Perhaps the saddest book I’ve ever read, the first “new” J.R.R. Tolkien book in 30 years is “…long and sad in the telling, as are all tales of Middle Earth.” While it is beautiful in its composition and deep in its scope, it contains in it at all times a sense of “doom” that seems inescapable, and yet this doom is clearly within the scope of the freewill of the characters. A tragedy beyond anything Shakespeare ever wrote, one cannot shake a sense of Hamlet.
One must appreciate the tone and theme of Tolkien’s previously published Silmarillion to fully enjoy this book, though this book’s scope is more limited both in terms of time and people. Nevertheless, there is a lot to take in and most of Beleriand is used as the canvas for this portrait. For that reason, the reader will find that the map is a bit more abbreviated than that in the Silmarillion. While this is the most recent of Tolkien’s posthumous works, it was one of the first he set his hand to, starting back in 1918 and working off-and-on, for years, as he did with the larger Silmarillion. But it was his trilogy The Lord of The Rings from which he got his fame.
The nature and effect of evil is a major theme, both in terms of evil personified in Morgoth (to whom Sauron was but a servant), as well as the effects of pride and hubris in the protagonists. The ending had a more than one crescendo, and moved me to tears. Only the Silmarillion has done this to me before, as one finally realizes the tragic and poignant fate of the Elves, the Firstborn of Middle Earth.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood Tolkien fanatic