The One Tree by Stephen Donaldson

(8.6/10) A fresh breath of salt air in the Stephen Donaldson's fantasy masterpiece.

As readers put down The Wounded Land they were left with the mental imagery of Thomas Covenant boarding a giant-built dromond (a large castle-like ship built of stone) and sailing off to find the One Tree in order to recreate the Staff of Law and bring order back to the Land.

And so it with a fresh breath of salt air that the fifth instalment in the Stephen Donaldson's fantasy masterpiece begins. And rather than slowing down, or running out of ideas, like so many others do, this series has actually been getting better.

Does The One Tree keep things on track? For me it is both a yes and a no.

To be brutally honest, The One Tree is my least favourite book of the five in the series so far. That is not to say it is not a good book, it is, but it just lacked the immersive quality that I found in the previous four novels.

I found a parallel for The One Tree in C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian had been received very well but the author was conscious that he needed to offer something fresh and new, something different from what had gone before. And so Lewis and Donaldson, possibly in an attempt avoid repetition, moved the story away from the places the readers knew and loved so well (Narnia and the Land) and put them to sea.

I did not like Voyage of the Dawn Treader at all, it took me 20 years to finally finish it after half-a-dozen aborted attempts. And while The One Tree is a far superior book I think it didn’t work for me because all I loved about the Land was missing. And I found the void left was unable to be filled successfully by the new characters and locations that are met by the quest on their voyage. I may be alone in my judgement but it just didn’t feel like a real Thomas Covenant book, it felt a little like a bridge between novels, in its way similar to Steven King’s Song of Susannah from the Dark Tower series which, important as it is to the overall story arc, just didn’t have the same immersive qualities as the previous five books.

Here is a little information on events that transpire: Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery flee from the Land, and embark with the Giants on a desperate search for the One Tree, the powerful life-force whose branches alone can re-make the Staff of Law. They leave the Sunbane-ravaged shores they know for a new world where awesome creatures attack them at sea – and strangely powerful new races both welcome and threaten them on Land. Lord Foul sends his Ravers to harry Covenant and all who help him. Before them lies the prize that can vanquish the Sunbane – or wreak the devastation that Lord Foul seeks…

This book is good, just not in my opinion great like the four that preceded it. Although I may sound a little down on it I should make haste to highlight the strengths that still run true.

A Stephen Donaldson Covenant novel is able to provide mental images of the very strongest nature. His characters are full of life: From Vain's dark demeanour, full of impassive strength to the solid and hearty giants, from the gaunt Covenant to the resolute Haruchai. The Land is also full of memorable places too; from Mithil Stonedown to Revelstone. Nothing that is read is forgotten.

I’m glad that I read The One Tree but I am also glad to move onto White Gold Wielder, which I hope will see us to return to the shores of the Land. Maybe I’m just a hobbit at heart, preferring things that I know and feel comfortable with; preferring home and comforts to travel and adventure.

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All reviews for Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series

Lord Foul's Bane

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 1 written by Stephen Donaldson

He called himself Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, because he dared not believe in the strange alternative world on which he suddenly found himself - the Land. But the Land [...]

Published: 1977

Our rating: 9.5 | positive reader reviews

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The Illearth War

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 2 written by Stephen Donaldson

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 sourc [...]

Published: 1978

Our rating: 9.0 | positive reader reviews

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The Power That Preserves

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 3 written by Stephen Donaldson

Twice before Thomas Covenant had been summoned to the strange other-world where magic worked. Twice before he had been forced to join with the Lords of Revelstone in their [...]

Published: 1979

Our rating: 9.2 | positive reader reviews

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The Wounded Land

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 4 written by Stephen Donaldson

Four thousand years have passed since Covenant first freed the Land from the devastating grip of Lord Foul and his minions. But he is back, and Covenant, armed with his stu [...]

Published: 1980

Our rating: 9.6 | positive reader reviews

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The One Tree

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 5 written by Stephen Donaldson

Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery begin their search for the One Tree that is to be the salvation of the Land. Only he could find the answer and forge a new Staff of Law - b [...]

Published: 0000

Our rating: 8.6 | positive reader reviews

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White Gold Wielder

Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Book 6 written by Stephen Donaldson

Thomas Covenant knew that despite his failure on the Isle of The One Tree, he had to return to the Land and fight. After a long and arduous journey, fighting all the way, h [...]

Published: 0000

Our rating: 8.5 | positive reader reviews

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More Stephen Donaldson reviews

The Runes of the Earth

by Stephen Donaldson

It's ten years later and Linden Avery thought she would never see the Land, or Covenant, her beloved, again. But Lord Foul has stolen her adopted son, and is unmaking t [...]

Series: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Book 1
Published: 0000

Score: 87

Our rating: 8.7 | 0 positive reader reviews

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Fatal Revenant

by Stephen Donaldson

Fatal Revenant, Book Two of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, begins where The Runes of the Earth ended: Linden Avery watches from a balcony while Thomas Covenant and [...]

Series: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Book 2
Published: 2007

Score: 50

Our rating: 5.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

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Against All Things Ending

by Stephen Donaldson

Desperate for help to find her adopted son, Jeremiah, Linden Avery has resurrected Thomas Covenant in a cataclysmic exertion of Earthpower and wild magic. But the consequen [...]

Series: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Book 3
Published: 0000

Score: 86

Our rating: 8.5 | 1 positive reader reviews

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The Last Dark

by Stephen Donaldson

Compelled step by step to actions whose consequences they could neither see nor prevent, Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery have fought for what they love in the magical real [...]

Series: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Book 4
Published: 2013

Score: 50

Our rating: 5.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

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