Series: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever #2
Author: Stephen Donaldson
Pages: 480 (paperback)
Published by: Fontana/Collins
Returning to the Land, after forty years of its time, Thomas Convenant finds the powers of evil, under Lord Foul the Despiser, fully unleashed and assumes the responsibility of finding a way to defeat Lord Foul.
At the end of Lord Foul's Bane, Thomas Covenant had just awoken from his journey to The Land. At the start of the Illearth War, we rejoin him as he attempts to readjust to a life of being a leper, of having to beware of every potential threat to injury, of being outcast by his town and abandoned by his wife. He soon returns to The Land to find that 40 years have passed, not the weeks that have passed for him since his time there. A lot has changed, very little for the better.
This book is a lot easier to read than the first, and there's a lot more going on. Without all the introductory stuff you're more straight into the story. And in terms of the former, there wasn't quite as much spent in the head of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever/Idiot with some changes of POV in there too. A fair portion of the book is told from the viewpoint of Hile Troy, a new and quite interesting character who is the new Warmark of the Warward
Though, to be fair to T.C., he didn't come across as as quite as much of an idiot in this book. Maybe also because we're not in his head quite so much and don't have to listen to him complaining so much of the time. Of course this means the times when he's the focus of Hile Troy, T.C.'s actions are unexplained and often made no sense to me. Although, there doesn't seem to have been a huge amount of development in him even after all that happened in the first book. He still refuses to act in any way for most of the book, refusing to see The Land as anything but a delusion and trying to distance himself from it as much as possible despite all that links him to it. Having said this, in the pages before he returns to The Land there are certain things which occur which did make me feel quite sorry for him. I think in all the defences he throws up it's easy to forget just how much of a struggle his life must be with everything that's happened, and indeed is still happening.
In terms of the story itself, it's a lot more engaging and exciting in places, with stuff happening throughout rather than a slow build to the finale with odd other events scattered throughout. Plus there were some quite major developments at the end of the book and I'm really rather intrigued to see what happens next. I often find that the second book in a trilogy is the weakest as it serves as setting up for the big finale rather than being a story in its own right, but not so this time. Yes, there was plenty of set-up, but it didn't feel like the book had been sacrificed for the benefit of the third.