Book Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

This review may contain spoilers for the first book, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Copy of Book Review (28)

The Two Towers is the second book in Tolkien’s greatest and most enduring classic of the fantasy genre, The Lord of the Rings. As I said in my review for The Fellowship of the Ring, this isn’t my first time reading this books – I have read them several times, in fact – and as such, these aren’t initial thoughts but ones developed over time. Anyway, here is a quick blurb before we delve into my thoughts:

 

Frodo and the Companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest to prevent the Ruling Ring from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord by destroying it in the Cracks of Doom. They have lost the wizard, Gandalf, in the battle with an evil spirit in the Mines of Moria; and at the Falls of Rauros, Boromir, seduced by the power of the Ring, tried to seize it by force. While Frodo and Sam made their escape the rest of the company were attacked by Orcs.

Now they continue their journey alone down the great River Anduin – alone, that is, save for the mysterious creeping figure that follows wherever they go.

 

This book is a different beast to the first book, both structurally and in terms of pace. This is a book of two parts: first, we follow Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli as they hunt the orcs that have captured Merry & Pippin, while in the second half, we follow Frodo and Sam’s journey towards Mordor following the splitting of the Fellowship. This is a big change from the first book, which almost exclusively follows Frodo – and by extension, the rest of the Fellowship when they are with him. This is an old-fashioned way of telling a story that has several plots going on at once. Modern fantasy readers are used to skipping between characters and plots, ala Game of Thrones, and I am not sure which one I like best. I think, in general, I prefer the more modern way of doing things, but for this story I like the way we get to focus on one story plot at a time. This is especially effective with the Sam and Frodo story, which has less action and is more character driven. Spending more concentrated time with these characters really lets us see their struggle, in my opinion. Though, this does mean you have to try and do the mental maths of how the two stories are lining up on the timeline.

The other big difference between this book and the first is the pace. This book is soooooooo much faster than The Fellowship, especially the bits following Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Merry and Pippin. I wouldn’t say the pace is breathtakingly fast, Tolkien’s writing style is style languid and descriptive, but so much more happens. The pace dips a little bit for the Frodo and Sam bits again, but they’re not running around fighting a war and hunting orcs, so it is to be expected. But they are still adventuring and hiding from Sauron’s minions, where as in the Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo hasn’t even left the Shire after 100 pages. The only real slow parts for me are the bits that feel a bit like exposition dumps. Frodo’s conversations with Faramir spring to mind. I’m not entirely sure why we needed so much of Gondor’s history in that conversation, but we got it still.

In my book review for The Fellowship of the Ring, I mentioned how much I adored how Tolkien writes friendships and his characterisation, and this doesn’t change in this book; in fact, it gets even better! I just don’t know how anyone could read these friendships and not be moved. Gimli and Legolas are just amazing, with some of the best lines; they play off each other brilliantly. And obviously, Merry and Pippin have the same chemistry, while Sam is just such a good person – completely devoted to Frodo and the quest. Honestly, we all need a Sam! And, in terms of brilliant characters, I have, and think I always will, love reading Gollum’s scenes. Sure, I wouldn’t want to meet him ever, but Gollum/Sméagol just steals the show. A tragic villain, for sure, but brilliant to read.

As an aside, I think this book begins to show the effect that serving in the trenches in WWI had on Tolkien’s writing. Personally, his descriptions of the Dead Marshes and the destruction that Mordor has wrought on the land around its borders, reads like vivid descriptions of the Western Front, and I don’t think that is a coincidence. Though, this experience obviously never destroyed his humanity as humans are always redeemable in this book. Orcs not so much, but humans under Sauron and Saruman get different treatment. The Dunling Wildmen are shown as remorseful for the harm they have done, while, when Faramir ambushes the Southrons, he muses on whether they are truly evil or just afraid of Sauron’s power and recognises their humanity.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend this book, and the series as a whole. Personally, I think that if you found the Fellowship a struggle due to the pace, you may still enjoy this one as it is much, much quicker. And for that reason, for all but the most hardened Tolkien fans, this one will probably be preferred over the Fellowship. Anyway, enough rambling! I hope you enjoyed my review!

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. That’s interesting! For some reason I always found the first part of this second book “felt” the longest to me compared to the first book. But actually I suppose it’s much shorter, for some reason though the Pippin/Aragorn plot didn’t keep my interest as well. I think I prefer where the viewpoints switch more frequently, that way if you aren’t as interested in one plot line you can still stay interested.

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  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien – Book Reviews | Jack's Bedtime Reading

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