LONCON 3 – Thursday

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This year was my first time attending the World Science Fiction Convention. Hell, it was the only time I’ve been to a convention. From August 14th to August 18th I was at the Excel Convention Centre in London, England. After all, this was my opportunity to meet all of my favorite authors. Joe Abercrombie? Check. George R.R. Martin? Check. Rothfuss? Hobb? Haldeman? Lynch? Check, check, check, check. I just so happened to be backpacking around Europe at that time anyways. Having already wandered aimlessly through Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam, the United Kingdom was my next stop.

The day before I was due to fly from Amsterdam to London I happened to come across Brandon Sanderson tweeting about books he was signing in Schiphol Airport. Joe Abercrombie also saw his tweet and asked him to sign his new book, Half a King. You can find Brandon talking about it on his blog. The next day I was sweating bullets, hoping those books would still be there. I NEEDED something for my authors to sign at the convention, plus how cool would it be to already have them signed by Brandon Sanderson?! The stars happened to align. I was by Gate F and there were two Words of Radiance books left. And one Half a King! I tweeted them a picture of the signed books, which lead to a well deserved retweet from the god that is Joe Abercrombie. As you can tell, I’m a bit obsessed.

I get to the hotel on Wednesday night. It’s a quaint place that is literally right next to Excel. Rise early the next morning, chug a cup of tea, throw on my Resident Evil Umbrella Corporation shirt and make my way over. All of the events and panels start at ten in the morning. I get in line to grab my registration around quarter past nine. It took no longer than twenty minutes, but man, later in the day that thing was HUGE. Also, found out that in Europe they call “lines”, “ques”. I’m a fan of their way. Because I signed up so late—literally the night before—they had to write in marker on my VIP Pass. All the other attendees had such professional looking ones, and here I am with “Mattyo” hand written on mine. Great start.

It was still early so I moseyed on over to the information desk. This is where you sign up for all the events for the next few days. You get in line and do a circle around the table, signing up for the event you want. You can only put your name on paper for one thing and then you have to circle (or square) around again. In all honestly, the line was never too crazy, which made it pretty tempting to just go around and around. I didn’t want to be too greedy so I signed up for “Tea with Joe Abercrombie” (Rothfuss and Lynch ones were already fully signed…). That was for the next day and consisted of you plus eight other people sitting around a table with the author talking “bollocks” for an hour. That’s the word Abercrombie used to describe it.

While in line I met a friendly fellow named Robert from Cardiff, which he was proud to inform me was the capital of Wales. Robert himself is an aspiring writer who shares a mutual love for Abercrombie, Lynch, and most of all Patrick Rothfuss. Together we decided to check out the panel, “Does the Future Need to Be Plausible?”. The panelists were no authors I’ve ever read, but the topic did interest me.

Robert and I settled for standing room only as all the chairs were taken. The moderator did a wonderful job of keeping the flow and getting all the authors involved. There was a point where they all started bashing one of my all time favorite “So Bad It’s Good” movies, The CoreAlso under fire were Die Hard 2 and Falling Skies. As they should be. I thought the best point was brought up by Mr. McDonald. He stressed that it depended on how you wrote your characters. It doesn’t matter how strange your devices of the future are, or if they hold up twenty years from now. If your characters are as comfortable with “insert strange new technology” as we are, say when using a toaster, then it won’t matter. The readers will be more accepting of it and it won’t even be an issue.

The last fifteen minutes were devoted to questions, but these things hardly ever do much good. Most of the time one person rambles on for what seems like an eternity and doesn’t even ask a question at the end. It’s more of a comment, or their perspective on something. I was starving so off to the food court I went. As I sat eating my bacon and cheese croissant (and their bacon is not the bacon us Americans are used to), I decided to attend the opening ceremony at noon. It’s in the auditorium so I wouldn’t have to bum rush a room to get a seat. Side note, it was at this point I was able to take out money from an ATM! Let’s just say prior to this I was having some trouble getting money out. A topic for another day.

The opening ceremony was cute. They did a skit that involved the crowd being students at Hogwarts. I wasn’t expecting the amount of props that were used on stage. It was reminiscent of a “Whose Line Is It Anyways” game. They introduced all of the Guests of Honor, none of which I cared much for other than Robin Hobb. One of my favorite segments involved them showing the design of the Hugo award for this year, and how it has changed throughout the years. Really cool stuff. Still I decided to leave early. Didn’t want to get a bad spot in line for the Pat Rothfuss book signing.

Leaving early paid off, as I reserved a spot in the front of the line. Had the chance of meeting a very nice girl by the name of Eleanor. She is from the glorious lands of northern England (I have no idea what that looks like) and had the most beat up copy of The Name of the Wind that I have ever seen. She told a cool story of when she went to a Phillip Pullman book signing. Apparently Neiil Gaiman was there as a moderator or something of the sort. Unfortunately Pullman had to cancel, turning the event into a Neil Gaiman signing. Most of the books though were by Pullman. So it was a bunch of people getting those books signed by Neil Gaiman. This is relevant because I was getting Rothfuss to sign my copy of Half a King—that was already signed by Brandon Sanderson.

Right as I’m next in line, none other than Joe Abercrombie walks up next to Rothfuss at his signing table. As they are chatting I scoot up and slowly slide them my copy of Half a King. They both look at me with looks I’ll never forget and Rothfuss suddenly bursts into uncontrollable laughter. Even more so when he finds out that Sanderson has already signed it. Abercrombie admits he’s happy that I at least bought the book, no matter who I get it signed by. Really cool moment. Afterwards, Eleanor gets Patrick and Joe to sign her notepad that she looks at when she’s going through tough times. Patrick writes “love what you do”, while Joe puts down “The price of success is enemies”. I think that’s a good summary of both their writings. Definitely a highlight of the trip.

Off to grub again. I know, I know. Standing in the que really does make you hungry though. Two sausage rolls and a bacon cheese bite later, I head down to the George R.R. Martin and Connie Willis panel, “A Conversation with George R.R. Martin, Connie Willis, and Paul Cornell”. You could tell that the both of them were really good friends. Connie is a vibrant speaker and had so many good barbs at Martin. There really is nothing like two great writers talking shop, and reminiscing in general. Actually scratch that. There’s nothing better than two old friends shooting the shit. That’s what it came down to. Willis started talking about how she hates when you know the main characters won’t die. She talked about a popular television show from back in the day that I’m totally blanking on. The shows two protagonists were always untouchable, although anyone who was associated with them were as good as dead. She remarked how in one episode, the new bride of one of the characters was killed, right when they walked out of the church! To which Martin dryly replied, “I usually kill my characters in the church”. Safe to say that got laughter and a round of applause. Martin was asked what questions he hates. While he said he doesn’t hate any question, he is tired of the same questions over and over again. Especially from interviewers that think their question is one he’s never heard before (cough Who is your favorite character cough). He gave a shout out to Stephen Donaldson, whom he is good friends with. If you didn’t know, I’m a pretty big fan of the guy. Back when Donaldson put out The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant they were a huge success. Probably the best selling fantasy books up to date. And Donaldson thought, “Okay, I have a lot of Donaldson fans out there”. Then later he wrote the Mordants Need duology and it didn’t sell nearly as well. It was then he found out that there weren’t as many Donaldson fans as he thought as there were Thomas Covenant fans. Martin wonders if this will happen to him once he’s finished with ASOIAF. It was a great conversation between the two and it’ll stick with me forever.

The last panel I attended was “Ideology versus Politics in Science Fiction”. It included authors:

Probably one of the worst panels I attended. Only because the moderator didn’t show. It really does make a difference having a competent moderator, or one at all. The conversation lagged a ton and there were too many awkward silences for my taste. Probably should have checked out another panel. I’d never seen Kim Stanley Robinson so I wanted to at least hear him. Fortunately they kicked out all of us that didn’t get a seat as to us being a fire hazard. I was more than happy to leave, but at this point I was exhausted. Felt like it was a good first day and that I’d go home and read some The Way of Kings. That was Day One of Loncon 3. Next I’ll write about my eventful Friday, including tea with Joe Abercrombie!

 

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“THE WAY OF KINGS” – The WAY to write epic fantasy

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You need to be a certain kind of crazy to read a thousand page novel. You’d have to be even crazier to write one. And to write one worth reading? Crazy, but as I found out, not impossible. As of yesterday, I am finished The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson’s introductory book to his Stormlight Archive series. A week from now will be the four year anniversary of its original release date. What all fantasy fans are asking, and what I asked myself post reading, is what took so long? It wasn’t the sheer size of it. I’ve read The Stand. Twice. The uncut version, too. The fact that it’s the beginning of an unfinished series didn’t bother me. A quite long one at that. I’m in deep already with ASOIAF, The Kingkiller Chronicles, and The Lightbringer Series. What it boiled down to was one, lingering thought. I’m not totally sold on Brandon Sanderson.

To be fair, I had only read The Mistborn Trilogy (plus Alloy of Law). And while I enjoyed reading them, there was just something about his books that didn’t stick with me. I’m always in favor of darker toned fantasy books. Nobody will likely top George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie. Their work will stick with me forever. But Sanderson had two things distinctly going in his favor.

1. The man is a magic system savant. Allomancy was a joy to read about. Sanderson introduces his magic from the get go, but subtle enough throughout his book that you don’t even realize how familiar you’re becoming with it. It’s so in-depth and thrilling that I couldn’t help but yearn to experience it in real life, or at least in video games (wish granted?).

2. I want to know what happens next. His characters may be light, the prose not on the same level as Rothfuss, and in general not as violently graphic as the grim dark group, but damn he writes a fine story. Never once have I contemplated not finishing one of his books. Not even you, The Well of Ascension.

After four years of pondering, and a trip to Loncon 3 just last week, I decided to take the plunge. I really needed an epic fantasy to read. I wanted something gargantuan. Immerse me in a world, any world. Sometimes real life bears down on you hard, and in those times, it’s nice to be able to take a journey. I decided that journey would include Kaladin Stormblessed, Dalinar Kholin, Shallan Davar, and most importantly, Brandon Sanderson.

We are introduced to Roshar, the land full stone and plains, with a beautiful assassination. Really. Read the first chapter before you die. It’s one of the best action sequences I’ve ever read, up there with the first time we meet The Bloody Nine. The Assassin in White kills the king. This has a lasting effect throughout the world. Obviously. I mean, he kills a king. It severely changes the lives of a few characters we meet. One way or another, these people are put in positions of leadership. To the core, that’s what TWOK is about. Being a leader, or what it is to be a good leader. A decent person.

Kaladin questions the leaders surrounding him. LIghteyes. The Almighty. Himself. What constitutes being able to lead people? Can everyone be saved? Can you protect while killing? Our these leaders noble? What is nobility? Why does one keep failing? Failure. I can’t remember a character failing so many times as I have Kaladin Stormblessed. Sanderson does a wonderful job at building his story. We see him at multiple times in his life, witnessing him retreat into apathy, succumbing to so many personal blows. Kaladin must overcome so much, and not a page is wasted. It’s a long road for the young darkeye, but it’s the reason I’ll be meeting him step for step.

Ah, the honorable high prince Dalinar Kholin. The brother of the murdered king from the first chapter. All his life he’s been a military leader. He’s the Blackthorn, it’s what he does. But now that his inexperienced nephew is king, everything seemed to have changed. He’s been having wild visions during high storms, leading to rumors about his mental stability. He’s been reading, a hobby mostly used by women. The one who used to wreak havoc on the battlefield now talks of peace and an end to the war on the Parshendi, those responsible for his brothers death. The question comes up, is this man fit to lead us? Has old age crippled him? Will his weakness, in mind and spirit, lead to our city’s demise? The other high princes can sniff blood and they certainly go for the kill. Can Dalinar keep his honor while fending off these predators, domestic and foreign? It’s a joy to read and I suspect none were disappointed when the time for that answer came.

Shallan Davar is a princess who traveled to become an understudy to Jasnah, the dead kings daugther. Jasnah happens to be considered the brightest academic in all of Roshar. It would truly be an honor for Shallan to study with her as an apprentice of sorts. But is that all there is to Shallan’s story? She is torn between doing a duty for her family or actually learning from the smartest woman in the land. I’d have to admit her story arc was the least interesting to me. Although Sanderson does a wonderful job at writing women. Not that it should matter, women are people just like anyone else. You should just write PEOPLE. But far too often do I come across male writers who have trouble writing from the female point of view. Sanderson is just one of the best I’ve read at doing it.

Sanderson’s world building is in top form in TWOK. The Shattered Plains is so desolate, and so, well, epic. The creatures are described with such flourish that when pictures actually came up courtesy of drawings from the characters, they were spot on from what I had envisioned. Roshar is clearly a world hardly explored in this first book, but from what he did paint he did expertly. The cities have distinct feels, as well as the different races. It’s a dark, but beautiful world he’s created.

The only complaints I’ve read amidst the thousands of positive reviews are that it starts off incredibly slow. And well, yeah. The book is a thousand pages long. I went in knowing you need time to build up the world, acclimate to the magic, meet the characters. Just know that when you’re three quarters through the book you better have a clear schedule, because you’re not putting that book down for anything. When it kicks into high gear I couldn’t contain the goosebumps from coming. Especially a scene near the end, that had me cheering, crying, laughing, almost throwing up, all at the same time. Those who have read it know what I’m talking about.

Those moments are why I read. Especially fantasy. I love grim dark and all it has to offer. But there is a time and place for epic fantasy. Sometimes I need to throw on the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. Who doesn’t get gooesbumps when Aragorn gives that speech to Legolas and Gimli? That’s why I read (and watch) fantasy. Those moments. And The Way of Kings delivers one of the all time “Goosebump Moments”.

I have a signed copy of Words of Radiance sitting in my room. It will be read. But I’m going to give it time. When I’ve read a great book I like to let it settle in for a while. This was the beginning of the journey that is The Stormlight Archives. And as they say, Journey Before Destination.

The Last Door Stands Always Open

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Nothing compared. Not the wait for Breaking Bad’s final season. Nor the twenty miserable years before becoming a “man”. Hell, not even the two hours stuck in traffic while having to take a massive…you know. There has been nothing more excruciating in my life than the two year wait for Joe Abercrombie’s new novel, Half a King.

Abercrombie last published a book back in 2012, the fantastic fantasy/western Red Country. Financially it’s the best work he’s done so far (although I’ll always be partial to The Heroes. That book is a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned). After topping the New York Times bestseller list, Abercrombie seemed to be on top of the world. Fans were clamoring for the next installment in the world of The First Law. It was then that his collective fan base went into the spiraling depression that I have succumbed to these past two years. First he informed us he would be taking a well deserved breakRed Country had burned him out and he needed time to think, read, relax, etc. And then came the bombshell. Joe Abercrombie went soft. No more grit. Good riddance grim-dark, good afternoon….Young Adult? Joe freaking Abercrombie is writing a novel in the same category as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games? Say one thing for Mr. Abercrombie, say he’s full of surprises.

To be honest, I wasn’t as skeptical as many of his devoted fans. I think it’s incredibly exciting when an author takes a leap of faith, attempting something out of their comfort zone. After reading those blog posts he absolutely has a point. Six (pretty massive) books in seven years. Red Country lived up to every expectation, but I admit it felt a bit overdone. Now, is that because I read every single one of his books back to back? Perhaps. But I’m not going to deny I needed a break from Abercrombie after his western tale. This coming from someone who considers himself an Abercrombie super-fan, a borderline stalker really.

I was more depressed that I had to wait two years for his new project. Now I see how selfish this was. Especially considering what all my brethren over at the ASOIAF Fan Club have been going through all these years. Book depression was heavy, but after a few months I started to feel something. Excitement. Yeah it was two years away. But it was something new from Abercrombie, and I mean new. It’s like wondering how Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant would mesh. Or any weird combination in the sports world. Joe Abercrombie and Young Adult? Never in a million years would I expect to see those two in the same sentence. Well let me tell you folks. Bryant and Paul probably would have led to disastrous results, but the Abercrombie Young Adult child Half a King is championship caliber.

The book centers around Prince Yarvi, the crippled second son of King Uthrik. His left hand is mangled, useless, forcing him into a life with the monastery. Luckily this suits Yarvi just fine. He may not have the skills to be a great warrior, but his mind allows him to excel at this field of work. In Abercrombie’s world, and ours equally, life never sticks to your plan. King Uthrik and his first born are both tragically murdered leaving Yarvi as the King of Gettland. My day is ruined when my parents inform me we are going to my cousin’s birthday party at the last second. One can only imagine how hard Yarvi’s head was spinning after such news.

Not everyone is happy with Yarvi’s ascension to the Black Chair (eerily simliar to a certain popular fantasy seat…). The twists start sprouting right from the start, forcing Yarvi to grow up faster than he ever imagined possible. If you enjoyed Best Served Cold  you will take to his new book well. The revenge factor is heavy throughout, but it is able to separate itself from his previous revenge story as the book goes on. While I won’t add spoilers to this review, I will say, as in every Abercrombie book, the ending gives you a slap in the face. I even tried to see it coming but Joe was too good.

Is this book Young Adult? It is with reluctance that I say it is. Although I think there are deeper themes in this than you would see in most Young Adult literature. I can assure you there is no love triangle. Yet when you write in this genre the main focus will always be a coming of age story. I mean, that’s what we do at Yarvi’s age. We grow, we mature, we experience. None of us are the same as our teenage selves. As played out as that trend may be, it’s just a natural progression for young adult characters. We face hardships, big and small, and learn from them.

The biggest reason for holding Joe Abercrombie in such high regard is the way he paints his characters. He doesn’t always have the most captivating story ( the trilogy dragged at times), but it’s his characters that always suck me in. Now we don’t meet him until almost a hundred pages in, but Nothing is one of my new personal favorites. He’s no Whirrun of Bligh, or Glokta, but he’s like a Logen Ninefingers LIght. A Diet Bloody NIne if you will. And I’m fine with that. Characters like The Bloody Nine aren’t meant for young adult readers. Let’s have them work their way up to that monster.

And really, this book was just a light version of Joe Abercrombie. It had less pages. Less sex. Gore. Cursing. But it doesn’t make it worse. It’s also a leaner, faster read. Never once did I slog. We are always in Yarvi’s point of view, which I found refreshing after reading so many books, like A Song of Ice and Fire for example, that throw a million POV at you. Half a King is the perfect fantasy summer read. It’s light and fun, but with darkness etched in the corners. You won’t feel self conscious for reading a Young Adult novel because it won’t feel like one, even though it would fit the bill compared to The Heroes. In Yarvi’s world, Nothing boasts that steel is always the answer, and it seems that way. But I can tell you that in this world, for Joe Abercrombie, the decision to write this book was not only the right answer, but the only one.

Half a King (Amazon)

Light Cannot Be Chained : The Black Prism Review

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Excess is a problem I deal with every day of my life. A first world problem perhaps, but a problem. When I discover a new song it’s thrown on repeat for the next two weeks. On the nights I make pasta I force feed myself the whole box. Apparently left overs are for the weak. It’s impossible to kill a half hour playing video games. I attempt one game of FIFA then the next thing I know it’s three in the morning and I’m cursing off this kid in France. In regards to those that I enjoy there is no moderation. It’s all or nothing. Unless we are talking about fantasy novels. For whatever the reason, I’m able to spread out my reading so I can savor every fantastical moment. That would explain why I only just now have read The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.

This is Brent Week’s first book from his Lightbringer series. His first series, the Night Angel trilogy, received positive reviews and earned Weeks many devoted fans. The premise revolved around the life and politics of being an assassin. I haven’t read it (mostly because I’m a little bored of the assassin trope), but I may have to give it a try after how much I enjoyed The Black Prism.

Gavin Guile is our lead character in the book. There are multiple point of view characters throughout, but everything runs through Gavin. He’s a high priest and emperor, while being the most powerful drafter in the world. They call him The Prism. First off, Weeks attempts to paint a distinct magic system. Drafters are those who can draft colors using Luxin. Luxin is, from my limited understanding, something that makes their color usage potent. It allows them to make red swords, shields, fireballs, arrows, etc. It’s the substance that is formed with their color. Each drafter can usually draft one color. Red drafters are usually angrier and more forceful. Green drafters focus more on life and are more prone to take chances. Also, to be able to draft you need to visibly see the color around you. Green drafters tend to make their homes in forests for this reason. Blue drafters prefer to be around water. You get the picture.

Now Gavin, The Prism, is able to draft ALL colors. This is what makes him so dominant. He can also do it much faster than most. It takes energy and will to draft something. These are the things that make him so special, so powerful. And yet he is like the pope or Queen Elizabeth. He doesn’t really matter much when it comes to politics. As powerful as Gavin is, he has agreed to be more of a symbol. They have representatives (ten to be exact) who make up the laws and regulations. Gavin’s sole job is to take out creatures known as “wights”. Wights are former drafters who have had too much Luxin build up after years of drafting. Prisms usually have a shorter life span than any one else. After being named The Prism, they normally live for only seven more years. If you survive beyond seven, then you have another seven years, and so on. For Gavin it’s been sixteen. This is almost unheard of and realistically he only has five more years left.

Woof. Chances are you didn’t follow most of that. And it’s okay. Weeks does a better job at it than I did but it’s still pretty confusing. His magic system is very detailed, much like Brandon Sanderson’s, but after reading all six hundred pages you start to get the feel of it. The magic system isn’t all that important anyways. Just know that Gavin has five years left to live….when he finds out he has a bastard son. All right settle down. Yes it’s another played out trope, but he makes it work. There is a HUGE twist revealed within the first hundred or so pages. It’s the most ambitious thing I’ve ever seen an author do. All I could think of was how difficult it must of been for the author to write the book after the reveal. It’s pretty cool.

So Gavin’s bastard son is named Kip. He’s fat, useless, and a coward. We’ve seen it all before in fantasy novels. Personally, I’m not a fan of Kip or his chapters. He makes way too many jokes about himself throughout the book. In the beginning I get it, he’s a self loathing young adult. He’s self conscious and awkward around girls. But you don’t have to beat me to death with this information. I picked it up right away. Still, I enjoy his inner fight regarding where his loyalties lie.

What I really enjoyed about the book was the Chromeria. It’s like a church/government for the drafters. Once the elite drafters reach that certain age where they die (or turn to wights, and become hunted by Gavin) they are killed in a religious manner by Gavin himself. They meet Gavin in a room, the two of them have a conversation, the drafter then confesses to Gavin (who in turn relays that information to their god), and then Gavin stabs them through the heart. As The Prism, Gavin has a one way connection to their god Orholam. He is the only one who can talk to him. The funny thing is….Gavin’s an atheist. Obviously the readers are the only one who know this, but it’s an interesting premise.

This makes the resistance (and their rebellious leader) even more intriguing. He doesn’t believe drafters should sacrifice themselves to the Chromeria for a false god. And he has an excellent point. The best part…I’m sure we’ll find out Gavin totally agrees with him. But that’s for something The Blinding Knife will have to decide.

 

Be True, Unbeliever

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Take me away from reality. That’s all I ask of a book. Send me to a city plagued by vampires.Dump me into an argument between a wife and husband. Or my favorite, transport me to a mythical world. A land. The Land.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant do just that. Not long after meeting Covenant himself, we (along with Covenant of course) are taken to a new world called The Land. It’s full of mystical creatures and creations I’ve never heard of (Ranyhyn, Fire-Lions, Ur-Viles, Wraiths of Andelain), combined with the familiar (Giants, High Lords). During most of the books you travel throughout The Land. At times you surpass its bounds. The Land is one of my favorite parts of Stephen R Donaldsons masterpiece, but it isn’t what separates it from other fantasy greats. Tolkien gave us Middle Earth, Frank Herbert has Arrakis, and even George R. R. Martin created a large setting in ASOIAF. No, Donaldson goes deeper than just the world he creates.

I’m not going to do a whole summary (mostly because it would sound horrible), but I’ll give you a little introduction. Thomas Covenant is a leper in the real world. The condition became so bad he lost his two fingers on his one hand. His wife and son have left his life because of his disease and he is utterly alone. The towns folk hate that he lives among them. His day to day life is filled with self-loathing. As he walks into town one day, he is suddenly hit by a police car. Covenant is mysteriously transported to the mysterious world previously described as The Land. In this reality(or unreality), he is believed to be the second coming of Berek Halfhand. A messiah.

Believe me when I tell you, Thomas Covenant is not a likeable character. In fact, most people hate him. And this is the main character! Donaldson’s version of Frodo is as despised as Joffrey from ASOIAF. It’s not entirely without merit. He commits a deplorable act in the beginning of the first book. Most readers refuse to continue after that. Yet that single act, above all others, has consequences that span throughout the rest of the series. It’s a slow burn, but my GOD is it worth it. I love Thomas Covenant. I love what he becomes. I love what he IS. Because simply put, I see a lot of myself in him. And I’d bet many others do too. It’s just the qualities we share are the ones nobody likes to acknowledge. There are times when I’m totally self loathing and pitiful. I’ve been caught in a web of despair. Thomas Covenant finds his own leprosy revolting. I don’t have leprosy myself, but I carry with me that same feeling. Whether it’s how I look (short, balding, hairy), where I am in life (single, alone, minimum wage job), letting people down (family, friends, significant others), or my own qualities (greedy, spiteful, cynical). I’m disgusted by myself. I see why certain people are out of my life and I wallow in the self hate.

Listen, I’m not on suicide watch here. I just openly acknowledge these things about me. And they drew me to the character of Covenant. So where others found him whiny and immature, I found him incredibly relate able. See,  I want a character with flaws. I’m not just talking about a character who sometimes bends the law to get the job done. I mean real, up close and personal flaws. Thomas Covenant is as bleak as they come. In his mind there is no hope, for him or this world. He attempts to push any and all help away from him. I’ve been there. Repeatedly. And I’d bet I’m not the only one.

The characters in this series aren’t all like Covenant. As I said, Covenant has plenty of people trying to help. I don’t think many readers continue long enough to see this. The Giants are a people full of hope. I personally wish I had a Saltheart Foamfollwer as a life long friend. All my troubled times wouldn’t seem so dark. Allow me to post one of my favorite quotes from the series, courtesy of Foamfollower and Covenant:

“Are you a storyteller, Thomas Covenant?”
Absently he replied, “I was, once.”
“And you gave it up? Ah, that is as sad a tale in three words as any you might have told me. But a life without a tale is like a sea without salt. How do you live?”
… Unconsciously, he clenched his fist over his ring. “I live.”
“Another?” Foamfollower returned. “In two words, a story sadder than the first. Say no more — with one word you will make me weep.”

Saltheart_Foamfollower2

This quote makes me reflect every time I read it. Because despite what Covenant (and myself) think, there is hope in this world. And love. And friendship.

A critique that does have some justification to it: Donaldsons writing. It isn’t bad. I think he writes prose wonderfully. He just has a taste for ten cent words. I guarantee you know what “succor” and “roynish” mean after reading the books. Personally I enjoyed the challenge. Did I stop and look up what every word I didn’t recognize meant? No. Mostly because I used a Kindle. Even still, you can pick up the meaning. It’s just frustrating when you know a lesser word would work just as well. The author also tends to be a bit descriptive. This leads to the books being a bit of a chore to get through. But for me, the story and the character of Thomas Covenant were too appealing. When it comes to plot, Stephen R Donaldson is one of the best.

This is also not the series to read if you are looking for battles and fighting. There are, however, some bad ass characters. The Haruchai (such as Bannor, Brinn, Ceer), the aforementioned Giants (they take no pleasure in killing but when they must, look out), and of course the wild magic that comes from White Gold. I don’t want to spoil much, but White Gold has had such an effect on me that I’ve contemplated getting a tattoo of it somehow (and immediately regretting it of course. But still). I know someone who was a kid when this series began and he said ” when my friends were playing with The Force, I was wielding wild magic with my White Gold ring”. Well come friend, well come.

Favorite Quote

“Impotence is freedom. When you’re incapable of anything, no one can expect anything from you. Power has its own limits—even ultimate power. Only the impotent are free.”

For whatever reason, this rang especially true to me. It’s a trap many fall into. If people have low expectations for you, you never end up letting them down. The same goes for having low expectations for yourself. I’ve told myself ” If I went blind, my parents would never expect anything from me”. Not that I would ever blind myself, but I really connect with this quote. In my life, I’m always trying to make myself “impotent”. Trying to put myself in situations that are no win. For when I lose, I can go “well look at what I was up against!”. In reality I have as much opportunity than anyone else (and probably more so than most). I could be way off base. It’s dialogue that’s stuck with me. And that’s why I love reading.

This isn’t meant to be a book review. Not even a plead to read the series. I don’t know what I meant to do. I just wanted to write about books that changed me. It’s not for everyone. Yet it sold over six million copies when it was first released. I guess I just want people to know it’s out there (And that one person in Alaska who reads this blog will know). And that I believe. Not in much. But in this author. In these books. In Thomas Covenant.