“Be cautious of love. There is a glamour upon it which binds the heart to destruction.”
This is a warning given to Linden Avery, newly returned to The Land. Once known as The Chosen, Linden strives to save The Land from peril at the hands of Lord Foul. More importantly, she seeks to rescue her son from his clutches. FATAL REVENANT picks up at the precise moment where its predecessor, THE RUNES OF THE EARTH, left off.
Revelstone is under siege. Linden and her friends feel the weight of hopelessness fold over them until that one spark emerges from the gloom, offering aid and hope. Thomas Covenant, long-dead hero and ur-Lord, returns. Not alone does he come to Revelstone. In his company is Jeremiah, Linden's adopted son, who is no longer the shell of a boy he was in our Earth time. Jeremiah now is attentive, speaks and is devoted to Covenant.
For all of her joy, however, Linden cannot help but sense that something is amiss. Covenant, her old lover, seems remarkably the same and yet so different. He tells Linden that she can touch neither he nor Jeremiah, and she also is not permitted to use the Staff of Law without undoing all he has struggled to achieve. Covenant explains that he has folded time, making it possible for them to exist in two places at once. Her touch or her use of power will undo his magic. And he also demands his white gold ring.
Elusive in his answers to a growing list of her concerns, Covenant --- the longtime savior of The Land --- declares that he can end the onslaught of the forces of Kastenessen and his apparent master, Lord Foul. Linden does not share his surety, yet she also has no choice but to follow Covenant on his quest, for she is torn by her uneasiness about him and her heart's desire for him to be alive once more. Only as they undertake their mission can she hope to uncover the truth about Covenant's supposed rise from death, what his true purpose is concerning Jeremiah and how she can free her son and return home.
Forever in the back of her mind is the fateful warning to be cautious, but sometimes the heart overpowers thought. For Linden, and The Land, it can have horrific consequences.
FATAL REVENANT is a resounding success on multiple levels. It is a continuation of an already intriguing story, one that does not suffer from "middle book syndrome," in which nothing is either answered or achieved. In fact, many answers to the questions from THE RUNES OF THE EARTH are provided. Yet for every gap that is filled and for every solution uncovered, a new hurdle rises up.
Linden Avery continues to be a strong focus, and this volume shows her incredible struggle to locate and uphold her own personal strength. Faced with the heartbreaking inability to touch Covenant, for whom she still longs, or her son Jeremiah, she is equal parts devastated and concerned. That concern builds her resolve as she refuses to yield to the possibility that all is what it seems. Likewise, her trusted companion, Stave, is an excellent character to follow and is quite simply the one soul that experiences the most growth over the course of the series thus far.
As one would expect from Stephen R. Donaldson, his descriptive passages are mesmerizing and as vivid as the most spectacular of dreams. You can easily see The Land in all its glory --- every mountain peak, every lake, every plain is richly detailed and laid before you without ever becoming burdensome in the telling. Although he presents this tale in more flowered and patient language than most modern epics, it seems merely to add to the depth of his vast world rather than remove you from it.
Donaldson ends FATAL REVENANT with another groan-inducing cliffhanger, one that will not resume for another couple of years. Now, halfway through The Last Chronicles, he has elevated the stature of epic fantasy to new heights and reclaimed a throne that he never truly gave up so much as took a rest from.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on January 21, 2011