While casual readers of “Lord of the Rings” may be put off, “The Children of HÃºrin” does not require “Silmarillion”-grade geekery. Any midlevel Tolkien fans with an appetite for the stranger, darker corners of his realm will rapidly be caught up in the fiery saga of HÃºrin, who defies the dreaded Morgoth and is mercilessly tortured, and TÃºrin, the legendary warrior whose great deeds drag everything and everyone he loves toward total disaster. At least, they’ll get swept up in it if they can plow through the first few pages.
Initially, “The Children of HÃºrin has that ye-olde-homework feeling of Tolkien at his most laborious. Here is the third sentence of Chapter I: “His daughter GlÃ³redhel wedded Haldir son of Halmir, lord of the men of Brethil; and at the same feast his son Galdor the Tall wedded Hareth, the daughter of Halmir.” (Furthermore, none of the people in that sentence ever reappear.) I still had to refer to Christopher Tolkien’s thorough and helpful maps, indexes and appendixes every few pages to keep the geographical and genealogical nomenclature straight — and I went back to “The Silmarillion” a couple of times to figure out the historical context — but I minded that less and less as the hours grew longer and TÃºrin’s fell struggle against innermost and outermost evil grew ever more dire.