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The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Children of Hurin is set thousands of years before the events in Lord of the Rings and takes place in the country of Beleriand before it became drowned under the seas. The leader of men, Lord Hurin the Steadfast, has mounted a disastrous attack on the forces of Morgoth (the original Dark Lord) and he's captured and tortured. Morgoth, with an army of orcs, Easterlings, balrogs, and Glaurung, the father of dragons, overruns the realms of man and places a curse on Hurin's family. Hurin's young son, Turin, and his pregnant wife seek the shelter provided by the elves. Turin grows up violent, arrogant, and vain, and is eventually exiled from the Elvish kingdom. Turin sets about to rescue his father, and in turn, is sought by his sister. Christopher Tolkien has created the first standalone novel from his father's stories about the First Age and it's received mostly positive reviews. The Chicago Sun-Times says, "Although much of the story was written before Lord of the Rings, close readers will recognize foreshadowings of the epic trilogy in Children of Hurin. But the story stands by itself as an monumental achievement of imagination."