I feel reluctant to review a classic like LOTR, because others have such strong opinions surrounding it; to say anything other than praiseworthy can bring about the scorn of dedicated fans. Still, there’s no other way for me to remember what I thought about The Fellowship of the Ring than by documenting it.
First, I want to make clear my understanding that the Lord of the Rings has had a profound impact on fiction, and in my opinion, defined the genre of fantasy. It is incredibly intricate and fully realized, even to a point of being tedious. At times its almost like reading an encyclopaedia or a travel guide.
I will also admit that I saw the movies first, and so going in, I already had expectations and biases. Strangely, though, I think seeing the movies kept a lot of the momentum going. I wanted to know where Peter Jackson got his muse from. I wanted to see how different Tolkien’s world was.
I’m going to say it. I don’t think that J.R.R. Tolkien is as great a writer as everyone thinks he is.
That isn’t to say that he isn’t creative or a master of plot. The mythology, rings, and monsters are genius. I do have some problems with his writing style, though. Sometimes the suspense is there, but often it is so bogged down with tedious things like poetry, lineage, and the lovely shape of grass blades that the momentum is nearly lost. I do understand, however, that the genre wasn’t really a thing before Tolkien came around, and so I get that he was establishing the beginnings of what fantasy is today. But fiction still needs things like ongoing suspense and a strong sense of the protagonist’s voice.
I’m going to say something else that to many will sound traitorous to fantasy. I hate Frodo.
He’s whiny, snivelling, and annoying. If I hear him say something about how heavy the ring is one more time, I swear, I’ll summon a Balrog. It seems odd to me that the ring bearer is the character whose personality is the least definable. Sam, Gandalf, and Aragorn, for example, seem much more concrete and easy to visualize. And more likeable, for that matter.
Despite my qualms, I did enjoy the first third of this (very) long novel. A lot of this rating is given to the impact that the story has had, and there is an element of respect I have to Tolkien.