The Return to the King by J.R.R. Tolkien book review

Have you heard of Lord of the Rings? If not, it’s a relatively unknown fantasy book that was published many decades ago, split into three books to make it more accessible for readers, built up a mass following, made into one of the most successful and celebrated trilogies of all time and is now considered the greatest piece of fantasy work ever written. The Return of the King is the third book in the series and the one many consider the best. But did I?

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Just before you read my review of the final book in the series, make sure you’ve read my reviews of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers beforehand because if you haven’t, this one may contain spoilers.

The Return of the King rounds off all of the story arcs from the previous two Lord of the Rings books with the story of “the ring” being the main one of course. With the caveat that this is obviously the final third of what was originally one whole book, it obviously carries on with the same themes and characters we’ve been reading about and following in the previous two novels.

The Return of the King plot – 4.75/5

The third and final book in the Lord of the Rings series feels like an almost perfect finish to one of the greatest journies told in literature. The first half of the book finishes off the story arc that we’ve been reading about in the previous two books and then the second half completely shook me.

Now, without giving away too many spoilers, unlike the films, there’s quite a big chunk of story after the ring is destroyed. This final section, after I did some research, has been hugely praised by critics of the book for adding in yet another layer of political intrigue bringing the reader back full circle to the life of Hobbits and enhancing some of the lore of Hobbiton. At first, I wasn’t a fan as it felt to me like Tolkien was just adding story to fill more pages but as it kept going, I began to realise how much I was enjoying it and how it made me feel completely differently about this world we’d explored throughout the previous two books.

I don’t think anyone needs to tell you that The Lord of the Rings and especially this final book is a masterpiece in storytelling. This final book has every point you’d want to hit in a book: death-defying, high-intensity action; calm, emotional moments; fascinating, dawn-out conversations and so much more.

Sometimes a long book can be a hindrance to a story as it feels dragged out but in other instances, like this, it allows the author to involve plenty of smaller stories and ensure they include all of the key details like this.

The Return of the King characters – 4.75/5

The Lord of the Rings series is famous for having some loveable characters. The likes of Pippin, Merry, Samwise and Gimli bring comedic moments and Gandalf, Aragon, Legolas bring that “damn you’re cool”.

This combination means you cannot help but fall in love with these characters which in turn makes you far more interested in continuing the story that they’re involved in.

The final book in a series is often the one you feel is the best when it comes to making you interested in the characters as you’ve been reading about them for some while and so find yourself naturally reading about them, used to their characteristics rather than trying to work out what they’re like as people. This is true here too. Because we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of pages to get used to the great characters they already are, we can continue to enjoy their stories.

I’d have to say Frodo continues to be my least favourite character. He’s not particularly interesting, he doesn’t really say a lot, he’s not really overly heroic and he’s not going to win over any fans However, as is often the case with fantasy novels, the main character is fairly placid to allow them to just follow the story and then the surrounding characters are those that bring the energy.

The Return of the King final rating – 4.75/5

At first, I didn’t know if I was enjoying The Return of the King as much as I enjoyed The Two Towers. However, when the second half of the book kicked in, it took it to another level that had me appreciating the lore of the world and the creativity of Tolkien’s mind.

The Lord of the Rings is the greatest piece of fantasy ever written and if you need more evidence of that, the fact that I’m three books in, have already watched the films multiple times and I’m still enjoying it so much is a real testament. The story is deep, sweeping, epic and transcends its genre with metaphors for politics, acceptance of differences and friendships of opposites. You don’t expect a book like this to warm your heart while in the middle of an epic fight scene. But it can. If you’ve ever wondered about reading The Lord of the Rings, having now finished it, I would say, yes, definitely you should.

Buy The Return of the King here.

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