So, I’m close to finishing a reread of a trilogy of books from my teenage years that was pretty significant for me – and having a different reaction to them this time around.
I discovered – and devoured – Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant trilogy (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever) when I was in high school. I found the adventure thrilling and formative – a lot of the ideas that Donaldson put forth in the depiction of The Land have stayed with me – the fact that you can “see” the health of the Land and its inhabitants, the Bloodguard, the Seven Wards of Kevin Landwaster, etc. It was very much a breathtaking, “just one more page” kind of read… and also frustrating because (as was the author’s intent) I really disliked the protagonist.
Covenant is a true anti-hero… when we meet him and enter into the Land with him, there is nothing about him you would like – he is not a hero, in fact he commits a pretty heinous crime that has consequences much further down the line. But, the story was epic – the struggle of a people to fight and defeat Lord Foul, the Land’s most dire and evil entity, the opposite of creation and all the juicy things that make a great villain. And there are sacrifices, so many many sacrifices — people making blind choices, thinking they will do good only to further the evil schemes of Foul.
Only this time around… not so much. I can’t really put my finger on it… maybe I painted it to be better than it was when I was younger, or maybe because I’ve read some other books with similar themes that I’ve found to be better than the Covenant books – A Song of Ice and Fire for example.
I still dislike Covenant, but not with the same intensity as I did when I first read the books — back then I was outraged! How can you not help the people of the Land? How can you tell them its an illusion? Jerk! Asshole! Man, I hated that guy… until the close of the third book, when he redeems himself (naturally). But for some reason, this time around I’m like… yeah, yeah, yeah… let’s go… get to the end.
When I read them 30+ years ago, I was captivated by the description of the evil creatures of the Land … the ur-viles and cavewights (orcs and trolls sort of), inspired by the Giants and the Ramen and the Bloodguard… people dedicated to preserving the beauty of the Land and its creatures. Now, I’m reading about them and wishing they were… I don’t know, something more somehow.
Don’t get me wrong… I still love the books, love the sweeping epic it takes me on… but maybe I see it through more open eyes, more experienced eyes and find it somehow… less. Which I’m not really sure how to feel about… I’ll let it marinate in my brain for a bit more… see if I still feel that way once I read the last chapters.
After I finish Covenant, I’ll start Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind… and waiting (still!) for A Dance of Dragons this summer 🙂