Every page brings forth the elegiac tone of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. Ostensibly it’s about the landscapes that inspired Middle-Earth; but it’s also, unavoidably, a history of the man and his ideas ... I think a large part of why I loved The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien was because it was making a personal mythology for me, as though it was going to the places I walked as a child...and imbuing them with deep magic, with legends. Perhaps if you don’t have the same connection with the places that I did, it will not resonate quite so strongly. But for me this book was irresistible ... Garth shows how Tolkien took pieces of myth from everywhere ... It is a beautiful book, physically speaking—bound in rich textured hardback and filled with beautiful illustrations, including many wonderful pictures by Tolkien himself; it looks and reads like a coffee-table book, intended for dipping into rather than reading. A lot of it is surely speculative. I don’t have much confidence in Garth’s ability to read Tolkien’s mind at this distance ... Garth’s book made me realise the impact that Tolkien has had on my life.
... a fascinating, gorgeously illustrated and thought-provoking examination of the landscapes, cities and architecture that inspired Tolkien during his lifelong creation of Middle-earth ... Garth, a journalist as well as a Tolkien scholar, proves an exceptional guide to Middle-earth ... Garth’s masterful book ends with a reminder that a profound concern for the environment and its despoliation imbues Tolkien’s work.
What John Garth adds to the ever-proliferating pile of Tolkien-related media is a careful eye and steady step ... the effort Garth demonstrates attests to Tolkien’s visionary projection, his uncanny talent at what this scholar compares to a paint-box, in which the author dipped, daubed, and mixed layers of color, depth, hue, form, and drama into his vast legacy of narratives ... astute caution defends the author’s works against detractors who, looking back and projecting contemporary critical theory upon Middle-Earth, distort its perspective. What opens up to the viewer dazzles ... Whether new to Middle-Earth or a veteran pilgrim, anyone will learn much in this book.
Clearly a painstaking scholar, the author of the much more comprehensive Tolkien and the Great War ignores the poetry and creativity underpinning Tolkien’s classic, dissecting it in an over-thought (and, at times, overwrought) search for connections to the author’s real-life ... Too often, Garth assumes causality. While many of Tolkien’s influences appear obvious, Garth’s certainty is, at best, galling ... This is a beautifully produced book, replete with illustrations. Full-page photos of evocative landscapes are supplemented by both maps and smaller shots detailing architectural features, while many of Tolkien’s own paintings...make this a lovely keepsake for fans. Less lovely are the multiple illustrations by lesser artists, which undercut the author’s own imaginings ... even within its brief main text, Garth repeats himself ... As a series of speculative essays—outtakes, perhaps, from Garth’s earlier work—The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien could have made an enjoyable browse, especially illustrated with the site-specific photos and Tolkien’s own work. Packaging it as a definitive work does Tolkien no harm, but it does the underlying scholarship, as well as Garth, a disservice.