Visions of Despair
2005 Award Category: Books/Time: The Lord of The Rings: Gondor - Honorable Mention
Story Type: Story ✧ Length: Novella
Rating: PG-13 ✧ Reason for Rating: adult themes
Summary: Gap-filler. Haunted by disturbing visions in the palantír, and faced with the growing menace of Mordor -- Denethor slowly loses hope. This is an exploration of Denethor's final days in Minas Tirith, and his eventual descent into madness. Much introspection and angst. Also features Gandalf, Faramir, and Pippin.
Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger ✧ Score: 7
Denethor makes a fascinating subject for introspection, and he's portrayed very well here. The suspicions, the logic, the methods...they all have a basis of some sort, and though his assumptions are wrong about a few things, you can tell that Denethor hasn't done anything on a whim. His grief over Boromir was shown well, and I love the inner conflict he feels whenever he has to deal with Faramir. I don't think I've ever read a characterization quite like this, and though I typically like Denethor, rarely have I found him to be such a sympathetic character. It really did come crashing down around him in the end. Great introspection, and the pacing was very good, too. I like the style of moving from moment to moment, focusing on the turning points rather than the cluttering details.
Reviewed by: Dwimordene ✧ Score: 6
With apologies, I'm going to reiterate parts of some older reviews. What I enjoyed about this story was how we are shown the distorting effect the palantir has on what Denethor sees and hears around him. This really comes to the fore in the final chapter, even though the palantir is mostly absent. All the previous build-up pays off and the reader does not bat an eye at how Denethor behaves and views matters, particularly Gandalf. Aralanthiriel keeps things short and focused in each chapter, and the only thing I truly miss is that awful council where Denethor sends Faramir away. She gives a good lead-in the chapter that would precede it, but ultimately doesn't show it. Perhaps another time and another vignette?
Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon ✧ Score: 4
Excellent story from Denethor's POV, telling of his descent into madness during those final days of his life. His attitude towards Faramir is particularly credible; he doesn't dislike his younger son, but feels distant and has never taken him into his heart as he took Boromir. The final erosion of Denethor's sanity, as he sinks into despair and paranoia exacerbated by Sauron, is tragic indeed.