The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I find myself in the unenviable position of rooting for Lord Foul Bane and his many loathsome minions. Maybe it's just the intentional feature of making all the good guys so perfectly good and forgiving and nonviolent and understanding, but Thomas Covenant DOES NOT DESERVE IT.
Therefore, I really want to see Lord Foul Bane corrupt every single one of those bastards solely for the purpose of rising up and smiting that worthless son of a bitch, the Ur-Lord Thomas Covenant.
If it wasn't crazy enough that the Rape-Child of TC loves her Rape-Father so much that she summons him from our world to save their cut-out-heaven, she thinks she's in love with him and throws herself at him.
Yes, she's his daughter.
Not only does every character in the Land have no more dimensionality than a piece of toilet paper, but their insane levels of acceptance, even when a rage-filled father goes after TC or when the only true hero of the tale attempts to smite TC across his head, no one gets his just deserts. The grand heroic general who deserves every accolade gets transformed into a tree, and this is despite the fact that he was summoned from the our world, just like TC. He was also the most interesting character of the bunch.
So what was actually good about this book?
Well, the battles and battles and endless battles and strategy wasn't as bad as I've read elsewhere, but it isn't my cup of tea. It reminded me of the bad old days of WoT books 7 and 8, or perhaps a bit worse, because I cared less for the Land or its characters.
Some of the fantasy elements were pretty good, though, and what's not to love about bone melding and turning a combatant's bones to ash, letting the meat sack tumble to the ground? I got into this book only late, and completely to spite TC. Good thing most of the novel didn't have TC in it, or I might have gotten through an entire season of a TV show I'm way far behind on instead of just half of it, all in a desperate attempt to alleviate the boredom I felt while reading this godforsaken novel.
I can understand why people might revere this, considering the amount and kinds of fantasy trash that might have been out and about at the time it was written. I understand why it changed the face of old fantasy, just as I understand the Mallorean books did the same.
But the fact is, they all lack the gritty realism and complexly developed characters that I have come to revere in modern fantasy, and I just can't get behind it.
Having far off pining and far off horrors and far off hopes and plans is just BORING as hell to me, and if it can't be shored up by characters that learn and develop and change when faced with singular events that OUGHT to change them, then all we've got is a spoiled asshole who's turned a veritable heaven into an ongoing hell and he actually BELONGS on the side of Lord Foul Bane and he always will. The fact that he was summoned by LFB's minion in the first place should be a dead giveaway, but what the hell do I know?
It's not like Lord Wonderful Kevin (Don't get me started with the silliness of that name, the wonderful ancient godlike hero and destroyer of the Land) had anything to do with TC's summoning, like everyone thought. It looks like everyone has been fooled, and fooled good. Maybe I'm right about TC's direction. I don't know. I'm going to have to summon superhuman stores of patience to pick up the third book to find out.
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