The Inheritance by Simon Tolkien

By Ekta R. Garg

July 24, 2013

Rated: Bypass it

One day during a solitary trip to the library, I visited the place that for me constitutes a guilty pleasure: the used books sale section.  Whenever I go to the library I usually stop at the shelves for a few minutes to see if I can discover a gem or two.  I found a copy of Twilight there and used it as my entry point to the entire saga.  And then on another trip I found a book called The Inheritance written by someone named Simon Tolkien.

The last name stood out enough to make me wonder whether Simon Tolkien had any relationship to The Tolkien, and I found out quickly enough the answer: Simon Tolkien is J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandson.  Considering the depth, scope, and breadth of The Lord of the Rings, I hoped Simon Tolkien would exhibit the same amount of talent or something close to it.  So I bought the book at its deeply discounted price and added it to my summer reading list.

In The Inheritance Tolkien offers readers something akin to two parallel story lines.  The first recounts the plot of a man on trial in 1959 for his life—police find him in the study with his dead father, a historian, and all of the evidence points to the young man even as he insists on his innocence.  The second story line follows a young woman’s pursuit of an equivalent to the Holy Grail; in this case, the “grail” comes in the form of an actual piece of Christ’s cross.  The young woman’s father, a disgraced history professor, had begun looking for the relic several years earlier and stopped because of the events that caused his fall from favor.

Unfortunately Tolkien’s ambitious plots each get in one another’s way, and he ends up writing a book that appears “muddled” (to borrow a term from his native England.)  Neither plot gets enough attention, and the result becomes a flat book.  In fact Tolkien himself sums up the way readers probably felt during the entire book toward the end when he reveals the identity of the murderer (who becomes the unifying factor of both stories):

“At the time of Cade’s murder [s/he] had been part of the background.  Never more than that.  [S/he] was obviously attractive, but [s/he] didn’t seem to have anything very interesting to say. … Really, the most significant think about [the murderer] had been [his/her] lack of significance.”

The book’s landmark events, too, come across as lacking significance, which only counts as a strike against the author considering his writing heritage.  This, Tolkien’s second novel, got published in 2010, and his fourth book is almost ready for release so he continues to publish and seemingly enjoy some measure of success.  Many people apparently also enjoyed this book, but I can’t say the same for myself.  In addition to the story not drawing me in, I found the writing clunky with sentences that could have done with some editing.  Some of the sentences sound as if they came straight from a high school English class, in fact, which only added to my disappointment.

Despite its billing as a “thriller,” The Inheritance ultimately reads with as much thrill as mud.  I recommend readers “Bypass it.”


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s