A Man Rides Through

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Unlike Donaldson’s six books that make up the CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT THE UNBELIEVER, A MAN RIDES THROUGH plunges its reader into the middle of the power struggle for control of the kingdom of Mordant with no recapitulation of what has gone before. The book opens with the start of the Alend Monarch’s siege against the castle of Orison. King Joyse, who should be in control of events, has lost his mind; his wife and daughters have abandoned him; and it seems only a matter of time before Mordant falls into the hands of High King Festten. Only the power of Imagery, the manipulation of magic mirrors, can possibly restore order and save the people of Mordant, but none of the Imagers have the knowledge to use the mirrors effectively against their enemies ... except Geraden and Terisa, who have yet to learn to control and direct their complementary strengths.

A MAN RIDES THROUGH examines the struggles of Geraden and Terisa to trust themselves and the power of love and goodness to overcome evil. Terisa suffered from an ugly-duckling syndrome in the “real” world; in Mordant, however, she is not only recognized and loved by Geraden for the beautiful woman that she is, but she also discovers that she is the most powerful Imager ever to work with mirrors. Geraden, too, suffers from an inferiority complex: He has always been a stumbling, inept Imager’s apprentice. Yet once he recognizes his own worth, in part through his love of Terisa, he too undergoes a transformation and is able to control his “magical” abilities for the good of Mordant. As in his earlier Thomas Covenant series, Donaldson explores the power of love to give people the strength to stand up to evil, to overcome great odds in the name of common decency.

What distinguishes the MORDANT’S NEED series from Donaldson’s earlier books is that the present story revolves more around the actual fighting and thus more closely resembles the sword-and-sorcery variety of fantasy literature. Donaldson is a careful creator of fantasy worlds: The realm of Mordant is plausible, as are the situations in which he places his characters--and the monsters that leap out from the Imagers’ mirrors are unsettling enough to make A MAN RIDES THROUGH exciting late-night reading.