Dovile (Lithuania) (2008/11/11):
Alternate cover for the same ISBN edition:
The second volume in the trilogy (actually books three and four) starts with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli looking for Merry and Pippen, after a dying Boromir confesses his evildoings and says that orcs took the two hobbits. While in pursuit of the orcs, Aragorn and the others meet Eomer, the nephew of King Theoden of Rohan, who agrees to help them, but they find a site of battle, and it appears the hobbits either left or were killed. However, they were taken in by the Ents, who learn of Saruman's evil plans and decide to attack them. Aragorn meets up with a reborn Gandalf and they travel to King Theoden's castle, where Gandalf frees him from Saruman's grip. A new party then travels to Isengard to remove Saruman, but find the Ents and Merry and Pippen there already. A dark creature descends on Isengard,a nd the company splits up, as Gandalf takes Pippen and heads in one direction, while the others head to increase the size of the army. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are slowly making their way closer to Mount Doom when they discover Gollum is following them trying to get the ring back. They encounter Faramir, Boromir's brother, who gives them additional supplies and sends them on their way. The two of them are led by Gollum towards what they think is the correct path, but it isn't.
As with many books that fall in between the introduction and conclusion of a series, the book does tend to tread a bit of water in telling the story. However, the fact that Tolkien split the novel into two books and left the adventures of Sam and Frodo until the second book helps to build up suspense and speed the story up a bit. The treachery of Saruman is more fully revealed here, and it adds a more direct sense of menace that is facing Aragorn, Gandalf and the others, instead of the only evil being what Frodo and Sam are facing.
A few new characters are introduced in this novel: The Ents, and Theoden and the Rhorrim. The Rhorrim are very much like the men we've been introduced to so far in the series - most have good hearts, but are men with flaws and doubts like the rest of the company. Theoden takes his place along with Aragorn and Gandalf as a larger than life character, as does his nephew, Eomer. The Ents are a mysterious species, and Tolkien does an excellent job of creating a sense of wonder about them and drawing them into the story - it adds something more to the story of elves, dwarves and humans, which is something many fantasy readers have seen a lot of already.
Tolkien's books are filled to the brim with dense imagery, including many songs and poems that are used to move some parts of the story along. Things get more complicated in this book with the introduction of Theoden, Eomer and Eowyn, who have a older way of speaking complete with thees and thous. The Ents also have a different way of speaking that takes some getting used to, but it does really impress on the reader that the Ents are something completely outside the rest of the races in the book.
The Good, the Bad....you know
Poor Gollum. He's a completely desperate character, and you can understand why Sam wants to throttle the little beast. But the sadness and wanting that drives his actions is exceptionally well-written by Tolkien.
Eowyn's love for Aragorn that seemingly springs up out of nowhere. It's more than a little puzzling as to how this happened within the space of hours.
Is this book suitable for kids or young teenagers? Yes. Some very heavy imagery may may it a bit intimidating for the younger reader.