A review by neilrcoulter
The War of the Jewels by J.R.R. Tolkien


Reading the History of Middle-Earth series requires skills in determining when to read closely and when to skim. I don't say that to insult the series--and I don't think [a:Christopher Tolkien|9533|Christopher Tolkien|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1235772383p2/9533.jpg] would disagree--and certainly each reader will have a different opinion on which sections are "read-closely" and which sections are "skim." Of the volumes I've read so far (only one more to go now!), [b:The War of the Jewels|19668699|The War of the Jewels (The History of Middle-earth, Book 11)|Christopher Tolkien|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-673c574e721a5d4c3fd6e25b74d42bf2.png|27754178] was the most taxing to read, having what I considered the highest percentage of skimmable text. The first part, the Grey Annals, is a marathon of flipping between the main text section and the commentary section. By this point in the series, I feel like we've reached a point at which the changes are so small, and the layers of previous versions so dense, that it's a bit difficult to fully recall what it is that's being developed or changed in these new versions. The same was true of the next section, the final chapters of "the Later Quenta Silmarillion"--though that was followed by some fascinating new elements in the story of Hurin. The close of this volume is a section of grammar and phonological description of elvish languages. I have some experience in linguistics, and I recognize [a:Tolkien|656983|J.R.R. Tolkien|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1383526938p2/656983.jpg]'s achievement in designing such a complex history for the languages, but I'm not interested enough to read straight through this section without a lot of skimming.

Just one volume remains, and then I'll have finished the series. I'm looking forward to the final bits that Christopher presents. In all of the volumes, I really appreciate Christopher's humility. Here is the person in the world who could swagger as much as he likes, since he is the closest to his father of any Tolkien scholar, but he consistently admits his uncertainties and possible missteps. It's a refreshing attitude in any kind of scholarship.