Review: Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson

Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #1)

Have you ever heard the saying that if you meet a jerk in the morning, you just ran into a jerk. But if you keep encountering jerks all day, maybe it’s you who is the jerk.

Thomas Covenant is a jerk. Or at least as far as I can tell he is. Contracting leprosy, Covenant is sent to away for six months to for counselling and treatment. Upon returning home, he finds his wife has left him and taken their son with her. His community wants nothing to do with him, even to the point that complete strangers are paying his bills so he won’t have to come into town to conduct his business. None of this sits well with Thomas, who decides that he’ll walk into town and pay his phone bill, only to find that he gets hit by a car and sent into a fantasy world.

This fantasy world finds Thomas given the task of delivering a message. It also has Thomas encounter a young woman named Lena who shows him who the dirt of this world can help cure him of his leprosy. He repays this kindness and the kindness of her family’s village by proving himself virile again and forcing himself upon Lena. Luckily for Thomas, the village has some kind of kindness pact that doesn’t allow her family to seek out vengeance on him, but instead forces his mother to lead him to the people to whom he is supposed to deliver his message.

And so they set out on ye olde fantasy quest. Thankfully, Donelson decides not to describe every leaf on every tree, but there are still some long stretches in the middle third of this book where not much happens but Thomas and his guide go wandering around.

Fantasy novels with a less than noble and unlikeable protagonist aren’t exactly a new thing. And yet somehow Thomas Covenant comes across as more unlikeable than the entire case of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire And Ice series. Donaldson seems to have little interest in creating any redeeming qualities in Covenant or at least allowing readers to understand why he’s such a jerk to begin with. That makes it difficult to want to spend much time with him — and all of this is before the infamous rape scene. Reading the book I can see why it’s so polarizing among fans of the genre.

While not being the worst book I’ve ever read, it’s certainly up there among the less enjoyable novels I’ve read in quite a while.

There are more entries in this series, but it’s highly unlikely I am going to pick up any of them.

And I think I’m also done trying to read Donaldson.  I gave his Gap series a try years ago and couldn’t stand it.  Now this one has left me disappointed as well.

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