We start off with Thomas Covenant in the real world and things are not going well. People hate him, he thinks a singer in a night club called him Berek, and someone burned down his barn and left him an apple with a razor blade in it. He decides to stop eating and wander around the woods behind his house. This is a pretty long and dull opening which ends with him running into a little girl who is being threaten by a rattle snake.
Just as he is about to save the girl, he gets a call from High Lord Mhoram and drug off to the Land against his will. But he tells them no, returns to our world and saves the little girl through a hard and trying trek through the woods. Once the girl is safe and he is one step away from death, he surrenders and returns to the Land.
As with The Illearth War we find the story broken into two parts-one follows Covenant’s adventures and the other follows the plight of Revelstone.
Covenant once again finds himself on Kevin’s Watch and we get to see Saltheart Foamfollower again. After the death of the Giants in The Illearth War, there was no mention of Saltheart, but here he is. Also on Kevin’s watch is Triock, the Stonedowner who loved Lena. In short order we met Lena again as well. But these are no happy reunions, it’s been 47 years since Lena last saw Covenant, the Land is under a permanent winter and things look grim indeed.
Meanwhile we also see what goes on back in Revelstone where the Lords are doing the best they can against the last of the Giant Ravers, Satansfist. He’s a nasty fellow who eats his victims, burns down Revelwood, and generally brings Revelstone to it’s knees.
There are several great moments in The Power That Preserves. Trell’s discovery of how to enact The Ritual of Desecration, Mhoram’s battle with Satansfist, Foamfollower’s struggle in Hotash Slay, and the destruction of the Staff of Law. But in the end, it is the finial battle between Covenant and Lord Foul that really matters.
I’m not sure what Donaldson really wanted to do with Lord Foul. I’m not sure that he originally intended Lord Foul to an immortal demigod. It is established that Lord Kevin and the Old Lords were long lived, that Kevin had been High Lord for a thousand years old when he preformed the Ritual of Desecration. So maybe the Dark Side of Earthpower is also a path to near immorality. The Ravers are immortal and they are pure evil. We are never given any reason for their immortality. We are told that Lord Foul was tossed into the Land by a pissed off Creator.
So we come to the finial battle. Covenant finally mans up and uses the Wild Magic that destroys peace. But he stops short of killing Lord Foul, falling back on his This Is All A Dream bullshit and rationalizing that you can’t kill Despite. He defeats Lord Foul with laughter, causing him to grow younger and younger until he disappears.
Like Lord Foul’s Bane and The Illearth War, this was a damned depressing bit of business. It is grim, dark, and brutal. But that was what I always loved about these books, their ability to move me to tears.
The Power That Preserves is my least favorite of the three books. Long stretches of nothing much going on, pointless death and slaughter everywhere else, and all of the beauty of the Land has been destroyed by winter. Worst of all, Lord Foul lives to fight another day.