I'll give this four *s, but grudgingly. Basically, I got tired of the trilogy by the time I got to this volume. The first half of this third volume was a rather tough slog. The Hobbit
is written like a bed-time story, and has lots of variety. As a consequence, it's a very fun read. But the first half of this book is all about battles of the forces of good versus evil, is full of tedious battle scenes, and written in the ponderous style of ancient legends of days of yore with lots of valorous deeds, archaic language, and so forth. So, it's not nearly so charming to read. The parts with the hobbits going along, working out their destinies, is ok. So, half of this volume, the Frodo-and-Sam bits aren't so bad, but the the battle-over-Gondor bits are pretty awful. The basic concept of The Lord of the Rings
makes for an interesting tale. But the writing can get tedious.
So basically, Tolkein had jumped the shark by the time he got to his third volume. Interestingly, Peter Jackson's adaptation follows suit. Whereas the first two volumes of the trilogy each take up a single VCR tape, the third volume requires two VCR tapes to retell (even though the third volume is the shortest of the three books). Yup, lots more gratuitous gory battle scenes. I'm sick unto death of the glorification of killing things as being the only endeavors that are worth while. Yes, I understand that killing things is the only way to defeat evil in the set up of this story. But, I have a feeling this kind of mind set helps contribute to the mindless militarism of our current American culture. There are other ways to overcome evil. The problem is, one has to plan ahead a bit. That, of course is not something we're good at. Hell, we can't even plan ahead to overcome controllable evils, such as anthropogenic climate change.