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Lord Foul's Bane

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1
Narrated by: Scott Brick
Length: 19 hrs and 28 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in this strange alternate world on which he suddenly found himself.

Yet, the land tempted him. He had been sick but now, he seemed better than ever before. Through no fault of his own, he had been outcast, unclean, a pariah. Now, he was regarded as a reincarnation of the land's greatest hero - Berek Halfhand - armed with the mystic power of white gold. 

That power alone could protect the lords of the land from the ancient evil of the Despiser, Lord Foul. Except, Covenant had no idea how to use that power....

“Covenant is [Stephen R.] Donaldson's genius!” (The Village Voice)

©1977 Penguin Random House (P)2009 Brick by Brick Audiobooks

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    5 out of 5 stars

Still Powerful 40 Years On!

I started reading this series 40 years ago and have been waiting impatiently for it to become available here for some time. Experiencing the books again - this time via audio-books - is a dream come true. The power and the descriptive nature of the prose shines through with a great performance via Scott Brick. Rates alongside 'Lord Of The Rings' as one of the great fantasy novel series of all time. More Please!

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great concept, MOSTLY great execution

I was really glad that the first Covenant trilogy appeared on Audible. It had been stuck exclusively with Brick by Brick audio for years and wasn't able to be purchased in Australia, so I was slightly disposed towards being cranky with Scott Brick for denying me these audios. Having got that out of my system, he does a REALLY good job. He is invested in projecting the pathos of the characters and creates the scene well with a lively read. So hats off, Scott Brick. Now to the book.

This book represents a clever, unique idea bursting with potential, and a slightly disappointing telling. But first some background.

I came to this novel a massive fan of two other Stephen Donaldson series - Mordant's Need and The Gap Cycle (please get those on Audible soon) - but somehow, even though I own both of the first two trilogies of the Thomas Covenant Chronicles, I hadn't read them. Well, I think I hadn't. I have a vague idea that I MAY have read the first book many years ago but as I went through it this time, there were no memories at all so no impression was left.

So I've wanted to read this for some time, as the author's career-making work.

And the concept is pretty interesting to start with. A man who is asleep HERE while he is alive THERE (The Land). And SO alive... no longer a leper there, able to feel and exist and excel.

Along with the attractiveness of those contrasts, I'm a sucker for portal fiction... stories like Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series (John Carter of Mars), Narnia, Gor... in which the protagonists find themselves thrust into a whole new world by some usually unexplained plot device. But this adds several more creative strands: (1) When he's asleep here, he's alive there (and vice versa) and; (2) Is this really happening or is it all just a dream?

I don't know of Donaldson was the first to explore those angles but he's one of the first I'm aware of, and I thoroughly enjoyed books like Stephen King's Talisman (that's a 10 out of 10) and even Donaldson's Mordant's Need that revisited those ideas. As it turns out, I've liked a lot of TV shows and movies that follow the "Is this real, or am I dreaming it all" idea (Life on Mars for example).

So all of the right elements are there, my wish for it to be as great as his other series I've read is in place, and this should be a perfect book for me. And I'm still giving it 7 out of 10, but the bits I didn't like, I didn't like a LOT.

Start with the thing I hated most. The Journey. You can only read so much fantasy before the Hero's (physical) Journey from A to B seems like an excuse to pad a story with a few Chekovian obstacles, some pretty scenery, some drip-fed exposition and a chance to encounter the bad things. These elements weren't horribly handled here, but I felt it was all so bloody familiar and predictable.

Secondly, Covenant's disbelief. It's hard to believe, I get that, but at some point surely you'd give in to the welcome alternative of having a fully functioning body and being slightly worshipped by the folks of the Land. I know it's pointless to use real dreams as a measure for how Covenant should or shouldn't have reacted, but I'll say this anyway. I've had dreams where my family members have been replaced with newcomers, where I work somewhere I've never been before, we're I'm good at stuff I'm lousy at... and you accept it unquestioningly. Cos it's a dream, and that's how dreams run. Granted some seem to run a LONG time but surely the longer this one ran, and the more Covenant was able to even ask "is this a dream" he'd eventually reflect on how you don't ask that in a dream? Not looking to be the fact check police here, but it seems unrealistic that he wouldn't at some point succumb to the seductiveness of his new reality.

Thirdly, [spoilers] the rape. They say you can't do anything under hypnosis that you wouldn't do normally, it just allows you an excuse to feel less inhibited. And this isn't even hypnosis, so surely it's even less likely you'd behave so incredibly out of character? Or is the suggestion that this potential was always in Covenants character? I don't know. It's a clever tool used by writers often to great effect... show our protagonist doing something horrible then see if you can make the readers/audience like him (see shows like The Shield, Dexter, The Sopranos) but it tends to work better when you see it as part of the characters basic ingredients to start with.

The rape subplot was used in "The Stars my destination" (unconvincingly for mine) and in the Gap Cycle, also by Donaldson (and very well I felt as it showed a gradual recognition of what he'd done by a very flawed and loathesome character who works to improve). None of these depictions make the act acceptable however in Lord Foul's Bane it just seemed absolutely out of the blue, out of character and just an unintegrated device used by the author to give Covenant an act to redeem and a journey of discovery and improvement.

So... those bits to one side. I liked a lot of this book a lot and I'm hopeful the series improves as it goes. The world loved these books so I don't mind conceding my issues with it may be uncommon. As one of his earliest works, maybe Donaldson had to get this on paper before he could graduate to his other works that I've loved. It IS a good book even if the journey part left me praying for a balrog or a suddent gust of wind to flick the pages.

4 out of 5 stars (or 7 out of 10 if that were possible).

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  • Katelyn
  • 05-02-2020

Mild spoiler

Most unlikeable main character I've ever read. Makes you want to grab, shake and slap him. It reads like he's supposed to be sympathetic even as he's raping an underaged girl.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Stephen C.
  • 04-02-2020

Finally on Audible!

I had been waiting and hoping for this series of books to be added to Audible since I joined. It took a while but now they are becoming available. I hope all in the series are going to be included. I read these many years ago and am enjoying listening to them now. Some of my favorite stories. Scott Brick does a great job and hope he does all of them. Highly recommended.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Firennice
  • 20-02-2020

Dark, distubing, anti-hero

What if you were abandoned by society, a pariah? Then suddenly you are in a fantasy world. Imagination? or not?

One of the central themes is if you would continue to be good, do good things, if you thought you were in a dream? Society abandoned him, his wife leaves him with his kid, His health is collapsing as a leper, he is impotent and alone. No one will visit him or care if he lives and dies.
Suddenly he is pulled into another world, where he is healed, and is the hope to save or destroy. He rapes a girl, still thinking it is all a dream as he is healed and overwhelmed with feeling. But this is a dream, a fantasy of his mind.
An ethical question buried that my friends and I have discussed. Could you, would you, always do the right thing in a dream? He feels the land will kill him if he gives up on the walls and barriers that have kept him alive through his leprous life.
Ultimately you see through the books, where he eventually tries to redeem himself, Tripping over hiimself, and often making things worse. He struggles to understand the place that he is put in, and the power that he has and does not understand how to wield.
Few fantasy books will ever disturb you more or make you think about the questions it poses. You will enjoy, route for, yet hate Thomas. I love the series, yet hate what it does to me.

I struggle with Scott Brick as a narrator. I love him, (mostly) for his work on Dune. Yet for the tone of this book he seems overly deep and choppy. The narrator should add to the story, be inconspicuous. Too often his choppy and odd narration took me out of the book. I found myself thinking of the narration, not the book. I do not think he was a good choice, but that is what we got, and he is better than many.,

6 people found this helpful

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  • cody
  • 10-03-2020

complete garbage do not buy

I wanted to stop listening to this book from the very first sentence and it only got worse from there. Never have I hated a protagonist so much that I've actively rooted for the bad guys to kill him and put him out of our mutual misery. Buyer beware...

5 people found this helpful

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  • Ian McCurdy
  • 05-12-2019

Classic fantasy

Donaldson spins a world on par with Tolkien, both fresh in concept and familiar in certain details. I’ve been waiting for these books for decades and it’s a thrill to finally have them.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Anthony Garrido
  • 28-12-2019

For anyone who love the book . . .

I have been looking for these to be released on audio for a long time. I would randomly check audible. When I saw that Scott Brick was narrating, the purchase was a no-brainer.

I have read these six novels, The Chronicles and The Second Chronicles at least a few times. I wrote reports on the first series in high school, and I loved writing about the books and the poignant, personal struggle of Thomas Covenant.

Listening to this novel, with the brilliant narration of Scott Brick allowed me to understand the characters in new ways, and that surprised me.

I think anyone who enjoyed these novels will certainly love this audio and find the experience to be well worth the wait.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Jake Ervin
  • 30-04-2020

After 43 years, Much is New to Me Again

My friends & I all read the 1st Chronicles, and I find that there is much I did not recall. Covenant is a much-flawed character. Perhaps hyperbole, to show how broken TC is. I was 13, parents were divorcing, and these books were an escape from this world, as the Land was for TC. I better understand the sense of loss and the pain of Covenant as "Lord Foul" has assaulted me as well: (lost my 11 year old son & 51 year old wife). I have never forgotten how kind SRD was when I tracked him down by phone (before internet) and he took the time to speak to me, a kid. Page 91 incident was an indication of just how TC was overwhelmed with the sudden and impossible restoration of his dead nerves. The incident was NOT graphic nor did it glorify TC's actions. It was shocking, and set TC up as an anti-hero.

I read these books with a dictionary by my side! My vocabulary grew greatly due to these books.

Today, Kindle looks up these words for you. I own both the Kindle and Audible versions.

Narrator, Scott Brick, infuses every word with emotion. Truly, Brick is no mere narrator, but a performer.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Nevermore
  • 18-04-2020

Classic fantasy tale let down by awful narrator

This is one of those classic fantasy books that holds up reasonably well as an adult. It's not absolutely fantastic; I would suggest that Brandon Sanderson is certainly a more talented author - but that if grand fantasy tales of Tolkien, Sanderson etc. interest you that you might like these as well. Donaldson does get better as his career progresses, and this is an early work. If you want to jump in someplace later in his career then choose one of his other series, don't try to jump in later in the Thomas Covenant series itself. The protagonist is, as others have mentioned, a real piece of work. But literature is full of redemption stories, and maybe this is one of them if you keep reading. It is, unfortunately, read by one of the most routinely awful narrators working in the business. Scott Brick reads every book exactly the same way, with a kind of sing-song and bizarre inflection that has zero bearing on the content or tone of the work as a whole, the current scene, or the emotional state of mind of the characters. It's so random that the tone of his voice may actually be directly opposed to how a particular scene should read. Add to this a bizarre teeendENcy toooooo draw OUt and add totallyyy ranDOM EMphaSIS to entire words or syllables, and you've got a very strange listening experience indeed. One that detracts immensely from the story. It's a shame he's so prolific.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Redd23
  • 02-12-2019

A Good Blast from the Past with more to come!

I read all three of these books when they first came out and was dismayed that I could not obtain them in the audio format. until now, book 1, is out and I cannot wait for Book 2 and 3. I have enjoyed Mr. Brick's performance as I have gained a greater understanding of Thomas's internal struggle with himself, his view of "The Land", and its people. There is on going internal conflict with is Crime against the young girl which will continue...

This series is a Great Read, I highly recommend it.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • RadTech51
  • 13-05-2020

Missing the ending not complete

It’s missing the very ending of the book! Therefore this unabridged version of Lord Foul’s Bane is not complete. Not sure how this could have happened?

1 person found this helpful

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  • Pod55
  • 14-12-2019

“Marmite” book, masterful narration

I first read this book 40 years ago and love the complexity and depth of the characters and huge sweep of the fantasy world “the Land”. The main character is anything but your cuddly Bilbo or Frodo or your wise and powerful Gandalf, Covenant is a complex character who for good reason is difficult or impossible to like or empathise with. This self absorbed, conflicted, unpleasant “hero” makes the book a rather difficult read, at least in the earlier chapters. As the story gains pace other main characters are introduced. I know people who have abandoned the book within the first third because of this. Please don’t, keep going at least until he reaches Revelstone and a number of more sympathetic characters appear.

I have never listened to book narrated by Scott Brick before, an omission that I will now actively rectify. His reading of this book, with it’s diverse characters is, in my option, masterful.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Zilpah
  • 19-12-2019

A Blast From The Past

I read the first three trilogies by Stephen Donaldson back in the 1980s and never forgot my fascination with the storylines, the angst, the twists and turns and the fantastic pictures the author paints in telling the tale of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. I learnt many new words in the English language, and used to look up the meaning of them in the dictionary as I was reading. The thought-provoking concepts the author explores through the Sunbane, Anderlain, Vain, the seafaring Giants and that all things were possible with a little Wild Magic stayed with me through the years. So I was delighted to see the audio book newly available. It is a very long book and it’s a treat to have it read to me by the very talented Scott Brick. I do hope that Audible will follow up and release the next book soon.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Starbuck
  • 02-02-2020

Our tastes change with age it seems...

Many years ago I read and enjoyed the chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I always described it as "Lord of the Rings" for Adults. (I did however skip the parts before Thomas entered into the Land in subsequent readings). The Land was so vividly realised, it was somewhere I wished I could be summoned to.

I was very excited to see the series appearing in audio format.

However I cannot enjoy or even complete listening to the first book. Other reviewers praise Scott Bricks narration. Personally I find the whole timbre of the narration is "depressing" and strange. As a sufferer of depression I would warn others BEFORE listening to or reading this for the first time that it can act as a trigger.

The Narrator makes too many mispronunciations, so many that it constantly irritates and breaks immersion for me personally. I also find it hard to differentiate between characters as they all sounds more or less the same.

As to the story itself. The behaviour of the main character is extremely irritating. The response by the surrounding characters is unbelievably tolerant or forgiving. It seems that now I am older, wiser and have enjoyed a wider scope of reading
, I cannot enjoy what used to be a favourite at all.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Richard B.
  • 02-02-2020

Still love these books

First read this trilogy back in the early 80s and also the follow up trilogy. All the characters came flooding back, as did the constant hope that at some point The Unbeliever will use that ring. I am really hoping the 3rd book of the first 3 is released soon and keep my fingers crossed for books 4, 5 and 6. Scott Brick's narration is also second to none.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Chris. K
  • 24-12-2019

Exception writing

Enjoyed this book greatly, an anti hero who is difficult to like but who is the most sane person, going crazy, in the story.

2 people found this helpful

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  • ftotoe
  • 26-04-2020

AMAZING STORY!

Fabulous! One of the greatest stories ever written in my opinion! I read these books first many years ago and have re-read them again and again. My all time favourite collection.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Penny Black
  • 11-04-2020

Cracking tale

One of my favourite book.
Despite excellent pronunciation, spoken with a clear strong voice it would have been helpful if there was more difference between the reading of each character.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • P J Duffy
  • 29-03-2020

A rare piece of genius

First came across these years ago and have read and reread the whole series of 10 books more times than I can remember. The ultimate anti hero, selfish and self centered but surrounded by people who only ever want to help him. The story is beautifully told and compelling and the Land is masterful creation. At times very dark and disturbing but this just adds too the realism of the whole story. Buy and listen, you will not be disappointed. If you want the best in science fiction try his Gap series

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jim Lowe
  • 11-03-2020

Epic Fantasy Series - Highly Recommended

I read this book not long after it was released in the late 70s and listening to it on Audible so many years later was a joy from start to finish. 😊

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 11-05-2020

Lord Foul's Bane.

I've read these books before and I was keen to listen to the Audio version. The story is as good as I remember and the narration is good, but unfortunately chapter 25 where he wakes up in hospital at the end is missing.