fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review <strong>J.R.R. Tolkien</strong> The Two Towers The Lord of the RingsThe Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Two Towers is the second third of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, and begins right where the previous book left off: the Fellowship has been sundered, with the death of Boromir, the escape of Frodo and Sam, the capture of Merry and Pippen, and the chase that ensues on the part of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. Like the other two installments in the series, The Two Towers is split into two books, in this case it is Book Three and Book Four.

Book Three alternates between the journey of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in their cross country race across forest and plain in order to rescue Merry and Pippen. Their pursuit takes them into Rohan, the province of King Theoden and his people, known as the Horse-Lords due to their skill and affinity with horses.

Meanwhile Merry and Pippen are held captive by the terrible orcs as they race their way back to their master, the White Wizard Saruman, who has betrayed his calling and given in to his desire for the Ring. Now he wages war on Rohan, filling the court with his spies, and sends his orcs out on a mission to find the Ring before the Dark Lord himself does.

The two stories conjoin when Merry and Pippen are able to escape into Fangorn Forest, where they fall into the company of Treebeard — a mighty Ent, a tree-like guardian of the forestlands who is not happy with Saruman’s treatment of his land. Likewise, the three hunters also find their way into the forest, only to meet someone that they thought was lost to them…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsIn Book Four we join up again with Frodo and Sam, who are making their lonely way toward the land of Mordor and the volcanic Mount Doom in order to destroy the Ruling One Ring. There the secretive figure that has been trailing them since Moria finally shows itself: it is the twisted creature Gollum, once a hobbit, who fell to the power of the Ring and nursed it for many years. Now Frodo employs him as their guide — despite the mistrust of Sam — to take them into the dangerous lands ahead.

But they too have their fair share of danger: as always the agents of the Dark Lord are abroad, and even the “good guys” can pose a threat, considering the constant lure of the Ring — enter Faramir, Boromir’s own brother, who takes the hobbits into his custody.

The Two Towers suffers like many ‘middle’ books do — it inevitably does not start anything, and it does not finish anything. But one must keep in mind that Tolkien hated the idea of his work being separated into three separate volumes; he intended them to be published in a single book. The publishers however had other plans, and since then we have been subject to authors who think their books are not proper books unless they are split into multiple volumes.

But The Two Towers continues to expand and enlarge Tolkien’s most wonderful creation — Middle-Earth itself. We are introduced to the dank and mysterious depths of Fangorn Forest and the plainlands of Rohan, based on the Nordic and Scandinavian culture that Tolkien was fascinated with. Just exploring these beautiful places is reason enough to read The Two Towers.

With the release of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the three books, it is always interesting to compare and contrast the two. Often the movies fall short in certain ways — often by reducing the nobility and goodness of several supporting characters, such as Faramir, Theoden and Treebeard, who need more pushing from the likes of Aragorn, Frodo and Gandalf to do the right thing rather than reach their own decisions. However, other times Jackson takes the opportunity to divulge further into little subplots and details that Tolkien only briefly touches on — the prime example being the relationship between Eowyn and Wormtongue. In Tolkien’s words Wormtongue’s lust is only briefly mentioned; but Jackson devotes a fascinating little sequence to it, with Wormtongue attempting to weaken Eowyn to his will.

Either way, the movie is as must-see as the book is must-read, though if you have only seen the movie and decide that it’s not worth reading the book, I strongly suggest otherwise. Although Jackson creates a near-perfect visual duplicate of Middle-Earth, the book contains details and information that the movie must skim over, or neglect completely. If you want to know where Shadowfax came from, or where Gandalf went after defeating the Balrog, or Shelob’s origins, then you’ll have to consult the book.

The Lord of the Rings — (1954-1955) Publisher: In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. From Sauron’s fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings to him, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion. When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the  Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom. The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.

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  • Rebecca Fisher

    REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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