White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson

Rating 8.5/10
There a many brilliant moments that can take your breath away.

The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which concludes with the book I am currently reviewing, White Gold Wielder, are extremely difficult to review as the books cause such constant conflict within me. On one hand I was pleased to reach the end as the going had seemed unnecessarily tough at times, the mental self-harm committed by all the main "good" characters becoming too overbearing, too often. I also could never escape the very real fear that my reading enjoyment was also suffering for the plain and simple fact that the second trilogy was nowhere near as good as the first, and that at times it was re-treading paths already explored. But as has always been the case with Donaldson's work I was also left moved, with strong mental images of the Land and its people burned strongly into my mind. And these images will probably never leave me, I will constantly find myself thinking about the characters and events, much as has always been the case since I read the first series nearly twenty years ago.

White Gold Wielder begins immediately following the quest's bitter defeat on the Isle of the One Tree as Thomas Covenant, Linden Avery and the Giants of the Search take ship again. Across the frozen oceans they return to the Land, now perilously close to destruction from the ravages of the Sunbane. Drawn inexorably towards the caverns deep below Mount Thunder, Covenant and Linden Avery prepare to meet their bitterest foe. Even the white gold they carry may not serve against Lord Foul’s powers. For once the wild magic is released, the Arch of Times will crack, and Lord Foul’s conquest of the Land will be assured.

Donaldson's writing is a poetic as ever and the book's ending is very, very good, serving up the conclusion that readers of the previous five books deserved but there is no escaping the fact that the page upon page of self-hatred and despair that led up to it made for rather depressing reading - and I am not a reader who needs the Hollywood soft-focus.

There are still four books remaining in the series but the Second Chronicles have left me needing to let a goodly amount of time pass before embarking on what may well be another angst-ridden, teeth-gnashing affair. But I will read them as I do want to know what happens in the end. If you are fan of fantasy fiction then you really must read the Covenant books even though you may not enjoy everything about them as there a many brilliant moments that can take your breath away. It is also important to understand the impact that these books had on budding writers like Steven Erikson, who have in turn gone on to write some of the best fantasy I have ever read.

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