As an aspiring author, it's pretty much a given, unspoken rule: the more well-read you are (both in and outside your genre of choice), the better your chances of creating something unique, with a voice of your own that isn't just a rehashing of older ideas. The additional addage that "It's all been done before, in one way or form" simply lends credence to the preceding argument. To that effect, it is likely a rare fantasy author that will therefore not at one point either read or attempted to read the J.R.R. Tolkein Lord of the Rings trilogy.
I first read this trilogy back when I was in high school, not really knowing what I was getting into. I actually read it while waiting for the Elfstones of Shannara to come into the local bookstore. When I did read, my first thoughts were "huh, a lot like The Sword of Shannara." I'll admit to my naivety at the time and ask for the forgiveness and latitude from any readers; the internet as an idea was in its infancy. My recent embarkation into this rich and wonderous realm of magic and prose was something of a challenge to myself. Given the prose involved, this wasn't so light a commitment.
That said, it has been completed.
I must admit to a few things about my experience reading Return of the King. First, this was a fairly long and difficult read; I realize this was one of those "so close yet so far" from the finish line issues. There were over a hundred pages of Annexes that led me to believe I had so much more to tackle. Secondly, the pacing and energy of the first half (the exploits of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, Gandalf, as well as Merry and Pippin) was much better paced than the Frodo and Sam portion. I understand in retrospect that this pacing effect only adds to the turmoil for our wayward pair of Hobbits, whereas the prior section was a hectic and valiant battle against near-impossible odds. The ability of Tolkein to immerse his readers into the morose and terrible realms of Mordor and the effects it had on Frodo and Samwise only reinforces my highest opinion of Tolkien's works.
Return of the King was an incredibly rewarding read, in the end. Out of the entire series, I think the most poetic and inspiring prose were the scenes where the Fellowship is reunited under the banners of the new King of Mordor. The beauty of the words were inspiring in their tragedy. For so long they shared a purpose, their quest. Now that it's over, they face the prospect of returning to the previous lives, away from the friendships they have forged. This bittersweet end only adds to the realism and scope of Tolkien's work.
One of the rewards I set for myself for reading the trilogy was to spend the time to re-watch the film trilogy. The films were such a trigger for people to get into fantasy realms that I couldn't resist reading them The Lord of the Rings trilogy again. something I am infinitely happy for.