reviewed The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, #3)

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Return of the King (Paperback, 2001, Houghton Mifflin Company) 4 stars

As the Shadow of Mordor grows across the land, the Companions of the Ring have …

Review of 'The Return of the King' on Goodreads

3 stars

"The Return of the King" by J.R.R. Tolkien brings the "The Lord of the Rings" to a ringing conclusion. At the end of the journey, one cannot help but be impressed by the level of detail and imagination that went into this beloved work of literature. While for the most part "The Return of the King" is a satisfying conclusion the story, the experience is lessened by a disjointed and often confusingly crafted narrative structure of the whole novel.

"The Return of the King" follows the battle between the forces of the West led by Gandalf and those of the Dark Lord Sauron. What is so wonderful about this volume is that each of the Hobbits is able to come fully into his own - Frodo completes his quest, Sam shows courage and bravery in Mordor, Merry becomes a squire to the King of Rohan, and Pippin enters into the service of the Steward of Gondor. Following each of these characters we are allowed to see them play integral parts in the story, which I think is one of Tolkien's main points - the Hobbits are the essential players for the fate of the world.

It is in this volume where much of the complex mythos that Tolkien has constructed comes into play. Here we see the passing of the Third Age and the departure of the Elves from Middle-earth and the transition to the Fourth Age and the Age of Men. This gives the author the opportunity to pose interesting thoughts about the passage of time and history.

While I have done my best to focus this review on the third volume of the novel, it is impossible to consider the last part without looking at the whole work that came before it. The novel as whole is truly brilliant in its creativity and imagination. And after reading nearly 800+ pages one becomes heavily invested in the story and wants to see it through to its conclusion.

But in my opinion "The Return of the King" is the weakest volume of the novel because of what is my biggest criticism of "The Lord of the Rings" - a disjointed narrative structure. There are some wonderful passages and images in "Return" (I found myself noting quotations in this volume more than the other two). But, whether an intentional creative choice or not, the novel for all of its brilliance is hindered by Tolkien's style of story telling. I give the whole novel four stars but this volume three stars for its narrative flaws. Even with those flaws, however, volume three was captivating and immensely enjoyable!