|There Trell stood
in the graveling pit like the core of a holocaust, bursting with
flames and hurling great gouts of fire at the ceiling with both
fists. His whole form blazed like incarnated damnation,
white-hot torment striking out at the stone it loved and could
The sheer power of it staggered Mhoram. He was looking at the
onset of a Ritual of Desecration. ... He had to be stopped.
That was imperative. He turned to Tohrm.
"You are of the rhadhamaerl!" he shouted over the raving
of the fire. "You must silence this flame!"
"Silence it?" Tohrm was staring, aghast, into the ravage of his
dearest love. "Silence it? I have no strength to equal this.
I am a Gravelingas of the rhadhamaerl -- not Earthpower
incarnate. He will destroy us all."
-- The Power That Preserves
The final novel of the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
starts out grim, makes for fairly grim reading and ends ... well,
sort of grim, or at least not very happily by general fantasy
standards. Thomas Covenant returns from his previous sojourn in
the Land just long enough to engage in some depressing and
delirious flailing about while seven years pass in the Land. In
that short time Lord Foul's mastery of the Illearth Stone (and,
unbeknownst to our heroes, the Staff of Law) allows him to
assemble an even vaster army. This time however a gelid and
unnatural winter grip the Land, weakening the resistance of the
free peoples. The Ramen and Ranyhyn are hunted, the Earthpower
of the forests is in retreat, the Giants have been exterminated, the
Bloodguard Vow is broken and the Haruchai have dispersed. Only
at Revelstone is there a glimmer of hope, and it is braced
unsteadily against the vicious onslaught of Satansfist's
ravening horde. Like a comet in the sky, Covenant's return
signals a time of crisis, in what will surely prove the death
grapple between good and evil in the Land. As usual the
Warward will do its suffering alone, while Covenant embarks on a
separate but equally important quest.
really fast horses who like good guys
awesomely powerful bad-asses as the Enemy
aforementioned Enemy controlling the weather for battle
the Enemy's almost inaccessible lair containing
Yes, the siege of Revelstone will no doubt conjure up images of
the Battle of the Hornburg or the siege of
Minas Tirith among the faithful, as surely as Ridjeck Thome
must seem an imitation of Baradur or the Ranyhyn appear as
shadows of the Mearas. But if Tolkien could envision such bitter, bloody
business as takes place under the pall of Lord Foul's unnatural
winter (and having survived the First World War he probably
could) he never set it down on paper. The Power That Preserves
chronicles the brutal rape and degradation of so much of the
Land and its people that its amazing the survivors require only
two thousand years to regain some ground. Sometimes it's hard to
remember that apart from the butchery and pain there is an
actual plot unfolding leading Covenant towards a showdown with
Lord Foul a hundred times more dark and dangerous than
Frodo and Sam's jaunt to Mount Doom.
When discussing Donaldson's novels, especially with Tolkien fans
(and I'm a big one), it never hurts to restate the fact that
Tolkien did not invent and does not own the concepts
As in The Illearth War, Donaldson allows himself to cut
loose and just write some astonishingly good stuff that reaches
out and involves the reader intellectually and emotionally.
If you're not dabbing at tears after Mhoram's failed attempt at
re-summoning Covenant to the Land, well then you're just not
human (I cried like a little girl). Covenant gets to pay in a small but satisfying way for
his rape of Lena by having to deal with her unnatural affection
with his best friends looking on. I'll admit Donaldson
occasionally goes overboard with the suffering, as in Covenant's
amanibhavam-fueled wandering towards Morinmoss Forest.
But the ending to the First Chronicles is more satisfying than Tolkien's
dismal failure with the Lord of the Rings (Sauron go poof !). And for every flaw
there is a moving and impressive scene; the valiant and hopeless
sacrifice of the Waynhim attacking Satansfist's army, Mhoram and
Tohrm's opposition of the Ritual of Desecration, Triock's doomed
trek to the Unfettered One's demesne, the Healer's last act of
mercy, Lord Mhoram's Victory.
Chapter headings for The Power That Preserves
1: The Danger in Dreams
3: The Rescue
6: The Defense of Mithil Stonedown
7: Message to Revelstone
9: Ramen Covert
11: The Ritual of Desecration
13: The Healer
14: Only Those Who Hate
15: "Lord Mhoram's Victory"
17: The Spoiled Plains
18: The Corrupt
19: Ridjeck Thome
20: The Unbeliever
21: Leper's End