June 20, 2007

Book Review: The Children of Hurin

Let's get one thing clear right from the start here... it's hard not to be impressed when a guy who has been dead for over thirty years writes anything, let alone a book this good. Now that we have that out of the way...

This book will obviously appeal largely to Lord of the Rings fans, but they might not get what they are looking for. That's not to imply that they won't be happy with what they get, they are just very different books. One of Tolkien's greatest abilities has always been to adapt his writing style to suit his desire and the mood of the tale (I still have a hard time believing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were both written by the same person). Well The Children of Hurin is no different in that regard.

While The Lord of the Rings was a story of clinging to hope in the face of seemingly unavoidable doom, The Children of Hurin is a tale of an inescapable curse despite moments of triumph. The Children of Hurin revolves mainly around Turin, the son of the titular hero Hurin. After Hurin is captured by the dark lord Morgoth (Sauron's old boss for you Rings fans) his bloodline is cursed and he is bound to a mountaintop where he is forced to witness the curse play out on Turin and his daughter Nienor, who was at that time still unborn.

Most of the book follows Turin as he travels throughout Middle Earth trying to fight back the ever growing forces of Morgoth. Raised for the most part by the elves of Doriath, Turin is a mighty warrior and has many triumphs against Morgoth's minions, but there is a shadow that follows him wherever he travels and Turin's life is one filled with great sorrow. During this time Turin meets in battle and eventually defeats the great dragon Glaurung (one of the most purely evil characters ever), but it is the encounter with Glaurung that ultimately leads to Turin's undoing and the culmination of the curse on the children of Hurin.

I won't go into any more detail because I highly encourage you to read the book for yourself and don't want to give anything away. It is pretty accessible for a Tolkien work and there is even a comprehensive list of names in the appendices in case you lose track of someone or something. This is a good thing since, much like roads in Texas, everything and everyone in Middle Earth seems to have three or four names at least. Turin alone renames himself a number of times as he tries to flee from his past over the course of the book.

Bottom Line: This is an excellent book that is a must read for Tolkien fans. I would also recommend it to anyone looking for a rich piece of fiction to get lost in for a week or two. It's a pretty quick read so you really have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. I could honestly see myself reading The Children of Hurin on an annual basis. If that's not praise enough for a book than I don't know what is.

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