursue my own vision.
BNR: You're just the right age to have been influenced by the great series of books from Ballantine, the Adult Fantasy novels, which revived such authors as William Morris, Lord Dunsany, and William Hope Hodgson for a new generation. If indeed you encountered these books, did they shape your fiction in some way, along with Tolkien and Lewis? I seem to detect a William Morris element in your writing, in the variety of venues and in your densely imagined language.
SD: In fact, I did read some of those books but only after I was already committed to both the story and the style of The Chronicles. I certainly did not derive any of my intentions or my methods from those novels. Of the authors published under Ballantine's Adult Fantasy logo, only Evangeline Walton "spoke" to me.
BNR: The marketplace for fantasy books in 1977, when your first trilogy appeared, was vastly different than the massive, overstuffed bazaar of today. Do you feel your books benefitted from the extra attention they received in such a sparse literary landscape?
SD: Absolutely! For a variety of reasons, my books struck the marketplace like a thunderclap; and one of those reasons was that there were so few alternatives available. Readers who loved Tolkien, and who were not satisfied by Terry Brooks, had nowhere else to turn.
BNR: Having engineered a ten-year gap in Covenant's adventures, you next inserted a 4,000-year leap between first and second trilogies. Was part of the reason for that because you did not want to write about the peaceful paradise of the restored Land, but rather to focus on times of trouble again? Could Thomas Covenant ever be happy, say by having lived out his life during this utopic period in the Land? Or was he doomed to struggle and sacrifice?
SD: I engineered that gap in part because Covenant's story wasn't done; but, like most people, he needed time to consolidate his gains from the first story before he became both ready and able to confront deeper issues. However, I also engineered that gap so that circumstances in the Land would have enough time to change radically. On a personal level, I was (and am) highly motivated to avoid the trap of telling essentially the same story over again. I did not (and do not) want to spend my time repeating myself. And in terms of the overall story (Covenant against Despite in the arena of the Land), the "deeper issues" I had in mind could not be confronted without deeper challenges. Naturally deeper challenges required a dramatic alteration in the terms of the conflict.
So why could Covenant not have "lived out his life during this utopic period in the Land?" Well, aside from the obvious fact that no one is ever done with striving for growth or with struggling against decline - - I believe that letting Covenant rest in Utopia for the rest of his life would falsify all of the issues that he brought with him from his real life. There was simply no reason for him to wrestle with his Unbelief if he was never going back to the real world.
In any case, one of my core convictions about storytelling is that stories should happen to people who need them. And since I could see that Covenant was still in need?.
BNR: If Thomas was indeed fated only for an inordinate share of grief, is this a reflection of your own take on life? Or just the necessity of dramatic storytelling?
SD: What constitutes "an inordinate share of grief?" Don't we all have pain? Don't we all experience loss? And isn't it true that the most interesting people are the ones who feel their pains and losses most acutely and who still find ways to respond to their hurts constructively? Isn't it true that the Joans of the world like the Conans of the world are actually rather boring?
BNR: Did you ever have the sense that you would have liked to "retcon" things from the first Chronicle, during the composition of the Second? Little or big items that seemed inutile in retrospect, and might have interfered with later storytelling?
SD: The simple answer is no. While I was writing the first trilogy, I had no intention of writing more about Covenant and the Land; so I made no effort to prepare the way for future stories. This had the unexpected benefit of leaving the field wide open for whatever I decided to do in The Second Chronicles. As a result, I didn't start to encounter "retroactive consistency" problems until I went to work on The Last Chronicles, in part because of my ambition to tell a story which would unify and crown the entire saga, and in part because I was trying to "prepare the way" in the second trilogy.
BNR: There followed a twenty-year interregnum between the Second and Last Chronicles, until you said the nagging to tell the story became insistent. How hard was it to return to that fictional universe?
SD: As writing, it was dead easy: I like working in that style and in that world, and I knew the central characters well. But on a personal level, it was extraordinarily difficult because I was so afraid. Afraid of? Well, afraid of not being a good enough writer to tell the most demanding story I had ever attempted. And by extension, afraid of disappointing my readers after making them wait all these years to see how the story turns out.
BNR: The Runes of the Earth, the first book in the final quartet, opens with an extended sequence set on our Earth, the longest such set piece since Lord Foul's Bane. Did you envision this as a strengthening of the intimacy between the two realms, and a reflection of the organic unity of their joint creation?
SD: In practical terms, the "real world" chapters at the beginning of each story serve to establish the central characters, to make their personalities, needs, and dilemmas (from which the themes of what follows derive) as substantial as possible. So of course those chapters also serve to establish the relevance of subsequent events, not just to the real world characters, but also to their (our?) real world. Those real world chapters provide the foundation of meaning for everything else.
Looking at it in those terms: the real world chapters at the beginning of The Runes of the Earth are longer than any comparable sequence in The Chronicles as a whole because, first, the needs, dilemmas, and themes are more complex, and, second, there are more real world characters who require attention (Linden, Jeremiah, Joan, Roger, and even Lytton).
BNR: With the introduction of time travel into your scenario, I felt the series acquired a kind of science-fictional tone. You've written your share of SF of course. Did you intentionally strive for a hybrid feel in The Last Chronicles?
SD: I think I know what you mean. The kinds of explanations and the styles of reasoning that are required to both acknowledge and avoid the dreaded "time-travel paradox" certainly tend to have an SF "feel." But in The Last Chronicles that "feel" is a side effect: it was not intentional. My intention was simply to "play fair" with a concept which thwarts linear comprehension: an attack on the structure of time. Well, I had to find some way to write about that attack, despite the limitations of my own "linear comprehension." From my perspective, the fact that I succeeded in writing about it at all is more significant than any inadvertent SF "feel."
BNR: Likewise, the ultimate menace embodied in the Worm of the World's End feels very much like an allegory for entropy, that ultimate doom that science predicts for our universe. Was this symbolism your intention?
SD: No, I'm still writing about the inevitability of loss and about the human necessity of grief. Of course, the concept is universal. Everything dies, from the smallest blade of grass to the biggest galaxy. But my intentions are focused on the personal meaning of ruin to my specific characters; and, by extension, on the challenge we all face when we try to lead worthwhile lives in spite of the eventual futility of everything we do.
BNR: The opening paragraphs of Against All Things Ending have a kind of John Milton or William Blake feel about them. Were you striving for a kind of cosmic, biblical raping up of Covenant's saga as it neared its climax?
SD: Not particularly. As I see it, the "cosmic, biblical ramping up" has been implicit from the beginning of Lord Foul's Bane. I could hardly have announced my "cosmic, biblical" intentions more explicitly than by calling my personification of evil "Lord Foul the Despiser"; and ever since I've been more and more trusting my implicit purposes to speak for themselves. No, at the beginning of Against All Things Ending I was simply trying to wrap my mind around the sheer scale of what Covenant has known and of what he has lost by being resurrected.
BNR: In The Last Dark, Covenant and Avery are on separate quests during the first half of the book. This separation allows for a very resonant moment at the center of the novel when they finally reunite. Did you have this pivotal moment planned from the time Avery first made her appearance several installments ago?
SD: No. I regret to say that I'm not that smart. However, I am smart enough to recognize opportunities as they take shape. In fact, I'm smart enough to profit from the "taking shape" even when it occurs several books before the actual opportunity arrives. So I did not foresee the scene you describe when I started work on The Wounded Land. But I began to foresee it when I started work on The Runes of the Earth.
BNR: Our Earth recedes into insignificance in the Last Chronicles, and seems necessarily abandoned by our transcendent heroes. Do you feel that they had to shed their mortal identities entirely for the story's sake, or could there have been some balancing of those accounts as well?
SD: I don't know how to answer this question. From my perspective, I created a story whose internal logic, themes, and emotions permitted no other outcome. This outcome became inevitable as soon as I committed myself to The Wounded Land. Every necessary resolution has already occurred. And I don't need to bring it all back to the "real world" because-well, because that's what telling the story is for.
BNR: With the success of Game of Thrones, it seems not totally unlikely that Hollywood's attention could turn to the Covenant books. Has there been any media interest in the Covenant cycle?
SD: Hollywood's attention turned to The Chronicles in a big way ten or twelve years ago. And then gradually that attention frayed away to nothing. Which, in my opinion, is a good thing. I'm no expert; but I consider The Chronicles un-filmable. Too much of their narrative power arises from what's inside the characters; and any screen (big or little) can only show what's outside.
BNR: It seems to me that the Covenant books have been a subtle inspiration to a small number of subsequent fantasies. I'm thinking of darker, more complex work with a deep sense of morality, such as various series by Daniel Abraham, Patrick Ness, Patrick Rothfuss, and John Wright. Do you see your books reflected in a new generation of fantasy writers? Ultimately, what would you like your legacy to be?
SD: I'm not qualified to comment on whatever has or has not influenced writers who are younger than I am. In any case, if a writer has nothing more to offer than a sum of influences, then he or she is probably not worth reading. However, on this subject I can speak for Steven Erikson but only because I've heard him speak for himself. I've often said that Tolkien made my work possible: he opened a door that I could walk through. Well, Erikson says the same about my books: they made his possible. For that I am both proud and grateful.
Asking me about the legacy I desire for myself is rather like asking me to remove all my clothes in front of a crowd of strangers. How much intimate exposure can I stand? Well, as it happens, I can stand quite a lot. So I'll say this: the legacy I crave for myself is to break down the absolutely artificial and arbitrary barricade which has been erected to separate "fantasy" from "literature." After all, all of the oldest and most enduring literature in every language on the planet is fantasy. That can't be an accident. And it can't be because our ancestors (however distant) were stupid: they were not. Why, then, is it considered somehow less than admirable or worthwhile or necessary for an ambitious modern man or woman to write fantasy?
November 6, 2013
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
God I hate to have to write this because I love the author and I really wanted to love this book but... Man I don't even know what to say except that this was the most disappointing book I've read in a long time. The Last Chronicles in general have been very uneven - full of potential but bloated and meandering - and I blame the editors (or lack thereof!) more than anything else. The last books bit off more than they could chew: they introduced characters and themes that were never dealt with and could not possibly be satisfactorily resolved... and this is the result. If you've read the first nine you'll read this book too... but if you're like me you'll wonder where exactly the whole endeavor went off the rails. Sigh.
Even after being terribly disappointed and bored with the recent Covenant Books, I had to read this Final Chapter. Full of action, magic, and less introspection and dithering. Kind of reminded me of the first 3 books in the series. Wish however he'd lay off the vocabulary exercise. Too much effulgence, percipience, penumbra, devoir, assuage, etc. etc. In spite of all that it's a good read with a spectacular and fulfilling ending.
I'm only into the second book, but the last chronicles seem to be more genious than the first and second chronicles. The emotional turmoil is there, like in the first books, yet is seems more poingnant and conflicting than the first go around. To me, Donaldson, with more experience and wisdom to draw upon, is more genious than ever.
Worth the wait.
As usual, bring your dictionary, and enjoy the ride
As like with many folks, the 1st chronicles were books that changed my life. I still remember the feeling I got discovering the books one by one. The 2nd chronicles came as a blessing. When I heard the 3rd series was coming out, I held my breath. Too many times, I've seen authors go to the well once too often. And that turned out to be true with Donaldson. This last piece of Covenants legacy makes no sense, has no heart and stirs no feeling. I still hold out hope he will revisit the land, perhaps write a prequel. But for now, I'm going to try to forget I ever read the last chronicles.
After over 2,300 pages, I expected more. A good editor could have shortened this ungainly tome by about half just by eliminating the constant repeating of significant statements (over and over and over). And nobody can torment his protagonists like Stephen Donaldson. After a while, I just wanted it to be over, even if the Worm triumphed. And then the ambiguous and unsatisfying ending. I will never forgive Donaldson for ruining a truly great work, the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, by writing the second, and now third, installment of the chronicles. He should have left well enough alone.
If you are not moved to tears during this conclusion the problem is with you, not the author. Best Donaldson since 'This Day All Gods Die'.
It's nice to have closure on this series after so many years. I'm enjoying the book immensely. It's pure Donaldson. And about the large words. They're not an issue for me as I was an English major. However, it's not necessary to know or look up all the words to enjoy the book. You can infer a lot of their meanings from the rest of the sentences where they're used. That's called getting the meaning from "context". Much less annoying than stopping to look everything up!
I have enjoyed this entire series of books. I hesitated giving it five stars, but, looking back, I did read the entire 10 books back-to-back and didn't want to put them down. I know there's criticism of Donaldson's reiterative prose, but honestly, I didn't mind it too much, especially after reading the George R. R. Martin books which are quite the opposite to a frustrating degree. (How am I going to remember enough to read the next book?) I was surprised and slightly disappointed by the brevity of the epilogue. I would have liked a bit more explanation of what went on in between the last chapter and the epilogue. (sorry, trying to avoid a spoiler). At the end of the second series, there's a nice explanation for what Linden Avery does with the new staff of law. Something like that would have been welcomed in this series. I love these books, but you can expect the same "distractions" from the story as in the other books, namely the extensive use of "pet" words. (If I never see the words "percipience" and "chiaroscuro" again it will be too soon!) Overall, Donaldson has expanded my vocabulary, but sometimes these words (the ones I had to look up) seemed to be placed out of arrogance rather than skill. No offense, Mr. Donaldson.