I'm rereading The Lord of the Rings as part of my Classics Club project and last summer I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Fellowship of the Ring (my review). I've only read the books once before, and that was after seeing the films. I definitely expected the books to be similar, when in reality they are very different, slower paced and more about immersing the reader in Middle Earth than anything else. With my expectations suitably adjusted, I really liked The Fellowship of the Ring on the second attempt. I was hoping the same would be true for The Two Towers.
Warning: this review contains spoilers.
The Two Towers picks up where The Fellowship of the Ring left off, with the breaking of the fellowship after the death of Boromir. The first half of the book deals with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli's quest to find Merry and Pippin after they have been captured by Orcs. Their path takes them through Rohan, home of the horse-lords where the King is under the influence of Saruman. In the dreaded Fangorn forest they meet an old friend. The latter half of the novel follows Frodo and Sam as they attempt to take the ring to Mordor to be destroyed. They are being tracked by Gollum and Frodo must decide how to deal with him.
The Two Towers is a book of two halves and my enjoyment of the two sections of the book was radically different. I loved the first half and just sped through it. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are definitely the more interesting members of the trilogy and I love Rohan as a setting. With Gandalf gone, we get to see some character development as Aragorn steps up as leader of the fellowship and starts to grow into his future role as King. We also get to meet Eowyn, who is the best female character in the novel (not that there are many to choose from). I liked reading about the destruction of Eisengard and felt like the book was well paced in general throughout the first half.
However, part two was another matter. I'm not the biggest Frodo and Sam fan anyway (they do too much aimless wandering for that) and there were endless scenes of them getting lost near Mordor and not knowing what to do. Once Gollum turns up, there are more endless scenes of Sam worrying that he is a threat and Gollum showing his split-personality. It's not that I think this part of the story is bad (I don't), but Tolkein simply spends too much time with them in this novel when not a lot really happens. I found this part of the book difficult to get through and breathed a sigh of relief when Faramir turned up to break the monotony of the same three characters.
It's fair to say I had mixed feelings about this book overall. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the Frodo chapters were interspersed with the Aragorn chapters, rather than being split into two separate 'books'. I'm looking forward to getting to the third volume of the story, but hoping for more consistent pacing throughout it.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 1954
My Edition: Harper Collins, 1994
Score: 3 out of 5
The Classics Club: Book 13/72
My list of classics is here.