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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A comment on the product
While a Lord of the Rings fanatic myself, I don't see a reason to write an extensive commentary on the trilogy. If you want a review on the book there are more than sufficient amounts of widely varied opinions below my own that should satiate one's curiosity as to the virtues (or lack thereof) of Tolkien's most acclaimed work.

I feel it more important to note...
Published on Oct. 11 2006 by S. Peters

versus
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This Edition is a Disgrace!
This is not a critique of Tolkien's work; rather it is a condemnation of Houghton Mifflin's hardcover boxed set. Thirty years after first reading "The Lord of the Rings" I decided to read it again. Besides the engrossing and detailed story, I had a renewed interest in the technical aspects of Tolkien's craft and his use of the English language. I am not...
Published on Nov. 6 2000 by Robert S. Truesdell


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, April 21 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Audio CD)
Very nice. The best radio-drama I've ever listened to, topping even the immortal Star Wars Radio Trilogy. Once again, this is a RADIO-DRAMA, NOT an unabridged reading, so don't be a moron and blast this set cause it wasn't what you expected.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent radio adaptation, Aug. 12 2003
By 
Christopher Baum (Astoria, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Audio CD)
A few minor quibbles aside, this BBC radio presentation (in thirteen one-hour episodes) is a magnificent adaptation of Tolkien's masterpiece.
The cast is superb; interestingly, it features prominent connections to both film versions of the story. Ian Holm, who plays Bilbo in Peter Jackson's films, makes a fine Frodo, only occasionally betraying the fact that he is perhaps a little too old for the role. Meanwhile, Peter Woodthorpe builds interestingly on the conception of Gollum that he first presented in Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version. Woodthorpe's characterization is wonderfully effective, giving full expression to the pathos, the menace, and the humor of this extraordinary and complex character.
The pivotal roles of Gandalf and Aragorn are both brilliantly - one might even say definitively - played by Royal Shakespeareans Michael Hordern and Robert Stephens. Their performances could scarcely be bettered. William Nighy, an actor who, on the evidence of his work here, deserves to be far better known in this country, is excellent as Samwise, nicely delineating the character's growth from a simple gardener into a truly heroic figure. The other hobbits are also very well played. Further standouts in what is truly a first-rate cast include Peter Howell as Saruman, David Collings as Legolas, Andrew Seear as Faramir, Jack May as Theoden, and Peter Vaughan as Denethor.
Brian Sibley's adaptation of Tolkien's masterpiece is as good as any we are ever likely to encounter. With the exception of the the Old Forest/Tom Bombadil/Barrow-Downs loop (which, let's be honest, is not likely to be missed too keenly), all of the major plot threads are preserved. Better still, Sibley and his co-writers have presented the tale largely in Tolkien's own words, taking much of the dialogue and narration verbatim from the books. In a few places, especially early on, Sibley does deviate from Tolkien's text - not by changing the story, but rather by staging scenes which are only hinted at in the books. Not surprisingly, these are among the production's weaker moments. The Ringwraiths, in particular, suffer from their extra scenes; the dialogue (and, in some cases, the voices of the actors playing them) makes them rather too solidly human, and they lose some of the spectral menace that Tolkien sustained so beautifully by keeping them mainly in the shadows. But these brief additions are nearly all confined to the first two episodes, and do not detract much from the overall impact of even these installments. After Episode Two, nearly every scene comes directly from Tolkien. Apart from a handful of misjudged moments, everything comes off quite splendidly, and overall the adaptation is really as good as anyone could have wished. Among its many delights, perhaps the most unexpected of all is that the destruction of the Ring takes place around halfway through Episode Twelve - leaving fully an episode and a half for Tolkien's long and very satisfying denouement.
Stephen Oliver's music is lovely and effective, and there are some particularly fine settings of Tolkien's own poetry. The sound effects are generally fairly good, though they could have been used less sparingly in places; however, this economy allows the marvelous cast to come through that much more clearly, so it is difficult to object.
On the whole, this is an intelligent, exciting, and superbly acted dramatization of "The Lord of the Rings." It is unquestionably a must-have for all Tolkien fans. One final word of warning, however: please do not confuse this brilliant BBC adaptation with the abominable American version produced by The Mind's Eye. The latter adaptation, which was apparently aimed at developmentally challenged toddlers, is to be avoided at all costs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection., May 7 2004
By 
Cubelodyte (A dingy cubicle farm) - See all my reviews
Inglis' delivery was very nearly flawless. He also has an excellent singing voice; I was astonished to find there were so many songs written down in the books. The only major problem I had with this set is that it was finite.
I had never heard of Mr. Inglis before listening to this set. He actually made me look forward to an hour-long commute. If someone were to publish his reading of the Zip code directory, I would purchase it immediately. He's that good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A laymans review, Sept. 22 2003
By 
Cindy (Edmonton, Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
This Millenium Edition Lord of the Rings 7 volume set is amazing. It has black binding with red and gold Eye of Sauron and has JRR Tolkien's signature on the inside front page. It is by far the best version to date and very hard to find. The UK version comes with a CD which has JRR Tolkien reading exerpts from the story. Each volume binding has a letter of Tolkien's name. A must have if you can find it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Lord" rules, March 19 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Paperback)
Though Tolkien was not the first or most critically-acclaimed fantasy writer, he remains the most beloved and influential, even though "Lord of the Rings" is decades old.

Now with the epic movie trilogy based on this book, new waves of readers are discovering the unique power of the "Lord of the Rings." It has quietly created the fantasy genre as we know it, set the tone for most fantasy ever since, topped many "best book" polls, and helped spawn such entertainment phenomena as "Star Wars."

Following up on events in "The Hobbit," "The Fellowship of the Ring" stars the quiet, good-natured hobbit Frodo Baggins, who has inherited a golden Ring that allows its user to become invisible. But his friend, Gandalf the wizard, informs Frodo that the Ring is really the Ring of Power, a tiny invulnerable token that the demonic Dark Lord Sauron has poured his essence and power into. And if Sauron can regain the Ring, he will be able to conquer Middle-Earth. Aghast, Frodo joins a fellowship of Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Men and a wizard, to go to the one place where the Ring can be destroyed: Mount Doom.

"The Two Towers" begins directly after "Fellowship," after Frodo Baggins flees with his friend Sam into Mordor, with no one to protect them. His cousins Merry and Pippin are kidnapped by orcs from the renegade wizard Saruman. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli begin a frenetic search for the hobbits, and receive unexpected help from unlikely allies. Meanwhile, the Ring weighs more heavily on Frodo, as he is forced to get help from one of the people he most despised: the Ring's slave Gollum.

"Return of the King" brings the trilogy to an action-packed, slam-bang and ultimately poignant finale. Sam barely rescues Frodo from Sauron's orcs, and the two resume their journey to Mount Doom, barely escaping Sauron's forces. As Aragorn leads the desperate battle against Sauron's armies at the city of Minas Tirith, Frodo falls increasingly under the seductive spell of the Ring.

"Lord of the Rings" is indeed a powerful book, speaking to virtually everyone who has read it. J.R.R. Tolkien drew from legends and myths, ranging from the ancient Norse mythology to more recent legends, mingled with his love of the British country folk and his Roman Catholic beliefs.

Though there are no direct linkages or lessons in the trilogy, Tolkien probably drew on his experiences in World War I for the ravaged battlefields and breakneck action sequences. His beliefs are equally misty but present: they fueled the ethics of the good guys, the fall of formerly-good wizard Saruman, and the themes of temptation, redemption, evil and good that run through every character.

Frodo Baggins is an everyman hero, who dreams of adventure but begins to treasure the simple, boring life that he had once he is deprived of it. His deteriotation is saddening, all the more so because he is aware of it. The equally vibrant cast also includes Gandalf the crabby grandfatherly wizard, Sam Gamgee the loyal gardener, and a variety of kings, elves, dwarves, and more lovable little hobbits.

Tolkien's writing is evocative and descriptive, though not to extremes; Mordor, for example, is best described through the way that Sam and Frodo react to it. The dialogue can range from goofy and hilarious to solemn and archaic, or to some combination of the two. And the pacing is gradual but necessary -- readers with short attention spans won't be able to handle this story. If they can handle sprawling, epic tales, then probably they can.

Even after all the years, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" still rules the fantasy genre and has become an integral part of modern literature. It's an epic for all ages, and few books have even come close to equalling it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Lord" rules, March 19 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Hardcover)
Though Tolkien was not the first or most critically-acclaimed fantasy writer, he remains the most beloved and influential, even though "Lord of the Rings" is decades old.

Now with the epic movie trilogy based on this book, new waves of readers are discovering the unique power of the "Lord of the Rings." It has quietly created the fantasy genre as we know it, set the tone for most fantasy ever since, topped many "best book" polls, and helped spawn such entertainment phenomena as "Star Wars."

Following up on events in "The Hobbit," "The Fellowship of the Ring" stars the quiet, good-natured hobbit Frodo Baggins, who has inherited a golden Ring that allows its user to become invisible. But his friend, Gandalf the wizard, informs Frodo that the Ring is really the Ring of Power, a tiny invulnerable token that the demonic Dark Lord Sauron has poured his essence and power into. And if Sauron can regain the Ring, he will be able to conquer Middle-Earth. Aghast, Frodo joins a fellowship of Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Men and a wizard, to go to the one place where the Ring can be destroyed: Mount Doom.

"The Two Towers" begins directly after "Fellowship," after Frodo Baggins flees with his friend Sam into Mordor, with no one to protect them. His cousins Merry and Pippin are kidnapped by orcs from the renegade wizard Saruman. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli begin a frenetic search for the hobbits, and receive unexpected help from unlikely allies. Meanwhile, the Ring weighs more heavily on Frodo, as he is forced to get help from one of the people he most despised: the Ring's slave Gollum.

"Return of the King" brings the trilogy to an action-packed, slam-bang and ultimately poignant finale. Sam barely rescues Frodo from Sauron's orcs, and the two resume their journey to Mount Doom, barely escaping Sauron's forces. As Aragorn leads the desperate battle against Sauron's armies at the city of Minas Tirith, Frodo falls increasingly under the seductive spell of the Ring.

"Lord of the Rings" is indeed a powerful book, speaking to virtually everyone who has read it. J.R.R. Tolkien drew from legends and myths, ranging from the ancient Norse mythology to more recent legends, mingled with his love of the British country folk and his Roman Catholic beliefs.

Though there are no direct linkages or lessons in the trilogy, Tolkien probably drew on his experiences in World War I for the ravaged battlefields and breakneck action sequences. His beliefs are equally misty but present: they fueled the ethics of the good guys, the fall of formerly-good wizard Saruman, and the themes of temptation, redemption, evil and good that run through every character.

Frodo Baggins is an everyman hero, who dreams of adventure but begins to treasure the simple, boring life that he had once he is deprived of it. His deteriotation is saddening, all the more so because he is aware of it. The equally vibrant cast also includes Gandalf the crabby grandfatherly wizard, Sam Gamgee the loyal gardener, and a variety of kings, elves, dwarves, and more lovable little hobbits.

Tolkien's writing is evocative and descriptive, though not to extremes; Mordor, for example, is best described through the way that Sam and Frodo react to it. The dialogue can range from goofy and hilarious to solemn and archaic, or to some combination of the two. And the pacing is gradual but necessary -- readers with short attention spans won't be able to handle this story. If they can handle sprawling, epic tales, then probably they can.

Even after all the years, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" still rules the fantasy genre and has become an integral part of modern literature. It's an epic for all ages, and few books have even come close to equalling it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The king returns, March 19 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
"Return of the King" is the worthy climax to J.R.R. Tolkien's epic saga, the fantasy that created the genre as we know it today. Now, as the blockbuster movie adaptation is over, many readers are checking out the dramatic story that ends Tolkien's masterpiece and life's work.

The story opens where "Two Towers" left off. Gandalf has ridden to the city of Gondor with Pippin (partly to keep him out of trouble), where the forces of Mordor are attacking. There is upheaval in the city itself, as the steward of Gondor is going nuts. Merry pledges his service to King Theoden of Rohan, not knowing what is ahead for the king and his relatives. And Aragorn is seeking out allies to fight Sauron on a military scale, even if they can't defeat him unless the Ring is destroyed. His search will take him to tribes of forest-dwellers, to Gondor -- and even to summon an army of the dead.

In Mordor, the unconscious Frodo has been captured by Sauron's orcs, and taken to the fortress of Cirith Ungol. Sam is desperate to free his friend, but knows that he can't take on an army, and that Frodo would want him to finish the quest. Sam manages to free Frodo from captivity, but they must still brave more dangers before they can come to Mount Doom, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed. As they travel Sam sees Frodo slipping further and further into the Ring's grasp. Will Frodo be able to destroy the Ring?

Usually, the climax of an epic adventure is a disappointment. "Return of the King" succeeds in almost every way, wrapping up each individual storyline, one by one. The ending has a feeling of finality; this is one story that could never have a sequel; Tolkien shows that in a war like this, there is no true "happy ending." Even if the good guys win, there will still be scarring, and death, and haunting memories of what once happened. And even if a person survives, he will never be the same.

This is the grimmest of the three books in this trilogy. Frodo and Sam are stuck in the vividly horrific Mordor, while the city of Minas Tirith is on the verge of completely crumbling. Tolkien does a phenomenal job of exploring the madness, despair, rage and sorrow that accompany a war, and the way it can affect even the idyllic Shire. And he doesn't forget the slow period of healing that follows -- for people, for civilizations, and even for nature.

Though a section of the book near the end descends into near-biblical prose, which changes post-Gondor, Tolkien does not waver in his ability to evoke emotion. One of the most touching scenes in the book is when Sam finds Frodo naked, unconscious and being beaten by an orc. Others include Merry's farewell to Theoden, Eowyn's slaying of the Witch-King, and of course the bittersweet final scene.

Speaking of Frodo, this trilogy's hero is almost unrecognizable in parts of this book. The bright, naive young hobbit of the first book has been worn down to a pale shadow of himself. As he grows increasingly attached to the Ring, we even see him doing what seems unimaginable: threatening Sam with a dagger. Sam has come a long way from the shy young hobbit who couldn't say a word around the High Elves -- now he's attacking orcs and carrying Frodo to Mount Doom.

And the supporting characters are not neglected either, with the younger hobbits being exposed to the horrors of war, Aragorn breaking fully into his role as the future king of Gondor, and passionate war-maiden Eowyn affecting the war as nobody else could. Some much-loved characters are lost, and others will be permanently changed.

The story doesn't really end on the last page; for more background, especially on Aragorn and Arwen, readers should also read the appendices at the end of the book. Another good addition is "The End of the Third Age," in which the unpublished epilogue of this book can be found. Though this is probably not canonical, it nicely concludes the story and is a heartwarming look at what happens in the years following "Return of the King."

It's difficult, once the story has finished, to accept that one has to say goodbye to Middle-Earth and its enchanting inhabitants. But as Gandalf says, "I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."
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5.0 out of 5 stars The story continues, March 19 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
The second volume of Tolkien's epic trilogy never even wavers. If anything, it seems steadier and more controlled than "Fellowship of the Ring," as several characters become more central and the plot focus widens to envelop all of Middle Earth. It suffers from a bit of sequelitis in places, but the overall book is just as enthralling as the first.

Aragorn finds that Merry and Pippin have been abducted rather than killed -- for what reason, no one knows. Frodo and Sam have left on their own. So Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli race to find the orcs and retrieve the hobbits, but are stopped by the fierce Riders of Rohan, and then by an old and dear friend: Gandalf, who has been resurrected in the new form of a White wizard. Elsewhere, Merry and Pippin must use all of their wits to escape the orcs, and then find a strange band of allies that no one could have hoped for.

Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam head into Mordor -- with an eerily familiar figure, Gollum, following them. Frodo subjugates Gollum, forcing him to swear on "the precious" that he won't harm him. In return, Gollum promises to guide the two hobbits through Mordor, straight to Mount Doom. But the Ring is weighing more heavily than ever on Frodo, and is starting to reassert its old sway on Gollum...

One of the most noticeable changes in this book is the shift of focus. "Fellowship" was Frodo-centric, since the narration revolved around him, as did all the events and thoughts. But with the breaking of the Fellowship, the narration falls into three categories: Frodo and Sam; Merry and Pippin; Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. This triple style allows individuals to shine more brightly, when they are called on to do more than hike with Frodo.

Tolkien also presented a wider view of Middle-Earth in general. While the slow slog through Mordor doesn't really tell or show readers much -- aside from what a hellhole Sauron is the middle of -- it's shocking to see the the effects of the orcs, Saruman and Sauron on places such as Gondor and Rohan.

But where Tolkien really outdid himself is Gollum. Gollum returns, in a substantially different state. Oh, he's still addled and addicted to the Ring, but he displays a dual love/loathing for the Ring, a weird affection for Frodo (who, from his point of view, is probably the only person who has been kind to him), and displays a Ring-induced multiple-personality syndrome. Very rarely can bad guys elicit the sort of loathing and pity from the reader that Gollum does.

One noticeable aspect of this book is friendship. When the Fellowship sets out from Rivendell, virtually everyone is a stranger, with the exception of the hobbits. However, in this book we get our view of how much Sam loves Frodo and wants to help him. Sam is fully aware of how much Frodo needs emotional support, and he's quite willing to be a pillar of strength for his friend. We see Gimli and Legolas's affection for Merry and Pippin; and Legolas's willingness to kill Eomer if Eomer hurts Gimli shows how far this Elf and Dwarf have come.

This book is substantially darker than "Fellowship." Frodo is starting to stumble under the weight of the Ring, and other characters die or are seriously hurt. The scene where Pippin's mind is trapped by Sauron is a very disturbing one, as is a violent and saddening scene late in the book. But there is also some wry humor, like Legolas's snippy comments about pipeweed as Gimli and the hobbits smoke up a storm, and Sam's debate with Gollum about whether they should cook the rabbits.

Tolkien's second "Lord of the Rings" novel is a thrilling fantasy adventure, exploring more of his invented world than "Fellowship of the Ring" did. "The Two Towers" starts heading into darker territory, and will leave readers panting for more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Lord" rules, March 4 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings (Paperback)
Though Tolkien was not the first or most critically-acclaimed fantasy writer, he remains the most beloved and influential, even though "Lord of the Rings" is decades old.

Now with the epic movie trilogy based on this book, new waves of readers are discovering the unique power of the "Lord of the Rings." It has quietly created the fantasy genre as we know it, set the tone for most fantasy ever since, topped many "best book" polls, and helped spawn such entertainment phenomena as "Star Wars."

Following up on events in "The Hobbit," "The Fellowship of the Ring" stars the quiet, good-natured hobbit Frodo Baggins, who has inherited a golden Ring that allows its user to become invisible. But his friend, Gandalf the wizard, informs Frodo that the Ring is really the Ring of Power, a tiny invulnerable token that the demonic Dark Lord Sauron has poured his essence and power into. And if Sauron can regain the Ring, he will be able to conquer Middle-Earth. Aghast, Frodo joins a fellowship of Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Men and a wizard, to go to the one place where the Ring can be destroyed: Mount Doom.

"The Two Towers" begins directly after "Fellowship," after Frodo Baggins flees with his friend Sam into Mordor, with no one to protect them. His cousins Merry and Pippin are kidnapped by orcs from the renegade wizard Saruman. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli begin a frenetic search for the hobbits, and receive unexpected help from unlikely allies. Meanwhile, the Ring weighs more heavily on Frodo, as he is forced to get help from one of the people he most despised: the Ring's slave Gollum.

"Return of the King" brings the trilogy to an action-packed, slam-bang and ultimately poignant finale. Sam barely rescues Frodo from Sauron's orcs, and the two resume their journey to Mount Doom, barely escaping Sauron's forces. As Aragorn leads the desperate battle against Sauron's armies at the city of Minas Tirith, Frodo falls increasingly under the seductive spell of the Ring.

"Lord of the Rings" is indeed a powerful book, speaking to virtually everyone who has read it. J.R.R. Tolkien drew from legends and myths, ranging from the ancient Norse mythology to more recent legends, mingled with his love of the British country folk and his Roman Catholic beliefs.

Though there are no direct linkages or lessons in the trilogy, Tolkien probably drew on his experiences in World War I for the ravaged battlefields and breakneck action sequences. His beliefs are equally misty but present: they fueled the ethics of the good guys, the fall of formerly-good wizard Saruman, and the themes of temptation, redemption, evil and good that run through every character.

Frodo Baggins is an everyman hero, who dreams of adventure but begins to treasure the simple, boring life that he had once he is deprived of it. His deteriotation is saddening, all the more so because he is aware of it. The equally vibrant cast also includes Gandalf the crabby grandfatherly wizard, Sam Gamgee the loyal gardener, and a variety of kings, elves, dwarves, and more lovable little hobbits.

Tolkien's writing is evocative and descriptive, though not to extremes; Mordor, for example, is best described through the way that Sam and Frodo react to it. The dialogue can range from goofy and hilarious to solemn and archaic, or to some combination of the two. And the pacing is gradual but necessary -- readers with short attention spans won't be able to handle this story. If they can handle sprawling, epic tales, then probably they can.

Even after all the years, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" still rules the fantasy genre and has become an integral part of modern literature. It's an epic for all ages, and few books have even come close to equalling it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The story ends, Feb. 25 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Return of the King (Paperback)
"Return of the King" is the worthy climax to J.R.R. Tolkien's epic saga, the fantasy that created the genre as we know it today. Now, as the blockbuster movie adaptation is over, many readers are checking out the dramatic story that ends Tolkien's masterpiece and life's work.

Gandalf has ridden to the city of Gondor with Pippin (partly to keep him out of trouble), where the forces of Mordor are attacking. There is upheaval in the city itself, as the steward of Gondor is going nuts. Merry pledges his service to King Theoden of Rohan, not knowing what is ahead for the king and his relatives. And Aragorn is seeking out allies to fight Sauron on a military scale, even if they can't defeat him unless the Ring is destroyed. His search will take him to tribes of forest-dwellers, to Gondor -- and even to summon an army of the dead.

In Mordor, the unconscious Frodo has been captured by Sauron's orcs, and taken to the fortress of Cirith Ungol. Sam is desperate to free his friend, but knows that he can't take on an army, and that Frodo would want him to finish the quest. Sam manages to free Frodo from captivity, but they must still brave more dangers before they can come to Mount Doom, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed. As they travel Sam sees Frodo slipping further and further into the Ring's grasp. Will Frodo be able to destroy the Ring?

Usually, the climax of an epic adventure is a disappointment. "Return of the King" succeeds in almost every way, wrapping up each individual storyline, one by one. The ending has a feeling of finality; this is one story that could never have a sequel; Tolkien shows that in a war like this, there is no true "happy ending." Even if the good guys win, there will still be scarring, and death, and haunting memories of what once happened. And even if a person survives, he will never be the same.

This is the grimmest of the three books in this trilogy. Frodo and Sam are stuck in the vividly horrific Mordor, while the city of Minas Tirith is on the verge of completely crumbling. Tolkien does a phenomenal job of exploring the madness, despair, rage and sorrow that accompany a war, and the way it can affect even the idyllic Shire. And he doesn't forget the slow period of healing that follows -- for people, for civilizations, and even for nature.

Though a section of the book near the end descends into near-biblical prose, which changes post-Gondor, Tolkien does not waver in his ability to evoke emotion. One of the most touching scenes in the book is when Sam finds Frodo naked, unconscious and being beaten by an orc. Others include Merry's farewell to Theoden, Eowyn's slaying of the Witch-King, and of course the bittersweet final scene.

Speaking of Frodo, this trilogy's hero is almost unrecognizable in parts of this book. The bright, naive young hobbit of the first book has been worn down to a pale shadow of himself. As he grows increasingly attached to the Ring, we even see him doing what seems unimaginable: threatening Sam with a dagger. Sam has come a long way from the shy young hobbit who couldn't say a word around the High Elves -- now he's attacking orcs and carrying Frodo to Mount Doom.

And the supporting characters are not neglected either, with the younger hobbits being exposed to the horrors of war, Aragorn breaking fully into his role as the future king of Gondor, and passionate war-maiden Eowyn affecting the war as nobody else could. Some much-loved characters are lost, and others will be permanently changed.

The story doesn't really end on the last page; for more background, especially on Aragorn and Arwen, readers should also read the appendices at the end of the book. Another good addition is "The End of the Third Age," in which the unpublished epilogue of this book can be found. Though this is probably not canonical, it nicely concludes the story and is a heartwarming look at what happens in the years following "Return of the King."

It's difficult, once the story has finished, to accept that one has to say goodbye to Middle-Earth and its enchanting inhabitants. But as Gandalf says, "I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."
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The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (Hardcover - Dec 15 2005)
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