Book Review: The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson

51zfyjzbqtl-_sy445_ql70_The Illearth War

by Stephen R. Donaldson

❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎

Series: The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (2)
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction
Published By: Del Rey in 1977
Format: Paperback (519 pages)

Goodreads / LibraryThing

After scant days in his “real” world, Thomas Covenant found himself again summoned to the Land. There forty bitter years had passed, while Lord Foul, immortal enemy of the Land, moved to fulfill his prophecy of doom.

The Council of Lords found their spells useless, now that Foul the Despiser held the Illearth Stone, ancient source of evil power, High Lord Elena turned in desperation to Covenant and the legendary white hold magic of his ring. And nobody knew how to use the white hold–least of all, Thomas Covenant.


The Illearth War is just more of the same. Whereas in my previous review I excused Donaldson for being tedious because it was the first book in the series and required a certain amount of introductory information, he has thusfar failed to add any level of excitement. The reader’s feeling of “leaving the story just as soon as something interesting has happened” becomes stronger, and more disappointing.

Some things felt too obvious, and perhaps it was intended to be that way, in order to let the reader feel like they know something about the book, only to throw them off later. Things such as the High Lord’s lineage, which are not stated immediately, but are obvious to even the casual reader. As the reader, I kept waiting for there to be some sort of immense, plot-shattering surprise, and was frustrated when I did not find one.

A new aspect in this book that was not present in Lord Foul’s Bane was shifting perspectives. Despite being called “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever,” the reader finds herself sucked into a new character’s mind for the majority of the story: Warmark Hile Troy. While Troy is not incredibly unlikeable, his side of the story is nothing more than a grueling marching pace – literally, the reader spends half the book watching the Land’s army march. I found it to be draggy and unexciting, and perhaps this is a reader’s fault, since I have been raised in the world of instant gratification and over-dramatacism… but the lengthy descriptions of Troy’s inability to come up with a sufficient battle plan and the struggles of the army to march fast enough without dying becomes tedious.

There are some aspects of the book that are more interesting than in the first in the trilogy. For example, instead of giving a long speech to explain an event, there is a point where Donaldson chooses to use a flashback. This flashback is considerably more interesting than the alternative (and, unfortunately, a little more exciting than most the rest of the book).

Once again, as the reader, I found myself disappointed as, at the end, the action was only just beginning, but Covenant was being sucked back into his world and the book had ended, just as the “good part” was starting. No resolution, yet again.


Now there’s two perspectives, a lot of marching, and I’m still waiting for something exciting.


I purchased this book with a gift certificate I received for my birthday from a local bookstore.

First Sentence

“By the time Thomas Covenant reached his house the burden of what had happened to him had already become intolerable.”

Some of My Favorite Quotes

“It was the responsibility of the living to make meaningful the sacrifices of the dead.”

Alternate Covers

Available At

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound


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