....Indeed, it is a tale of unremitting blackness. The elves we meet here are even icier and more callous than those of the Lost Tales; and the hero is so flawed, so "wronged" and so ruthless, and so weighed down with suffering that his death is something of a relief.
Only at the very end does his father return from Morgoth to find what has happened and to watch their mother, Morwen, in despondency. It would make a wonderful opera.
Now the army of Tolkien imitators and creators of alternative universes fill the fantasy sections of the libraries. They are books largely written by and for nerds.
Yet with the master, it isn't so. In this new book, as in The Silmarillion, you feel yourself in the presence of a personal genius.
It is an odd thing to say, since his aim was to create an impersonal mythology, and you can see the affinities it has with Hebrew, Greek and Nordic equivalents. The ineluctable tendency for events to go wrong, and for the beautiful and the delicate to be vanquished, knows no let-up.
Yet, though there is not one word of preaching in The Children of Hurim, you never doubt that it is worth being good, even though evil triumphs.
You close it thinking how extraordinary was the life of Tolkien, who for well over half a century, while pursuing an academic career, continued to evolve - unpublished and without much encouragement - a self-contained world of myth.