My Rating: 5/5
-possible spoilers for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers-
The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien is one of the most satisfying and epic conclusions to a fantasy series. The plot splits off even more than in The Two Towers, so there are more arcs and characters to follow, and even more of the world to experience and explore.
Gandalf and Pippin’s storyline in The Return of the King is one of my favourites. Denethor – the Steward of Gondor – is an incredible character – he’s incredibly loyal to the world of men, but he’s broken and that is his greatest flaw.
I was surprised by how much I respected him, even with the events that occur. Pippin, however, manages to surpass all expectations and develops into a real heroic character through the threats that he faces.
Merry, like Perrin, also develops very quickly into an unlikely heroic character. Tolkien seemed to want his heroes to be the little guys who were full of honesty, love, and loyalty. The hobbits often surpass even Aragorn in their bravery and heroic accomplishments.
Despite Aragorn being such a strong character in the previous two books, the first third of his arc in The Return of the King was almost a disappointment in comparison.
His victory felt cheap, but he soon redeemed himself in the final third. Again, I do believe that this was supposed to be the case, with the hobbits becoming the more heroic characters. His actions after the battle at Minas Tirith really did do an incredible job of showing that he deserves the respect, loyalty, and love of his people.
Sam and Frodo’s final journey is surprisingly character driven. The plot might be driven by the events of the world around them, but it is their character arcs which make their scenes feel so real.
Frodo struggles against the power of the ring, and Sam’s loyalty to Frodo – as well as his resistance to the ring – is a remarkable work of characterisation. Their story is one of strong friendship and love – something that I feel that many books could continue to learn from.
The finale goodbyes are surprisingly emotional, but the way Tolkien wraps up every arc in The Return of the King in a satisfying conclusion is wonderful. It may not feel as realistic as some more modern fantasy, but because of the style this book is written in, it feels right.
To have it done any other way would feel jarring – this is a heroic story of epic proportions, so it’s just right when our heroes find the peace they deserve.
(Possible) SPOILER SECTION – No spoilers for this review – I might come back to it in the future, or possibly start writing some discussion posts on the plots, books and characters of the series.