Monday, June 16, 2014

On The Last Dark, book four of the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

I first read Donaldson when I was twelve. Looking back on this fact, I can't actually believe that I read those books when I was so young. They're heavy, intense, beautifully crafted books. So, when the Last Dark, the final book in the series, came out last October, I was hesitant to read it. Whereas the rest of my generation was weeping over the Harry Potter final, I was still gnashing my teeth over Covenant, Linden, and the Land.

I've lived with these books for ten years. I went through junior high, high school, and most of college with them as constant companions. It's a bit of a big deal to me that a series that meant so much to me for such a long time comes to a close. 

It's been a day since then, and my emotional balance has returned somewhat, but not quite. Here are a few of my non-spoilery thoughts.

Suffering. That's the first word to come to mind. The sheer amount of pain and anguish foisted upon these characters is astounding and gutwrenching, but not without redemption. It's not just for the sake of violence and torment, but it really ... really ... really drives home the idea that this is the last battle. There's nothing that follows this. Either they win, or everything dies, so the entire book is full of moments that left me cheering. "Do something Foul doesn't expect."

They do, over and over again through the book, to the point I felt tired and exhausted by the weight of the struggle, by the impossibility of it all. It made all the little victories so much sweeter, like Treasure Berries. 

The characters are as extravagant as ever, and if the world ever were in real danger, there'd be no group I'd trust more to save it. They go above and beyond, as they always have, giants, Haruchai, Forestals, Rhanyhyn. The whole gang is here for the final round (minus the regular folk of the Land, who've been rather absent for many a story, if memory serves). 

But what I love is we still see new sides of these characters. Covenant, Linden, and Jeremiah all face their fears, one way or the other, and even the Haruchia and Giants are confronted with possibilities they've managed to avoid for nine freakin' books so far. Power to Donaldson for finding new ways to challenge the characters.

I will say this, and I find it odd, considering the length. I found the ending short. 

Here me out, seeing as the book is nearly 592 pages, you'd think it was long enough, but I specifically mean the resolution seemed ... almost unearned. The redemption of the earth takes place at the very tail-end of the tale, and honestly, considering how in-depth the attention to detail was throughout ALL of these books, there wasn't the equivalence we had with the end of book two as Linden heals the Land. So I loved the ending ... I just felt like it was rushed. The execution threw me, if nothing else. 

Still, the only complaint I have is that the ending, though well conceived, was less well executed, the ride alone was worth it. It's been a good long while since I fell that into a book.

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