"The Children of Húrin" will thrill some readers and dismay others, but will surprise almost everyone. If you're looking for the accessibility, lyrical sweep and above all the optimism of "Lord of the Rings," well, you'd better go back and read it again. There are no hobbits here, no Tom Bombadil, no cozy roadside inns and precious little fireside cheer of any variety found here. This is a tale whose hero is guilty of repeated treachery and murder, a story of rape and pillage and incest and greed and famous battles that ought never to have been fought. If "Lord of the Rings" is a story where good conquers evil, this one moves inexorably in the other direction.
...I came away from "The Children of Húrin" with a renewed appreciation for the fact that Tolkien's overarching narrative is much more ambiguous in tone than is generally noticed. As has been much discussed, he was a devout Catholic who tried, with imperfect success, to harmonize the swirling pagan cosmology behind his imaginative universe with a belief in Christian salvation. Salvation feels a long way off in "The Children of Húrin." What sits in the foreground is that persistent Tolkienian sense that good and evil are locked in an unresolved Manichaean struggle with amorphous boundaries, and that the world is a place of sadness and loss, whose human inhabitants are most often the agents of their own destruction.H/T John Farrell