The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien
Following up with my review of JRR Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, I have finished reading The Two Towers. I’m glad to be going through all of these books finally! Check out my review of The Fellowship here.
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Title: The Two Towers
Author: JRR Toklien
Genre: Fantasy, Classic, Fiction, Adventure
Published: January 1st, 1982 by Houghton Mifflin
The Two Towers. Book Two in J.R.R. Tolkien’s acclaimed trilogy, a masterpiece of high fantasy.
Frodo and his Companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest to prevent the Ruling Ring from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord by destroying it in the Cracks of Doom. They have lost the wizard, Gandalf, in a battle in the Mines of Moria. And Boromir, seduced by the power of the Ring, tried to seize it by force. While Frodo and Sam made their escape, the rest of the company was attacked by Orcs.
Now they continue the journey alone down the great River Anduin — alone, that is, save for the mysterious creeping figure that follows wherever they go.
About: JRR Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was a major scholar of the English language, specialising in Old and Middle English. Twice Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University of Oxford, he also wrote a number of stories, including most famously The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), which are set in a pre-historic era in an invented version of our world which he called by the Middle English name of Middle-earth. This was peopled by Men (and women), Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Orcs (or Goblins) and of course Hobbits. He has regularly been condemned by the Eng. Lit. establishment, with honourable exceptions, but loved by literally millions of readers worldwide.
In the 1960s he was taken up by many members of the nascent “counter-culture” largely because of his concern with environmental issues. In 1997 he came top of three British polls, organised respectively by Channel 4 / Waterstone’s, the Folio Society, and SFX, the UK’s leading science fiction media magazine, amongst discerning readers asked to vote for the greatest book of the 20th century. Please note also that his name is spelt Tolkien (there is no “Tolkein”).
The plot for The Two Towers was all over the place, but that’s mostly because of the way in which the story was written. We have about three POV standpoints: Merry and Pippin; Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli; and finally, Frodo and Sam. And while they have their own plots in this story, which is great, the story was written in a poor order. Instead of giving fair consideration to each POV across the narrative, Tolkien just about tells and finishes the plots for the first five characters within the first half of the story, then moves to Frodo and Sam’s story and tells theirs in the second half. Rather than at alternating chapters or sections.
It wasn’t great from a storytelling perspective because when the reader experiences the rise and fall of one plot’s climax halfway through the book, then has to move on and do the whole thing over again in the second half it’s like reading two separate books. And I understand that Tolkien intended it to be this way, as is apparent between “Book Three” and “Book Four” within The Two Towers. But I personally think it’s very ineffective.
There weren’t as many new characters introduced in this story, which I thought was great. It expanded more upon the characters that were introduced in The Fellowship, and developed their personalities and plots.
Once again, the pacing was bad in The Two Towers, but for different reasons than The Fellowship. All in all, the story moved forward quickly and there wasn’t too much idle downtime. However, the pacing was greatly slowed down by Tolkien’s storytelling method. The characters had branched off and were pursuing their own sub-plots. So the reader gets all of the information of their journey, doings, and experiences. But when the characters are reunited, pages are dedicated to filling the other characters in on the journey that the reader has just read.
From a storytelling perspective, this only slows the pacing down because it forces the reader to essentially read the same thing twice. Nothing new is added to the narrative, and the reader has to sit through friendly chatting and unnecessary recap.
The stories within The Two Towers, while essential to the overall series plot, were a bit lackluster. Things happened quickly, or without the reader viewing them at all (instead told through recounts of the characters). But in general, the pacing was better than The Fellowship.
I give The Two Towers 3/5 stars.
Let’s talk about it
Have you read The Two Towers or seen the movie? In my opinion, the movie greatly improved upon some of this book’s weaker points, like pacing. I would love to know what you think about this book! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.