Jan 20 2009

Review: The One Tree, by Stephen R. Donaldson

“I know nothing of that,” retorted Brinn.  “I know only that she attempted Ceer’s life.”

Without warning, Covenant broke into a shout.  “I don’t care!”  He spat vehemence at Brinn as if it were being physically torn out of him.  “Linden saved me!  She saved all of us!  Do you think that was easy?  I’m not going to turn my back on her, just because she did something I don’t understand!”

“Ur-Lord—” Brinn began.

“No!”  Covenant’s passion carried so many implications of power that it shocked the deck under Linden’s feet.  “You’ve gone too far already!”  His chest heaved with the effort he made to control himself.  “In Andelain—with the Dead—Elena talked about her.  She said, ‘Care for her, beloved, so that in the end she may heal us all.’  Elena,” he insisted.  “The High Lord.  She loved me, and it killed her.  But never mind that.  I won’t have her treated this way.”  His voice shredded under the strain of self-containment.  “Maybe you don’t trust her.”  His half-fist jabbed possibilities of fire around him.  “Maybe you don’t trust me.”  He could not keep himself from yelling.  “But you are by God going to leave her alone!”

Rating: ★★★★★

In this middle book of the second Covenant trilogy, Covenant decides his only hope is to create a new Staff of Law, to give him a way to heal the land without unleashing his increasingly erratic power.  So with Linden, Sunder, and Hollian, he heads east out of the Land, hoping to retrace the steps of Berek Halfhand, the legendary hero who created the first Staff from a limb of the One Tree.

This book is unique of the first six in that it’s the only one where the characters leave the Land.  It really opens up the story, as Covenant and Linden encounter Giants and sail with them and encounter other beings and places which were only legends in the earlier books: the Elohim, beings of enormous power with their own agenda for Covenant’s ring; The Bhrathair and the Sandgorgons, poised against each other for survival in the desert; the Nicor, sea creatures so large humans are beneath their notice; the merewives of the deep, whose siren song is more powerful than any man’s will; and many others.

Along the way, they are beset by Ravers trying to push Covenant’s power beyond his control.  When Covenant is unable to defend himself, Linden has to find her own sources of power, without succumbing to her own demons.

The Giants are one of the best parts of the book.  In the first trilogy, Foamfollower had a huge impact on Covenant and the way the story turned out, but he didn’t appear that long overall.  Here, we get a shipful of Giants, in their element upon the sea.  The First of the Search, a warrior whose loyalty is absolute; Pitchwife, her deformed husband whose humor keeps the Quest from despair; Seadreamer, the mute Giant whose visions both drive the Quest and doom it; and his brother Honninscrave, the ship’s master, who is tortured by being unable to help his brother as his crisis looms.

Linden continues to find her way and begins to realize that maybe she’s not as evil as she thought, that maybe she can even do good in the world.  She and Covenant get to share some happiness on the way to the One Tree, and it gives the book some refreshingly light moments.

In the end, the Quest has to return to the Land, as Covenant’s Dead told him in Andelain.  They’ve lost some things and gained others, and Covenant has come to terms with the responsibility he left the Land to escape.  Linden…well, she keeps growing within herself and gaining strength, convinced that eventually she will have to accept Covenant’s power—or combat him for it.

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