Title: Unfinished Tales

Author: J. R. R. Tolkien

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 486

Rating: 3/5

Okay, so it’s not that I didn’t like this book because it’s Tolkien, and it’s hard not to like Tolkien. It’s just that I didn’t find it particularly gripping. I guess you could compare it to something like The Silmarillion, especially in terms of its scope and its complexity, but I was more interested in the subject matter of that one because I already knew a decent amount about a lot of the stories that were in there.

Of course, if you’re a massive Tolkien fan then you’re going to want to read this regardless, even though it does feel a little bit… well, unfinished. I guess the clue is in the name and I should have expected that, but for whatever reason I just found that I was expecting it to be great and it was just okay.

It was still worth reading though, if only to get a little bit more of the worldbuilding that Tolkien was known for and to learn a little bit more about the history of Middle Earth. My edition also included a bunch of supplementary information like maps and family trees, which was interesting to read in passing but which didn’t necessarily help with the fact that it didn’t feel much like I was being told a story.

Tolkien’s writing style can also be pretty dense, and it was arguably at its densest here, even more so than it was in the Silmarillion. Again, part of that might be down to the fact that these are Unfinished Tales, and so they probably could have benefited from some rewriting and some editing, although it’s not as though I’m qualified to tell Tolkien what to do. At the same time, I do think that this is definitely a more supplementary work, rather than something that you’d hold up to point to his genius.

The good thing is that there’s a lot here to spark your imagination, and I can imagine film-makers and even fan-fiction writers having a blast here. You could make a couple of seasons of a TV show set in Middle Earth without even scratching the surface of what’s here, so perhaps it’s most interesting to think of it as almost a series of prompts that Tolkien left behind.

And I did still enjoy it, it’s just that it was definitely what I think of as a bedtime book, something that I chipped away at bit by bit in the evenings. I picked it up with the idea that it would be my main read, and it quickly became apparent that that wasn’t going to happen. It’s just not that kind of book, it isn’t built for entertainment. But even with that said, you can still enjoy it if you have the right mindset, so there’s that.

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