|"Say to the Council
of Lords, and to High Lord Prothall son of Dwillian, that the
uttermost limit of their span of days upon the Land is seven
times seven years from this present time. Before the end of
those days are numbered, I will have the command of life and
death in my hand. And as a token that what I say is the one
word of truth, tell them this: Drool Rockworm, Cavewight of
Mount Thunder, has found the Staff of Law ..."
|-- Lord Foul's Bane|
Lord Foul's Bane opens the Chronicles and is the
closest to a self-contained novel of all the books in the First
and Second Chronicles.
Thomas Covenant is a leper, a bitter and solitary pariah whose family and community cast him out in fear of his loathsome disease. He is mystically transported to another Earth in which time moves differently than in ours, one in which magic takes many forms. The Land is threatened by evils, the most immediate of which is a maddened Cavewight whose subterrene excavations unearthed the ancient and puissant Staff of Law. More dangerous to the free people of the Land is the Gray Slayer, Lord Foul the Despiser, who intends to destroy the actual foundations of the Earth to wage war against the universe's Creator.
Because he has lost two fingers of his right hand to leprosy Covenant is revered by the free people of the Land as the reincarnation of their most ancient hero and deliverer. Thomas Covenant is unprepared to deal with this fantastic world and his many repressed and conflicting emotions are only exacerbated by the trust and honor placed in him. Though divorced he still wears his wedding ring which is made of white gold, a metal not found in the Earth and a talisman of incalculable power in the Land. His ring can unleash the wild magic to defeat Lord Foul, or destroy the Arch of Time and threaten the very universe itself. Covenant embarks on a journey to the Lords Council at the great mountain keep of Revelstone to warn the guardians of the Land of the Staff's rediscovery, a journey that plumbs the depths of his rage, confusion and ineffectiveness. In return for saving his life and healing his leprosy, Thomas Covenant rapes Lena, a young girl of Mithil Stonedown. Saving him from just retribution, her mother Atiaran leads him on the hazardous trek to Revelstone through the Andelainian Hills where despite her hatred she shares the utmost beauty of the Land with Covenant.
And so Lord Foul's Bane unfolds, and it is futile to synopsize the book because its strength is not in the plot but in the writing that unfolds on each page. Suffice it to say Thomas Covenant is befriended along his journey by many valorous people who accept him despite his crime and his Unbelief that they even exist, and shield him from his enemies with their strength, magic and their lives. At last, with little assistance from Covenant, the Quest reaches a successful conclusion whereupon he is recalled unwillingly to his hateful existence in our Earth. Yet it is plain that even the great accomplishment of recovering the Staff of Law is only a temporary respite from the menace of the Despiser.
Lord Foul's Bane is amazing in the nature of its protagonist, in the creation of the Land, its magic and its unique races, and in the vividness of its description. However it is less involving and interesting than the Chronicles that come after because it follows too predictably the well-worn classical Fantasy Quest formula: reluctant and unlikely hero who holds incredible power but doesn't know how to wield it accompanies interesting cast of characters into Enemy's stronghold where -- though vastly outnumbered -- the good guys somehow win. If Donaldson had stopped writing after this book, Lord Foul's Bane would share bookshelf space with Sword of Shannara, the Dragonlance series, and a hundred other fantasy works.
But it doesn't exist in isolation and Lord Foul's Bane opens up to us the Land, a small section of a vast and complex world as engaging as any I can remember. The Land is enormous and many-textured, rich with history and brimming with a thousand stories of which the First and Second Chronicles are merely the tip of the iceberg. And it serves as a transition to the worthier novels The Illearth War and The Power That Preserves.
Chapter headings for Lord Foul's Bane
1: Golden Boy
2: "You Cannot Hope"
3: Invitation to a Betrayal
4: Kevin's Watch
5: Mithil Stonedown
6: Legend of Berek Halfhand
8: The Dawn of the Message
10: The Celebration of Spring
11: The Unhomed
14: The Council of Lords
15: The Great Challenge
17: End in Fire
18: The Plains of Ra
19: Ringthane's Choice
20: A Question of Hope
21: Treacher's Gorge
22: The Catacombs of Mount Thunder
23: Kiril Threndor
24: The Calling of Lions
Other information and reviews of Lord Foul's Bane can be found here:
Science Fiction and Fantasy World
Book Tour On-line