Runes Of The Earth (The Last Chronicle Of Thomas Covenant Book 1) is proof that a writer can write the same thing repeatedly and get away with it. While the first trilogy – The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever – was a fantasy novel sensation in the late seventies and early eighties the quality of the story telling took a hit in the second chronicles and has taken even more of a hit in this third series.
There are some major weaknesses to Runes Of The Earth that all but the most ardent Covenant fans will have issues with. Foremost among these problems is the simple problem that we have seen all these characters before in various incarnations and they are getting boring. Where Bannor in the First Chronicles was interesting and new by the time we get to the seventh book the Haruchai and their excess is old hat and while it may be a good story feature that they remain essentially unchanged the reader does not need to hear about that implacability multiple times. That Donaldson repeats himself wouldn’t be that much of a problem if he didn’t repeat the philosophical core of his stories constantly. If a reader had the fortitude to make it through the first six books they got the point that any exercise of power is an exercise in corruption and that failure to exercise power is also an exercise in corruption. We get the paradox. We had six books to get it – we don’t need a seventh especially when it repeats the same patterns we have already seen.
Runes Of The Earth is a fan book. Donaldson fans will enjoy it. Fans of the Haruchai and the Land will enjoy it. It was nice to read about the Ramen and Ranyhyn, Ravers, Lord Foul, ur-viles and all the other aspects of the Land which made it a wonderful place to escape to originally but that does not make for a good book. It may make for a mildly entertaining book for someone already familiar with the story but the draw back there is the amount of exposition and back story Donaldson feels compelled to stuff into a volume that could have easily been both more concise and more entertaining. Unless you are a Donaldson fan who has been waiting for decades to read about the Land again give this book a pass.