Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Last Dark: The Climax of the Entire Thomas Covenant Chronicles by Stephen R. Donaldson

by Stephen R. Donaldson, hardcover edition. I believe
the person on the cover is "Manethrall Mahrtiir" (who is
blind, hence the wrapped eyes). The scene on the cover, 
taken from the book, appears at close to half way through 
the book--no spoilers about what the scene is about, 
though. You have to read it to find out!
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     Stephen Donaldson begins each of his books with, "What Has Gone Before." A short synopsis of each of the books before the current book. So, if you haven't read the other books, but want to read, The Last Dark, you can get up to speed on what has come before by reading the introduction. 

     The short synopsis of each book is also good for those of us who have read the books, to use as a reminder, a refresher, of the earlier foundational part of the series. I do recommend that you read the other books, but I can understand the excitement of finding out just how the series will be concluded. 

    Donaldson does a good job of relating all the important parts of the stories and distilling them down to just a few pages. And...I know about the desire to be able to discuss with others the latest, hot new book release. I, personally, don't like saying, "No, I haven't read it yet." So, if you don't want to be left behind, read "What has Gone Before" and dive into the book, guilt-free. You'll be the one asking, "Have you read the last book of Donaldson's Covenant series?" 

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: The Unbeliever,
Books 1-3; The Second Chronicles of Thomas
Covenant: The 
Unbeliever, Books 1-3
THE SERIES: If, however, you want to read the other books in the series first, here they are in the preferred reading order. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: (1) Lord Foul's Bane; (2) The Illearth War; (3) The Power That Preserves.

     The top three images on the right are images of the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.

    The second row of images immediately to the right are those of  The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: (1) The Wounded Land; (2) The One Tree;    (3) White Gold Wielder. 

The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: The Unbeliever Series,
Books 1-3.
Finally, the third and last series include the books as follows: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: (1) The Runes of the Earth; (2) Fatal Revenant; (3) Against All Things Ending; and now, book (4) The Last Dark. The images of the first three books are here, to the right, and book four is at the top of the page.

    Now that we've looked at all the books in the massive series, let's take a look at Donaldson's newest, and the final, book of the series.

THE BOOK: At the very end of the previous book, Against All Things Ending, Linden is joyfully reunited with Jeremiah (her adopted son) after Jeremiah's mind is restored.

     And, Covenant, having just survived an attack by Joan, his "Raver-possessed" wife, manages to retaliate and kill her with a special dagger called the "krill."  No sooner has this been accomplished than a huge tsunami hits...Covenant and his two guards, Clyme and Branl, somehow manage to survive. As we take up the opening pages of The Last Dark, we find out that with the beginning of the new day, the world has fallen into "perpetual twilight: the onset of the last dark." [Kindle loc. 353 of 12385]

The Worm  of the World's End.
    Linden, with her "restored" son Jeremiah and fellow travelers, feel overwhelmed because they cannot conceive of a way to stop the Worm of the World's End, nor how to stop She Who Must Not be Named. They look sadly upon the stars (Elohim) as they, one-by-one are eaten by the giant worm and disappear forever.

    Though Linden and Covenant are reunited, they don't have the wherewithal to stop the Worm. How is it to be accomplished? The Worm approaches to consume all within its path. Stephen R. Donaldson dramatically brings tension after tension to climatic heights. How is the company to survive? All are stretched to their limits...all are tested beyond endurance.

    Stephen R. Donaldson places the company and characters in one impossible situation after another. Though Linden and Covenant have survived many trials, only hope keeps them clinging to life, clinging to each other in love, clinging to each other in friendship and determination. Many plot twists and turns abound: life and death, triumph and grief, joy and sorrow; I found myself engrossed in the book, cheering, yelling (inwardly, mostly) at some of the characters, desperately hoping for a great ending for everyone, and...I found tears in my eyes at the loss of some of my friends in the book, laughter, and excitement.

What I Think About the Book:
    Oops!...I guess I jumped the gun a little in the previous paragraph. Oh, well. I guess we move on. When I first started reading the series, I found that in the first books I couldn't stand Thomas Covenant's character, his whining, his belly-aching...but...there was definitely a point to Donaldson's creation of Covenant's character as an anti-hero ("I get it.").  In the allegorical story (or stories) of Thomas Covenant, the prophecy of the white gold wielder in "saving or damning" the land mirrors the choices Covenant faces in saving or damning himself. It is especially illustrative in this last book of the series, The Last Dark.

Donaldson created Thomas
Covenant as an antihero.
    Yes. As an anti-hero, Thomas Covenant, in many ways is deeply an unlikable sort; yet, he strives to help the land to bring about a balance somehow capable of defeating evil. In Covenant's attitude about his illness, we see his struggle for balance. In The Last Dark, Covenant is thinking: he reflects that his "need to be numb" doesn't make him who he is but, "it makes me who I can be." [Loc. 2221 of 12385]

The whole series, Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever, is allegorical in nature,
never more so than in the last book of the series, The Last Dark.
  Later, when Covenant has the opportunity to be healed, he contem- plates the prophecy of the "Old Lords" who foretold that Cove- nant would "save or damn the Earth." Covenant thinks no, not "save or damn," the "words should have been 'save and damn." He thinks that the Old Lords had either misremembered the prophecy or misunder- stood it. Covenant "needs" to remain numb, yet he also wants the proffered healing. The juxtaposition of conflicting desires is especially troubling to Covenant. Nothing, he thinks, undermines my "foundations more than being cured."

    We wonder if Covenant will ever find the balance he so desperately needs or whether he will let go of "the contradiction of renewal and ruin that formed the keystone of the Arch of Time." [Loc. 11247]  Stephen Donaldson does a masterful job at keeping the tension going between the opposing attitudes with Covenant and we are really hoping he can pull it together by the end of the book. This theme is so pervasive that even Linden  Avery acknowledges "the blazing paradox, save or damn, which formed the [very] keystone of life." [Loc. 10724 of 12385]

     Without a doubt Stephen Donaldson's writing is masterful. In reading Donaldson's book, I have to say again, that though I thoroughly dislike Covenant, I love Donaldson's writing. While Covenant is irritating and unlikable, the beautifully executed story is elegant in its delivery and its characters appealing and memorable.

Saltheart Foamfollower and
Thomas Covenant.
     I worked in an office once where I could not stand one of the "managers," he was an absolute tyrant. When I confided to a friend the situation, my friend said that he bet that the manager's secretary was kind and thoughtful. I said, "Yes, she is." My friend pointed out that often where you find people with difficult personalities, their assistants often balance them out by going out of their way to be kind and thoughtful. This simple truth boggled my mind. I think that Donaldson has done something  strikingly similar in his book.

    Characters around Covenant are exceedingly kind and noble. For example, in previous books, I really like some of the characters, like Lord Mhoram, but my absolute favorite is Saltheart Foamfollower (although, I truly love all the Giants...I mean, really, Donaldson wrote them that way!). And, for good measure, Donaldson really beefs up the rolls for the Giants in this book, The Last Dark. 

Ranyhyn with a Winhome.
All Ranyhyn have the mark
of a star on them.
    I would not miss having read this series for the world. "I can't help it...Any world that has Haruchai and Ranyhyn and Ramen and Insequent and even Elohim in it is precious. But there really is no substitute for Giants." [Loc. 8351] They are forever with me now, like old friends.

   The journey undertaken to read this series was not done without trepidation, especially in the early books. But in the end, it was very worth the effort. Parts of the series, in general, were plodding and repetitive, but always, I found delight in the characters (except Covenant and sometimes Linden). In spite of those criticisms, I think the story line and themes elegant in their delivery. I have heard others complain that Donaldson's series is as depressing as George Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, but I did not find it so. Maybe I'm an eternal optimist, or maybe for me the "down" emotions were balanced by the "positive" emotions, or maybe I just loved Donaldson's characters and how they interacted with others and with "the land" to bring hope to each other and to each situation.

    Should I recommend to you that you read the book (and, of course, the series)? This ambitious story is troublesome, in ways, but I can't but acknowledge that Donaldson's epic is captivating. If you can put up with some plodding passages, and of course, an irritating anti-hero, then to you I would say, "Read the book, read the series." As for me, the characters are ones I am happy to have known...all the hours spent following their footsteps across "The Land," being privy to their thoughts, and hearing their stories with my ears. Just like Frostheart Grueburn expressed, "The burden of joy is mine. It belongs to the ears that hear...." [Loc. 4031].

Map of "The Land," from The Thomas Covenant Chronicles. I like having a copy of a map of "The Land"
around, because (while I'm reading) I like to track where in "The Land" the heroes and heroines
and villains are  located at any given time--and, where they are going or plan to go.

    I had a really hard time selecting only one short passage. So many, so many, wonderful quotes. I opted to go with one that embraced a little humor. I could not help myself...I actually laughed out loud when I read the short passage. Remember: Stave and Linden haven't always had the best relationship. Moreover, the Haruchai are somber, grim, unyielding, stone-faced and mostly unemotional people. Yet, near the end of the book we get to see in my chosen quote, that Stave's "...assertion sounded like an example of Haruchai humor," as follows:

    "Linden Avery, I have said that I will not be parted from you again....You I will accompany....At one time, I declared that Desecration lies ahead of you. Now I am persuaded that there is no Desecration in you. I will not stand at your side to ward against you. I will do so because I have not learned humility, though you have endeavored to teach me. I crave further instruction." [Location: 10336 of 12385]

I found this lovely, short little quiz that will help you discover which character from the series you are. Just ask yourself:
     I took the quiz and the results are here, just below. According to the quiz, I am Lord Mhoram; my second place character would be Saltheart Foamfollower. I absolutely love both of these characters, so I guess, I'm happy with the test/quiz results.

The quiz only took a couple of minutes, and it was fun. Here is the link for you to try your hand at it and discover which character you are:

The following link is from the website where you can find out which character you are:

         I also found a little entertainment for you in the form of a trailer for the book from YouTube.  I hope you enjoy this teaser about The Last Dark: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

My rating for The Last Dark: The Thomas Covenant Chronicles:
4.5 Stars out of 5.

Other vendors and Ratings:
4.06--Goodreads: 83 Ratings
5.00--Amazon: 8 Ratings

Pages: 592
Publisher: Putnam Adult (10-15-13)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
ASIN: B00C5R7446
Kindle: Text-to-speech: Enabled
Kindle: X-Ray: Enabled
Kindle: Lending: Not Enabled

     "Doubtless all things must have an end." [Loc. 8756] And so do we come to the end of the book, the series, and my book review. Thank you so very much for taking time to read this weeks posting from my blog. I truly hope you have enjoyed your visit to this little island of time: Stephen Donaldson's, The Last Dark: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

     Until next time...
White Rose.
...many happy pages of reading!


__________________________________________ - Cover image of The Last Dark: The Climax of the Entire Thomas Chronicles (Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant), Amazon; - The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Lord Foul's Bane; The Illearth War; The Power That Preserves, Amazon; - The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: (1) The Wounded Land; (2) The One Tree; (3) White Gold Wielder, Amazon; - The first two series of Thomas Covenant: The Unbeliever; - The Worm Who Eats The World; - A Ranyhyn with a Winhome; - The Land (map); - Allegory; - Antihero; - The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: The Unbeliever, Amazon; - Barnes & Noble Ratings; - The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant; - YouTube: The Last Dark trailer; - Map of "The Land" from Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Series; - Saltheart Foamfollower & Covenant; -Goodreads Ratings; - 4.5 Stars; - Amazon Ratings; - White Rose.