The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are two trilogies and a tetralogy of dark high/contemporary fantasy written by US author Stephen Donaldson (b. 1947) and published between 1977 and 2013.
The main plot revolves around the tragic decline, degradation and ultimate salvation of an unspoiled fantasy paradise and its parallels with the moral, emotional and spiritual inner development of its main protagonists, who are transported to this fantasy world from late 20th century USA.
This fantasy series is a work of breathtaking depth and literary ambition. No praise is too high for these books. If Tolkien's Lord of the Rings were the innovative Chuck Berry of Modern Epic Fantasy, Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are the Pink Floyd - darker, more introspective, refined and evolved. Not necessarily better of course (although I would personally say they have the edge, and that is no slight praise) but considerably more subtle and multi-dimensional in the way they deal with the main characters' own inner struggles with good and evil, belief and unbelief, and a whole slew of other apparently insoluble existential paradoxes.
The protagonist, Thomas Covenant, is a successful young writer who has been totally ostracized from his society (1970s Bible-belt America) after inexplicably contracting leprosy. His wife has recently left him as a result of her own fear and ignorance of the disease and its associated ancient stigma - taking his infant son with her - and he is slowly losing his mind trying to deal with this overwhelming heartbreak on top of the permanent implications of his disease and survival, and the hostile religiously-fuelled fears and ignorance of his neighbours and peers.
After a road accident, he regains consciousness in a place called The Land, where his white gold wedding ring and 2 amputated fingers identify him as the avatar of some long-dead cultural hero. The Land itself is a kind of paradise of indescribable beauty and mesmerizing vitality populated by spiritually enlightened people who live very much in harmony with nature. However, Covenant's arrival heralds the reawakening of an ancient threat by an ancient demiurgic enemy figure, Lord Foul the Despiser, and the people of the land look upon Covenant as their saviour because of his resemblance to the folk hero of their cultural mythology.
The trouble is, Covenant believes he is dreaming or in a coma, and so naturally he doesn't take the Land or its plight seriously at all. This attitude, moreover, becomes more challenging when he is healed of his leprosy and experiences the sensation of living nerves in his hands and feet since for the first time since he contracted the disease. This he takes as a direct threat to the survival instincts he had learned at such great cost and heartache in the 'real' world, (having been told unequivocally that his dead nerves will never regenerate
More to follow.