Reave the Just

Stephen Donaldson

Review date: 17/5/2000
Publisher: Voyager
Published: 1998

After enjoying the Thomas Covenant and Mordant's Need novels, and then finding the Gap series unreadable, I wasn't quite sure whether Reave the Just would be worth reading or not. Having read it, I now feel that some of the stories were worth reading, others not, much like Donaldson's only other collection of short stories, Daughter of Regals.

All the stories, written over a fourteen year period, pick up on the major theme of Donaldson's writing - the freedom to choose and the physical or petaphorical rape that is its removal. It is a fruitful theme, as the different ways that Donaldson has tackled it in his career testify, but its continued presence in his work is sometimes rather disturbing. The ironic theme of what is real is less obvious than in his early writing, though it remains there - in the way in which a tale shapes events in the title story, for example.

Most of the stories have something that grabs the reader, though they are of variable quality. Interestingly, the title story was among those I liked least. A major problem is that Donaldson is incurably prolix, a flaw which mars his novels - though to a lesser extent in the longer form. Some of these "short" stories are over seventy pages in length and yet cry out for shortening (one of the biggest culprits, with a particularly loose structure, is The Killing Stroke, a story which could be described in a short phrase as a homage to martial arts films).

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