Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book Review: Children of Hurin

When I first heard that there was going to be a "new" J.R.R. Tolkien book I was worried. While I knew that Christopher had completed some of his father's work before in the form of the Silmarillion, I didn't want anything to taint the perfection that is Middle-earth. Nonetheless I felt compelled to read the Children of Hurin and I'm glad to say my fears were unfounded.

Children of Hurin falls much more in the camp of the Simarillion than that of Lord of the Rings in many ways. While being the story of one family, it is still written much more in the style of a history than of a narrative story.

It is the general story of Children that is its strength, being the creation of J.R.R. himself. Tolkien shows in this story that he has the capacity to be a true tragedian. While Lord of the Rings is much more a Norse epic, the story of Children of Hurin falls firmly in the camp of the Greek tragedies. There are many times in the story that you might think you were reading the work of Sophocles himself. Indeed Hurin's children have lives that make the stories of Oedipus or Shakespeare's hamlet look positively bright. It is also a story that demonstrates, just as the classics, the terrible danger of hubris.

It's not a perfect book, however. While the universe and plot are as good as one expects from the senior Tolkien, the prose suffers some, as Christopher is not as good of an author as his father.

I prefer the tone and scope of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, and the prose of those books is definitely stronger but Children of Hurin is worth checking out if your a Tolkien fan, or if you're studying the classic tragedy as it is a fabulous example of a modern story emulating that style.

Rating: 9 out of 10