Christopher Tolkien presents the final piece in a trilogy of Middle-earth stories his father, J.R.R. Tolkien, did not live to see published.
In what he assures us is the last installment, Tolkien returns to edit his father's work (Beren and Lúthien, 2017, etc.), this time with the tale of the secret city of Gondolin. Ulmo, the great sea god, visits a wanderer named Tuor and tells him his destiny: "O Tuor of the lonely heart, I will not that thou dwell for ever in fair places of birds and flowers....Now must thou seek through the lands for the city of the folk called Gondothlim or the dwellers in stone, and the Noldoli shall escort thee thither in secret for fear of the spies of Melko." Tuor makes it to Gondolin, where he marries the king's daughter and has a son, Eärendel. Meanwhile, the evil Melko, whom Ulmo was so worried about, is scheming to find the hidden city and destroy it. When the city's location is given up in "the most infamous treachery in the history of Middle-earth," a great battle ensues, and despite Tuor's valor, Gondolin falls. The history of Middle-earth is so intricately detailed and fully imagined, readers are lucky indeed that Christopher Tolkien is such an excellent editor. With a full glossary, additional notes, a family tree, and a list of names with descriptions, it is easy to keep track of who is whose son (Lord of the Rings fans will be pleased to note that Eärendel is Elrond's father) and which races of elves and orcs and goblins are which and live where. Tolkien also takes great care to explain where each version of the story comes from and pieces together its evolution, giving much-needed context. All this makes it easy to enjoy the tale itself, which is beautifully written, with lyrical descriptions of Ulmo, Gondolin, and even the dragons and Balrogs that devastate the city. Even the battle sequences are somehow lovely. The tone here is more like a fairy tale than the main Ring cycle, which is perfectly suited to its shorter length.
This gorgeous novel is a must for more than just Tolkien fanatics.