Friday, 28 June 2013

The Power That Preserves

Title: The Power That Preserves
Series: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever #3
Author: Stephen Donaldson
Pages: 573 (paperback)
Published: September 1st 1996 (first published 1977)
Published by: Voyager

Twice before Thomas Covenant had been summoned to the strange other-world where magic worked. Twice before he had been forced to join with the Lords of Revelstone in their war against Lord Foul, the ancient enemy of the Land. Now he was back. This time the Lords of Revelstone were desperate. Without hope, Covenant set out to confront the might of the enemy, as Lord Foul grew more powerful with every defeat for the Land....

Thomas Covenant - leper, outcast, unclean; or hero of the the Land. In either of his lives, he is uncomfortable and faced with problems, albeit on a vastly larger scale in the Land. After his second journey there in The Illearth War he comes back more confused and dejected than ever, only to find himself being pulled back for a third visit at the most inopportune moment when the life of a young girl hangs in the balance and him the only one who can save her.

Based on my experience of the two previous books in this trilogy, I wasn't expecting to love this book. While the second was better than the first, I wasn't expecting much more improvement. But right from the off it grabbed me in a way the others haven't. You're thrown right in there and the pace doesn't let up for the whole rest of the book. I devoured the last about 150 pages, eager to see the resolution of everything that had happened up until that point. And I can't even quite pin down what exactly it was that made this one different. As with The Illearth War, we aren't just following TC around and get to see different viewpoints which may have made the reading easier than Lord Foul's Bane. Maybe it's just that there was more going on, with something interesting always going on at one place or another.

It was in his book, too, that we really get to see the magic of the Lords, graveligases and lillianrill. It has been hinted at and we've seen bits and pieces, but it is here that for the first time we really see what they can use their powers and abilities for. When they are fighting for their lives under various attacks, their inventiveness and determination shines through. They are fighting for not only their lives, but to protect the Land and this really shines through in all that they do and the pain that some of them suffer through.

But there is conflict there for them also, more so than in either of the previous books, and in particular when it comes to Mhoram and the decisions he must make about actions to take and what to tell his fellow Lords. Mhoram has always been one of my favourite characters - he's down to earth and seems to understand TC in a way none of the other particularly do, even going so far as to be considered his friend. He is faced with a host of decision and an ever decreasing window in which to act, with ever diminishing supplies and opportunities.

Thomas Covenant even went some small ways to redeeming himself in my eyes, and it was nice to see a little more heroism from this anti-hero. He actually did stuff, and didn't just sit there, going with the flow! No longer the passive observer, he tries to achieve the things that need doing, even if things don't always work out the way he planned - even nearly, oftentimes. Though it is only a stalwart friend, willing to stay with him through thick and thin that really allows him achieve this. On his own, he most likely would have failed, but isn't that often the case, in these kind of books? The often-forgotten companion to the central hero. Another of my favourite characters (whom I'm not naming to avoid spoilers), it was great seeing them back and the healing they go through in the course of this book.

A wonderful conclusion. Will I be carrying on to read the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant? I don't know. Maybe I'll get to them one day, but for now I need a break from TC, even with the steps he took forward in this book.

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