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brianmartin

Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson

The Illearth War - Stephen R. Donaldson

To all those who hated Lord Foul's Bane -- hark! and be redeemed. Thomas Covenant gets yanked back into the Land, where 40 years have passed for its people, but only days for him. In his absence, Foul has amassed an immense army and is preparing to march. The Lords have learned virtually nothing new to aid them in their own defense. And Covenant, who still believes he's dreaming, finds himself lusted after by the daughter of the woman he previously raped. That is, by his own daughter. Salvation is at hand. You need only pick up the book and start reading.

 

Huh? Where did I lose you?

 

No matter. The Illearth War is a terrific follow up to the first book in the trilogy, still with one of the great tragic heroes in the genre.

 

This book introduces something -- and someone -- new. Hile Troy, the new leader of the Lords' army, is a man who claims to be from Covenant's world. I say "claims to be" because Covenant believes he made him up, but the second part of the book is told from Troy's point of view, and tells of things of which Covenant has no knowledge. So we know what Covenant does not: the Land is real.

 

Troy accepts the Land, blesses it (for he was born without eyes, but now can see), and does everything he can to help the Lords defeat Foul. He is, I suppose, something of the sort of hero that many readers had hoped Covenant would be. And he shares their disdain: he neither understands Covenant's unbelief nor sympathizes with him in any way. But, again, we know something he does not: for all his military strategizing, he is not a rational man. He loves the Land because it loves him back. It's just the sort of alluring yet pathetic logic that Covenant fears as a pathway to despair and madness.

 

After the introductions of the first part, the book is split between Troy's war with Foul's army and the quest for one of the hidden wards of knowledge and power that the Lords believe can help turn the tide of battle in their favor. Covenant accompanies his daughter on the quest for the ward.

 

This line of the plot -- Covenant and his daughter -- was a stroke of macabre genius, wickedly encapsulating the central contradiction of Covenant's predicament, his desire to embrace the Land and his need to repudiate it. His solution, however, will appeal only to those who sympathize with his plight, for it leads him to do something that, if taken at face value, is even worse than rape.

 

No, this book isn't going to make converts of those who disliked the first. But for the rest of us, those of us who don't have it all figured out, it is another intimately compelling portrait of the tortuous struggle with the ideas and beliefs that define us, in a world that tells us every day in so many ways that we are wrong.

 

 

 

Post Script: In all the negative reviews of this book that I've read, the following quotation is probably the funniest and yet the most telling:

 

"He's still a leper, and it still isn't very important to this book." - Marianne