The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to Tolkien's World

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Buy on Amazon Buy on Buy on
*This page contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date Nov 14 2023 | Archive Date Nov 07 2023

Talking about this book? Use #TheUltimateUnofficialGuidetoTolkiensWorld #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


Tolkien's Middle Earth continues to capture the global imagination. In this accessible (but unofficial) guide, this sometimes confusing world is broken down into bite-sized sections that bring it to life for the newcomer and the fanatic alike.

Become an expert in Tolkien's world – the easy way! The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to Tolkien’s World offers something that’s never been attempted before: a single timeline, in chronological order, of all the events in Tolkien’s notorious complex books.

Why was it so shocking that Galadriel gave three strands of her golden hair to Gimli the Dwarf? Why is Sauron afraid of Aragorn’s sword? Why does a Balrog lurk under a dwarven underground city and how did the seven lost Seeing Stones come into being? How did the hobbits manage to have such a peaceful life? Who were the warriors whose corpse lights hover in the Dead Marshes?

From handy lists of characters, places, weapons and types of magic to the 150 illustrations capturing overlooked details such as armour colours, heraldic signs and crests, this easy-to-follow guide to Middle Earth will ensure you’re never baffled by alternate character names, confusing mythologies or labyrinthine plots again.
Tolkien's Middle Earth continues to capture the global imagination. In this accessible (but unofficial) guide, this sometimes confusing world is broken down into bite-sized sections that bring it to...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781786787781
PRICE $40.00 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Download (PDF)

Average rating from 34 members

Featured Reviews

I'm not a Tolkien superfan, and I'm definitely not a Tolkien scholar. While I like his work, I find some of his prose a little too esoteric to always fully comprehend. Yeah, I've read more than just The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I have my limits. Still, I want to understand all the interlocking references, meanings and backstories throughout his works. Previously, I turned to several frequently contradictory wiki websites and occasionally asked reddit. It was a low and grinding process that made it hard to quickly check references.

This book is meant to fix that problem. It's not a glossary or a long list of names, it's a comprehensive guide for someone who knows something about Tolkien's Legendarium, but not everything. I imagine it will also be a good resource for people who are largely familiar with his entire work, but want a reference or a refresher that doesn't just remind, but explains.

Having all the information easily available in consistent prose, in chronological order, helps lay bare connections between stories that may have been difficult to glean earlier, with the stories spread out in multiple books, over the multiple different prose styles Tolkien employed. In general, I can't praise the book enough for being as chronological as possible. For the first time, I finally fully understand the different Ages constantly referenced in Tolkien's work, and I've been familiar with it for years and years.

The book also does an excellent job of drawing parallels-- when we run into a story that will have important ramifications later, that's mentioned. When we run into a story that's referenced elsewhere, it's noted. Motifs and themes are elaborated on as well-- the repeated references to floods, the difference between north and south, etc. The book analyzes as well as explains, making it an excellent beginner's guide and refresher. The wording is clear and precise.

There are some things that fans may not like, though I can understand why they are there. This is meant to be a guide, so it answers questions that are often accepted as ambiguous or unanswerable by fandom at large (it comes down strongly on one side of the Balrogs-Wings debate, for example). It also features extremely minimalist illustrations, which may seem odd for fans more accustomed to the lush maximalism of most Tolkien depictions. This is, I believe, ultimately a good choice: the illustrations are meant to clarify information, not distract the reader, but it is a marked change from how Tolkien's works are usually visually depicted.

Ultimately, I think it's a wonderful guide, and I highly recommend it to anyone who struggles to keep all of the legendarium in mind, or simply wants a refresher that's more comprehensive than a glossary.

Was this review helpful?

I think this would be a great guide for anyone who is new to Tolkien's World. The information is neatly divided, clear and concise.

I have to commend the author on how well he compiled the history/lore, especially with it being in chronological order. I think that could be such a useful tool for future readers.

The illustrations are very basic but I actually think that works well with the style of this book. It doesn't distract the reader but rather it just aides in providing information.

Very enjoyable read!

Thank you Antony Cummins , Net Galley and Watkins Publishing for providing me with an ARC of this book.

Was this review helpful?

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series are some of my favorite books. They are books that draw you in and make you feel like you are there. However, it is not always easy for me to keep the characters and events from mixing together. Add to that me not being able to understand The Silmarillion at all, and seeing why having a guide to everything makes sense. That's why I wanted to read The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to Tolkien's World. I was not disappointed in it. There are very thorough explanations of the characters, events, and important points that help you to connect everything together.

The book is organized in chronological order, so you get a better idea of how the events and ages in the series happen. I think it is a handy guide no matter how well you understand Tolkien's writings. The only thing that would like to see added is a pronunciation guide for names and words. I'd like to know that I was saying the names correctly when I read the books.

I received a free copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

I have to say I am a huge fan of JRR Tolkien books and this book is a great book of reference and understanding of the characters and places in the books written by Tolkien. It is written in a way that it flows through the times, places and characters in chronological order. So this makes it all so easy to follow and understand.

The illustrations are good but not as in-depth as I had hoped, but they do work. the chapters are well laid out, the information and descriptions clear and concise and it is a book I can and will refer back to when I need a bit of clarification.

Thank you NetGalley and Watkins Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

Was this review helpful?

A good book for those wanting more after reading all of Tolkien's work, or a book to have at one's side while reading through his writings. Either way, a valuable edition to any fan's library.

Was this review helpful?

I am a huge Lord of the Rings Fan. Huge. In fact, I'm getting a tattoo of Galadriel on Friday. I will however admit that I'm a bit rusty on the entire lore of Tolkien's world. So when I was selected to be an advance reviewer on The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to Tolkien's World by Antony Cummins, I was stoked! I'm not usually an "unofficial guide of" reader, but this had me interested as the world of Tolkien is so complex and has sooo many nuances.

The Positives:

I dove right into it as soon as I got it, and spent quite a bit of time reading through it. I think the foreward addresses the need for this book the best - Lord of the Rings et al are behemoths to get into as a series. There are so many books, so many pages, and so many side stories. For someone new to Lord of the Rings, or even a younger reader, it can be daunting and, as Cummins put it "inaccessible", which I totally agree with. I read LOTR when I was about 12, and was hooked, and even then there were aspects that I didn't completely understand (nor care about, sorry JRR). I think the Ultimate Unofficial Guide to Tolkiens World fills a void for young readers, or readers who frankly don't have the patience to get through the entire series. It also provides a nice chronological view of the series, and does it well and in an approachable way. There's a handy glossary and a handful of illustrations to help the reader along the way.

The Not As Positives:

I am reading this book several months before it's publishing date, so I do have some edits/recommendations/nit picks. The illustrations are handy but could use some tuning up or more detail. I love the basic language used, but it would be so so beneficial to readers to provide references (footnotes, book call outs) throughout each one of the sections, so readers who are following along can have some sort of reference to the source material.


4/5 Stars (again pre-publishing!). Knocking a star off right now as the reference material doesn't have the call outs, and as a LOTR fan already, this isn't something that I'd say ALL LOTR fans need in their shelf, but is good for those who are more familiar with the films. I will definitely be purchasing this to have in my collection, and eventually to help introduce my kids one day to the World of Tolkien. It makes it so accessible. Great read, and thank you so much for putting this all together.

Was this review helpful?

The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to Tolkien’s World is an easy to read guide, that helps to make the world of Tolkien more accessible.

As a huge fan of Lord of the Rings I have always found Tolkien’s world to be quite daunting. There are so many books all detailing a wide history of the world, it is hard to know where to start and what order to read them in.

This guide makes it very straightforward, it provides a detailed yet simplistic explanation of the events in the world in chronological order.

It is great to read as a stand-alone if you would prefer not to read the books, or as a companion to reading them all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be using this guide when I complete my binge read of Tolkien’s work.

My only complaint is that I feel like the drawings detract from the book. The look like childish drawings that should be in a children’s novel.

A huge thanks to NetGalley and Watkins Publishing for providing me with this arc.

Was this review helpful?

Based on this authors “other books” section, this is the first Tolkien book the author has done - really the first fiction-based book. However, I do see the intentionality the author had in writing this book and I admire the effort to put forward what is a complicated mythology and immense timeline into an easier to understand format. The one place this book could provide a better introduction to the Tolkien universe would be in the illustrations, otherwise, this book is a great introduction and a wonderful reference to the complex, and often hard to understand, Middle Earth mythology. This book also inspired me to re-read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales again as I definitely remember some things differently in those books than the author talks about here.

Was this review helpful?

I love the lord of the rings so this is perfect for me as I love getting into the lore and world building of Tolkien’s work. I found this book easy to follow and the information interesting.
Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Was this review helpful?

My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Watkins Publishing for an advance copy of this look at the rich world that J. R. R. Tolkien created along with helpful historical notes, and other asides that makes reading the adventures of Hobbits even more entertaining.

As a child I was a weird little reader, loving comics, pop-up books, magazines about cars and science, and really anything else I could find. Books of fables, with Hardy Boys and raids on my parents bookshelfs, with college textbooks, nursing guides and other weird books. I was about six when I started reading The Hobbit. I think it was a choice between a Grolier's edition of The Three Musketeers, which I still have, and a white paperback that just seemed easier to carry around, which I still have. And it was locked in from the opening. Much went over my head, but there was so much I loved, and can still remember, spiders, trolls, dragons, eagles and things that lurked in the dark. I began to pick up books that looked like The Hobbit, and from there my genre love began. I still have most of them, including the many compendiums and role playing games based in Middle Earth. The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to Tolkien's World by veteran compiler and writer Antony Cummins is one of the best works on Tolkien's Middle Earth stories that I have read. A history of the ages, with notes, explanations, illustrations, lists and and fun facts, extremely well-written and very easy to follow along with.

The book begins with a general introduction and explanation for the book with is a chronological history of Tolkein's Middle Earth, from it's creation and Gods, to a bit past the end of the Lord of the Rings and the Third Age. Much has been collected since the death of Tolkein, who loved to fiddle with ideas, sometimes growing bored and not completeing something, or interrupted and starting anew somewhere else. The book can be used by role players, cosplayers and fans of the work. There are illustrations to go along with sections, featuring armor, towers, creatures and more. Cummins includes historical asides, where this myth might come from, where this could be, and what Tolkein was involved in when writing some of these stories. Sometimes certain questions can't be answered, and Cummins will also add that as an aside.

A fascinating book that can be read straight through as I did, or just flipped through as the book is broken into sections, and then events. I can't imagine the research and work that Cummins had to do to make this book. Tolkien would write great idea on napkins at lunch, years later following up with even more expanded ideas. I know a lot of work by Christopher Tolkein has been done to present his father's ideas to the world, but reading those books can be a bit of a slog. Cummins here has brought it all into one place, and distilled it down perfectly, making the history readable, and fun. Each page is just full of information and ideas. Pointing out that the members of the Fellowship did not swear oaths to do their quest, so as not to be called oath-breakers if they failed in a task that was considered in many ways a suicide mission. The bits of information on Hobbits, the Shire, and all the other places. I would have gone crazy for this book years ago. About as crazy as I have now.

A fantastic book for fans, role players and writers who want to work on their skills developing ideas and how to include them in the narrative. I really am impressed by the work that Antony Cummins has done, and will have to look for more by this author. A fantastic gift for the holidays for any fantasy loving fan.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for this ARC of The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to Tolkien's World in exchange for an honest review! I think Antony Cummins did such a great job with this guide. I love how it is comprehensive while still being comprehensible! This book is for anyone who is interested in reading Tolkien's books, especially those about the time before The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, but is a little intimidated by them. This guide will really be such a great companion. The chronological breakdown of events will help keep everything straight in your mind. I also think just reading this guide by itself will really get people interested in the books that are being described. It provides the perfect taste of these stories and will leave you wanting to experience them for yourself. It also works to help refresh your memory if you're already familiar with Tolkien's world, while also bringing in some fascinating connections you might not have made on your own.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to Watkins Publishing/Netgalley for this eARC.

If you love Tolkien, you're going to love this. If you don't... well, you're probably not going to be picking this book up anyway. A must-have read for any LOTR fan out there. Rich in lore, excellently written, and stunningly illustrated, it's everything I'd want from a book like this. Tolkien's lore has always been fascinating to me--if not a little convoluted and with timelines that can be hard to understand. Antony Cummins breaks it down easily, in a way that's both easy to understand and engaging.


Was this review helpful?

A clear and concisely written book. Each chapter is broken down into smaller parts with clear headings and subheadings, meaning you can find specific things with ease.

Was this review helpful?

As a Lord of The Rings fan it was great to be able to learn new information that I didnt know before. Great for Tolkien fans.

Was this review helpful?

Tolkien's world is very complex and there's always something new to learn. This is a well researched and informative book.
Well done, recommended
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

Was this review helpful?

When I saw this title, I was immediately cynical, given the sheer volume of books that have been written about Tolkien's world. Having read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings many times, and Silmarrillion and Children Of Hurin a couple, I nonetheless got VERY lost in trying to read many of the other unfinished works. The maze of names, places and events was overwhelming. As I started to read this book, my cynicism began to fade. Here, at last, was a work where someone took it upon himself to create a Cliff's notes of sorts, but not of a single book but rather an entire world of books and stories written by JRR Tolkien, and to do so in a readable and understandable way, summarizing the complete history of that world from beginning to end, sparing me from wondering which Tolkien volume came next, or which stories overlapped with other stories.

This makes this book priceless for someone who really wants to see the larger story, but cannot piece together the chronology from so many books that are difficult to follow. One particular aspect of Tolkien's work is that many names apply to the same being, be it because they are known differently in different languages, or became known as something else over time. The author tells us about the name change, then lets us know that he will always refer to this being by a particular name so we don't get lost. This is incredibly valuable.

I was, for the first time, to read the entire world history cover to cover in this abbreviated form, and so many things made sense now.

If I were to point out a weakness or missing piece, it would be the absence of maps. The world Tolkien created was not only huge, but it changed and evolved over time, literally. Continents would vanish under the ocean, entire kingdoms would be laid waste and reformed, and it would be nice to see the evolution more visually.

Nonetheless, I believe this title is a great jumping off point for someone who wants to get the birds eye view of the history of Arda, and then later dig into the details by reading Tolkien's own unfinished writings, using this book as a guiding light to help remember who was who, and what happened when.

Highly Recommended!

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: