Hile Troy! Just kidding. Hile Troy, the character introduced in Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Illearth War is one of my favorite fantasy fiction characters. Sure, the name helps, but it’s his story arc that fascinates me.
Hile Troy, like Covenant, is summoned to the Land through the same magic that started the story. But his arrival was a mistake. Atiaran, (the woman that led Covenant to Revelstone in Lord Foul’s Bane) in an act of despair, attempted to call Covenant to the Land. Whether to get revenge for the rape of her daughter, or to save the Land is unclear because she is consumed by the power of the summoning.
The Lords of Revelstone, being Lords, do not share these facts with Hile Troy, a blind man. Like Covenant, Troy was damaged before his arrival to the Land. He was born blind. When hurtloam, the magic healing mud of the Land, cures Troy of his blindness, he follows a different path than Covenant. He chooses to save the Land from Lord Foul.
Because of his lifelong blindness, Troy is a master of dimensions and tactics. He can see battles in his head as clearly as if they were happening in front of him. With his newfound site, he becomes Warmark and swears to create a battle plan that will destroy Lord Foul’s army.
For the Unbeliever, a few days pass in the normal world before High Lord Elena, the daughter of Lena, summons him to the Land.
That is Lord Foul’s way in all things—to force his foes to become that which they most hate, and to destroy that which they most love.The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson
The first third of the book reintroduces us to the Land. Forty-years have passed since the events in Lord Foul’s Bane. Mhoram, everyone’s favorite Lord, is older and wiser, but not High Lord. Covenant’s Daughter, Elena, is High Lord and carries the Staff of Law rescued in Lord Foul’s Bane. Lord Foul prepares an army to challenge the Lords, take Revelstone, and end the Land that the Lords have worked so hard to preserve.
After word comes that Foul’s army is marching toward Revelstone, the story’s viewpoint changes to Hile Troy. The march of Troy’s army across the Land, in a run-and-gun attack strategy, is the core of the book. Along the way Covenenat reminds Troy that he is a blind man, unaware of Foul’s manipulations.
“I know,” Covenant murmured. “The fact is that you’re starting to find out just how terrible all this responsibility is. Let me know when you start to feel like a failure. We’ll commiserate together.”The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson
Troy does not believe in the Unbeliever’s unbelief. But as his army marches to the ends of the Land, his hopes and plans are shattered. He learns the giants were decimated by one of their own. Foul used Ravers and splinters of the Illearth stone to control three giants, one of which leads the army coming to destroy the Lords.
Atop Kevin’s Watch, Troy puts his impossible sight to use, only to see his plans falling apart. The army is bigger, moving faster, and more powerful than he calculated. His plan for victory was hollow. Covenant was right. Desperate to prove Covenant wrong, Troy fights a battle that takes his sight. He is blind again, and no magic can heal him.
When the point-of-view changes back to Covenant, the story takes a turn for the worst. The end of The Illearth War is one of the most forgettable parts of any book I have read. That from someone who has read The Wheel of Time… twice.
Covenant returns to the real world, too late to hear from his ex-wife, and unable to save Elena from both despair and death.
This seduction of responsibility was Foul’s doing. It was the means by which Lord Foul attempted to ensure the destruction of the Land. When inadequate men assumed huge burdens, the outcome could only serve Despite.The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson
Those who hate the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant give up at this point. I can judge why. Covenant appears worse than ineffectual; he appears to be Lord Foul himself. There is one more book in the First Chronicles, the caamora of Covenant and his lost giant friend Saltheart Foamfollower is yet to come.