The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien is considered to be the epitome of epic fantasy by many people, and though it is not for me, I understand where everyone comes from. The book, as most know, follows nine mortals on a journey to destroy the one ring. It superbly written and an excellent story, and I'm annoyed that I avoided it for so long (I didn't want to be disappointed!)
The plot of the story is very linear. Yes the party stops from time to time for various reasons, but ultimately there is very little side tracking that I don't expect to be later involved in the story. Well, almost. I felt that Tolkien went into history a bit too much at some points and I completely glazed over reading about these details. I don't think you'd really see that nowadays since everything should be important, but I think I remember something saying that he wanted to write it as a work of fiction, but like a factual account of something. This in mind, I can forgive his wanderings into lore.
I'd seen the film many times before reading, so I didn't struggle following the story. The problem I had was that the company of people seemed to have less dynamic and chemistry between them. I thought of them as a hobbits and their protectors and no more than that; the film presents it otherwise. I kind of preferred the camaraderie of the film, but the description (and the fact that was the rue version) meant I did prefer the book.
I felt the characters were not overly important in this book. Sure, they were clearly themselves and enjoyable to read about, but they felt a bit flat to read and I didn't get a feel for them. And there was hardly any proper conversations between them. It was mostly should we do this or that. And Gandalf proclaiming the wonder of Hobbits- give me a break! I think I am biased though. The films were more about the characters than teh book, maybe because they had access to all teh material with which they could move about and give a more gradual development of relationships. This is something I hope improves.
One of the things I did really like was the songs and poems interwoven with the story because I couldn't resit chanting or singing (quietly) to myself as I read. I had one poem ear marked as my favourite (Bilbo's one to Frodo in his rooms) because it had the best rhythm and feel to it. I'm not a big poetry person, so I'm surprised I liked this element. And while I'm on the topic, I have to say that I love how Bilbo played a much larger part in the book than he did in the film which is definite improvement: Bilbo is quick, whimsical character that I think makes me smile.
I also really liked Tom Bombadil, who didn't appear in the films (this now annoys me). I mean, I really, really liked him. He was my favourite character because he was so weird and unpredictable. I would read a book on him without question because I found his remarks and remarks made of him so hinting a greater, longer life than we are given and his character is odd that we wonder if he's always been like that.
I'm glad I finally read this after many years of worry on my part and urgings on everyone else's. I was impressed with the book, and look forward the the sequel, prequels and companions. I've started down a long road that I hope to walk many times, one might say. And Gandalf used magic (with magic words too!) which wasn't really in the film I felt. It was there, sure, but it wasn't so obvious that I could know it was there. As a real lover of magic and those necessities of epic fantasy, I was glad to see the books seemed to stick to this better.