The Illearth War

The Illearth War

After scant days in his "real" world, Thomas Covenant found himself again summoned to the Land. There forty bitter years had passed, while Lord Foul, immortal enemy of the Land, moved to fulfill his prophecy of doom.The Council of Lords found their spells useless, now that Foul the Despiser held the Illearth Stone, ancient source of evil power, High Lord Elena turned in de...

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Title:The Illearth War
Author:Stephen R. Donaldson
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Illearth War Reviews

  • Lucinda

    Another treasured edition to add to the extensive Thomas Covenant trilogy, that is an indisputable classic within the fantasy genre.

    As a fan of Stephen Donaldson’s trilogy ‘the second chronicles of Thomas Covenant’ I was naturally keen to also read the first trilogy that started it all, being ‘the chronicles of Thomas Covenant: the unbeliever’ with this book (the illearth war) being the second volume following on from Lord Foul’s bane. I am constantly overwhelmed by how similarly to renowned au

    Another treasured edition to add to the extensive Thomas Covenant trilogy, that is an indisputable classic within the fantasy genre.

    As a fan of Stephen Donaldson’s trilogy ‘the second chronicles of Thomas Covenant’ I was naturally keen to also read the first trilogy that started it all, being ‘the chronicles of Thomas Covenant: the unbeliever’ with this book (the illearth war) being the second volume following on from Lord Foul’s bane. I am constantly overwhelmed by how similarly to renowned author JRR Tolkien; Stephen Donaldson’s work is for it has stood the test of time by being as much loved today as it was in 1977. This has to be the most richly detailed and compelling work since ‘The Lord of the Rings’, with its complex plot and vast world-building that takes epic fantasy to ambitious heights.

    Volume two: the illearth war continues the story of Thomas Covenant who has spent days in his ‘real’ world before then being summoned once more to the land. Forty bitter years has passed with Lord Foul, the immortal enemy pushing forwards to fulfill his prophecy of doom. With foul the despiser clutching upon his person the Illearth stone (an ancient source of evil & deadly power), the Counsel of the Lords have found their magic useless and no match for the opposition. As the high Lord Elena in desperation turns to Covenant and the legendary white Gold magic of his ring that he is in possession of, their task is simple; to find out how to use the power that is nestled within the ring before it is too late…

    The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are really special, memorable and such distinctive works that aficionados of high fantasy will love, and be enchanted by the dangers and magic that lies within each installment of this epic work. Comparable to Tolkien at his very best I cannot enthuse and praise Stephen Donaldson highly enough, for his work is truly sublime and inspirational which many authors of today can only dream to reach similar heights. His remarkable and noteworthy achievement has empowered many writers to discover the delights of this genre and to go beyond by pushing boundaries with your creativity and imagination, for after all nothing is impossible as he has here proved to readers. Highly acclaimed and cherished throughout the world, Thomas Covenant is a literary figure to remember and the world that surrounds him is one of excitement, discovery, and danger and is truly extraordinary. This is a trilogy of sheer remarkable scope, depth and sophistication and one that will blow you away by its great magnitude that is astonishing and mind blowing. Totally original, unique, clever and inspired this is a trilogy that is both most convincing and gripping; one in which you will loose yourself within.

    An epic fantasy saga by an author whose books constantly amaze and delight, and which I recommend to all fantasy fictional lovers and avid readers of this genre!!! Just incredible…

  • Dave

    *For anyone reading my reviews, this is a cut-paste of my review of Lord Foul's Bane. I will write a separate review for the Second Chronicles, but for each of the first series, I will use the same review. Thanks*

    Tolkien was not my introduction to fantasy fiction (neither was Donaldson); my first experience with SFF was RA Salvatore's The Crystal Shard. However, I immediately jumped into Tolkien, and afterward, Donaldson.

    The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are as different from Tolkien's world as

    *For anyone reading my reviews, this is a cut-paste of my review of Lord Foul's Bane. I will write a separate review for the Second Chronicles, but for each of the first series, I will use the same review. Thanks*

    Tolkien was not my introduction to fantasy fiction (neither was Donaldson); my first experience with SFF was RA Salvatore's The Crystal Shard. However, I immediately jumped into Tolkien, and afterward, Donaldson.

    The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are as different from Tolkien's world as almost any SFF (think Jordan, Martin, etc). The story is as epic (moreso, even), and much more emotionally involving. Not so much because Thomas Covenant is a "real" person from the "real" world, but because his reactions to his experiences, the way he responds with doubt and fury, and the way he manages to grow despite his dichotomous belief/unbelief, all ring true to me. Maybe not to everyone, but to me, yes.

    Some of my best memories of middle/high school are of reading these books, ravenously. The sub- and side-stories, of the Bloodguard, the Giants, Hile Troy, even the background on the ur-Viles and other fantastical creatures, intrigued me as much as the main plot.

    I have always thought this story had more depth than Tolkien (not to knock Tolkien - he's the Godfather of SFF, and I love his books), seemed more...adult? Maybe this was because of the vitriol of Covenant; Hobbits don't stomp around muttering "Hellfire and bloody damnation," no matter how fiery and dangerous Mordor became.

    To sum up, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were not my first foray into fantasy fiction, nor were they my last; but they are one of the most influential series of novels to my evolution as a reader, and something I can always reread with as much wonder as the first time.

  • Branwen Sedai *of the White Ajah*

    This is the second book in the Thomas Covenant series and takes place when Thomas is summoned once more to the Land. Even though it has only been a few months since he was last there, forty years have passed there. New Lords are in place yet the battle against the Despiser rages on. To aid them, Thomas must put aside his unbelieving nature and assist the High Lord Elena on a quest to find

    This is the second book in the Thomas Covenant series and takes place when Thomas is summoned once more to the Land. Even though it has only been a few months since he was last there, forty years have passed there. New Lords are in place yet the battle against the Despiser rages on. To aid them, Thomas must put aside his unbelieving nature and assist the High Lord Elena on a quest to find the Seventh Ward of Kevin's Lore.

    This book was very different from the first one in the series and in my opinion vastly more enjoyable. The story takes place not only from Thomas' point of view but also from the point of view of Hile Troy, the Warmark of the Land and also someone from Thomas' world. Troy is a much more positive person, which seemed to balance the story out a bit rather than just hearing the whole thing from the doom and gloom of Thomas Covenant. :P Also, there were more mysteries and interesting characters introduced in the book which made it really hard to put down. I loved how a main theme of this book was in relation to Thomas dealing with the consequences of his transgressions the first time he was in the Land.

    This book was great, a big improvement over the last one, and I look forward to starting the next one in the series.

  • Brian

    To all those who hated Lord Foul's Bane -- hark! and be redeemed. Thomas Covenant gets yanked back into the Land, where 40 years have passed for its people, but only days for him. In his absence, Foul has amassed an immense army and is preparing to march. The Lords have learned virtually nothing new to aid them in their own defense. And Covenant, who still believes he's dreaming, finds himself lusted after by the daughter of the woman he previously raped. That is, by his own daughter. Salvation

    To all those who hated Lord Foul's Bane -- hark! and be redeemed. Thomas Covenant gets yanked back into the Land, where 40 years have passed for its people, but only days for him. In his absence, Foul has amassed an immense army and is preparing to march. The Lords have learned virtually nothing new to aid them in their own defense. And Covenant, who still believes he's dreaming, finds himself lusted after by the daughter of the woman he previously raped. That is, by his own daughter. Salvation is at hand. You need only pick up the book and start reading.

    Huh? Where did I lose you?

    No matter. The Illearth War is a terrific follow up to the first book in the trilogy, still with one of the great tragic heroes in the genre.

    This book introduces something -- and someone -- new. Hile Troy, the new leader of the Lords' army, is a man who claims to be from Covenant's world. I say "claims to be" because Covenant believes he made him up, but the second part of the book is told from Troy's point of view, and tells of things of which Covenant has no knowledge. So we know what Covenant does not: the Land is real.

    Troy accepts the Land, blesses it (for he was born without eyes, but now can see), and does everything he can to help the Lords defeat Foul. He is, I suppose, something of the sort of hero that many readers had hoped Covenant would be. And he shares their disdain: he neither understands Covenant's unbelief nor sympathizes with him in any way. But, again, we know something he does not: for all his military strategizing, he is not a rational man. He loves the Land because it loves him back. It's just the sort of alluring yet pathetic logic that Covenant fears as a pathway to despair and madness.

    After the introductions of the first part, the book is split between Troy's war with Foul's army and the quest for one of the hidden wards of knowledge and power that the Lords believe can help turn the tide of battle in their favor. Covenant accompanies his daughter on the quest for the ward.

    This line of the plot -- Covenant and his daughter -- was a stroke of macabre genius, wickedly encapsulating the central contradiction of Covenant's predicament, his desire to embrace the Land and his need to repudiate it. His solution, however, will appeal only to those who sympathize with his plight, for it leads him to do something that, if taken at face value, is even worse than rape.

    No, this book isn't going to make converts of those who disliked the first. But for the rest of us, those of us who

    have it all figured out, it is another intimately compelling portrait of the tortuous struggle with the ideas and beliefs that define us, in a world that tells us every day in so many ways that we are wrong.

    Post Script: In all the negative reviews of this book that I've read, the following quotation is probably the funniest and yet the most telling:

    "He's still a leper, and it still isn't very important to this book." - Marianne

  • Evgeny

    Thomas Covenant is summoned to the Land once again. The said Land is in great peril - once again, and everybody's favorite leper is the only hope the people have - once again. Everybody is bending backwards in attempts to please Thomas Covenant and he does his best to appear a complete jackass to everybody. This is being done before, nothing new here, move along.

    The good news is that around half of the book it is told from another person's POV which means we do not read about Thomas Covenant bei

    Thomas Covenant is summoned to the Land once again. The said Land is in great peril - once again, and everybody's favorite leper is the only hope the people have - once again. Everybody is bending backwards in attempts to please Thomas Covenant and he does his best to appear a complete jackass to everybody. This is being done before, nothing new here, move along.

    The good news is that around half of the book it is told from another person's POV which means we do not read about Thomas Covenant being leper outcast unclean on every page; in fact I only encountered this particular description only twice in this book. The bad news is that this person is not very interesting - at least for me. It is also very hard to understand Covenant's motivations from that particular POV.

    I like the beginning of the book; I was actually able to somewhat relate to Covenant's frustration and anger at being summoned. The middle - and the major - part of the book was really worth 2 stars with one situation which was completely disgusting for me.

    As I already mentioned, the whole idea of everybody doing their utmost to please Covenant who behaves the usual self does not sit well with me. I also need to mention his character has exactly zero development in the first two books. The end of the book redeemed itself when one of the characters FINALLY named real virtues of Covenant: selfish, mental leper and coward being just some of them. For me it was really worth reading the whole book just for this scene. The actual end of the book is fairly unexpected as well, which makes me want to read the last book of the trilogy. What can I say, the author really knows how to write good endings.

  • Bradley

    I find myself in the unenviable position of rooting for Lord Foul Bane and his many loathsome minions. Maybe it's just the intentional feature of making all the good guys so perfectly good and forgiving and nonviolent and understanding, but Thomas Covenant DOES NOT DESERVE IT.

    Therefore, I really want to see Lord Foul Bane corrupt every single one of those bastards solely for the purpose of rising up and smiting that worthless son of a bitch, the Ur-Lord Thomas Covenant.

    If it wasn't crazy enough

    I find myself in the unenviable position of rooting for Lord Foul Bane and his many loathsome minions. Maybe it's just the intentional feature of making all the good guys so perfectly good and forgiving and nonviolent and understanding, but Thomas Covenant DOES NOT DESERVE IT.

    Therefore, I really want to see Lord Foul Bane corrupt every single one of those bastards solely for the purpose of rising up and smiting that worthless son of a bitch, the Ur-Lord Thomas Covenant.

    If it wasn't crazy enough that the Rape-Child of TC loves her Rape-Father so much that she summons him from our world to save their cut-out-heaven, she thinks she's in love with him and throws herself at him.

    Yes, she's his daughter.

    Not only does every character in the Land have no more dimensionality than a piece of toilet paper, but their insane levels of acceptance, even when a rage-filled father goes after TC or when the only true hero of the tale attempts to smite TC across his head, no one gets his just deserts. The grand heroic general who deserves every accolade gets transformed into a tree, and this is despite the fact that he was summoned from the our world, just like TC. He was also the most interesting character of the bunch.

    So what was actually good about this book?

    Well, the battles and battles and endless battles and strategy wasn't as bad as I've read elsewhere, but it isn't my cup of tea. It reminded me of the bad old days of WoT books 7 and 8, or perhaps a bit worse, because I cared less for the Land or its characters.

    Some of the fantasy elements were pretty good, though, and what's not to love about bone melding and turning a combatant's bones to ash, letting the meat sack tumble to the ground? I got into this book only late, and completely to spite TC. Good thing most of the novel didn't have TC in it, or I might have gotten through an entire season of a TV show I'm way far behind on instead of just half of it, all in a desperate attempt to alleviate the boredom I felt while reading this godforsaken novel.

    I can understand why people might revere this, considering the amount and kinds of fantasy trash that might have been out and about at the time it was written. I understand why it changed the face of old fantasy, just as I understand the Mallorean books did the same.

    But the fact is, they all lack the gritty realism and complexly developed characters that I have come to revere in modern fantasy, and I just can't get behind it.

    Having far off pining and far off horrors and far off hopes and plans is just BORING as hell to me, and if it can't be shored up by characters that learn and develop and change when faced with singular events that OUGHT to change them, then all we've got is a spoiled asshole who's turned a veritable heaven into an ongoing hell and he actually BELONGS on the side of Lord Foul Bane and he always will. The fact that he was summoned by LFB's minion in the first place should be a dead giveaway, but what the hell do I know?

    It's not like Lord Wonderful Kevin (Don't get me started with the silliness of that name, the wonderful ancient godlike hero and destroyer of the Land) had anything to do with TC's summoning, like everyone thought. It looks like everyone has been fooled, and fooled good. Maybe I'm right about TC's direction. I don't know. I'm going to have to summon superhuman stores of patience to pick up the third book to find out.

  • Dan Young

    Real rating - 3.5 stars. [Spoilers ahead]

    The Illearth War was a very inapplicable name for this book. In Donaldson fashion he took 5/6 of the book telling the story of how everyone got to where they are. The uncountable horde of Lord Foul was apparently killed by a bunch of grumpy trees....this I am OK with in concept (I mean come on, Tolkien did it too), but Donaldson did not elaborate on how that was done. Just like that the war was over....and before this, the Land's army was decimated piece

    Real rating - 3.5 stars. [Spoilers ahead]

    The Illearth War was a very inapplicable name for this book. In Donaldson fashion he took 5/6 of the book telling the story of how everyone got to where they are. The uncountable horde of Lord Foul was apparently killed by a bunch of grumpy trees....this I am OK with in concept (I mean come on, Tolkien did it too), but Donaldson did not elaborate on how that was done. Just like that the war was over....and before this, the Land's army was decimated piece by piece. We saw a few of the pieces, but not many.

    Donaldson's strength is his ability to tell a story, of personal anguish, selfishness, and other very human emotions. His weakness is his inability to tell a story with any real action in it. His action sequences if you will get recycled to a predictable point. The only exception to this was the gruesome scene that took place with the Giants. But even this made little sense, that these powerful and wise beings would chose such an end.

    BUT I can't stop myself from wanting to see how it ends. The concept and story have me hooked. Well done Donaldson, well done.....I am in for at lease another painful 500-600 pages.

  • Wanda

    "Thomas Covenant found himself once again summoned to the Land. The Council of Lords needed him to move against Foul the Despiser who held the Illearth Stone, ancient source of evil power. But although Thomas Covenant held the legendary ring, he didn't know how to use its strength, and risked losing everything...."

    I’ll admit that book 2 is an improvement over book 1, but it’s a grudging admission. Having said that, Thomas Covenant is STILL an ass, but the improvement is that this installment isn

    "Thomas Covenant found himself once again summoned to the Land. The Council of Lords needed him to move against Foul the Despiser who held the Illearth Stone, ancient source of evil power. But although Thomas Covenant held the legendary ring, he didn't know how to use its strength, and risked losing everything...."

    I’ll admit that book 2 is an improvement over book 1, but it’s a grudging admission. Having said that, Thomas Covenant is STILL an ass, but the improvement is that this installment isn’t all in Covenant’s POV. Mind you, Hile Troy as narrator is only a small step upwards. What is it with the Lords’ magic that they can only seem to snag “damaged” men from “our” world? At least Troy had some theoretical battle knowledge to contribute [but he would probably be much better at mission planning if he was less emotionally involved, à la Ender’s Game].

    I hate that there are lots of female characters and all of them are cardboard cutouts (mind you, even the vast majority of the male characters are extremely under-developed, so I guess I shouldn’t bitch too much). High Lord Elena wastes time “massaging the brows” of upset men, instead of giving them a swift kick and telling them to get over themselves. Especially since Covenant and Troy both really need to get over themselves. Plus if a male High Lord spent time cooking and cleaning up along the journey, we’d wonder what the heck was wrong with him—where is his support staff? Elena’s willingness to just go haring off after the Seventh Ward right before battle just baffled me—once again, behaviour which wouldn’t be acceptable in a male character in her position and I didn’t find acceptable for her either.

    Pacing was a big issue for me in this book. This tale just whips you onward, giving no respite, no hint that there is hope with which to buoy your spirit as the battle unfolds. I kept waiting for a switch, for a chapter to describe what Elena and Covenant were doing, for example. Instead, I was getting beaten down, as the army keeps on making heroic sacrifices and nothing is gained, they just face another retreat when they are already completely worn down and worn out. Even a glimpse behind enemy lines would have be an improvement, just to tear the gaze away from the grind of marching and making a series of “last stands.” Eventually, we get Covenant’s perspective, but I would have preferred some kind of alternation between the two, rather than just doggedly following one plot line to the end before starting in on the second plot line. And we never get a glimpse into the enemy camp, to know what the good guys are up against.

    My biggest beef, I think, is that the people don’t act like any real people that I know. The people of The Land are sheep-like in accepting that Covenant’s ring accords him special treatment and in placing their faith in him and in Troy without any suspicion or any real discussion. There seems to be blind faith in their leadership by the council of Lords. The only emotions expressed by any characters are those of anger and unhappiness—if you don’t count unbelievable insta-love (which I don’t because it doesn’t exist). [And women falling in love with their fathers—like that’s going to happen except in Sigmund Freud’s wild imagination.]

    2.5 stars, and that’s being generous.

  • Roy Helge

    I really had to force myself to read this book. And it is as bad as the first one. But to be fair I plugged on so that at least I can have a solid base for saying what needs to be said.

    Not that I object to the three basic premises of the whole series:

    1)the true anti-hero, the utterly unvilling and despicable character being the focal point of the story. Pretty good idead that.

    2) The inanely stereotypical names (Lord Foul, T. Covenant, Rockbrother, Seareach) and plot devices (the quest) - That c

    I really had to force myself to read this book. And it is as bad as the first one. But to be fair I plugged on so that at least I can have a solid base for saying what needs to be said.

    Not that I object to the three basic premises of the whole series:

    1)the true anti-hero, the utterly unvilling and despicable character being the focal point of the story. Pretty good idead that.

    2) The inanely stereotypical names (Lord Foul, T. Covenant, Rockbrother, Seareach) and plot devices (the quest) - That could actaully be part of the same deconstruction of the fantasy setting.

    3) The overly constructed language. A constructed language and use of words is a powerful way to tell a part of the story without detailing everything.

    BUT:

    Donaldson does all these things so badly.

    1) the anti-hero needs some internal logic. TC doesn't have any. The protagonist need to have some development, some change, some revelation. Either to the better or the worst. But TC - our protagonist is simply something the writer brings out to be inconsitently mean whenever another ten pages of incoherent dialouge is needed.

    2) In a satirical or deconstrutivist way, using superbly obvious names on everything can add to the surrealism. But Donaldson doesn't to that. The names of places and persons seem like working titles put on them at an early stage and then never revised. If you want to deconstruct something, you need to have some substance to start with. You cant start with your own straw man of incoherency. And a quest, a journey is normally a simile for an internal jorney of the protagonist, and even when you want to kill off that concept, you cant just put in 200 pages of drivel to prove that being on a quest doesn't mean anything.

    3) When constructing a language it is important to have internal logic to it. Not just look up a lot of words that sound unfamiliar to you and put them together. There has to be ethymology, cohesion, some connection between the words used, and the world, the history etc. When the big baddie of the universe is "Lord Foul", you can't go around letting one of his henchmen call himself "Satan's fist" without having an idea of where Satan comes into play in this universe. Sure - in our world Satan is a concept. But in the land - where they don't really believe in a creator at all - where did they get the concept of "Satan". How to people there see this as different from any other name like "Johnny" or "Treehugger Treeperson"

    So since none of the contrary ideas of the books pan out to work. What you are left with is simply badly written, two dimensional, poorly thought out tripe.

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