Sunday, October 21, 2007

BOOK REVIEW - The Children of Hurin

The Children of Hurin
J.R.R. Tolkien
Christopher Tolkein, Editor
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007
313 pages

I did not even know this book existed until I read a blurb about it on one of the Star Trek forums in which I participate. I cannot remember exactly what was said about the novel except that someone was opining on how good of a movie it would make and how sad the story was. I picked this book up the evening of my birthday as I was looking for Glenn Smith's The Call of Duty, which, much to my chagrin, I have yet to find in any of my local bookstores. I was a bit leery of the book as it is another Tolkien tome which has been edited by Chris Tolkien and while Chris does an admirable job as his father's literary executor, some of the prose to come out of his hands has been less than stellar. I went with my gut on this one and bought the hard cover as the people on the board seemed pretty enthusiastic about the book and besides, if nothing else it had illustrations and color plates by Alan Lee, which are almost worth the price of admission on their own.

As the title implies The Children of Hurin, or Narn I Chin Hurin, tells the tale of Hurin's offspring, Turin and Nienor, during the First Age of Middle Earth. After the disaterous defeat of the elves and men at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Hurin is captured by Morgoth and tortured. Morgoth is seeking the hidden city of Gondolin however Hurin defies Morgoth and even mocks him. In his rage Morgoth curses Hurin and his family and this is the tale of how the curse plays out over the next several years.

Ultimately I was a little disappointed in this novel for two reasons. The first is that the prose felt kind of dead almost like I was reading a poor translation of Beowulf. There was no real umph to the descriptions and rather than the surfeit of detail found in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings I found myself having to struggle to figure out what things and people looked like. The second issue I had is with the story itself. Throughout the story Turin is a bit of a whiny prick and I have trouble being compassionate to characters who behave in this manner. Also along this vein the character of Nienor, Turin's sister, was only dealt with sporadically until it came time for her destiny to become entwined with Turin's and then she became a real character.

The book was a challenging read because of the pace, which was very slow at times, and the penchant Turin developed for changing his name to hide from the curse of Morgoth. In fact this book was so challenging to get through that I began Charlie Wilson's War in the midst of reading this book and plowed through the latter without even pausing. I would not recommend this book to anyone except the Tolkien-o-phile or someone who has a strange fetish for the Eddas or other ancient poetry.

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