Team Review: The Return of the King

“In this hour, I do not believe that any darkness will endure.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
385 pages
Published by Ballantine Books, 1955
Genre: Fantasy
Re-readability: It’s Lord of the Rings… you know we’re going to reread it!@
Indiana’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars Pete’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This review contains spoilers

Pete: This was my first time reading The Return of the King, and it just barely surpassed The Two Towers for me. The climax was powerful and emotional, but my favorite part by far was the slow resolution afterward. Especially The Scouring of the Shire. I know people have mixed feelings about that chapter, but I thought it was intense—and kind of fun.


Indiana: Though it wasn’t my first time reading the series, I somehow forgot just how much of the storyline is left after the major climax with Frodo and the ring. The Scouring of the Shire felt like such an important part of the plot because it solidifies how much Mary, Pippin, and Sam have developed and makes the reader hope for and look forward to their future in the Shire. And on any other adventures they may go on.


Pete: It’s also the first time in two books that the four of them are in the same place! They have all been through so much by then, and this final challenge is small but not entirely easy. I almost feel like they were owed this last adventure.


Indiana: I suppose that’s true. Plus, the hobbits spend so much of the time seemingly blundering around all the other adventure-weathered characters in the book, it was good to see them become the powerful ones when they returned home. What did you think of the scene where Frodo and Sam reach the top of the Mount Doom?


Pete: So I’ve seen the movie and I knew this scene was coming—but I forgot exactly how it played out. It’s an extremely intense moment, and one that almost goes completely wrong. In a way it does, but Smeagol falling into Mount Doom is everyone’s unexpected salvation. This scene reveals a lot about Tolkien’s writing—he can spend fifteen pages on the ascent to the mountaintop, but then he spends two pages on what has to be one of the most dramatic moments in fantasy literature.


Indiana: I know, I love that he spends so long on the journey and only a few pages on the climax. It’s so weird to go back and read these as an adult because when I was a kid I didn’t understand how hopeless their situation was. They had no food, no water, and no energy to get down the mountain. They were prepared to die after they completed their task. For some reason, I always assumed they had a plan.


Pete: Who needs a plan when you have the Great Eagles? But I think Tolkien can be forgiven that slight deus ex machina. Sam and Frodo went through some stuff. It was satisfying to watch all of the plot lines come together for a truly epic finale. I’m so glad I’ve finally read The Lord of the Rings, and I look forward to finding Tolkien’s influence in modern fantasy classics.

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