Spoiler Check: I am up to the Thomas Covenant series, Book 9 – “Against All Things Ending”, Chapter 4 – “After Unwisdom”
The Thomas Covenant books have never lacked for characters fighting with their inner demons and taking time out to agonise over their tough choices. This can be tedious but we accept it as necessary, because it teaches us some deep life lessons (not!) and it underpins the motivations which drive the plot. And there are compensations. Once the Covenants, Lindens, Despisers and others have decided what momentous tasks they need to turn their hand to next, we get some engrossing adventures and encounters, taking us to new or familiar locations, and sometimes making imaginative use of magical forces.
But Donaldson’s latest addition to the Covenant saga, Against All Things Ending, has spent the first four chapters on unbridled self-recrimination, self-doubt, self-pity, self-loathing, agonising over dilemmas and incrementally tedious revelations over motivations and attempted deceptions. And the cast of characters has not moved an inch.
The book starts where its forerunner in the series, Fatal Revenant, left off, with a motley collection of Insequent, Elohim, Giants, Masters (Haruchai), Ramen, Ghosts of XMAS Past, Stonedownors, Wraiths, Covenant and Linden all squeezed into the hollow in Andelain where Loric’s Krill remains blazing with light while firmly stuck into the blackened corpse of the fomer Forestal, Caer-Caveral. Four chapters later and little has changed. The Ghosts (Berek, Loric, Kevin and Elena) have cleared off after their own special bit of picking over the disasters of the past, along with Infelice the Elohim having had her trademark strop. And their departure is counterbalanced by the arrival of another absurdly named Insequent, the Ardent, who attempts to outdo the Harrow for preposterousness.
Throughout all this the Ramen, Giants, token Stonedownor and Haruchai are nothing more than occasional bit part players, making the odd fatuous comment but otherwise adding nothing.
Enough, already! Stop with the “Oh, woe is me!” and get on with some adventuring. So far, this book has indulged all the most boring, frustrating and annoying aspects of the Covenant series, heightened by use of pompous language taken to new levels, while delivering zero on excitement and adventure. Never before have I been so close to giving up on a Covenant book. Bear in mind that this would entail abandoning a series on book 9 of 10.
The latter point alone is keeping me going. But I will only keep on keeping going if the book itself gets going, something it has shown scant sign of so far.