In The One Tree, Stephen R Donaldson starts down the same dark path that the Wachowski Brothers took-he begins to make mere humans irrelevant. The fruit of his love affair with demi-gods will not ripen until the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, but the seeds are planted here.
I still loved The One Tree, for all it’s nonsense about Elohim and The Worm of The World’s End and The Guardian of The One Tree, this is the best of all of the Covenant books.
The One Tree tells an odd story which is not set in The Land, Lord Foul is rarely even mentioned, and Thomas Covenant spends a few chapters walking around in a daze. The story is still powerful, there is still a lot of drama and lots of moments where great heroics and great tragedies take place. And we spend the entire book in the company of Giants. Only four of the Giants really matter, but several others make their presences felt from time to time. Pitchwife and The First remain two of my favorite characters from the series.
I hated the Elohim, which seems to be what Donaldson wanted, but it’s still hard not to agree with Linden when she says they are Earthpower incarnate, so why don’t they do anything? I hated the Worm of the World’s End from the first time I read about it. It was a supernatural power dropped out of the nowhere and into the here. Our Creation Stories from the first Trilogy don’t mention this worm and I tend to find apocalyptic myths a bit of a bother. I was also a bit surprised that the One Rock was never mentioned, but I guess Donaldson didn’t want to have to deal with the general impossibility of bits of the One Rock floating around the Land while the bulk of it is sitting somewhere on the other side of the world.
I also hated that whole Guardian thing. How did Berek happen to have a Haruchai with him when they didn’t enter the Land until the time of Kevin Landwaster? And for that matter, how did Berek find the One Tree in the first place and how did he manage to cut a limb off?
On the plus side, I loved that whole bit with Kasreyn of the Gyre and the Sandgorgons. It was interesting that he had several bits of gold he used to preform his magics. But again, we find that a mere man is nothing compared to the power of the croyel and the sandgorgon and the Elohim.
I also liked the seemingly endless bits of backstory stuffed into every free space. Stories about Pitchwife and Linden and The First. The One Tree was a good book because it took a breath now and then to get away from the constant life and death struggles that are part and parcel of Thomas Covenant’s existence.
In the end The Quest meets with failure, as was prophesied by Covenant’s Dead in The Wounded Land, and the pieces are set into place for White Gold Wielder.