Warning: Spoilers ahead, my precious!
Don’t worry; I haven’t given up on Tolkien’s books! I know it’s been a while since I posted a review of one of his books. Blame it on NaNoWriMo taking up most of my free time after schoolwork. Also blame it on my getting distracted from other books. But I wanted to finish the trilogy before I see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on opening day Friday, so I picked up the pace. It’s hard to get back into Tolkien’s writing, because he’s just so wordy and the story is complex, but after about two chapters I didn’t want to put the book down and so now I’m obsessed (but hopefully not corrupted too – I’m looking at you, Gollum) with Lord of the Rings again. 30% of my brain is being used to think about Gollum right now, which makes me writes like this; we hates it, yes we does, because we has to go back and edits out all the nasty little mistakeses, my Precious! Middle-earth is in my mind so much right now that the lyrics of every song I listen to somehow remind me of it, except for one song that reminds me of another book. It’s kind of annoying but mostly cool.
In The Two Towers, the sequel to The Fellowship of the Ring and the middle book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the remaining members of the Fellowship continue their journeys. The first half – actually Book Three, since Lord of the Rings is technically six books but not usually published that way – deals with Aragorn, Gimli, & Legolas, and Merry & Pippin. Eventually Gandalf is added to the mix and all of the above meet once again. Merry and Pippin were captured by Orcs, so Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas look for them. There are several battles, lots of horse-riding, trees that talk, and a couple of weird pages in which the characters discuss weed. Ah, those little hobbits and their pipes!
The second half is far darker and I liked it much more. Frodo, the Ringbearer, and his friend Sam decide to walk to Mordor, where Frodo will destroy the Ring by casting it into the Fiery Mountain. By the end of the book they are very close to their goal, but they didn’t get there on their own – they couldn’t have. Their guide is a creature called Gollum, originally a hobbit named Sméagol. The Ringbearer before Frodo was his cousin Bilbo, who stole it from Gollum. Gollum wants nothing more than to get his “precious” back.
I have a thing for the middle books in a series. First and last books are usually decent – you want to get people reading your writing in the first place, and you don’t want all their hopes crushed by a horrible final book. But really good middle books are amazing things, because I think a lot of series lag in the middle. Catching Fire, the middle book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy, was a terrible letdown. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods (also by Collins), on the other hand, are awesome. I hoped The Two Towers would fit this pattern, and it did. There are a few reasons why.
In this book, Tolkien doesn’t use his characters as he did in The Fellowship of the Ring. In the first book, he wrote about the Nine Walkers, also known as the Fellowship. They were always together until towards the end, when Gandalf had a slight whoopsies and fell into a hole and Boromir had an ouchie and died. As a result of all those characters, Tolkien didn’t go into detail about most of them. As a result of the Fellowship breaking up, we get a closer look at everyone. Except for Boromir, because he’s still a wee bit dead. For example – Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli search for Merry and Pippin. Tolkien’s only writing about three characters there, so he can be a bit more in depth. I liked this quite a bit, because I learned more about each character and it was also easier to keep track of who was doing what. Now I didn’t get confused when they started to feel a tune coming on yet again. Obviously Aragorn’s singing What Makes You Beautiful, Legolas is dancing (but not necessarily to the same song) and Gimli is playing the bongos. I could handle that. In terms of keeping track of things, I mean. I still don’t love the songs, but at least there were far fewer of them in this book.
As soon as I read about Gollum in The Hobbit, he became my favorite character in the series and he has stayed there. I peeked ahead to Book Four when I started The Two Towers and was delighted to see that there was a lot of gollum, gollum, gollum. Yes, he’s creepy, but there’s so much more to him than that. I loved reading about how he essentially has a split personality – part of him is the kind, logical Sméagol that he once was and the other part of him is Gollum, corrupted by and obsessed with the One Ring.
Right at the very end, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum encounter a huge spider named Shelob. As I read that part, I stared at my ‘shelf of favorite books’. I don’t really know what to think about J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins now. I mean, I think their huge spider characters (Aragog and Queen Wevox, respectively) are still pretty cool and not exactly like Shelob, but still. They kind of stole the idea from; I can’t think of any other pre-Tolkien famous fantasy authors who wrote about gigantic spiders.
Some other things I like – I liked Sam more in this book than I did in the previous one. He’s still basically all about helping Frodo, but I like how he becomes braver and eventually intends to destroy the Ring on his own – and he doesn’t get corrupted by it. At least not right away. I’ll have to get back to you on that later. I also liked the mock-rivalry between Legolas and Gimli during the battles. They compete to see who’s killed more people. Yes, it’s kind of morbid, but it’s funny to see how much they get into it. Gimli is so disappointed when Legolas keeps telling him he has a higher count. Finally, I liked the reincarnated Gandalf much better than the old one. He’s funnier, kinder, and more helpful. It’s becoming quite hard for me to decide which wizard I like more – Gandalf or Dumbledore.
All in all, I was very impressed with this book and shall have to give it a rating nearly as rare as the One Ring itself!
And now, I’m off to finish The Return of the King before tomorrow! FOR GONDOR!