The Silmarillion is a book written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published posthumously by his son, Christopher Tolkien. It details the history of his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit stories, told as a history book instead of a traditional narrative. It’s a tragic collections of tales of the elves and men, and their struggle against the evil Morgoth.
Despite what many might think today, especially scholars of Tolkien’s work, The Silmarillion was not very well received at the time of its release, with many citing the lack of a clear narrative or group of adventurers as one of its many faults. It’s also a fairly gloomy work of fiction, with little of the humor and lighthearted elements that found their ways into the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
That said, many of these reviews were taking the wrong approach. If you were looking for something akin to the Lord of the Rings, you will be disappointed. This is not a novel, and it doesn’t have much more than a few themes that tie the many stories together. This is a history book. A history of a fictional universe, but a history book nonetheless. That is why it is probably a lot more appealing to scholars of Tolkien’s work rather than casual readers.
The language of the book is beautifully crafted, and it reads almost more like poetry than a normal narrative. And ultimately it is a collection of stories that could each support their own series of books. So there’s a lot to take in. But as you’re reading, you can’t help but marvel at the scope of Tolkien’s mythology, and you could spend years reading, re-reading, and studying this book to better understand the world of Middle-earth.
So while the Silmarillion is definitely not for everyone, fans of the lore of Middle-earth will absolutely love it. It’s not a book you just pick up and read and then put aside. It’s a collection of stories that you could delve deep into and study for the rest of your life. I would say that those who review it poorly don’t really understand its purpose. It’s not meant to be an entertaining read. If that’s what you want, you will be disappointed. If you want something a little closer to the novel-format of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, I’d recommend picking up the three other posthumous publications that Christopher Tolkien assembled and published: Beren and Luthien, The Children of Hurin, and the Fall of Gondolin. These are slightly more complete (slightly) and are more accessible to casual viewers.