Fatal Revenant by Stephen Donaldson (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Book 2)

Fatal Revenant is the second book in Stephen Donaldson's Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series, a series of four books that follow on the First and Second Chronicles and bring to an end the tale of Thomas Convenant, which began over three decades ago with the publication of Lord Foul's Bane.

Stephen Donaldson is a divisive author. Those that love his work, really love his work while there are also many who can not bear the verbose and often melodramatic approach he utilises. I understand how both sides feel as the books have tugged me in both directions, but there is one thing I cannot deny, and that is that the Covenant books have remained with me strongly, particularly  in regards to mental imagery, and not many days go by without my thinking of events contained within at least once.

"But the night did not bring dreams. Instead it brought the first in a tumbled series of spring showers that followed the company for much of the next day: prolonged sprinkles and quick downpours that soaked the riders in spite of the cloaks which they had brought from Revelstone for Linden, Liand and Anele. At intervals, rain streaked the horizons, constricting the landscape to sodden grass and vleis, and to occasional copses shrouded with moisture. Then, between the showers and clouds, sunshine burst over the region, sketching bright transitory reflected jewels among the water drops until the earth and the trees were anademed in light."
Fatal Revenant: Salva Gildenbourne

The two words that stand out are vleis, a South African plural noun for a shallow, natural pool of water and anademed, an archaic word used to describe a wreath for the head, a garland. And this is, in a nutshell, what you can expect in a Stephen Donaldson novel – the author’s vocabulary is astonishing and the reader can only benefit for its being shared. The positives are many but there is of course – as is often the case – a downside, and that being that the experience of reading many words you do not know the meaning of can only lead to a break in the reading flow where you either struggle to guess their meaning or, like I did, look them up online. Donaldson is a wordy writer who loves language and any contemplating  reading the Covenant Chronicles should give some thought as to whether or not they will be happy reading Donaldson.

And so I am now left in a quandary: I have read eight novels out of the ten that make up the series and I am a completist - I like finishing things that I have started. But the thought of having to plough through another 800 pages of unenjoyable angst and repetition is not something I am keen to do. But the compelling power of completion is strong and the hope that the next book, Against All Things Ending, will improve greatly upon Fatal Revenant may well lead me to embarking on the ninth step. Add to that the fact that I already own the book and you can expect a review sometime in the future.


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