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THE LAST DARK by Stephen R. Donaldson


by Stephen R. Donaldson

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-399-15920-6
Publisher: Putnam

The Thomas Covenant series comes to a lumbering halt after four decades.

Donaldson (Against All Things Ending, 2010, etc.) opened the 10-book series in 1977 with Lord Foul’s Bane, Lord Foul being, as his name suggests, a decidedly not-nice fellow whose job it is to bring misery to the Earth and The Land, the latter a place that exists if you click your heels together three times or otherwise believe. Like so many fantasy series of the era, Donaldson’s labors under the heavy shadow of J.R.R. Tolkien, and at times, it reads like a lost million or so words from the Lord of the Rings as filtered through H.P. Lovecraft, who never met an eldritch sentence he didn’t like. And Donaldson’s series and this last book are as eldritch as they come, populated by the likes of magic-shunning warriors called Haruchai; horsemen, and not Japanese noodle makers, called Ramen; and Ravers, not MDMA-partaking hipsters but very, very unpleasant evil spirits whose nastiness is tempered only by the will of old Lord Foul himself. Thomas Covenant is an unusual hero to the extent that he’s not really very likable, though he’s got an interesting CV, including having survived a fearful bout of leprosy and every demon The Land could throw at him. Donaldson brings this tale to a close with an epic showdown between Lord Foul and Covenant, and it moves from Tolkien Lite to Tolkien Heavy: “Barnl...passed Bluntfist and Stonemage, drifted like a shadow among the Cavewights. With the rippled edges of his longsword, he seemed to reap creatures all around him. Howls became shrieks. Bodies fell.” It’s the standard good-versus-evil yarn, save that if evil is always evil, good is not always good.

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.