Let’s start this review by saying that Lord Foul’s Bane is a really good book. I tweeted and wrote progress updates on goodreads while I read the book and while suffering from bouts of descriptive amnesia, “it’s good” was all I could muster. OK, maybe not the most in depth descriptions in the world, but most definitely true.
The flow of Stephen Donaldson’s wonderful prose is one of the things that keeps you reading the book. Forget the story lines and characterisation, his descriptive ability, especially of the forests of Morinmoss is great, on a par with the best I’ve read elsewhere. Stephen’s prose is spot on, although some of his choice of vocabulary didn’t sit quite so well with me. I have to admit that this is at least in small part due to my own vocabulary evidently being somewhat smaller than his! I could have found Stephen’s use of interesting words off putting or jarring to the flow of the prose, but his writing is so good that you pretty much know what the new word means without having to check. I just found that in places it detracted slightly because there wasn’t a need for it. Unfortunately, I think I will still have to check what each word means if I find any of them in other text 🙁
I have to say that I can not fault any of the main story arcs in the book. I found myself reading yet another book that starts off in the normal world and moves somewhere else. This is interesting in that I thought they were pretty rare, and here is another. I, like many have a book idea
burning smoldering quietly in the back of my head, and that also has a bit of location hopping. On writing now, more and more examples are coming to mind; His Dark Materials, Stardust, the Jon Shannow series and of course The Sword of Shannara. What Lord Foul’s Bane does that most of the others does (except mine!) is use the move between worlds as one of the main plot hooks. Thomas Covenant is a complex character. They say give a character at least one flaw and that can be the making of them. Well, Covenant has quite a few! I think they are the making of him as a lead, but there are many who found him just a bit too much. He is grumpy, violent, self centered and in at least one significant event unexpectedly evil. I found myself wondering why he acted the way he did in some scenes, but as mentioned, Stephen Donaldson did a fantastic job of characterisation throughout the book and Covenant is true to himself. There are many times when the emotion of an individual or of a whole group is very effectively conveyed to bring the story alive against your own emotional experience, and you cant ask a lot more than that.
It has been said that the Unbeliever books, of which Lord Foul’s Bane is the first, follow the LOTR story. I started the book thinking that I was going to get a repeat of The Sword of Shannara, but I didn’t, possibly because my knowledge of LOTR is not tip top anyway? This might be a good juncture to introduce the fact that my memory is *slightly* on the poor side. It does what it needs to, and it appears to work relatively well for both my job and excruciatingly odd facts, but occasionally when I need the normal use of a memory, it falls woefully short. This has both positive and negative effects. In the negative are all the obvious things that a lack of memory is known for. My absolute worst is names. I can attempt to have a conversation about a film and people become “the one that jumped off the building” or “the one that wasn’t Batman!” (I joke you not!) On the positive side, I do have a very good memory for plots and detail (I’m a stickler for continuity errors) as long as someone reminds me I have seen the film it usually only takes a few queues and I’m back in the game. Anyway, I let you into that particular mental issue because I don’t really remember the finer detail of some of The Fellowship of the Ring, and I haven’t read the others yet (strike me down with hellfire and brimstone instantly!) The Sword of Shannarah definitely registered on the LOTR alarm, but although I had been warned that Lord Foul’s Bane was also quite closely related, I didn’t notice it. After about 3/4 of the book I finally managed to link the “important ring” story arc and when the Ranyhyn appeared at the end, what with the mountain and all, yeh, well, that was pretty familiar too!
In the almost conclusion to this review, I think that it is suffice to say that; I own the first trilogy of the Thomas Covenant books… I also own the second trilogy of the Thomas Covenant books, and if they are all as good as the first one, then I am looking forward to reading them. For a multi-volume story Lord Foul’s Bane even managed a good ending. It’s not knock your socks off brilliant. You don’t get an “I never saw that coming. WOW!” moment. But all the loose ends tied up, it provides a strong enough reward for the build up and it does make you want to continue the journey. That journey will happen for me in between other horror, comedy books and the usual genre mixing that I am trying to chaotically follow.
So to the actual conclusion: I started my reading of Lord Foul’s Bane by finding a dog ear on page 308 that had evidently been put there by the previous owner of the book. The page contained what I now know to be one of the best pieces of verse in the many that the book contains. It is about death and I end the review with it because I think it is quite beautifully written and, well, because this is the end (of the review.)
Link to Lord Foul’s Bane on Goodreads