Indeed a generation later one might hear an old gaffer in an inn, after a good pint of well-earned ale, put down his mug with a sigh: 'Ah! that was a proper fourteen-twenty, that was!' -The Return of the King, p.1001
So far Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has been a tad exclusive: open largely to connoisseurs of fine wines...or at least to those who happen to have a taste for the finer alcohols of life. Reading The Return of the King, however, is more like visiting the open bar--pick a drink, any drink, whatever you like.
The Fellowship of the Ring came in at 4 1/2 stars, but mostly appealing to a reader willing to stick through some boring sections. The Two Towers ranked a little lower, and most definitely narrowed its field to connoisseurs. The Return of the King ties with The Fellowship of the Ring, but for an entirely different reason.
For those alcohol drinkers of the world who, for whatever reason, don't happen to like the taste of wine, or champagne, or whatever high-falutin' alcohols are on a typical connoisseur's table, The Return of the King is our book. It's the book for the Miller Corona drinkers, the Mike's Hard Lemonade guzzlers, the Sprecher gulpers of Tolkien's readers--it doesn't appeal to any particular taste, so long as the love of the basic concept is there.
The Return of the King is an action-packed, addictive rush of a novel.
[spoiler] Not terribly surprising, based on the fact that it picks up with Gandalf hurrying Pippin away to Gondor in a race against winged Nazguls, and Sam rushing into Mordor to save a definitely-not-dead-but-captured Frodo. [/spoiler] If you like stories about good guy versus bad guy, bigger than life armies, [spoiler] ladies in disguise in the thick of the action,[/spoiler] and all the hoopla that comes with it all...The Return of the King is the book to read.
[spoiler] That being said, if you're a sucker for happy endings, you might want prepare yourself for bittersweet instead...[/spoiler]
Long story short, if you're like an old gaffer in Hobbiton, looking for good old 1420 to down at the end of a long day, consider The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers as your long day, and The Return of the King as your 1420 reward.
NOTE: This review is simply for the novel; nearly every edition of The Return of the King that I have read/picked up/coveted includes the Annals and a large amount of appendices, which--since the typical reader doesn't read those, just as the typical alcohol drinker doesn't read brewery house manual--I have chosen to exclude from this review. If anyone desperately wants thoughts on the mini-novel of material after the actual novel, let me know.