This is the most recent work of Christopher Tolkien which relates to Middle Earth (all his other workings of his father’s works are other tales). And in fact, this story has been told in two other books already. In The Silmarillion and in Unfinished Tales, and in the latter of these, I purposely avoided reading the section which detailed the story since I had this whole novel to read instead. So in reality this book is just a more complete copy, and perhaps more definitive (but not definite seeing as JRR himself did not finish it, and I always wonder what he’d think of the published stuff, and how he’d have written it) version. I certainly found it interesting, despite having had some idea of the story from The Silmarillion. But of course, it was over a year ago since I read that book, so things were sketchy. And indeed, reading this book reminded me that I had forgotten so much about Middle Earth and all these people and names and places and events. Always puts in me in awe, just how much there is to it all. But the good thing about this novel, is that you don’t have to be a major fan and know every detail to enjoy it, Christopher purposely made it isolated from other tales in The First Age. Plus there’s always the handy index at the back.
In terms of the actual story, it certainly is a tragedy of grand proportions (quite like Romeo and Juliet really, except they are awkwardly brother and sister without knowing! Whoops). Nothing goes right for these children of Hurin, and certainly not for Hurin either. A lot does happen, and it can get a little confusing with all these terms, and the fact that sometimes they’ll say one thing, and then say another way of saying it the next time. Like ‘Battle of Unnumbered Tears’ then Nirnaeth Arnoediad, then Nirnaeth, and this can happen in a paragraph or two.
Having read the general story before meant that I knew what was coming, which was nice (though it took me a moment to figure out what was going on, and how it related to information I had stored away in my brain, nice and dusty after a whole year). But clearly this book is a lot more detailed than the smaller version in The Silmarillion, and I appreciated the detail. It flowed reasonably well, and there was plenty of action. Plus plenty of moments where you want to hit the characters for being stupid idiots. Ah the joys of dramatic irony.
As with all of Tolkien’s works I think there is re-read value, because once you’ve read all the other works you start to get a sense of the larger picture, and you understand different little hints which are thrown in. If I were to read The Lord of the Rings now, I’d be able to understand a few of the allusions, and yet even then, so many would pass me by. Such is the scale of this world.
This will probably be my last foray into Middle Earth, unless Christopher publishes something new. All that is left is the History of Middle Earth, which I want to read one day. But there are so many other books to read, that they’ll have to wait until I’ve got a nice chunk of time.