The Last Dark – Stephen R. Donaldson

The Last Dark


Thomas Covenant is back, with Linden Avery and her son, and just as tormented as ever, and supported by Giants and Haruchai that are just as stolid as ever. But now the Worm at World's End is loose, and it's coming for the Land.


I’ve been reading the Thomas Covenant series for decades now – since not too many years after I first learned to love SFF, and the first Covenant books played a part in that love. I was considerably less enamored of the third ‘trilogy’ of the series than the first two, and the last book, Against All Things Ending really tried my patience. I suppose that’s part of why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading this capstone. I’m happy to say that the ending is much stronger, or my time away has made it so.

It’s been interesting to read Donaldson’s The Last Dark right after the first book in Daniel Abraham’s Kithamar trilogy. The latter, I began to dread picking up; it just didn’t appeal to me. The former, though twice the length, I stayed excited about all the way through – eager to go back to the world and characters every time, like you should be with a good book. It’s interesting in part because, though they’re both good, Abraham is probably the better writer – especially given Donaldson’s insistence on using esoteric terms that display his erudition (or, as others would say, showing off with big words). I love an esoteric word, and use some myself, but Donaldson takes it too far. It’s especially irksome, because he doesn’t always use them quite right. Mostly, but … if you’re going to go for the vocabulary prize, you have to do it properly. In any case, while Abraham is the better writer, Donaldson is a much better storyteller. Sure, his characters are anguished and dramatic, but I care about them.

Admittedly, this long book, while it went quickly, is too long. It drags in the last third as the characters deal with their perpetual angst, and the ending is on the thin side not only for a book this big, but for a series this big. It’s too easy a wrapup, and not only are some elements unexplained, some other key elements just don’t show up. The brief epilogue is not only structurally but emotionally an anticlimax. While the bulk of the book is a fitting end to the saga, the ending is a disappointment.

All that notwithstanding, why is this series not being made into a TV series? I’d think a complicated, problematic mostly anti-hero would work well.

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