The delay has been caused by my absolute immersion in the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant – the Unbeliever, the final installment of a fantasy series written by Stephen Donaldson.
I have always loved the Thomas Covenant books – ever since reading the First Chronicles probably 25 years ago. They are unusual in that they tend to polarise fantasy readers – you either love them or you hate them (most fantasy is fairly innocuous) – and while I admit that the lead characters (Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery) can be very, very unlikable/annoying at times, the characters that help them throughout their journeys are incredible! Donaldson forgoes the usual dwarves, elves etc of regular fantasy and creates completely new characters to populate his world. There is not a single one that is not interesting, and most of them are downright awesome!
I actually read the first 3 books of this Last Chronicles a few years ago … before I realised that there was a 4th book – one he hadn’t finished at the time! That book was released in 2013 and one of the few concrete plans I made for this year of travel was that I was going to start from Book 1 of the First Chronicles and read all the way through the 10 books.
I re-read the first Chronicles back in April (for the 3rd time) and really enjoyed diving back into the world Donaldson creates, reuniting with Saltheart Foamfollower (a Giant) and Bannor (a Haruchai) in particular. For me, the Haruchai are the most awesome characters ever written, and is it just me or does George R. R. Martin’s characters, “the Unsullied”, seem to harken after the Haruchai (at least in the TV series, I haven’t read the books).
After a break of a few months, I re-read the Second Chronicles (for the 2nd time) in August, and again was totally taken by how cool the Haruchai (Brinn, Cail, Ceer, Hergrom) are.
I started the Final Chronicles at the end of my month in Santiago doing nothing, and spent every spare second on Easter Island and La Silla reading (I took a break for 2 weeks while I was in Antarctica – too much else going on). There I really fell in love with Stave – yes, yet another Haruchai. He has a “Maximus Decimus Meridius” moment at the end of the first book which sealed him as my favourite character of all time. I think Donaldson perfected his writing of the Haruchai in this last series – so many awesome moments with this race!
So now I’m feeling bereft – and want to immediately start reading them again 🙁 For me, this fantasy series is waaaaay better than Lord of the Rings (I know, sacrilegious), though I acknowledge that there are similarities between at least the First Chronicles and Tolkien’s epic.
If you like fantasy and have not yet read these books – I cannot recommend them highly enough. You may fall into the camp of those that hate them – they are very dark after all – but you should definitely give them a go at least. Acknowledge that Thomas Covenant is very unlikable (at least initially – this will be cemented in the first book in a particular scene that you will recognise as soon as you read it) and read past it – you won’t be disappointed!
p.s. Although I don’t read a lot of Sci-Fi, Donaldson’s 5-book “Gap Cycle” series is also an incredible, unputdownable epic that I really enjoyed. And his “Mordant’s Need” 2-book series is also awesome. I guess I’m just a huge Donaldson fan 🙂