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Stephen R. Donaldson

Stephen Reeder Donaldson (born May 13, 1947) is an American fantasy novelist. His works range from the conventional "space opera" style of science fiction to "sword and sorcery" fantasy.

(Warning: The following contains spoilers)

Table of contents
1 Major Influences
2 The Covenant Books
3 Other Works
4 External links

Major Influences

Though often compared to J.R.R. Tolkien, Donaldson's stories are also strongly influenced by William Shakespeare, Mervyn Peake and the operas of Richard Wagner. The Thomas Covenant and Mordant's Need series also make use of the "alternate world" paradigm in a manner reminiscent of the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis.

The Covenant Books

Donaldson's most celebrated character is Thomas Covenant, a cynical leprosy-sufferer, shunned and despised by society, who is destined to become the heroic saviour of an alternate Earth. Throughout six novels published between 1977 and 1983, Covenant struggles against the evil Lord Foul - "The Despiser" who intends to break the physical universe to escape its bondage and wreak revenge upon his arch-enemy "The Creator". Many elements of the story correspond to those of Richard Wagner's epic "Ring Cycle", but with curiously inverted values.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever

Lord Foul's Bane

(First Published 1977)

The first volume introduces the anti-hero Covenant to The Land (the region of the alternate world threatened by Lord Foul) where his mutilated hand and white gold wedding ring identify him as a promised saviour. He is befriended by a young girl named Lena, who uses a special mud to cure his leprosy. This is only one example of the "Earthpower" - a rich source of healing energy in which The Land is steeped. Unable to handle the situation Covenant rapes her, a pivotal event which sets the scene for much of what comes later. Lena's friends and family are barely able to comprehend the enormity of this crime, but their "oath of peace" (sworn by every native inhabitant of The Land) forbids them from taking vengeance. Lena's mother Atiaran takes Covenant to the Land's rulers, the Lords, where he is initiated into their council as an "Ur-Lord" (this title is never explained, but appears to mean "associate ruler" or "honorary lord"). However, an evil cavewight Drool Rockworm has seized the "Staff of Law", a magical wand by which the Earthpower can be controlled, and has become the puppet of Lord Foul. Covenant, the Lords, and a Giant named Saltheart Foamfollower set out to wrest the staff from his evil grasp and after many adventures succeed. Covenant is eventually returned to his own world, a leper once more.

The Illearth War

(First Published 1978)

In the second volume, Covenant returns to the alternate world a generation later. Lord Foul has assembled a massive army, with which he now threatens the peoples of The Land. Furthermore it has been discovered that the Lord Foul's commander is of the race of Giants, a people previously thought incorruptible. (In shame and despair, the other Giants commit mass-suicide.) Lena's grown-up daughter Elena (the product of Covenant's rape) is now High Lord of the council, and wields the Staff of Law on behalf of her people. She shows no ill-will towards her biological father, and she and Covenant become close friends. The Lords' army is commanded by Hile Troy, a blind man from Covenant's "real" world whose sight has been restored by the Earthpower. While Troy strives to outwit Lord Foul and his Giant lieutenant, Elena and Covenant go in search of the "Seventh Ward", a repository of ancient magic lore which Elena believes will assure victory. When their goal is attained, Elena foolishly uses it to summon High Lord Kevin, her ancient predecessor from his grave, and send him against Lord Foul; Kevin is soon defeated and enslaved by Foul, and sent back to destroy Elena. The two High Lords engage in a battle of magic, in which Elena is eventually defeated and the Staff of Law lost. Meanwhile however, with the help of the woodland "forestal" Caeroil Wildwood, Troy has defeated Foul's army whose Giant-commander is strangled to death. The war ends in a stalemate and Covenant returns to his own world.

The Power that Preserves

(First Published 1979)

Several years have gone by since the Illearth War. Lord Foul has enslaved the spirit of former High Lord Elena, who now wields the staff of law against her own people. The Lords have lost their loyal supporters the Bloodguard and the Land has been cast into a perpetual winter. Furthermore, Lord Foul has rebuilt his army, which now beseiges the Lords' mountain-fortress. In desperation, the new High Lord Mhoram summons Thomas Covenant to his aid. Covenant and his friend the giant Foamfollower now journey to the very heart of Lord Foul's dominion, where the forces of evil are finally defeated, Elena is freed from her enslavement and peace is restored to The Land.

The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

Thomas Covenant returns to the Land after 10 years only to find that thousands of years have passed there. Lord Foul has returned and has corrupted the Land with the Sunbane. Covenant must re-create the Staff of Law without destroying the entire world.
  1. The Wounded Land (1980)
  2. The One Tree (1982)
  3. White Gold Wielder (1983)

The Third Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

  1. The Runes of the Earth (2005?)
  2. Fatal Revenant
  3. Shall Pass Utterly
  4. The Last Dark

Other Works

Mordant's Need
  1. The Mirror of Her Dreams (1986)
  2. A Man Rides Through (1987)

The Gap Cycle (science fiction)
  1. The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story (1990)
  2. The Gap into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge (1991)
  3. The Gap into Power: A Dark and Hungry God Arises (1992)
  4. The Gap into Madness: Chaos and Order (1994)
  5. The Gap into Ruin: This Day All Gods Die (1996)

Short stories: Novels published under the name of Reed Stephens:

External links