Spoiler Check: I am up to Chapter 3 “Summoned to oppose” of Part Two of The Last Dark by Stephen R Donaldson
There is no point pretending otherwise. I embarked on The Last Dark, the final instalment of the seemingly interminable Thomas Covenant series, more out of a wish to see it through to the bitter end than out of any real prospect of deriving any pleasure from it. The previous three books in particular have been so plodding, mired down in self-recrimination or relentlessly bleak as to suck any vestige of enjoyment out of the experience.
It has come then as something of a surprise to find that I am finding the book “a good read”, at least thus far, which is about 58% of the way through according to my Kindle app. It is maybe not quite up there with the best of the first two trilogies, but certainly a huge improvement over the other books in the Final Chronicles. There are still tragic and shocking events, and plenty of fearful dilemmas, self-loathing and soul-searching. Otherwise it just wouldn’t be a Thomas Covenant novel, would it? But these aspects are not overindulged as has been Donaldson’s wont in the previous three books, so the story is allowed the chance to flow.
The book is explicitly broken up into two parts. I have completed the first, which ties up some of the loose ends, brings a partial resolution and some pay-offs. And the neatly reassembled party is now heading off for the inevitable big showdown deep under Mount Thunder, or maybe some of them will have to switch destination to Melenkurion Skyweir to stop the Worm drinking the Earthblood. Or something like that. There are still enough loose ends left for Donaldson to weave something interesting out of.
And we have had yet another foray into the deep past, another encounter with everyone’s favourite Forestal, Caerroil Wilwood, not to mention the conversion of yet another blind person into a new Forestal. The one let-down is that Donaldson couldn’t come up with a more imaginative name for the Forestal than Caerwood ur-Mahrtiir. Well I suppose it had to start with “Caer” but I’m sure he could have come up with something more interesting.