Stephen R. Donaldson introduced Thomas Covenant in his 1977 novel Lord Foul's Bane. He continued the story in The Ilearth War and concluded the Trilogy with The Power That Preserves. Donaldson went on to write a second Trilogy about this character, followed by a 4-part series titled "The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant". This review covers only the first Trilogy.
Thomas Covenant was a bestselling author with a good home and a loving wife and infant son, when he was suddenly struck ill with leprosy. The disease cost him 2 fingers on his right hand and his wife, who left Thomas for fear their son would catch his disease. His neighbors rejected him out of fear and ignorance, but he defied them by walking into town each week to collect his mail.
On one such trip, Thomas was crossing the street and nearly run down by a police car. When he awoke, he found himself in a strange world, known only as The Land, facing the horrific villain Lord Foul, who commanded him to deliver a message to the people of The Land.
The Lords and commoners of The Land noticed Covenant's missing fingers and his white gold wedding ring and assumed he was the reincarnation of Berek Halfhand, a heroic figure from The Land's past, who lost his fingers battling the evil Lord Foul with the powerful force of white gold. They believed that Covenant was sent to The Land to protect them and to defeat Lord Foul.
Their faith in Covenant and their non-violent code caused them to forgive Covenant's every sin and shortcoming. And he has many.
When he enters the Land, Covenant's leprosy is magically cured, restoring feelings to his nerve endings. The rush of long-unfelt sensation is so overwhelming that he rapes Lena, a young woman who had shown kindness to him. Even this betrayal does not shatter the faith of either the people of The Land or of Lena herself.
Time and again throughout the trilogy, the Land's inhabitants sacrifice themselves for Covenant, hoping he will use his power and defeat Lord Foul; but, Covenant repeatedly defers, making no effort to learn how to harness the power of his white gold ring and often pushing his responsibility onto others.
Covenant is magically transported back to his own world; but is drawn back to The Land two more times with the expectation that he will rescue its inhabitants. Most of the time, the inhabitants are disappointed. Each time, he returns to The Land years have passed in this magical world, even though only a few weeks have passed in his own.
In the world of high fantasy, there are many unlikely heroes, but few as unlikeable as Thomas Covenant.
Covenant is reluctant to take on the responsibility of battling Lord Foul. During his years as a leper, he has learned to be extremely cautious because he no longer has nerve endings to warn him of impending danger. He carries this caution into The Land, despite no longer needing it. Worse, Covenant seems incompetent as The Land's heroes and does not even recognize the powers he has such as the magic that white gold holds in The Land. He leaves disappointment and betrayal almost everywhere he goes, until his final encounter with Lord Foul at the end of the third book.
Overall, I enjoyed this trilogy. The Land suffered under Lord Foul and their chosen hero could not help them; but ultimately Covenant found his strength and did what he needed to do. The characters were interesting enough to hold my attention for three books; but I don't know if or when I'll return to The Land and read the remaining seven.