American writer of fantasy and science-fiction, and rather prolific at that. His first trilogy, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, was compared to Tolkien (as, let's face it, every new fantasy writer seems to be... although the wording was rather odd. 'Comparable to Tolkien at his best...' said The Washington Post, without saying whether Donaldson was akin to Tolkien when Tolkien was at his best, or when Donaldson was; perhaps the ambiguity answers the question sufficiently anyway). The trilogy was Lord Foul's Bane, The Illearth War, and The Power that Preserves (all written in the late seventies, pretty much); the second Trilogy (called, unoriginally, The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: 'cos now he did believe) included The Wounded Land, The One Tree, and The Power the Preserves (early eighties). A thin volume, a missing chapter from The Illearth War, was published afterwards called Gilden Fire. It included some very dodgy line drawings and very big print. Reading it was rather like being shouted at.

The books on the whole were rather good, once you'd got used to the idea that Donaldson and Tolkien were similar insofar as they both wrote books: there, though, the simliarity ended. They concerned said Mr Covenant, a leper, transported to another world at unhelpful moments in his life. Whilst there his dead nerves are brought back to life, and he can feel again. He has half a hand (the rest having been consumed by his disease) and a white gold wedding ring - the former makes him a dead-ringer for an almost mythical leader in the Land (the rather prosaic name for the other world); the latter is, apparently, very rare stuff and allows the bearer to perform magic. Covenant is only able to do this, for reasons which I think only Dondaldson understands, at specific moments.

Lord Foul wants him to unleash this Wild Magic, because it will break the 'Arch of Time', thereby freeing Foul from the world on which he is held captive. Needless to say, Covenant does not. (Obviously there's much more to this - in the second trilogy, Covenant is as dead to feeling as he is in the real world - but this time has taken a young doctor, Linden Avery, into the world with him: she has her senses reawakened... it makes sense when you read it. But there's about 3,000 pages worth of text. If you're massively interested in the summary, there's one in the beginning of every book, sort of as a 'What has gone before' affair. Seems to me like a wry admission of the fact that his new readers don't want to have to go back and wade - and his old readers will probably have forgotten it all.)

All I really remember is that it was really rather vicious: there's a very nasty rape scene for example, in the first book. There are also some high class corny moments: a spell (or 'word') that stops people from passing certain points (like a booby-trap) is referred to as 'a word of warning'. Ho ho. That, and the High Lord (dead before the series starts) was called Kevin. Maybe Kevin is a slightly more grand sounding name in the US (he's American by the way), but, and I don't want to annoy people called Kevin, incidentally, it's not really up to the level of Gandalf or Thorin, or Legolas and co, is it? (Maybe Donaldson just wasn't at his best at this stage?)

Donaldson also wrote The Mirror of Her Dreams, and A Man Rides Through, called collectively Mordant's Need. Much, much better stuff. Hugely enjoyable - but which sank largely without a trace. He's also written two volumes of short stories: Daughter of Regals and another, fairly recently, Reave the Just and Other Tales.

After The Second Chronicles he wrote a huge science-fiction series called The Gap. I know absolutely nothing about it. Sorry.

To continue the above posting:

Donaldson wrote another fantasy series called Mordant's Need, based in a world in which mirrors act as gateways between worlds. It explores many of the same themes as the Thomas Covenant series, with the hero and heroine succeeding because of their tragic flaw. The books of Mordant's Need are:

The Gap pentad is a science fiction series, at least on its face. In reality, it is an expression of two concepts:

  1. A storyline which expresses the standard melodramatic trio of characters (hero, villain, and victim), and then explores the process by which they change roles.
  2. An interpretation of the storyline of the Ring of the Nibelung opera by Richard Wagner, an opera that deeply affected Donaldson.

The volumes of The Gap series are:

Donaldson also published two volumes of short stories. In the introduction to his first compilation (Daughter of Regals & Other Tales), he makes the statement that:

"...the short story is regarded as a higher art form than the novel. A novel is to a short story as beer is to champagne. In a novel, the writer simply stands back and throws words at his subject until some of them stick - an ordeal from which the subject generally emerges spattered but still unbowed. But in a short story the words, being so few, must be carefully placed on the subject (in the pockets, so to speak, or perhaps behind the ears) in order to have any impact at all. Thus the short story appears to demand more of both reader and writer. The reader must become adept at perceiving the writer's meaning as it peeps past the lapels of the subject - or the writer must become expert at tucking his intent here and there so that it still shows."
Truly, Donaldson is a master of the short story, with stark but powerful imagery and gripping plots that leave the reader satisfied. Stephen Donaldon's published short story compilations to date are: As a side note, Gilden-Fire contains a cut scene from the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the full story of the mission to Seareach.

Stephen Donaldson was awarded the following honors:

More information about Stephen Donaldson can be found at

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