Every time I pick up one of these classic-style science fiction novel, like Ringworld or Double Star, I find myself saying that a) I should read these sorts of books more often, and b) I wish that books like these were still written today.
I really wanted to like this book. I thought going in that I would like this book, because it seemed to have so many things that I look for in new fantasy novels: originality, unusual inspirations, intriguing characters with conflicting and mysterious motivations, really unique world and magic, et cetera. In fact, I wanted to like this book so much that I managed to convince myself to keep reading through to the end, despite the fact that at least once per chapter I was about ready to put it down, so I guess you could say that's a testament to it being a better novel than my rating would imply, since it kept giving me just enough of what I liked to keep me from walking away from it in disgust.
Well, I did it again. When I consulted my reading list to pick a new book to read after finishing Meditations With Cows, instead of picking a new or well-known or at least commonly approachable book that people actually would search for and by extension perhaps find my site, I picked another ancient text that only a few people have heard of and fewer decide to read. Let it never be said that I am a slave to the search engine algorithms. That being said, it does continue my tour of historic pieces of world literature (we recently reviewed The Bhagavad Gita, and The Story of Burnt Njal, checking off (roughly) India and Iceland, plus the Middle East with the Babur-Nama), and I have legitimately been interested in reading this for awhile, it being one of the few historical autobiographies from that region of the world. In truth, doing a sort of world-tour of ancient literature is proving a very fascinating exercise, and one that I would wholly recommend (as long as you have some patience).
If I had to describe this book in a single sentence, it would be this: it's A Little House on the Prairie, if Laura Ingalls Wilder had been a 21st century hippie. That might sound like an odd combination, and...it was. In fact, I'm fairly certain that the main reason this book exists is because the author got started in the early days of blogging with a semi-unique story and pictures of cute baby cows and coyotes, gathered a lot of followers, and then wrote a book based on that following.
In my most recent reread of The Lord of the Rings, I expressed that there is a certain mythical quality to the story and its manner of telling, and that is even more so present in The Silmarillion, which makes sense: according to the letter of Tolkien's included with the text, Middle Earth was intended to be a sort of original mythology, evolved from the languages he had invented.
I've said it in every other post about these books so far, but I will say it again: you should read The Lord of the Rings. If you haven't read them, then a) I'm very sorry for the sad life you have heretofore lived, and b) you should read them immediately. If you have read them, then you should reread them. These are the kinds of books that spoil you for everything else that isn't nearly half as good as they are.
At the end of The Two Towers, if you're not familiar with the plot already, you'd probably believe that this story is not going to end well. Of course, the biggest spoiler of this book is its own title, which Tolkien did not pick. His original choice for the title of the third part of The Lord of the Rings was The War of the Ring, but he was persuaded to change it to the more positive, and arguably more descriptive, The Return of the King. Knowing this history, I'm not entirely certain which title I prefer. However, I am entirely certain that I enjoyed this part of the story just as much as the others.
There is a fair consensus amongst those who come to consensuses about such matters that Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings primarily as a way of exploring Middle Earth - that is, this is what is known as a milieu story, in which the setting, the world, drive much of the plot. In The Two Towers this is on fine display again. One of the more interesting things to do with a copy of The Lord of the Rings is to sit down and look at just how much ground is covered by the various journeys; you then realize just how large a world Middle Earth is, and how small a section is explored in these tales. The distance covered by Frodo and Sam through such great peril and difficulty in the entirety of their chapters in The Two Towers is essentially a tiny corner on the map.
As I said in my review of The Hobbit, during this reread I was surprised by how light that novel is; I suspect that my memory of its tone from my last reading was affected by my intermediate viewing of the movies. Or, perhaps I was merely linking it with the core Lord of the Rings books, which very quickly take on a markedly different tone from their prequel (and yes, I know that technically there is just one "book," which was split into three parts for the convenience of readers and publishers). The implications of a darker turn are heavy throughout even the early chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, but are pivotally confirmed with the events of the chapter A Knife in the Dark.
Finally, I am undertaking my re-read of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There are certain books that are always worth re-reading, no matter how many times I may have read them before, and these most definitely make that list. Since this is the first time I'm re-reading them since I started posting reviews here on the site, I think it is only appropriate that I go ahead and review them here. In the case of The Lord of the Rings, I usually try to do a re-read every four or five years, since the first time I read them back in third grade. We'll see if I decide to re-read and post a review for The Silmarillion, too.