Review – The Return of the King

Posted January 31, 2017 by Nicky in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of The Return of the King by J.R.R. TolkienThe Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien

And so another reread came to an end — somewhat painfully. The first half of The Return of the King is just as epic and well-written as the rest. Aragorn shows his nobility and saves the day, epic battles are fought, the hobbits surprise themselves with their own valour, and the creeping dread of the Nazgul can be felt by characters and reader alike. The battles and the nobility of all the characters are clear, there’s tension and excitement, and some truly vivid images — like Denethor’s hands, holding the palantir, withering in flame.

Even the start of the second part works well: Sam and Frodo practically crawling through Mordor. The despair and the trudging and the dirt and defilement are as vivid as anything written before.

Even their triumph works reasonably well. But it’s as though Tolkien just didn’t know how to end the book. It ends on the Field of Cormallen, then again in Gondor. Then again at Orthanc, and Rivendell, and in Bree, and again in the Shire, and then yet again at the Grey Havens. Each scene makes sense, but it feels like it’s wrapping up… and then it’s as if Tolkien takes a deep breath and plunges on.

It feels a little untidy, even while it ties up all the loose ends. And when you get to the Scouring of the Shire, you just want to yell at him to give Frodo a break already. Thematically, it makes sense. It’s been hinted at from the beginning, and the plot is ready for it. But I don’t feel like the story is. It just doesn’t draw to a close gracefully. ‘And then another thing. And another thing.’ Like being told an anecdote that never seems to end.

I do love The Lord of the Rings passionately, in spite of all its faults… But I skimmed the Scouring of the Shire, this time round.

Rating: 5/5

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6 responses to “Review – The Return of the King

  1. But the end in The Shire as Frodo is preparing to leave for the Havens, the sacrifice he has made…….It gets me every time, my favourite passage in all literature.

  2. I will return to Middle-Earth this year – I loved rereading Fellowship and the Silmarillion last March, so I’ll finish the journey this year. I was never a fan of the Scouring of the Shire, and I doubt that will have changed – although I look back now and note just how many of my favourite childhood books end with all the magic leaving the world 0.0

  3. In some ways it mirrors the first book for me. It takes ages to actually get through the birthday stuff to get to the quest beginning, and I tend to skip that on thr rereads, and I felt the last book did go on a bit too long. For me, my brain finished with the story with the destroying of the Ring. I didn’t really want the whole journey home! TBH I barely remember any of it now…

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