Many years ago, when I read the last book in the Thomas Covenant series, THE WHITE-GOLD WIELDER, my scream of distress over its ending could probably be heard in Russia. In fact, I never re-read the series, despite its potent magic, because as long as I never read that book, then Thomas would still be "alive." Silly logic over a character, I know, but that shows how well this series is written. Imagine my surprise --- and delight --- when I saw that the series was to be continued.
Thomas Covenant was brought to the Land from our own world in order to save it --- and save it he did, sacrificing his own life in the process. Lord Foul wanted --- and still wants --- to destroy the Time Arch and free himself from his prison. But this freedom comes with a heavy price, as Earth and the Land would both be destroyed. Doctor Linden Avery also helped to save the Land, and back on Earth she lives the best life she can. She cares for those who were once used by Lord Foul in an asylum, including Thomas's ex-wife Joan. She goes home to her beloved adopted son, a closed and damaged child who also lost something in the battle with Foul. She lives with her memories of the Land and of her love for Thomas.
Roger, Thomas's son, has come to visit Avery, demanding she release his mother into his custody now that he has turned 21 and can claim his inheritance. She refuses, seeing that there is definite evil in his plans. Little does she realize the extent of his evil, until he kidnaps his mother and takes Jeremy from Avery's home. She chases after them and is shot in the fight. When she wakes up, she is back in the Land and knows that she has an important mission: to find her son.
The Land has changed greatly. Once a place of incredible beauty, it is now becoming barren. The Haruchai, who Avery once counted as friends and allies against Lord Foul, now consider themselves masters of the Land and are dedicated to destroying all those who have Earth Power, for they blame all the ills in the Land on that magic, while Avery knows that this is what is needed to preserve it. Her only guardian is an old madman, Anele, who often speaks with Lord Foul's voice, and very occasionally Thomas Covenant will speak to her mind. He tells her that she needs the staff of law and must trust herself.
Even in its damaged state, the Land still is a truly beautiful place to be; beauty is both inherent and tangible. There are a number of fabulous creatures and cultures to sink into, and traveling through the Land with Avery is both a fantastic adventure as well as a tour through a place of great wonder. There is also a mythic quality to it, a real feeling that what one does affects everyone. Avery's decisions, just as Thomas's earlier ones, affect the Land because she is connected to it, the Chosen protector to Lord Foul's Despiser.
Avery is a character to whom you can also connect. Her wistful memories of the Land touch us, her determination to find her son and the man she loves --- who we hope might be alive somehow --- are so palatable that we, too, feel the drive to see that she fulfills her goals.
THE RUNES OF THE EARTH has all the wonders that made the previous two chronicles so readable, with plenty of surprises that will please old readers. The novel itself is prefaced with a wonderfully written summary of the previous books, and the context of the actual tale does a fantastic job of explaining everything. Therefore, you don't need to have read the previous books to enjoy this, though it might add to your pleasure.
The flyleaf has promised us four books altogether, and I look forward to seeing how Stephen R. Donaldson further develops these adventures.
Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer on January 23, 2011