The Lord of the Rings is arguably the most important work in fantasy. Tolkien's masterpiece is generally considered the foundation for so many aspectsThe Lord of the Rings is arguably the most important work in fantasy. Tolkien's masterpiece is generally considered the foundation for so many aspects of modern fantasy that it's beyond the scope of this reviewer to even consider. His works inspired countless carbon copies, some good, many terrible, but not a one as wonderful as The Lord of the Rings.
I first read The Fellowship of the Ring in 2000. I was graduating junior high and just discovering fantasy. A friend bought the entire trilogy, plus The Hobbit, and once he'd read them he loaned them to me. As an eighth grader, my understanding of the book was rudimentary at best, picking up on the obvious, but losing much of the beauty. I was concerned with The Quest, to see Frodo and Sam make it to Mt. Doom and destroy the Ring and free Middle Earth. The importance of the journey, though, I mostly missed out on. Now, years later, I've finally began re-reading the series.
I imagine nearly everyone knows what The Lord of the Rings is about, but for the sake of normalcy, I'll give a brief summation. In short, the Dark Lord Sauron is searching for his lost Ring of Power and a group of heroes is trying to destroy it before the Shadow can rise again. While this may sound trite, I offer that it is far from it, that Tolkien was deliberate in his story and that he was the originator* of the cliche.
As I mentioned before, I didn't fully enjoy the journey on my first read-through of The Fellowship of the Ring. This time, however, I relished in it. The quirky songs that seemed to erupt at any given time. The odd and ancient Tom Bombadil and his beautiful Goldberry. The dreams of Boromir for Gondor. The longing in Aragorn's voice. The mystery behind Gandalf. The omnipresent optimistic hobbits and their desire for food and comfort. And this only scratches the surface. While some say that Tolkien used too many words (do trees really deserve that much description?), I think that without the lengthy prose the tale would not be what it is.
Another thing I became fascinated with while re-reading this was the mythology of Middle Earth. Tolkien's worldbuilding is so enormous and vast that some colleges offer courses on it. He created many races, each with their own language or languages. Many had their own histories and legends as well, not to mention architecture style and culture. Tolkien was a renown philologist, and his creation of the many languages adds to the "reality" of Middle Earth. I loved hearing old Elven tales or Dwarven history. I even enjoyed the bits of hobbit history, though it was scarce.
It's impossible to not compare the book to Peter Jackson's superb 2002 movie. Some fans do not like the omissions the film makes, and to an extent I agree. Would I liked to have seen Tom Bombadil or Farmer Maggot? Could Lothlorien or Moria have been better done? Yes. But do I dislike the movie? A resounding no I say. I love it. I think Jackson did a heck of a job making his trilogy and it's atop my list of favorite films. Still, reading the books offers plenty of surprises and differences from the movies, and this re-read helped me see a few of the things I had forgotten.
There is absolutely nothing I dislike about The Fellowship of the Ring. The characters develop nicely through the plot, growing as they transform from rubes to world-weary travelers. There is a quote somewhere in the book about Middle Earth's history being filled with sad tales, and reading The Fellowship of the Ring certainly carries a heavy, tragic tone. Yet, through it all, there is a glimmer of hope, of defeating Sauron and destroying the Ring, and this chance keeps the reader glued to the pages.
If you've never read The Lord of the Rings, then I easily recommend you do so. Tolkien's command of the writing done masterfully, such that there are few dull moments in the book. The story is epic and genre-setting, as evidenced by nearly every run-of-the-mill fantasy book from 1955 until recently. You may think watching the movies are good enough, but I urge you to explore deeper into Tolkien's genius and see the wonderful world he has made.
------- *I realize Tolkien got his inspiration from surrounding myths, but that's beside the point....more
*The fourth time I've read through this book and I still love it. Kvothe is still a compelling character. The plot is paced to my happiness. The side*The fourth time I've read through this book and I still love it. Kvothe is still a compelling character. The plot is paced to my happiness. The side characters are complex rather than flat. The world is rich and deep.
Sure, Kvothe is a bit more condescending that I remember. "If you've never.... then I doubt you'll understand..." he says, too much for my liking, but forgivable enough.
Is the book perfect? No, but it's my favorite, and that's all that matters. If you've never read the seminal volume of The Kingkiller Chronicle, allow me a moment to recommend it.
This book is one of those books that's so good that I've bought numerous copies just to give out to friends and family. It's my go-to book when asked for recommendations. It's so good that I read it aloud to my wife. It's so good that I gave my mom a copy to read, and she's a very much non-genre reader. It's great. Truly, remarkably exceptionally great....more