The Two Towers has many of the same issues of its predecessor, but is also a superior read, just from an entertainment point of view. So though my rating at Goodreads is the same, it’s actually half a star higher because I found Books 3 and 4 to be much more of the page turner variety than Books 1 and 2.
So, first off, this has the same problems as the first two books: Tolkien’s view of characters is 1-dimensional, everyone is good or bad and those that are bad but fundamentally good or vice versa are so because of some kind of external force, there are no moral dimensions to these characters. And there is no character development that is not caused due to an external force either. I understand that the standards in fantasy might have been pretty damn low in 1954 but these issues are the mains reasons why I don’t like fantasy. I need my characters to seem like real people, whether they be Men, Elves, Dwarfs or Orcs. I might have felt differently had I read these books when I was 12 but, as an adult, there’s not enough for me here compared to regular literature.
However, I will say that these two books are much more page turners than the first two. For all his faults, Tolkien has enough sense of momentum to propel you through the narrative even when the characters are just walking. There is so much walking in the first two books, it’s nice that there’s less walking in this one. Unfortunately there is still walking (and riding) but there is much, much less. What there is more of is actual events involving danger, rather than meetings and conversations and gift-giving. There is still way too much talk about what is happening and what has happened – and so many people telling people what they know or don’t know – but at least there are crises to be overcome, and enough of them that the ultimate one doesn’t let you down. (Reading that first book is a slog in part because you read about all this stuff and then all that happens is that thing in Moria, which I won’t discuss due to spoilers and a few other minor things. There’s much more going on in this one.) As someone who doesn’t like Tolkien as a writer and doesn’t like the genre – at least at this early stage – and is only reading this out of a misguided completist streak, I must tell you that it’s refreshing to have more action.
Now, if only the third part isn’t filled with interminable denouement like the third movie was. Sigh.
7/10 due to its influence and its higher readability than the first part.