My preferences are not important. Just look at what I've read, note what's lacking, and tell me to read it posthaste.
Eddison wrote this somewhat marginalized fantasy classic as a 40-year old, but though he was a highly educated philologist when he committed it to paper, the story had been brewing in his mind for the better part of thirty years. I would like to say that the amount of time Eddison spent on the story shows in many admirable ways, but its most lauded appeals are also the things that keep it from being as sublime as other classics like Lud-in-the-Mist or The King of Elfland’s Daughter. I would still hold it in high enough esteem to set it above Tolkien’s even more indulgent Lord of the Rings, but the last vestiges of Eddison’s juvenile glee gall as often as they delight.
The only character that rewards a more adult eye is Lord Gro, but the other characters are so populous and their deeds so numerous that Gro’s more realistic motivations are almost completely drowned out. By the time the end of the book rolls around, and the overall narrative offers its pleasant undercurrent of insight, the vigor for the mighty deeds of its heroes are all but in the grave already. The heft of the book’s insight into the cyclical nature of both conflict and storytelling would have been far more intriguing if the rest of the characters had possessed more idiosyncratic personalities.