Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Lord of the Rings: A Review of a Piece of Classic Fantasy Literature

January 5, 2012: that is the day that I completed my first-ever reading of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I ate up Fellowship of the Ring, took a bit more time with The Two Towers, and slowed to a painful crawl with Return of the King.  In a way, I just about mirrored Frodo's journey with The One Ring.

Note that while I say I finished reading Return of the King, I didn't actually read the appendices - who the hell has time for that?  Mainly I wasn't interested in them, especially after the massive denouement that is Book Six.  Here, then, are my thoughts on each book, reduced to a single paragraph.

The Fellowship of the Ring (Books 1 and 2)
Technically, I read the first 11 chapters of Book 1 a few years back but got (understandably) frustrated with the writing and the dense subject matter.  I still skipped over many of the songs and lengthy history lessons, and quite frankly I didn't miss anything.  It would be one thing if Tolkein included some foreshadowing in the songs (he didn't; I looked it up in Coles Notes SO THERE), but these are largely there to provide depth to Middle-Earth.  Honestly, I got depth enough when I was imersed in his haunting descriptions of The Old Forest and the Barrow-Downs.  Other than the snoozefest that was The Council of Elrond, a lot was happening in this book and I felt the descriptions were super immersive and well I liked it okay?  Four stars.

The Two Towers (Books 3 and 4)
I went into this thinking that this would be my favourite of the three books, since it was my favourite of the three movies.  Not so - I'll ruin it now, Fellowship was my favourite, which shocks me considering so much more plot-wise was happening in Two Towers.  While I appreciated that Tolkein seemed to have sped up his narration and cut down on the songs, I didn't get as into this as I did with Fellowship.  I think I got really bogged down by the descriptions of the Battle of Helm's Deep - it was hard to follow, and I think that other than random elves showing up the movie handled it a lot better - but I think the best part of this book was Book 4, with Frodo/Sam/Smeagol.  Three and a half stars.

The Return of the King (Books 5 and 6)
This was just incredibly difficult for me to read in some parts, and I don't know why.  The battle scenes were epic and pretty well translated to screen so that I could more easily follow them than Helm's Deep, but when Tolkein got into some lengthy passages my eyes just glazed over more than a Tim Horton's doughnut.  For Book 6, the chapter describing Sam's heroic efforts to rescue Frodo was awesome, but the journey to Mount Doom was a chore to read.  I think it took me three hours to read two chapters.  And then - even once the chief task was completed and the Ring is destroyed - we spend a heck of a long time walking back through Middle-Earth in the most boring fashion.  The saving grace for this book was The Scouring of the Shire, which was an awesome chapter - even though Sarumon is a complete dick.  Three stars.

And there you have it, my brief review of The Lord of the Rings.  My next book to tackle is the 20th Anniversary Edition of Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, which I am much looking forward to.  It's a hardcover beauty with author commentary in the margins.  So I will largely be reviewing the presentation of the book, rather than the book itself.  Heck, I can give you the review of the story right now: it's awesome, and you should read it.


  1. Heh... well, I didn't care much for Lord of the Rings either way (epic fantasy's not my thing, apparently), so kudos on you for sticking it through even though the latter two volumes were disappointing :) Nice review!

  2. On the bright side, the book I'm reading now (Heir to the Empire) is an amazingly refreshing read compared to LOTR. I don't know how I'm going to follow this one up - but I don't think I'm up for a big challenge. Either way I need to read something new (my goal is 25 new books read this year).