25 May 2014

Books: Fatal Revenant by Stephen R. Donaldson (2007)

Fatal Revenant picks up where The Runes of the Earth ended with the return of Thomas Covenant and Linden’s autistic son Jeremiah. Happy to see both of them alive –considering Covenant is dead and her son in the clutches of Lord Foul- she races to greet them. But, of course, this is a Stephen R. Donaldson book, and nothing goes anywhere near to perfect.

Covenant, who is part of the Arch of Time now, claims he is using vast amount of power to “project” himself and Jeremiah to be in two places at once. And if she touches either of them, she’ll undo time itself, because she has the powerful Staff of Law and the wild magic of white gold. 

So Linden has to somehow be close to her son and not be able to hold him; so, Donaldson being par for the course on causing his characters more pain and suffering. 

I really liked the first part of this book, as Covenant, Linden and her son go on a quest, apparently, to save the world – but something is manifestly wrong. Linden’s journey once again takes her into the past and she learns more about the world’s history (this happened in the first book as well). While this first half really consists of Linden tagging along with others, in ends with a startling reveal and a violent confrontation with her many enemies. And the best set piece by far in the first two books.

As with the previous book, there’s a lot of travel and talk, but here everything moves along with more of a purpose (I think the first book covered less than a week, but even here the days seem to go on). But Linden remains not a strong hero, which is probably why I liked the first half better. Covenant at least brought some humor and some much needed lightness (which is ironic, considering he is a hugely dark character) to the book. The angsty crap of Linden Avery gets repetitive and slows the story down. So the second half seemed to drag and found myself passing over a lot of pages. 

My other issue is all the seemingly all-powerful, all-knowing characters who continually pop up and tell Linden what to do, but don’t explain why or answer her questions. While I assume there is a purpose here, it gets tiresome after a while. Also, one of these folks, the Insequent, we are seeing for the first time and they come across as being awkwardly wedge into the history of the Land. If they’re so important (they seem like Time Lords in many ways, arrogant and all knowing), why are we just hearing about them now (though it’s his universe and if he wants to add more dues ex machina to it, whom am I to complain)?

Donaldson admits he has a large vocabulary and is not afraid to use it, and he especially seems to have a fondness of obscure old English words, many which sound made up, but are, in fact real –he gets his money worth out that Roget apparently.  After reading many fantasy books over the last three decades, I can easily pass over them and I do get the gist of them, but this can be daunting for a new reader. 

As I move onto book three, I ponder where this will all end – he seems to be turning Linden into the one who’ll destroy the Land and Roger who will save it. Is it red herring? With Donaldson you never know.

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