Dec 11 2008

Review: The Power That Preserves

The Giant glanced up at the chill sky, then looked at Covenant’s gaunt face. His cavernous eyes glinted sharply, as if he understood what Covenant had been through. As gently as he had spoken to Lena, he asked, “Do you now believe in the Land?”

“I’m the Unbeliever. I don’t change.”

“Do you not?”

“I am going to”–Covenant’s shoulders hunched–”exterminate Lord Foul the bloody Despiser. Isn’t that enough for you?”

“Oh, it is enough for me,” Foamfollower said with sudden vehemence. “I require nothing more. But it does not suffice for you. What do you believe–what is your faith?”

“I don’t know.”

Foamfollower looked away again at the weather. His heavy brows hid his eyes, but his smile seemed sad, almost hopeless. “Therefore I am afraid.”

Rating: ★★★★★

Through these first three books, Covenant keeps trying to find the answer to Lord Foul and to his own relationship with the Land. Refusing to believe or get involved didn’t work in the first one; and deceit and bargains failed in the second; so this time around, he tries hate. As you might expect, that doesn’t go so well either. Eventually he finds an answer that works, for him.

At the same time, Mhoram is finding his own answer as he realizes the Lords’ Oath of Peace is just as damaging in its own way as the violent destruction it was created to prevent. Just as Covenant has to find the balance between wild magic and impotence, Mhoram has to find the sweet spot between passion and restraint, to battle an even greater army than the people of the Land faced in the last book. Mhoram nearly steals the show in this book, as the Land’s tremendous need pushes him to feats he never thought possible.

And Foamfollower is back! After disappearing for a while, he’s back here, and he’s not the smiling optimist he was in the first book. He’s carrying a load of guilt for the terrible things he’s seen and done, and may need redemption as badly as Covenant does. He again becomes Covenant’s best friend in the Land, and is there to make the difference in Covenant’s final battle with Despite.

There are so many good stories here that I can’t get into without spoiling it. The Bloodguard react to their failure in the only way they know how. Triock, even though he hates Covenant, helps bring him to the Land when he realizes the white gold is the Land’s only hope. The Ranyhyn are still keeping their pact with Covenant, even though it’s slowly killing them. The jheherrin are one of my favorite parts of the book: creatures discarded as the waste of Foul’s failed experiments over the years, they live in fear of him; but they find the strength in themselves to help redeem Covenant and Foamfollower.

This book wraps up all the threads from the first two very well; and, for me at least, it makes all the bleakness and setbacks and wrongs that went before worth it. In the end, Covenant is still a leper and evil still exists, but he’s learned to deal with it without self-hatred and has found a sort of peace.

It may seem from my descriptions and quotes that these books are nothing but anguish and talking, so I’ll wrap up this review with a piece of an action scene from this book (one that would look great on screen). The next review will be the first book of the Second Chronicles, which I think is even better.

With all his strength, [Mhoram] leveled a blast of Lords-fire at the Raver’s leering skull.

Satansfist knocked the attack down as if it were negligible; disdainfully, he slapped Mhoram’s blue out of the air with his Stone and returned a bolt so full of cold emerald force that it scorched the atmosphere as it moved.

Mhoram sensed its power, knew that it would slay him if it struck. But Drinny dodged with a fleet, fluid motion which belied the wrenching change of his momentum. The bolt missed, crashed instead into the creatures pursuing the High Lord, killed them all.

That gave Mhoram the instant he needed. He corrected Drinny’s aim, cocked his staff over his shoulder. Before samadhi could unleash another blast, the High Lord was upon him.

Using all Drinny’s speed, all the strength of his body, all the violated passion of his love for the Land, Mhoram swung. His staff caught Satansfist squarely across the forehead.

The concussion ripped Mhoram from his seat like a dry leaf in the wind. His staff shattered at the blow, exploded into splinters, and he hit the ground amid a brief light rain of wood slivers. He was stunned. He rolled helplessly a few feet over the frozen earth, could not stop himself, could not regain his breath. His mind went blank for an instant, then began to ache as his body ached. His hands and arms were numb, paralyzed by the force which had burned through them.

You’ll have to read the books to see how it turns out.

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