The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring has broken up. Although they banded together to protect Frodo and the One Ring to Rule Them All in the first book of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, at the end they were going three different directions. Frodo and Sam sneaked off to Mordor so the others could not follow them. Merry and Pippin were taken forcibly by the Orcs. The remaining human, elf, and dwarf know they cannot follow Frodo. Instead they attempt to rescue the kidnapped hobbits.
They get involved with more Men, warriors, the Riders of Rohan. They have to temporarily abandon their quest and go with the Riders. Mordor is growing stronger. The Orc armies are attacking further into Middle Earth and all are in danger.
Merry and Pippin find themselves in strange company. The Orcs want them alive. They want to escape. Pippin is able to use his wits to prepare for that chance. He also is able to leave a message for the others in their group that he and Merry are alive. One battle kills off almost all the Orcs with them. He and Merry escape and meet the Ents. Treebeard is probably the oldest, and oddest, being in Middle Earth.
Aragon, Legolas, and Gimli find unexpected help from an old friend. They then band together with the armies of Men to fight the beings from Mordor. They march towards Saruman’s holdings first. The war will not be easy, but must be fought.
Frodo and Sam discover it is no easier getting into Mordor than it is getting out. The dark land is well guarded. They gain an unexpected companion and guide, Gollum. Gollum wants the ring. Frodo has it. He promises not to hurt Frodo; he doesn’t give up his dream of retrieving the ring. Sam doesn’t trust Gollum. Gollum hates Sam. The trio have an uneasy truce as Gollum leads them through hidden paths into the Dark Lord’s lands.
This middle book of the trilogy is filled with lengthy battles and wars. The Ents help make this book lighter, but this is the darkest third of the trilogy. It is difficult whether to feel sorry for Gollum or to despise him for what he has become. Everything that happens in this book is needed to bridge the beginning and the end in The Return of the King. Although still my least favorite of the three books, the description of Middle Earth, the characters, and the battles are outstanding. I appreciated this book much more than I did 25 years ago. It is necessary to the story. Most of the edge of seat action is in the first and last books. Don’t blow this one off because of that.