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Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Drive away bad air and darkness with bright iron!", February 14, 2002
This review is from: The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, Part 3) (Mass Market Paperback)
Someone who has read and been enthralled by the first two volumes of "The Lord of the Rings" might fear that J.R.R. Tolkien could not possibly have written an ending for his great fantasy epic that measures up to what has preceded it. Such a fear would be groundless. "The Return of the King" is a nearly perfect, fully satisfying conclusion to one of the best-loved stories of the twentieth century.
Tolkien has been accused by some of not being good at character development, and yet by the time the reader reaches the opening chapters of "The Return of the King" he or she loves all the main characters of Tolkien's story and knows them as well as old friends. In my opinion, the explanation of this paradox is that Tolkien, in his presentation of his characters, is the antithesis of a writer like Charles Dickens (whose works I also love). The hobbits, Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, and the rest of Tolkien's cast of characters do not burst with exaggerated personality the instant we meet them, as do Pecksniff, Scrooge and Micawber. Their personalities are revealed to us slowly and steadily as they experience their adventures, so that we come to know them gradually, as we would come to know real people. A reader glancing at almost any individual page in "The Lord of the Rings" might think Tolkien's characters are not very distinctive or strongly characterized, yet the cumulative effect of the whole long story is to fix an indelible impression of each character in our minds. This process is completed in "The Return of the King," in which the characters -- especially the hobbits -- reveal new levels of heroism and wisdom previously unguessed-at.
All the themes that Tolkien has raised in the first two installments of "The Lord of the Rings" -- the horror of war balanced against the necessity of just war, the dilemma of capital punishment, the senselessness of environmental destruction, the reality of both evil and good, cruelty and heroism -- are resolved and clarified in "The Return of the King" in a profound, often heartbreaking, and entirely satisfying way. The marvelous, complicated plot of this epic story is resolved in a powerful, surprising and yet logical climax. This climax is followed by several concluding chapters containing some more surprises -- both pleasant and unpleasant -- and some of the most beautiful writing you'll ever read. Indeed, the final chapter of all, which brings the story to an unforgettably bittersweet conclusion, is so perfectly written that one would not wish to change a single sentence or word.
"The Lord of the Rings" is undoubtedly one of the best novels in any genre ever written by anyone, and Peter Jackson's adaptation of it into a movie trilogy is to be commended for attracting many new readers to Tolkien's book.
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