This review may contain spoilers for the first and second books in the series, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring & The Two Towers
The Return of the King is the third, and final, book in Tolkien’s classic, epic fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. As I have said in my reviews for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, this isn’t my first reading of The Lord of the Rings, so don’t expect an initial reaction like in most of my reviews. Anyway, for anyone that doesn’t know what is going on in Middle Earth by the time this book starts, here is what is the blurb for this book:
The armies of the Dark Lord are massing as his evil shadow spreads ever wider. Men, Dwarves, Elves and Ents unite forces to do battle against the Dark. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam struggle further into Mordor in their heroic quest to destroy the One Ring.
Like the Two Towers, this book is split into two parts: one following Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and my personal favourites, Merry and Pippin, as they battle against the armies of the Dark Lord, while the other follows Frodo and Sam’s quest into Mordor to destroy the One Ring. As I said in my Two Towers review, some people will like this as it gives you the chance to really get stuck into a particular story line (and I think this is particularly effective with Frodo’s story due to the siege-like mentality of the Ring’s evil that builds in his mind), while others might find it a bit frustrating as they wish to see more of the whole picture and how it all interlinks, ala Game of Thrones. Personally, I think I prefer the more modern way, but as I just said, I do think this method works quite well for Frodo and Sam’s story so, hey, I’m gonna sit in this here fence!
One of the things I have most consistently talked about in my previous Lord of the Rings reviews is the pace, and I won’t lie – I am going to talk about it this time again. This is because I found The Return of the King to be a strange blend of the previous two books. It is 100% faster than The Fellowship of the Ring, which was a very slow-build book, but it wasn’t as fast, at least not consistently throughout the book, as The Two Towers. This isn’t a criticism, it is just a fact of the plot. We start the book with everyone recovering and regrouping from the opening moves of the war. Saruman has been defeated, but Mordor has yet to make its move. However, the quieter start than the previous book only ends up leading to the greatest ‘epic’ and emotional moments of the series – I mean, honestly, what can top The Battle of Pelennor Fields and the Ride of the Rohirrim? Or
One of the most interesting aspects of this book, in my opinion, is the ending. It carries on way past what might be considered the ‘natural’ end of the story with the completion of Frodo’s quest. And I think this very much is a reflection of Tolkien’s experiences of WWI and how the scars of it carried on after, and probably for the rest of his life. This is shown through the evil of the Ring never truly leaving Frodo, even years after the completion of his quest. I know… I gave away some spoilers here, but who doesn’t know Frodo wins? And I couldn’t really discuss it without giving away any spoilers.
Anyway, would I recommend this book? Of course! Read the other ones first though – do I even need to say that? This is an epic and satisfying conclusion to this story and Tolkien smashed it out the park. Though, a quick note, this is the shortest of the three books – think – as a huge amount pages is spent of the VAST index in the back. This is practically an encyclopedia of anything that is even vaguely mentioned or linked with the story of the Ring or the Fellowship and so perfect for the fan that just needs to know more – and really highlights how much of a labour of love everything to do with Middle Earth was for Tolkien.
Anyway, that is enough rambling by me… Hope you enjoyed this book review!