There's no way I can top some of the other reviews posted here, so I'll focus on a different question: "Should I, someone who knows little about Tolkien, buy this book for a friend who's a Tolkien fan?"
The short answer is yes. As Tolkien's major tales go, this one ranks in third place after Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (or second for those who don't like the children's flavor of The Hobbit). Unlike The Silmarillion, this is a genuine story with a narrative and character development. The only deficiency is that, without those hobbits, it lacks the light and comic touch they provide, giving it a grimmer and more fatalistic feel. Unless he reads Tolkien only for the hobbits, your friend will be delighted with your gift.
Perhaps the only other Tolkien work that would top The Children of Hurin in value--and one you ought to consider if your friend doesn't have it already--is The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. It's a collection of Tolkien's letters over a six decade span (from 1914 to 1973), and it provides the definitive background to Middle earth. When I wrote the entry on "Magic in Middle earth" for The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, I used it almost exclusively. It was far better to let Tolkien explain what he meant than to make guesses of my own.
--Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien (a book-length LOTR chronology)
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