Would you believe there were parts of this book where I kept thinking, Get on with it!? I mean, I get the structure of the story requires that we see the struggle that Sam and Frodo had to endure on the way to the Cracks of Doom, but it kept going on, and it kept repeating a lot of what had happened before. I was ready to get on to the action and see how the entire series wrapped up.
It's strange: I had a pretty good recollection of events from the first two books, supposedly because I had both read the books and watched the movies, but a lot of the details from the third part eluded me, even having seen the movie (once, in the theaters, and not in the extended version, many years ago). A lot of it came back to me, but it was a nice surprise to see how Tolkien wrapped up the entire thing.
There were a lot of neat touches that I didn't recall, too, like how the Men drew Sauron's attention away from Sam and Frodo as they made their way to the fires of Mt. Doom to destroy the ring. Then there was the complete change in character of the four Hobbits who left as part of the Fellowship, and how that was necessary to help them reclaim the Shire after it had been corrupted. Plus, I know there's some discussion on how Tolkien dragged out the ending, including more and more resolution, but I wasn't bothered by it. In fact, to me it felt like the story came full circle that way, with each member of the Fellowship returning to his homeland in reverse order, making the goodbyes that much harder to read.
I wound up reaching the point where I didn't want the story to end. It was bittersweet in its own way, and reminded me a lot of the endings of It and Stardust, where that bittersweet feel of the ending of relationships lent a lot of depth and importance to the story. It speaks a lot of the friendships that were forged in this trilogy, and if there's one theme that I will take from this entire story, that's what it would be -- the importance of friendships.
I'm sorry that I waited this long to finish the series. Had I known that it would be this good, I would have finished it seven years ago.