Chrissy's Reviews > The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
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Dec 16, 2013

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, british, mythology
Read from November 20 to December 16, 2013

I'm torn between 3 and 4 stars, the latter of which seems to me to suggest that others should read the book in question, whereas the former merely acknowledges it as having been enjoyable enough to the reviewer. As much as I actually loved the challenge and rewards inherent in reading the Silmarillion, I'm not prepared to make any recommendations without a caveat: you should read this book if and only if you really, really dig Middle-Earth mythology.
If you found the Lord of the Rings series tedious, this is not for you. If you couldn't keep the names and relationships of the characters in, for example, GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire straight, this is not for you. If, on the other hand, you devoured LotR and the Hobbit and found yourself wanting to learn more about this world-- or more precisely, everything about this world, from its inception to the end of the Third Age with the destruction of the One Ring-- then this book will thrill you even as it tires the heck out of you.

It's alarmingly thorough, and reads more like a long biblical/war history than a fiction. What little flourish there is in the writing shows up mostly in the accounts of the divine and their scattered interactions with the peoples of Middle Earth; this is a reflection of the fact that the deities are more abstractions than they are beings, and are written in the vein of Classical Greek and Roman mythologists. But if you can stomach the exhaustingly factual style of the narrative, the elaborate family trees, the bafflingly large and unnervingly changeable scope of the land's geography, and the multiplicity of names for a given character or location, then it's assuredly worth your time, if only to retroactively enrich your experience of LotR. In truth, it makes me want to re-read the trilogy, now that I've acquired 15 years (oh god, it's been so long) and a much better grasp on the lore.

Particularly enchanting was the Tale of Beren and Luthien, a Tolkien'ed take on Medieval romantic adventure epics, though there are certainly other chapters of note as well. I can't imagine, in any case, that one could jump in to cherry-picked chapters and enjoy them piecemeal; there's simply too much backstory and interconnection, which build as the book goes on and the lineages expand. I was also rather fond of the Ainulindalë and the Valaquenta, which precede the Silmarillion proper and provide the mythological backdrop to the histories of elves and men.

All told, this book was a challenge and I would never re-read it, but I just loved it and find myself in even greater awe of the wonderful, magical, impressive world that Tolkien crafted. Reading it was like an archeological study of history, uncovering one fantastical piece of an elaborate causal puzzle at a time and feeling, continuously, the satisfaction of having yet another question answered-- usually with magic and dragons and daring and ELVES. Pretty much a nerd's dream.
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11/20/2013 marked as: currently-reading
12/16/2013 marked as: read
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