After thousands of years, as far as The Land is concerned, but a short time, as far as Thomas Covenant is concerned, our hero has found again thrown back into The Land. However, it's almost unrecognizable, as everything is weirdly corrupted. Again, without fully accepting its reality, Covenant does what he can to battle evil and restore The Land to its past beauty and magic. He still does not have fill control of the white gold magic, but he now must be the driving force to save The Land, instead of a tool, as the people of The Land are either locked into a mode of surviving one day at a time, or they have given up. He and his physician/friend, Linden Avery from the "real world" go on a quest for the One Tree, from which a new Staff of Law can be forged. The Staff of Law will restore health and order to The Land. Covenant and Avery have a love/hate relationship and, at times, Covenant has a hard time accepting that Avery might be a key factor in saving The Land (Covenant has always been the savior/hero, whether he wanted to be or not).
This is the second book of the new trilogy and the fifth book in the series. The first three can stand alone, and the second trilogy probably could, as well, but it is best to think of this series as a sextet. While this is the slowest book of the six, Donaldson continues to have characters that are deep and well-developed; complicated, intelligent, and extremely sophisticated writing (the exact opposite of Hemingway's stunning simplicity and not far off from Faulkner's esoteric and obtuse complexity); and a riveting story. What gets introduced is the dawning realization by Covenant that, whether the Land and its people are real or not, he is beginning to care about them. This is NOT a quick, easy read. This IS deep, major fantasy on an epic scale.
The author is really good at sucking you in, but I totally hated the main charater. It's one of those books that's really good but you either hate it or totally love it. I really hated this series.