Stephen Donaldson biography and books reviewed

Stephen R. Donaldson was born on the 13th May 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, James, was a medical missionary and his mother, Ruth, a prosthetist (a person skilled in making or fitting prosthetic devices). Donaldson spent the years between the ages of 3 and 16 living in India where his father was working as an orthopaedic surgeon. Donaldson was educated at the College of Wooster and the Kent State University, being awarded a Bachelor's and Master's degree respectively. Stephen Donaldson's work is heavily influenced by other fantasy authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Roger Zelazny, Joseph Conrad, Henry James and William Faulkner. Stephen Donaldson currently lives in New Mexico.

Stephen Donaldson came to prominence in 1977 with the The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, a story that centred around a leper shunned by society and his trials and tribulations as his destiny unfolds. These books established Stephen Donaldson as one of the most important figures in modern fantasy fiction.

The writers that Stephen Donaldson most admires are Patricia A. McKillip, Steven Erikson, and Tim Powers.

"I do suffer from a kind of "performance anxiety" that I associate with competing with myself. So many people enjoyed the first six "Covenant" books--and I've made them wait so long to complete the story--that I can hardly bear the prospect of disappointing them. In the long run, however, I'm more concerned about doing justice to the story. For that reason, I hope that my own expectations for myself are higher than anyone else's for me."

... for The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

If there is any justice in the literary world, Donaldson will earn the right to stand shoulder to shoulder with Tolkien. Time Out

Magnificently sustained... millions of readers on both sides of the Atlantic rave about this series. Irish Independent

An irresistable epic... imagination, heroism and excitement, made all the more real by Donaldson's deft handling of the rich history of the Land. Chicago Daily News

Comparable to Tolkien at his best... a remarkable achievement which will certainly find a place on the small list of true classics. Washington Post

Stephen Donaldson reviews

Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen Donaldson

Thomas Covenant is arguably one of the most famous characters in fantasy, but not all who know it love it. Whether it is due to the Covenant character himself, or simply as a response to the series as a whole, readers find themselves divided in their opinions: Some love it, some hate it. But few dismiss it. The Chronicles are a very complex piece of work but at heart a good old-fashioned tale of epic fantasy deserving of being labeled classic.

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The Illearth War 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 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 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." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review

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The Power That Preserves by Stephen Donaldson

The Thomas Covenant Chronicles are deep, sophisticated novels written in a very complex yet beautiful way. The Power That Preserves brings to an end a trilogy that was very important for the fantasy genre, being the most complex work since J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and a series that kick-started a new era and a new wave of fantasy authors. A must-read for a fantasy fan; but be warned! These three books will not be the easiest you have read, but the reward is substantial.

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The Wounded Land by Stephen Donaldson

All that those who read and enjoyed the first trilogy wanted for this new instalment was for the same high standards to be maintained. And The Wounded Land not only keeps the standard but lifts it a little higher. As I turned the last page I instantly reached for The One Tree, which promises to be a tale nautical in nature, which should prove to be a breath of fresh salt air for the series.

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The One Tree by Stephen Donaldson

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.

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White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson

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 I have always been the case since I read the first series nearly twenty years ago.

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Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen Donaldson

Mirror of Her Dreams is; like all of Donaldson's works, a difficult book. At times disturbing, frustrating or turgid, yet with an undercurrent of wonder, wit and even sweetness. It explores some interesting ideas and dark themes, and goes to some genuinely disturbing places. It's not something I started lightly, and yet something I absolutely wanted to finish. Though its main character is an incredibly damselly damsel, Terisa is probably the most 3 dimensional, and understandable damsel I've seen, albeit that I really hope this will change in the next volume.

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A Man Rides Through by Stephen Donaldson

I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Mordant's Need. Exploration of a fascinating world, with poetry and pathos, complex side characters who you truly grow attached to, some wonderfully nasty villains and horrific monsters, and above all, the chance to follow someone who grows from an out of her depth damsel to a triumphant hero, who achieves love, honour and self-understanding, Mordant's Need absolutely has it all!

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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 the very laws of nature. And though she believes Covenant dead, he keeps sending Linden messages: 'Find me', 'You're the only one who can do this' and 'Remember that I'm dead'. The Land is in turmoil, and Lord Foul has plans for them all...

"The Runes of the Earth is 100 per cent a Donaldson novel, and whether you think this is a good or a bad thing, it means that those who love the series will not be disappointed as the author delivers and maintains the standards set."

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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 her adopted son, Jeremiah, ride desperately toward Revelstone. But their reunion has vast consequences which she could not have foreseen. Soon she is betrayed by the people whom she most needs to trust. Transported deep into the Land's past, she is forced to confront mysterious strangers, legendary heroes, and ancient evils, and to stand alone against the malevolence of the Despiser's minions. Abandoned in Garroting Deep, the most bloodthirsty of the Land's long-dead forests, she reaches a fearsome decision: she determines to reshape reality in an attempt to end the Despiser's evil and her son's suffering. However, her purpose requires her to find Loric's krill, a weapon abandoned among the Hills of Andelain millennia ago. And she needs the aid of friends and allies who will turn against her if she reveals her intent. Attacked by enemies old and new, and harried by strange beings with ambiguous agendas, she strives toward Andelain. But the ravenous skurj are rising, and all of her actions appear to serve her worst foes.

"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."

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Against All Things Ending by Stephen Donaldson

Score out of 10. 11 and 7, when I am in a light mood and not really concentrating on the book then it’s hard to get into, but when you can settle down and give this book the time it deserves then it’s off the chart. You are left out of breath, waiting until the 4th and Final Thomas Covenant book appears.

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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 reality known only as 'the Land'. Now they face their final crisis. Reunited after their separate struggles, they discover in each other their true power - and yet they cannot imagine how to stop the Worm of the World's End from unmaking Time. Nevertheless they must resist the ruin of all things, giving their last strength in the service of the world's continuance.

"This final series, consisting of four novels, has been an exercise in diminishing returns, each novel becoming more problematic, less enjoyable and at times simply excruciating to read. I honestly believe that the only reason I read all 4 novels was due to a) completism and b) so that I could close the door on the author and series and never feel compelled to return."

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