• The Runes of the Earth

  • The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
  • By: Stephen R. Donaldson
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 27 hrs and 19 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (731 ratings)

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The Runes of the Earth

By: Stephen R. Donaldson
Narrated by: Scott Brick
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Publisher's Summary

Since their publication more than two decades ago, the initial six books in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series have sold more than six million copies and have been published in 10 countries around the world. Now, starting with The Runes of the Earth, Stephen R. Donaldson returns with a quartet of new Covenant novels that are certain to satisfy his millions of fans, and attract countless new followers.

In the original series, a man (living in our world and in our time) is mysteriously struck down with a disease long since believed to have been eradicated. He becomes a pariah in his small town and is abandoned by his wife who departs with their infant son. Alone and despairing, Thomas Covenant falls and, while unconscious, is transported to a fantastic world in which a battle for the soul of the land is being waged. Christened "The Unbeliever", for he is convinced the world is only an illusion, a dream, he finds himself slowly forced to accept the role that seems to be his destiny: savior of the Land.

At the end of the sixth book, Covenant is killed, both in the real world and in the Land, as his companion, Linden Avery, looks on in horror. His death is both the ultimate sacrifice...and his redemption.

At the opening of The Runes of Earth, 10 years have passed. Linden Avery comes home one day to find her child building images of the Land with blocks, and senses a terrible foreboding. She had thought that she would never again be summoned to the Land, nor ever again see her beloved Thomas Covenant. But in the Land, evil is unmaking the very laws of nature.

©2004 Stephen R. Donaldson (P)2004 Penguin Audio and Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“A reawakening of a classic fantasy saga.” (Library Journal)

“Startlingly original antiheroic fantasy resonating with echoes of both Tolkien and Philip K. Dick.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Impressive...filled with splendid inventions.” (Booklist)

What listeners say about The Runes of the Earth

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Better in Audio Format

I've been a fan of the Thomas Covenant series since the books first emerged some thirty years ago, so I'm sure anyone kind enough to actually care what I have to say here would need to take that into account as they read this.

My personal view is that anyone contemplating reading (or listening) to this book/audiobook should read the first two trilogies before embarking on this series. I say that even though Donaldson provides an outstanding summary of the first two trilogies at the beginning of "Runes," probably sufficient to get a new reader/listener up to speed. Still - you will miss a lot if you take that approach, even though Donaldson continues to provide background information as "Runes" unfolds.

I read "Runes" when it first came out a couple of years ago. Like most Donaldson books, I found myself rushing through the read to "see what happens next." I decided, before reading the second book in this series, "Fatal Revenant," which has just been published, to listen to (instead of re-reading) "Runes" because I was afraid I had missed a lot during that first, rushed reading. I definitely found that I absorbed more detail and therefore enjoyed the story much more than the first go round, and I'd therefore highly recommend the book-on-tape approach to anyone.

I'm not sure my comments will be helpful to a new reader of Donaldson's writing, but that being said, "Runes" is as good as anything from the second Covenant trilogy (which I personally consider a quantum improvement over the flawed but still entertaining first trilogy), and equal to the "Gap" series in terms of action and intrigue.

Definitely worthwhile for a long-time fan - probably worth a shot for a new and curious reader as well

50 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

For old fans not new

Stephen Donaldson writes books about characters that all seem depressed, carry the guilt of the world on thier shoulders, and that make decisions to make to punish themselves for the crime of being human. When he first started this series a few decades ago his premis was original, a leper as a hero, and these "negative" traits seem to fit someone who is cursed by such a desease. However over the course of his novels you find that even those who are not afflicted have an equally screwed up self image. The saving grace is that his stories can eventually prove fun, exciting, and adventurous. Also despite the defects of his "Land of the Depressed" novels... you get to like many of the characters and you get hooked on the books.

His new series starts out depressed (suprise)and moves on to convuluted and screwed up explanations as to why Lord Fowl is still alive and influencing "The Land" that doesn't need much help from him to be depressed. In other words one should start out with the first book in the series and eventually move on to this one if still interested.

Also one warning. The worst fault of this author is not what I have just mentioned but something worse. He likes his characters to go over and over and over thier dilemmas to the point that half the book feels like its filler to add to the books length and to justify further volumes in the series. This is a tool most authors use sparingly to bring readers up on what has happened in the past or in other books. This author uses this in the most heavy handed manner I have ever read and it is only to repeat what just happened a few pages before. His constant use of this often makes reading his books very grulling and agrivating.

If I hadn't read his earlier series and had an emotional attachment to them, then I would have given up on it. Even then I almost stopped reading it a few times.

One final note. The reader is excellent.

24 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Angsty, pedantic... excruciating

I read the first series of "Thomas Covenant" books when they first came out, about 20 years ago. I remember finding them slightly irritating, but finishing the whole series anyway.

When "Runes" came out, I thought a long time before buying the audio book. Though my experience with the first 6 books had not been so great, I was also in high school at the time. I've changed quite a bit since then - and I thought it possible a more mature reader might appreciate the series more.

Well, I guess I haven't changed enough - "Runes" is truly an awful piece of work. The characters are angsty, helpless, frustrating ... and predictable. You *know*, without any need for forshadowing or introspection, what they will do long before they act (or fail to act, as is more often the case). Not that "Runes" lacks in the introspection and foreshadowing department. Inner dialog goes on for passage after passage, but still leaves many of the characters feeling flat, rather than giving you any insight or making you care about them.

The writing is also poor, surprising from someone who has been in the business as long as Donaldson. The florid prose comes off like really bad poetry at times. Donaldson uses a lot of descriptive language, but it is almost always cliched and trite. It frequently sounds like a parody of really bad romance novel language.

Think really, really carefully before chosing this title - if you are an absolute die-hard Thomas Covenant fan, and can stand the horrid writing, then you may find pleasure in the continuing story of The Land and Foul's plot to destroy it. But just like Donaldson's characters, you too must pay the price of despair and desolation as you suffer through the tortured landscape of cliche and bad writting, before reaching a pay-off that most of us won't find worth the trip.

If there was ever a book I wish I had bought in hardcover, it's "Runes" ... I could have returned it after 20 minutes of reading and asked for my money back.

22 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Waiting on Book 2

I enjoyed the book, and realize that Donaldson has 4 book in mind for this part of the trilogy, I am disappointed that book 2 has been published, but is not available at this time on audible. I was really looking forward to seeing the devlopment and the continuation of the world of Thomas Covenant

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The Story Continues....

I picked up Thomas Covenant when I was in High School over 25 years ago... there have been two stories I've anxiously been watching for; Dark Tower... and Thomas Covenant's saga. I am thrilled Donaldson has returned to the series and really, really enjoyed reading the book, I've begun listening to it in the car and ejoy it even more. This book is NOT for the impatient, but is a MUST READ for those fantasy fans who have the patience to let a great story develop.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars



13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful and surprising addition

My first encounter with the Thomas Covenant series was 16 years ago when I was still a student in high school. Difficult at first because of the writing style, the first book Lord Fouls Bane was an amazing story which I admit took more than a month to finish. The story Donaldson laid out was so mesmerizing the following five books took less than a month to read combined. After such a long time, I was both excited at the prospect of new additions and skeptical of the idea at the same time. My first fear was "Is this simply one last attempt at making a buck off of a past success?"

*The Audio Book
Though expertly read by the narrator Scott Brick, I found myself quickly reminded of how painful Stephen R. Donaldson's writing style can be. Though it is a bit difficult to describe, I will say that at times, it is akin to reading a scientific publication. The authors strong English background is readily apparent, and the descriptive portions of the text are minimalistic yet completely thorough. At times the text may seem unnecessarily repetitive, however after the first 45 minutes of the audio book, this feeling was lost in favor of the story. The story translated surprisingly well into audio format, truly a testament to the strength of the narrator. The story which is laid out here in the last chronicles of Thomas Covenant is a great addition to the two previous trilogies. I find myself impatiently awaiting the audio recording of the next book, Fatal Revenant.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful in every respect

Donaldson's series "the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant", of which, this is the 1st book in the 3rd Trilogy, is one of the greatest works in all of Fantasy. The narrrator, Scott Brick is masterful at telling the story. He has a warm, pleasing voice that resonnates with all the emotion and excitement Donaldson intended. Very well done indeed.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Bless the return of The Land

If you like fantasy plot twists that will keep you up and reading for days on end, then Stephen R. Donaldson is the author for you. Beginning with Lord Foul's Bane, the series runs through two complete trilogies and into the third, with The Runes of the Earth. Donaldson creates a hero that you will both love and hate. He is Thomas Covenant, successful writer, until he contracts leprosy. Then his family leaves him, his town people shun him, and he becomes a bitter hermit. One day, he gets a knock on the head and wakes up in a totally different reality, a place called simply "the Land". It is a place of magic and wonder, ineffable beauty and many conflicts with Lord Foul, the Despiser. Covenant commits acts that will rend your heart, and tries to deny the reality of the Land. But he also falls in love with it- and must come to terms with his paradox. He becomes know as the Unbeliever and White Gold Wielder- his wedding band is a talisman of incredible power, the "Wild magic that destroys peace." He encounters giants, Lords, ordinary people of surpassing strength and will, and of course Lord Foul.
This is a series of books that will challenge your mind, your imagination and your endurance for sleepless nights, for if you are like me, you will not be able to put them down!

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Donaldson Triumphs

Donaldson's writing remains as sharp as ever. His prose is more thightly contained than it was in the original Covenant Triology and some of the operatic descriptiveness has been trimmed, but he still manages to impress with his command of the English language and his ability to use that mastery to play our emotions like a violin. After so many years, Donaldson makes a triumphant return to the Land, where his career began and takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride through the beginning of the end of Thomas Covenant's journey.

This, as with all of Donaldson's works, is not a story for readers who do not enjoy an emotional, evocative journey through some of the darker aspects of humanity or readers who don't enjoy thinking, sometimes deeply, while they read. Donaldson is not a light, beach read and so is sometimes very underappreciated by the masses. But if you enjoy thought-provoking drama in a fantasy setting with rich characters, a feeling of profound depth in the world, and a sense of adventure and growth through trial and adversity, don't miss this book.

6 people found this helpful