Why I didn’t give ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ five stars

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”

Before I start this review, I’d like to make an apology to all the die-hard ‘Lord of the Rings’ fans out there who would say that J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy is flawless. I obviously can’t deny how epic the first book of the series is, with its enchanting characters, its rich and immersive world, and of course its impressive use of mythology and folklore. However, to say that this book was perfect would be incorrect.

Published in 1954, J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘Fellowship of the Ring,’ follows the journey of a hobbit, Frodo Baggins, who is entrusted with the task of destroying a powerful artifact created by the Dark Lord Sauron, the One Ring. Joined by many characters along the way, Frodo’s journey has him facing many dangers, treacherous landscapes, and the threat of dark creatures.

Though not necessarily J. R. R Tolkien’s fault, the edition which I bought had the words printed very small. I would often find myself extremely lost, especially within the very descriptive paragraphs – I would regularly have to start the sentence again so as not to confuse myself more. Having such small writing also made me feel like I was making no progress at all. At points, I felt like I had been reading for a lifetime when, in actual fact, I had only advanced several pages. However, before anyone has a go at me for being too harsh, this has nothing to do with why I am not giving the ‘Fellowship of the Ring,’ five stars, so let’s just move on to that discussion.

First of all, let’s talk about the prologue. What an absolute information dump! 16 pages of utter confusion – I think I could have given up there and then, but I very much wanted to keep that ‘trust-the-process’ mindset. Though I appreciated Tolkien’s use of the prologue to set up his world and introduce his readers to the history of his characters, the prose was way too dense, and the use of elaborate descriptions and invented languages had my brain hurting right from the get-go. It wasn’t a great start, but I continued all the same.

Though the language remained quite archaic, I rather enjoyed the world-building.

Though the language remained quite archaic, I rather enjoyed the world-building. Tolkien’s creation of Middle Earth is undoubtedly one of the most immersive and detailed fantasy worlds every created, and I particularly admired the set-up of ‘The Shire.’ Being the tranquil and idyllic homeland of the hobbits, the rolling hills, cosy hobbit-holes, and general atmosphere created by Tolkien had me longing to live there. Untouched by the troubles of the outside world, ‘The Shire,’ truly felt like a haven to me and I loved it.

However, the next criticism I have is to do with the pace of the book. Though the exposition of the story was crucial in setting up the characters, such as Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf, and providing me with important background information, such as the legend of the One Ring, I felt like I stayed in this part of the book for way too long – I just wanted Frodo to begin his quest already! The book took way too long to gain momentum and many of the earlier chapters did not have me hooked at all. It was only at around the 50% mark that I felt things were finally starting to happen.

It took me quite a while to read this book; 55 days to be exact. I think I would mainly put the blame on the pace of the book for this. I was only ever reading a chapter at a time as I always felt so exhausted and overwhelmed by the heavy descriptions and complicated language – putting down the book felt like a well-deserved reward. Whenever I would then pick the book back up again, it would take me quite a while to recall what had previously happened and where I was currently at. Perhaps this was my fault though; maybe I should have read larger chunks at a time.

The second half of the book was much better than the first. The flight to the ford was a good one – Frodo and his companions are dramatically confronted by the Ringwraiths but are saved by the power of Elrond and the enchanted waters. The journey through the dangerous mines of Moria was also a pretty epic moment with Gandalf’s battle against the Balrog being the highlight of the action. The breaking of the fellowship (the final chapter) was also pretty action-packed as we see Frodo and Sam set out on their own towards Mordor leaving their remaining companions scattered and left behind. It was definitely an intense and emotion-filled ending I must say.

From what I’ve just said, you’re probably expecting me to give this book a measly 3 or 2 stars. However, I think my overall rating has to be a 4. Despite all my criticisms, J. R. R. Tolkien’s sense of imagination is out of this world! The creativity, the detail, the epic moments were truly impressive, I’ve never read anything quite like it. I am very eager to find out what dangers and adventures await Frodo and Sam, and I am excited to see their friendship grow. So, though this book wasn’t perfect, I truly felt like I’ve been living in another realm for the past month and a half.


Comments (1)

  • I think I might give this book a go after reading this! The creative aspects of it sound really impressive! 🙂

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