“Two Towers” avoids the middle-book syndrome I often encounter in a series. Yes, I know that originally the Lord of the Rings wasn’t in three books, but for the sake of this review, because I read them in three separate books, I’ll refer to them separately. What I noticed this time was that since the Fellowship breaks up, the plot literally thickens because we suddenly have two different quests happening.
Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas are trailing the Orcs that have kidnapped (Hobbit-napped?) Merry and Pippin while Frodo and Sam are continuing their quest to reach Mordor. One of these groups interests me more than another and don’t @ me that it’s not Frodo and Sam. I’ve never been a big fan of either of these two, so having them be the central figures in their sections of this book bore me. The trios journey to save Merry and Pippin is much more fascinating, plus I like that we meet the Rohirrim. It’s the first time readers experience the world of men outside of Bree, and frankly Bree is so sparsely settled I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s man who controls it.
Except for Dwarves, readers have now experienced the major races of Middle-Earth once the trio reach Edoras and the battle of Helmsdeep. Tolkien’s masterful ability to not only tell a story but to also build a mythology at the same time astounds me. It reminds me, once again, why he has played such an important part in establishing the fantasy genre as we know it today.
As for Frodo and Sam, what I don’t like about their sections is that they are just so morose and slightly whiney. Neither of those qualities makes me want to root for a character and if I can’t root for you, I don’t want to have to spend all that much time with you. Then you add Gollum to the mix and it adds a whole other layer. Gollum’s part is interesting from a plot perspective, especially knowing how the epic concludes. At the same time, Gollum is mostly a flat-character. Yes, he’s devious, but he makes no illusions as to what motivates and what he really wants. What does catch my interest again for this trio is when they make it to Ithilien and meet Faramir and begin their climb up to Cirith Ungol. This is one of my favorite parts because of the massive cliffhanger (if you’re reading these as separate volumes). I only read each book AFTER the movies came out, so after watching “Two Towers” the film, I had no idea about Shelob. After reading the book I realized I had an advantage over everyone going into “The Return of the King” film.
While there’s parts that drag for me, I still enjoyed this read and I felt that the plot never became too complicated that I was lost.