reviewed The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings, part 2)

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Two Towers (Paperback, 2002, Houghton Mifflin Company) 4 stars

Frodo and the Companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest …

Review of 'The Two Towers' on Goodreads

4 stars

"The Two Towers" by J.R.R. Tolkien continues the rich, epic journey of "The Fellowship of the Ring," raising the stakes and plunging the heroes deeper into the fight for the fate of Middle Earth. This second volume is filled with memorable characters, rich landscapes, and poetic passages that shines through a somewhat odd and disjointed structure.

In this volume, the Fellowship splits into two parts. Book Three follows Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli as they chase after Merry and Pippin, kidnapped by Orcs and Urukai from Isengard, into Rohan, a fiercely independent kingdom under attack from Saurman. Book Four follows on parallel the story of Frodo and Sam as they move closer to Mordor to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom and along the way, they encounter a malevolent character lurking the shadows.

In a previous review of "The Fellowship of the Ring" I commented on the fact that the level of detail in the text makes one forget that they are reading a novel instead of a long-lost history or legend. How can one not be enchanted by the magical details Fangorn Forest, Rohan, Helm's Deep, Gondor, Minas Morgul? Each setting fits like a puzzle together to create a rich tapestry.

What makes this so volume stand out are new characters like Treebeard, Theoden, and Faromir and the new details of characters we have only heard about like Sauruman and Gollum. We also gain deeper insights into the character of Frodo and Sam. Their journey towards Mordor, though less colorful than Book Three, has some of the most well crafted images, characters and concepts of the whole novel. What is clear is that by this point in the story Tolkien has hit his stride and his sheer joy drips from the pages.

However, given these strengths, what ultimately weakens this volume is that while there are many splendid pieces "The Two Towers" feels like the text was written in chunks over the course of time and the radically different focuses of Books Three and Four can be distracting and less satisfying than "The Fellowship of the Ring." Still, an amazing read.