The Illearth War by Stephen Donaldson (Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 2)

(9.0/10) Beautifully written, rich in a detail that fuels the imagination.

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

The Illearth War is the second volume of Stephen Donaldson’s First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Lord Foul’s Bane began the story and the trilogy is brought to a close in The Power that Preserves.

Let me begin this review by making something clear. If you didn't like the first book, Lord Foul's Bane, then it is very, very unlikely that this second instalment will change how you feel about the series. I think that the main issue many readers' have is with Thomas Covenant himself, as he is a very difficult lead character to support on his quest. But this was done purposefully - Donaldson was challenging the tired and formulaic genre that fantasy had become. And so Covenant, whose happy existence has been torn apart, and whose actions upon entering the Land will forever be difficult for both he and the reader to come to terms with, is very difficult to like, even if the reader is able to either sympathise or understand to any extent. None, certainly not Covenant himself, will ever forgive him for some of the tings he has done but as Donaldson continues his narrative the author begins to show us his humane side, so that we are at least able to understand - if not like - his behaviour and his actions. And this is what sets these books apart from others of their generation - it was published at a time when it was the knight in shining armour that rode to the rescue, not a diseased rapist.

The Illearth War is an excellent continuation of the Thomas Covenant series, consistently compelling and full of great battle scenes. Those who enjoyed Tolkien's The Two Towers will be in their element here as similarities can be found with the epic defence of Helm’s Deep as the Land’s forces face almost insurmountable odds in the form of an army fuelled by hate, and changed by the dread powers of the titular illearth stones. To reiterate something I said above: If you loved, or at least liked Lord Foul's Bane then you will almost certainly feel the same about The Illearth War. However, if you hated, or thought little of the first book then this book is not going to be changing your views. After all, how much can the style of a trilogy change book by book? I, for one, loved the first book more on re-read and so found book two even better second time around too. Recommended, this series is deserving of its fantasy classic tag.

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1 positive reader review(s) for The Illearth War

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Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series


Lord Foul's Bane

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 1
9.5/10

The Illearth War

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 2
9.0/10

The Power That Preserves

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 3
9.2/10

The Wounded Land

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 4
9.6/10

The One Tree

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 5
8.6/10

White Gold Wielder

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 6
8.5/10

The Illearth War reader reviews

from Norwich

The ultimate anti-hero is back and as grumpy as ever! Not an easy central character to get behind but Donaldson makes him sympathetic enough so that you care about what happens to him. Over-lapping stotylines converge into a gripping finale that leaves you eagerly reaching for The Power That Preserves.

9/10 from 2 reviews

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More Stephen Donaldson reviews


The Runes of the Earth

The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Book 1
8.7/10

Against All Things Ending

The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Book 3
8.5/10

Fatal Revenant

The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Book 2
5.0/10

The Last Dark

The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Book 4
5.0/10

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