The Illearth War, by Stephen R. Donaldson

The 2nd installment in Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, the only real fantasy trilogy that I’ve ever read that approaches the scope of Tolkein. Actually, that’s not quite right — the Terry Brook’s Shanara books are similar in scope as well, and while I really enjoyed them, they always seemed to me to be directly derivative of The Lord of the Rings.

Covenant I always thought was basically the same — I read it around the same time as a kid. As I re-read the trilogy, though, I’m revising my view. Like Tolkein with LOTR, Donaldson wrote the trilogy all at once — in what was essentially a mega-novel (Tolkein never thought of LOTR as a trilogy, really) — Tolkein in 1954; Donaldson in 1977. But while Tolkein’s work is really a piece of a much much larger mythology, Donaldson’s is more self-contained. I think, also, that the Covenant series is somewhat more adult, exploring character much more — in particular, the role of belief (and unbelief), sickness, and permanency. In plot they’re similar, in attitude they’re different. Easy to understand why those differences wouldn’t be apparent to me as a kid.

I’ve got the third installment, The Power that Preserves to read next — then I’ll decide if it’s worth it to read the 2nd trilogy. Maybe so, but I’d like to read some other things first. I will say that it’s great getting the chance to read these books in just a few sittings — it’s nice to have that continuity.

Next on tap, three new books from some of my very favorite authors: Coupland, Murakami, and Diamond. I’m a little overwhelmed that they all came out with books this month. 🙂

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