"The War of the Ring" - Tolkien's preferred title for "The Return of the King" - is the third of four volumes dealing with the history of the writing of "The Lord of the Rings." Like the other volumes in the series, it features unpublished writings by Tolkien, supplemented, explained, footnoted, annotated and expounded upon by his son, Christopher Tolkien.
If you're not a Tolkien fan, you need not apply. These incomplete and unfinished texts will only bore you. But if you're interested in seeing how the Professor developed the rich creation of Middle Earth, warts and all, this is a treasure trove of material.
This book is part of the larger, 12-part History of Middle Earth series, which takes a close look at the creation of Tolkien's greatest achievement - Middle Earth itself - through early drafts, unpublished texts, and dead end writings.
For ardent Tolkien readers, the series is a fascinating look at one of the great literary creations of the 20th Century, full of rich detail, writings never before seen, and stories only now being told. For more casual fans, it's text better left unread.
Like the volumes that came before ("The Return of the Shadow" and "The Treason of Isengard"), we have the earliest versions of what would later become "The Lord of the Rings." Tolkien's troubles in bringing the story to a close, abandoned storylines, and alternate endings are all presented in incomplete prose. (Take a peak at the original end of Eowyn's character arc).
The wealth of information is fantastic, and Christopher Tolkien goes to great lengths to examine each text, putting them in the context of the larger puzzle of his father's writings. The exploration of how "The Lord of the Rings" came about is fantastic - for those interested. Otherwise, it will bore. This is, after all, a series of unfinished draft chapters and essays on the text. I enjoyed it, but many won't.
Anybody wishing to do a study of Tolkien's craft, into "behind the scenes" writings, or just interested in finding a few snatches of new Middle Earth material (even if in unfinished form, there are some scattered throughout the series) will certainly find what they are looking for here. Christopher Tolkien's work here is appreciated by scores of ardent Tolkien fans. Those looking for fresh new tales about hobbits and heroes, however, will be disappointed. This isn't new fiction, nor does it even feature finished works. Seek elsewhere if you are looking for more tales in the way of "The Lord of the Rings."