One of the biggest disappointments of my life was when the long-awaited Silmarillion finally was published in 1977. It was all but unreadable, as were the rest of Tolkien’s posthumous publications, edited by his son Christopher. The new Children of Hurin is readable, with some effort, and contains a pretty terrific adventure story.
6000 years before Sauron, there was Morgoth, who terrorized Middle Earth with his hoards of orcs and other evil critters. The warrior Hurin opposed him, and, captured, defied Morgoth, who cursed him and his family. This is mostly the story of Turin, Hurin’s son, also a warrior, who takes the brunt of the curse. Unstoppable in battle, he still causes the death of nearly everyone dear to him, in a tragedy that recalls Oedipus.
This is Tolkien in his high mode, with none of the whimsy that lets children appreciate The Hobbit. If you remember when Gandolf tells Frodo the history of the ring in The Fellowship of the Ring, this reads much like that. What makes it difficult? There’s an 18 page list of names that appear in a narrative of about 225 pages. Indeed, Turnin changes his name about as often as you or I would change clothes.
Still, for those of us who’ve been waiting, this is as good as it’s going to get.