The Runes of the Earth: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, is the first book of a final four-book series about the leper, Thomas Covenant, the intuitive doctor, Linden Avery the Chosen, and their son, Jeremiah, as they fight Lord Foul the Despiser for the Land. Back in the 1980s, I read the first books of the first trilogy. Before leaving for the Army, I had completed the second trilogy, and believed I had seen the last of Thomas Covenant, who dies a martyr. He has returned in the final scene of this opening adventure.
I’ve never appreciated the hold medieval culture has on many fantasy readers, and even Star Trek fans. Insurrection annoyed me to no end. I couldn’t finish Tolkien, although I admire his linguistic prowess and his erudition. George R.R. Martin is a bit grittier and realistic, but the core of the fixation is still an ugly, brutal time in human history when religion didn’t have a decent competitor for unfortunate creatures. I approached the trilogies of Thomas Covenant as the work of an author whose father had devoted himself as a medical doctor in India, looking for an alternative insight western fantasy could not offer. Amid the ponderous speech-laden paragraphs and descriptions of giants and intelligent horses, wolf-like demons and angelic beings, and one evil character who always lurked but rarely appeared, I told myself this was an Indian homage not a medieval fantasy. Now, in this last series, I think it has become science fiction.
The main plot engine is Linden Avery’s decision to marshal the force of the Falls, or caesure, caused by her insane rival, Thomas Covenant’s first wife, to return in time and retrieve an instrument of incalculable power, the Staff of Law, which Avery herself had forged in the last trilogy. Also wielding wild magic from the wedding ring Covenant had given her, Avery is a tyrant. She possesses both unlimited destructive energy and the ability to put errors in order. She can do incalculable harm, and then erase it, to a point. She hesitates briefly, but then decides situations are too dire not to act. Her motive is, that the Despiser has kidnapped her son. The friends she makes along this journey through time and across the Land all suffer for her selfishness and haste. And now, Thomas Covenant has returned in a time period reprising the second trilogy.
Stay tuned for time travel…