Sunday, November 1, 2015

EPIC: Lord Foul's Bane preview

I just finished Lord Foul's Bane, the first volume in Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant Chronicles. It was the second of two manuscripts pulled from the submissions pile by Lester and Judy del Rey back in the mid-seventies when they were looking for the next Tolkien. The first was Terry Brook's The Sword of Shannara and I totally get picking that one. This one not one bit whatsover.

Sure, it's got a dark lord, a quest, magical horses, and a magic ring. After that's all bets are off. Donaldson's fictional world, simply (or, unimaginatively) called the Land, is one with no semblance to the faux medieval or the standard swords & sorcery settings of most previous fantasy.

Instead, he created a world that seems like it was mined from some previously unknown mythology. Every character, every prop, every place has some deeper significance behind its simple appearance. It's a little off putting at times. Intended to be portentous, much verges on the pretentious. Character names risk seeming silly (see Lord Foul). Mostly, though, it works.

There's a real daring to be so deliberately intense, even over the top. You need a story that can bear the weight and Donaldson has one in Lord Foul's Bane. I'm really looking forward to finishing off the first trilogy over the next few months.

Until Tuesday and my Black Gate review, here's some of the various covers over the decades.

original hc by S.C. Wyeth

sfbc by Janice C. Tate

pb by Darrell K. Sweet

by ?

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