The Hobbit

The HobbitThe Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll be honest. The primary reason for me reading this book was because I’m eagerly awaiting the Peter Jackson feature film adaptation releasing this December. That and of course I was curious about the prequel setting to one of my most adored stories of all time, The Lord of the Rings. Granted that I have only seen the movie and not read the books, but I still find the fantasy world woven by J.R.R Tolkien absolutely magnificent and spell-binding.

So how would I rate this epic tale of how it all started? Firstly, you must realize that comparing The Hobbit with The Lord Of The Rings is nothing short of stupid. The Hobbit was written and conceived before the LOTR series. As such the narrative isn’t as expansive or layered as the latter. The Hobbit is a simple story that doesn’t require multiple perspectives or parallel timelines to be explained. It is the story of the simple Hobbit Bilbo Baggins’ journey with a dozen dwarves (and the wizard Gandalf) on a quest to find and retrieve a collosal amount of treasure stolen and guarded by the infamous dragon, Smaug. The book essentially chronicles this journey from start till end and details the various people, creatures and adventures the group (and Bilbo in particular) encounter.

It’s a pretty simple read and flows without any major hiccups or deviations. What stands out is the language used by Tolkien, which adds a flair of mild humor even in situations that deal with life and death. The words paint a very vivid picture of the landscapes the fellowship traverses and bring the story to life in a manner that stands out. Although I did find the battle sequences slightly underplayed. But then, that could be quite intentional considering that the book is aimed at young readers in particular.

I will say this, the section which deals with Gollum will strike a tad extra appealing if you have read (or in my case seen) the Lord Of The Rings, since readers will grin and smirk at the scenes that pan out at that point. But like I mentioned before, don’t keep LOTR as the benchmark for content and narrative when reading this book. You’ll be disappointed.

As an independent read, this is truly a great book. Simple read with minimal complications in terms of story plot and narrative. Plenty of adventures and perils to keep your interest piqued at various points throughout the story. And a rather feel good ending. A definite must read for anyone who enjoys the genre.

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A Storm Is Brewing In Westeros

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are probably very few folks out there who haven’t heard of the Game Of Throne series. With the hit HBO TV series of the same name, the epic seven book saga (only completed till book five thus far) is a modern pop phenomenon being compared to the likes of Lord Of The Rings and The Chronicles Of Narnia. Penned by writer George R. R. Martin, the saga which shall span seven books (of which five have been published) is better known in the literary community as “A Song Of Ice And Fire”.

It may seem a little strange that I chose the third book of this epic (unfinished) saga as the first to review. But truth be told, the review is a more of a summation of all the books I’ve read thus far in this series, with obvious importance being given to the title in question, A Storm Of Swords.

Set in the fantasy world of Westeros, the saga chronicles the intertwining quests of multiple characters (introduced very beautifully in the first and second books) The main players are noblemen from different houses (akin to feudal lords) whose lives intersect during the course of the saga. Some stories are set before the first chapter of the first book opens as GRRM establishes back stories and histories of the various characters and kingdoms. The quest for each character is more or less established when the first book comes to an end (with a rather epic climatic chapter!).

An ongoing war is ravaging the mainland of Westeros as multiple nobelman are vying for the enigmatic and awe-inspiring “Iron Throne”. But a more sinister enemy is beginning to stir from the far north and threatens the very existence of men from all the kingdoms. Book three starts with events that overlap those of book two and detail events from that book from a different perspective. We are introduced to a few new characters and say our final good byes to some old ones (although they have a tendency of getting resurrected!)
There are parts that seem a tad out of place, but begin to make sense as you read ahead. And by my count this one has the most number of deaths of prominent characters than the previous two books combined! So there is plenty of shock and awe as you keep reading.

The book is the longest (over a 1000 pages!) in the series and in some countries has been released as two separate parts. Unless you’ve read the first two books, you’ll probably be lost when you start with this one, especially since there are SO many critical plot points that tie in with the events in the previous two books. But then again, this is supposed to be part of a saga, so that’s quite expected.

Although set in a world where dragons and sorcerers do exist, the focus remains more on the plot and characters, with minimal mention or emphasis on the “magical” elements. And I feel, therein lies the beauty of this series. Another aspect that makes this such a great read is that GRRM makes it a point to NOT paint his characters in black or white. Rather, each player in this “game” appears as both friend and foe depending on the perspective of another character (just like in real life!)

Simply put, A Song Of Ice And Fire is literary fantasy for adult readers. The series has me hooked. I have already read the first three books back to back and plan to continue till the latest one (Book four and five). But be warned, the series has two more installments to go before we see the EPIC conclusion of this Song Of Fire And Ice, and GRRM is notorious for pushing his release dates further and further into the future (Book five was published after a gap of six years!). So brace yourselves for a LONG wait to witness the climax to this absolutely brilliant and thrilling series.

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