Books by Stephen R. Donaldson

THE WAR WITHIN by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: April 2, 2019

"Readers patient enough to slog through the slowly developing plot will find well-portrayed characters and rich worldbuilding, though our hero's bitterness and self-imposed misery begin to wear not even halfway through the tome. "
Donaldson returns to the epic fantasy world he began in Seventh Decimate (2018) and to a king and queen who married to bring peace between their realms...but who find the reality difficult. Read full book review >
THE LAST DARK by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: Oct. 15, 2013

"It goes without saying that a reader who enters the series without the benefit of the preceding volumes will be utterly lost. Definitively of a piece with what has come before; if you're a fan of Donaldson, this is indispensable. If not, of course, not."
The Thomas Covenant series comes to a lumbering halt after four decades. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2010

"If the likes of Cirrus Kindwind, the Lost Deep and She Who Must Not Be Named, and lines such as 'Through the bane's ferocity, she smelled the acrid pulse of unnatural blood,' are your bag (or Baggins), well, then this is just your book."
Daggers and wizards, time travel, leprosy—for fans of fantasy, there's much to like in Donaldson's latest installment in the multivolume Thomas Covenant epic series of yore. Read full book review >
THE MAN WHO FOUGHT ALONE by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: Dec. 1, 2001

"Clichéd, chop-soggy whodunit that might be tough love for fans of Donaldson's Thomas Covenant and Gap Into Power series."
The well-known science fiction and fantasy author (Reave the Just, 1999, etc.) dons a trenchcoat for what might be the beginning of a hard-boiled detective series. Read full book review >
REAVE THE JUST by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: Jan. 12, 1999

Donaldson's first collection since Daughter of Regals (1983), though, of the eight substantial stories here, 1984—98, five have appeared previously in other volumes—the title piece in After the King (1992); "The Djinn Who Watches Over the Accursed" in Arabesques 2 (1989); "The Kings of Tarshish Shall Bring Gifts" in The Book of Kings (1995); "The Woman Who Loved Pigs" in Full Spectrum 4 (1993); and "What Makes Us Human" in Berserker Base (1985). As for the newcomers, "The Killing Stroke" is an agreeably metaphorical blend of magic, martial arts, and the philosophy of knowledge. The bitterly ironic "Penance" concerns a vampire healer as the focus of a religious war. And in "By Any Other Name," a good-hearted merchant finds that he's constrained to honor a dreadful bargain. Fans of Donaldson's longer fiction (the Gap SF series, the fantasy Thomas Covenant Chronicles, etc.) will dive right in. Even his critics are due for a wonderful surprise: these thoughtful, well worked-out, often fascinating yarns are largely free of the preposterous weight, impossible convolutions, and tormented prose that make the novels so troublesome. Read full book review >
THIS DAY ALL GODS DIE by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: April 15, 1996

Fifth and final part—maybe—of Donaldson's hypercomplicated galactic Gap saga (Chaos and Order, 1994, etc.). The power struggle between corrupt but enlightened United Mining Companies police boss Warden Dios and the malign, manipulative UMC chief executive Holt Fasner has reached a critical stage. Meanwhile, the Amnion, aliens who intend to conquer human space by mutating humans into Amnion, close in on Dios's pawns, raging cyborg Angus Thermopyle, brutalized cop Morn Hyland and her clone/son Davies, and biology whiz Vector Shaheed. The latter has invented an antidote to the Amnion's mutation—inducing infection—but will he survive long enough to tell Dios about it? Not that Donaldson provides a summary of these events—you're supposed to remember all this, or else pick it up as you go along. Anyhow, eventually the threat posed by Fasner (he's done a deal with the Amnion, betraying the human race in return for immortality) will be neutralized, and the human power struggle resolved; but the Amnion, despite a temporary setback, remain, leaving plenty of scope for further sequels. Not quite as apocalyptic as the title suggests, though there's more than enough anguish, woe, and screeching metal to keep addicts hooked; for Donaldson, it's almost an upbeat conclusion. Read full book review >
CHAOS AND ORDER by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: June 15, 1994

The fourth part of Donaldson's five-book series (A Dark and Hungry God Arrives, 1992, etc.) centers on a far-future power struggle by proxy between benevolent United Mining Companies police boss Warden Dios and malign UMC chief Holt Fasner. Following the successful destruction of Thanatos Minor, a ship flees into deep space carrying familiar characters: raging, formidable cyborg Angus Thermopyle, forever scheming to break free of his programming; beautiful, brutalized cop Morn Hyland and her clone/son Davies; vicious pirate Nick Succorso; and biochemist whiz Vector Shaheed, who urges Angus to seek out a remote laboratory where he can duplicate Succorso's vital immunity drug. Following them is another ship, controlled by humans mutated into alien slaves by the Amnion — aliens intent on grabbing Davies and the immunity drug as part of their plan to develop perfect human duplicates and conquer human-occupied space. Following them is still another vessel, this one bearing UMC director Min Donner, charged to keep an eye on matters and, if possible, rescue poor Morn. Donaldson's work is instantly recognizable and remarkably consistent: Anguish is the price of admission; misery keeps the customers coming back for more; enjoyment is sheer hell. Read full book review >
A DARK AND HUNGRY GOD ARISES by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: Oct. 15, 1992

Third (The Real Story, 1990, Forbidden Knowledge, 1991) of the far-future series involving vicious corporations, aliens, pirates, power politics, police, and a wealth of characters you wouldn't want your children to bring home to dinner, from an author whose motto might well be "Life's a bitch, and then you die." Here, malevolent pirate Nick Succorso has sold beautiful, brutalized United Mining Companies cop Morn Hyland to the alien Amnion, who will work monstrous genetic experiments upon her (though, happily, Morn has stolen a supply of Nick's immunity drug). Meanwhile, Morn's force-grown son Davies has been captured by "the Bill," master of the pirate haven and shipyard Billingate. UMC police boss Warden Dias, as part of his power struggle with the malign UMC head honcho Holt Fasner, has sent Nick's deadly rival Angus Thermopyle, now a cyborg enslaved to his programming, and the treacherous Milos Taverner to penetrate Billingate. Both Nick and Angus have urgent personal reasons for rescuing poor Morn: Nick because his crew will mutiny if he doesn't, Angus because he loves her desperately. Good stuff but rather heavy going, what with the inordinately convoluted plot and the dearth of sympathetic characters. Still: persecution and torment piled upon woe is precisely what Donaldson fans keep coming back for. Read full book review >
FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: June 15, 1991

Second of Donaldson's projected five-book science-fiction series following The Real Story, in which the beautiful Morn Hyland, former police officer and victim of "gap sickness" that caused her to destroy her father's spaceship, traded slavery at the hands of pirate Angus Thermopyle for the dubious protection of interstellar gangster Nick Succorso. Now, however, she's gained control of the "zone implant" in her brain that enabled Angus to enslave her. At first she uses sex to manipulate Nick; but then, finding herself pregnant (by Angus), Morn decides to have the baby and persuades Nick to dicker with the alien biological-whiz Amnion: Morn will cure Nick's ship of its crippling computer-virus malady; in exchange, the Amnion will produce from Morn's fetus a full-grown son, Davies, who will have all of her memories. The characters are too busy seething with barely containable emotions to need personalities, but, boy, do they suffer; still, with the well-realized backdrop and a plot that meanders in a developmental fog, this is the formula that Donaldson fans find so beguiling. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 15, 1990

First of a new five-volume series, as Donaldson moves away from fantasy and into technological science fiction—where, in the medium-future, faster-than-light journeys ("crossing the Gap" by means of other dimensions) are a reality, though some travellers go mad, and space mining is controlled by Earth-based UMC, provenance of the rich and influential Hyland family. When a UMC police cruiser comes to space station DelSac to seek out the pirates that infest the spaceways, lowlife Angus Thermopyle is the UMC ship's first victim—but then beautiful Morn Hyland succumbs to "Gap sickness" and destroys her own ship. Angus captures and enslaves Morn, taking brutal vengeance on her until he realizes that his real foe is rival pirate Nick Succorso. Now a reformed character, Angus uses Mom as bait; but, despite all his efforts, Succorso comes out on top. Repetitious and mediocre but readable, which is to say a definite improvement on gnarled melodrama (the Thomas Covenant series) and on vacuous reflections (the Mordant yarns). Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1987

The conclusion of Donaldson's two-volume fantasy epic, Mordant's Need, begun with Mirror of Her Dreams (1986). While not the swollen riot of style that marked his six-part Thomas Covenant series, Donaldson's new entry is nonetheless a woozy read for his massive following. In Vol. 1, set in the Middle Ages, Terisa Morgan, who lived in an apartment walled entirely with mirrors, was seduced into the fantasy land of Mordant (where mirrors are magical) by Geraden, an apprentice sorcerer who wanted her to champion the Congerie of Imagers against its enemies. In this volume, as in the last (and in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There), Terisa is always finding things reversed, with people disguised, in the wrong place, doing the wrong things. Everything must be translated by mirrors. However, enemies are also Imagers and have their own wondrous ability to "mirror-in" unexpected things out of nowhere. Amid Mordant's dashing armies, which endlessly fight each other with mirrors, Terisa never knows what will pop up next. In fact, Mordant seems to be the emotional landscape of a thwarted teenage narcissist. Naturally, when its battles at last are ended, Terisa must either leave (and rejoin her wealthy father back in the real) or remain and marry. Her choice: to remain, and the husband who rides through "a mirror made of the pure sand of dreams" is none other than Geraden, who first brought her to schizland. Mordant's Need resembles the thousands of three-decker idylls that once filled 19th-century home libraries—huge, purple entertainments whose breeziness and sweetness Filled a passing need but now lack the least murmur of life. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 14, 1986

A new fantasy from the immensely popular author of the six-part Thomas Covenant chronicles. Neglected nonentity Terisa Morgan lives alone in an apartment decorated entirely with mirrors. One day, out of one of the mirrors pops Geraden, an inept sorcerer's apprentice from the fantasy-land of Mordant, where mirrors have various magical properties. Geraden has been sent by the Congerie of Imagers to find and bring back a champion to defend Mordant against its enemies, both Imagers and armies. Terisa isn't the champion Geraden has been sent to fetch; still, she agrees to return with him through the mirror. Then, in Mordant, Terisa is plunged into a seething mass of conflicts. The Congerie don't regard her as real. Geraden insists that she's an Imager and Mordant's true champion, even though Terisa denies all such ability. Master Imager Eremis tries to seduce her. Old King Joyse takes a shine to her, but others despair of the King's seeming inattention and indecision. Various bad guys materialize through mirrors to try and kill Terisa. There's a traitor in the Congerie. And so forth: the plotting is furiously complicated and reasonably well handled, the narrative moves along at a goodly clip, the mirror-ideas show much promise—though there's not even a token ending. (A sequel is promised.) All well and good. The problem here is one of technique: this isn't so much a novel as a description of one. The characters don't talk or even make speeches; instead, Donaldson describes their dialogue. He describes events. In the appropriate places, he even describes description. And the overall effect—while infinitely more tolerable than the execrable Covenant yarns—is numbing. Still, Donaldson has a huge and fanatical following. Read full book review >
DAUGHTER OF REGALS by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: April 12, 1984

Eight tales, 1978-83, including six reprints—and a reasonably varied if sometimes poorly thought-out bunch. For Thomas Covenant fans, there's an out-take from The Illearth War enlarging on the adventures of Korik of the Bloodguard. Thankfully, however, Donaldson elsewhere abandons the gnarled, pretentious prose of the Covenant sagas for writing that is merely labored and wooden. "Animal Lover" is fairly orthodox sf, in which a vengeful molecular biologist creates an army of genetically enhanced, firearm-wielding animals. There are some middling fantasies: a man in a placid, machine-like future turns into a unicorn; a powerful husband-hunting sorceress sets prospective suitors a series of tough puzzles; an angel without memory, incarnated as a street bum, saves a sculptor's soul from the devil; and a monstrous centipede causes trouble between an already quarreling couple. But elsewhere the plotting is often painfully obvious. In the title piece, a curious fantasy, only "Real" things are sources of magic—and a young heiress comes to realize her dual nature as human and Real dragon. And weakest of all is a tale of witches, nobles, and slaves under a religious dictatorship. Hardworking, mannered, and fairly ordinary overall, but Donaldson fans will pounce—and even non-fans may be mildly, pleasantly surprised. Read full book review >
WHITE GOLD WIELDER by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: April 12, 1983

Book three and last of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (The Wounded Land, 1980; The One Tree, 1982). Unlovable, despairing hero Covenant, with weak-kneed sidekick-lover Linden Avery, has failed to obtain a new Staff of Law. But he has learned that any attempt on his part to use the "wild magic" (actually a sort of fire-bolt, conferred on him by his white gold ring) will rage out of control, because of the evil Raver's venom flowing in Covenant's veins; it will even bring down the "Arch of Time." (What this means isn't clear, but it's evidently bad news since the diabolical Lord Foul the Despiser wants it to happen.) Covenant and Linden fight their way across the polar ice and past various noxious creatures to Revelstone, where Covenant—aided by a convenient Sandgorgon—defeats the resident demon, Gibbon Raver; the corrupting venom is thus burned away. But the Sunbane still remains to blight the Land, so it's off to Mount Thunder and a final, riotously confused showdown with Lord Foul. Farcically implausible plotting, excruciating prose, lifelessly unevocative description, endless soporific interior monologues: the same recipe as before, in short, and strictly for Donaldson enthusiasts (of whom there are, inexplicably, hordes). Read full book review >
THE ONE TREE by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: April 12, 1982

For sheer awfulness Donaldson is hard to beat; however, for the faithful series readers not permanently repelled by The Wounded Land (1980), here's part two of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Leper Covenant, whose "beard seemed to bristle with possibilities," joins with Dr. Linden Avery of the "wheaten tresses" and childhood hang, ups; and, accompanied by Giants given to such utterances as "belike we confront a wait of some durance," they sail off in search of the One Tree—whose wood they require to make a new Staff of Law capable of thwarting the evil designs of Lord Foul the Despiser and the destructive Sunbane. Once again, Donaldson's fantasy-world is flatly unevocative and lifeless, devoid of charm, magic, atmosphere, or excitement—while the writing remains bloated and pretentious, with its dictionary-gleanings ("sapid," "clinquant," etc.) and its frequent descents into unadulterated gobbledygook: "The prophesy which he had uttered against her, the sabulous atrocity which he had radiated into her, had crammed every corner of her soul with a loathing and rejection indistinguishable from self-abhorrence." Wretched stuff indeed—but Donaldson does have a fantasy-genre following. Read full book review >
THE WOUNDED LAND by Stephen R. Donaldson
Released: June 16, 1980

Donaldson's trilogy The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (1977), though a work of less saccharine escapism than most heroic fantasies, cannot be said to merit a sequel. But here we go again: ten years after his last sojourn in the other world known simply as "the Land," the leper Covenant is once more precipitated into that realm (where he has been thought to be the reincarnation of an ancient hero) to stand against the power of Lord Foul the Despiser. Covenant and his new companion, a dedicated woman physician named Linden Avery, find that thousands of years have passed in the Land, where the descendants of his old companions have lost their ancient knowledge of "wood and stone" and turned to dreadful practices in an attempt to remit the devastation of the "Sunbane." The clumsiness of the narrative and the paltry realization of Donaldson's fantasy-realm itself are as nothing compared to the sheer hideousness of the writing, which is full of dictionary-borrowings ("caducity," "tabid," "hebetude") tortured into sentences like "Their viscid stridulation faded as they retreated into gestation or sleep"—meaning that a bunch of noisy insects fell silent. Wretched. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 17, 1977

Heroic fantasy stalks our anti-heroic age as if bent on providing a thesis for every cultural sociologist in the land. What keeps people reading? Part of the answer may be found in Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles. Thomas Covenant, divorced by his wife after the discovery of his leprosy, nurses a numbed obsession with bare physical survival and a helpless rage at the vicious persecution of the frightened local townspeople. An inexplicable accident transports him to another world, "the Land," where he finds himself and his useless wedding ring regarded as mighty powers in an epic struggle. Lovers of the genre will find some striking variations. Covenant comes into the Land not as a clear-browed savior but as an agent of rejection and violence, anesthetized by belief in the unreality of the "dream"-world where his leprosy is healed. The consequences of his first actions in the Land are closely compounded of good and evil, and it is long before he can accept "real" responsibility for both. The handling of the character often collapses into trivial whining, but as a framing image, Covenant is decidedly effective. As for the Land itself, Donaldson does not seem to have it in his bones as Tolkien did Middle-earth, but the various topographies and inhabitants are imagined with a certain solidity. Curiously, the evil powers are least convincing, dissipated in a haze of silly nomenclature ("Drool Rockworm," "Satansfist," the "ur-viles") and cliche-filled descriptions of yellow eyes and green flames. Only the "good" characters (notably a merry and infinitely forbearing Giant) achieve anything approaching life. Unfortunately the writing does not live up to the larger virtues: one may pass without warning from a strong and telling phrase to "empty inanition," people shouting in "livid" voices, Covenant refusing a meal because "the thought of eating made his raw nerves nauseous." Still, if this is a mess, it is a mess of more than occasional stature. Preachier than Tolkien, yet conversely conveying a more sophisticated sense of moral complexities, Donaldson's trilogy is a Hawed and erratic work, but not an inconsiderable one. Read full book review >