Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson
Published by Del Rey on May 16, 2012
Series: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever #1
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, Fiction
Length: 272 pages Source: Indie Bookstore
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He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in the strange alternate world in which he suddenly found himself. Yet he was tempted to believe, to fight for the Land, to be the reincarnation of its greatest hero....
I didn’t hate this book. My thoughts on it almost all the way up were negative, but I didn’t hate it. This is why:
I am a character writer, and by association, a character reader. Meaning that I am incredibly judgmental about the depth and quality of characters in the books I read. I loathed Thomas Convenant. He was – to me – the epitome of a despicable character. From a writer’s perspective, though, I understand that he wasn’t supposed to be likable. However, needing to follow him through the Land and listening to his constant whining became a tad intolerable for something who prefers her protagonists to be just a few steps away from Gary Stu (okay, maybe a couple bounding yards. But definitely not several miles). That said, here are my continuing thoughts on the book.
After this point, there will, inevitably, be a few spoilers. Not book-wrecker spoilers (I don’t think) but read at your own risk.
Firstly, I was very well tolerating Covenant in his own world, although I thought he was whiny and his walk to town was impossibly long and draggy. It was the moment that his got hit by that car and summoned into the Land that his character clashed so heavily with all the good there. The first moments of his encounter with Drool and Lord Foul are just fine – good pacing, clear enough character: you know that this part is supposed to be foggy. But then we find Covenant on Kevin’s Watch with the delightful Stonedowner, Lena. I like Lena. I thought she was charming, dreamy. Again, I do believe this is by design, because if you love Lena, then you really despise Covenant raping her.
It was the rape that unfairly set my mind against the book. I hate rape. Who doesn’t? But even within the first hundred pages, it just wasn’t classy.
And it is after the rape that I think Covenant becomes truly despicable. He lacks any element of empathy, a lack-of-trait which drives me mad. He spends the entirety of the next hundred pages whining about his condition and complaining about how this whole thing is a dream. For me, this would be tolerable except I find Atarian, his guide and Lena’s mother, to be weak and depressing, therefore leaving us with two characters for just less than a quarter of the book whose woes take up more time than the beauty (and evil) in the surrounding Land.
As a reader, in this 100-page stint, I turned my attention to the Land. Donaldson has crafted his world beautifully, an accomplishment that I envy. I can imagine the changing scenery perfectly, and you can feel the impending shiver as evil stretches out and corrupts it.
Once Covenant is dropped with Saltheart Foamfollower, the pacing becomes a littler quicker (thank goodness!) and the characters around Covenant become much more interesting (even while Covenant himself remains intolerable). Foamfollower is a particular favourite of mine, because I felt his character was very well-rounded and he was a changing character; the developments you see around Foamfollower are slightly heartbreaking. He is the character with empathy, the one who tries so hard to make Covenant see.
Donaldson has crafted a few very interesting species in this story, as is expected in any epic. I particularly like the Bloodguard and Ranyhyn. Bannor’s character (a Bloodguard) is wide open, yet shut tight. I think that paradox makes him a enigma, and an interesting character.
Once the Questers left the remnant of Woodhelven, I found myself enjoying the book, and wanting to read it. I won’t spoil the ending, but I am happier, now, picking up the second book than I was in the first half of Lord Foul’s Bane.
I will say that Donaldson’s pacing bothers me a little – but I also have problems with that in The Lord of the Rings and therefore I am inclined to believe that it is my own problem with epic fantasy. The slows are very slow and the fasts are so quick, I needed to go back in and read them several times to understand what had just happened.