Audio-book review: The Runes of the Earth read by Anton Lesser

In 1977, Stephen Donaldson changed the face of epic fantasy with the publication of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. Thomas Covenant is struck down with a disease believed eradicated; he is abandoned by his wife and son and becomes a pariah. Alone and despairing, Covenant falls, and is drawn into a mysterious new world, where gentle people work magic and the earth itself brings healing. He is welcomed as the reincarnation of a legendary saviour, but Covenant refuses to believe. At the end of the sixth book, as Covenant battles to save the world, he is killed, in both worlds, as Dr. Linden Avery, his horrified companion, looks on.

It’s 10 years later, and Linden Avery thought she would never see the Land, or Covenant, 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", and "Don’t trust me". The Land is in turmoil, and Lord Foul has plans for them all.

This audio-book proved to be tough-going. Reading the original books was also tough-going but they had the redemptive quality of being ultimately highly rewarding. I am afraid The Runes of the Earth is simply tough-going.

If pushed to name the one thing that I found most annoying about this audio-book I would have to go with the overly dramatic moments that plagued it. You could almost visualise an exclamation mark ever paragraph – Foul, you bastard! How could he! The Land is dying! I’ve forgotten to brush my teeth! etc… etc…

Added to this, Linden Avery cuts a rather unsympathetic and annoying lead, and Anele is a nerve-grating addition to the cast.

Anton Lesser struggles manfully, his stock narrative voice excellent but his portrayal of individual characters not quite as strong. I’m afraid that this audio-book and The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are just not for me, which is a shame considering that the original six books are works that I will always remember fondly.

There is, however, an excellent and fascinating interview with Stephen Donaldson after the reading has finished.

We Rate It5-stars

About the author and narrator
Stephen R. 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.

British actor Anton Lesser has played many of the principal Shakespearian roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Petruchio, Romeo and Richard III. He is also very active in radio and spoken word audio and is particularly known for the major novels of Charles Dickens, with Great Expectations winning the Talkie Award.

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