Next to my wonderful son, the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are the only good thing my ex-husband ever did for me. I was 18 before I read a fantasy novel (with the exception of Watership Down and The Hobbit, both given me by my dad) and within two pages of Lord Foul’s Bane, I was entranced. By chapter 2, I hated the hero. By the middle of the book, I couldn’t stop rooting for him. By the end, I was glad he won, but wished he’d died in the process. It was one of the most emotionally challenging novels I had ever read – and was the first book that I ever read more than once.
The beauty of Lord Foul’s Bane rests in the utter humanity of it. Thomas Covenant is not a particularly likable hero, quite the opposite in fact, but he is a believable hero precisely because of that. The reader may not like him, but somehow has to empathize with him. The reader’s prejudices are challenged and no one but Lord Foul himself is completely evil or completely good. This is Donaldson’s strength as a writer. He presents humanity not as it should be, but as it is, and in so doing, we become a little more human ourselves.