I always find it fascinating and perhaps a bit disturbing that J.R.R. Tolkien is praised at one of the best writers of Fantasy fiction ever. He certainly was one of the first of the genre, and his stories have inspired more authors than probably any other Fantasy work that has ever been written. In fact, just about every review of a fantasy work seems destined to carry with it the phrase “blatant rip-off of Tolkien” if they have any races other than humans in them. Sometimes even if they don’t. If a work has that kind of power, that work must be the best there is. Right?
I constantly have people coming to me and wondering why they are having a hard time getting through the Fellowship of the Ring. “If the Lord of the Rings is the best Fantasy series, why am I having such a hard time reading it? I can’t even get through the first book.”
I have read the entire series and its prequel. I read them while I was still in High School. They were, after all, the best.
I am not sure how I managed to get through them. I don’t think I would ever try to read them again — at least, not in their entirety.
There is no doubt in my mind that the plot was the work of an inspired author. The characters were great, and all other Fantasy characters which come after them are destined to draw comparisons. Any author who can create his own language — well, I’m not sure there are many current ones who can.
The tedious descriptions and the plodding pace of the story, however, will continue to force readers to put down the book and ask themselves and others why they couldn’t finish. You’d like to know how it ends. Does Frodo manage to finish his quest and destroy the ring in the depths of Mount Doom? With the exception of a few select parts of the book, you never find yourself on the edge of your seat. You never want to hurry and turn the page and see what happens next.
Don’t judge all Fantasy by the Lord of the Rings, even if you can’t help but make comparisons.
There are many books that could be termed “blatant rip-offs of Tolkien”. Most of them are easier to read. Many of them are more enjoyable. A few of them are just plain better.
Don’t refuse to read something just because it bears more than a passing comparison to the Lord of the Rings.
Authors who were inspired by Tolkien are not a bad thing. Those who seek to imitate him are not something to be avoided.
They are a good thing.
The best thing about the Lord of the Rings, in my opinion, is not the books themselves. The “blatant rip-offs of Tolkien” are the best thing about the Lord of the Rings.