Spoilers ahead, I guess, for those who aren’t familiar with how all of this ends.
Part 1 (or Book III as it’s called in the book, because each of the 3 novels is divided into 2 books) of The Two Towers begins by following Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas as they try to track Merry and Pippin, who have been taken by Orcs. Sadly, Boromir died in the Orc battle, though not without putting up a strong fight. We discover that Gandalf lives. We meet the Riders of Rohan and then Ents (large tree-like beings), and then we get to the battle of Helm’s Deep. Saruman, formerly a wise wizard whom Gandalf looked up to, is now working with/for Sauron and has sent forth Orcs and men to fight the Riders of Rohan.
Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are making their way toward Mordor so that Frodo can throw the One Ring into Mount Doom. Gollum has continued to follow them, and for a while they come to an uneasy agreement with him and make him their guide into Mordor.
It’s become clear over the course of the first two books that Tolkien loves nature. I get the sense that there is passion behind his descriptions of the scenery. The characters spend a lot of time walking – A LOT of time – so there is a lot of nature to be detailed. I’ll admit that I glazed over here and there at some of the descriptions, but I appreciate Tolkien’s appreciation.
The Return of the King starts with the battle over Gondor and the different factions coming to Gondor’s aid. I wanted to pick right back up with Sam and Frodo, so I was mad at first, even though I understood why their deeds needed to come later in the book. Each of the characters from the Fellowship continues to have a part to play and heroic deeds they achieve.
In the final part, Frodo and Sam make it to Mount Doom, though barely and not without a lot of danger and Gollum’s interference. They are rescued from Mount Doom after the ring falls in, and the remaining chapters detail Aragorn’s taking the throne of Gondor and the return of the Hobbits to the Shire.
There are 6 appendices after the novel ends. I read some, skimmed some, and skipped a lot. While I commend Tolkien for the immense history that he created – and somehow kept track of without the aid of computers – it wasn’t particularly interesting to me.
I’m glad to have finally finished this saga. I’d seen the movies but that was about 20 years ago and I’d forgotten a lot of what happened. This is the first time I ever got around to reading the third book, and it was a thrilling close to the trilogy.