If you haven’t read my reviews on The Fellowship of the Ring or The Two Towers, let me sum up:
Tolkien wanted to write one huge, epic novel. His publisher said no. They split it into three parts and called it three novels, hence the Lord of the Rings series. This means that the books don’t really make sense on their own, but they’re fantastic when you read all three of them.
While The Two Towers is probably the most action-packed of the books, The Return of the King has the most spectacular action; there are less battles, but the ones in there are more glorious and pivotal and necessary for the salvation of Middle Earth and stuff. Frodo destroys a ring (spoilers). Eowyn kills the lord of the nazgul. (Spoilers.) And you should definitely watch the movies before you read any of this, because otherwise, there’s no way you’re going to be able to tell the characters apart. At least, I wouldn’t have.
This is one of the few times I’m going to tell you to watch the movies first – usually, I like to bring my book bias to the theater with me, but on this one, the books are so detailed that it’s actually going to be really helpful to have some idea what’s about to happen and what each character looks like. It’ll help keep the cities straight, too.
Overall, I’d give each book two stars on its own – but the series gets five. ♦