Lego Rivendell review: "A fiercely inventive design riddled with secrets"
Upon finishing the Lego Rivendell set, I felt a bit like Frodo at the end of Lord of the Rings. "It's done," I said with vague disbelief, sinking back into my chair with a weariness born out of spending more than 20 hours building one of the company's biggest kits. But you know what? This wasn't a burden. If anything, I was sad the project was over.
That's because this tribute to Lord of the Rings is one of the best Lego sets I've ever made. Even though putting it together takes a lot of time (and it'll leave a Middle-earth-sized dent in your bank balance), Lego Rivendell is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. A fiercely inventive design riddled with secrets, this kit is the definition of a chef's kiss when it comes to Lego for adults.
Lego Rivendell - features
Lego Rivendell recreates Tolkien's elven hideaway in three distinct sections; the council courtyard where the Ring's fate is decided (along with a central chamber in which the shards of Narsil are kept), a tower that's home to Bilbo Baggins' bedroom, and a forested area complete with a gazebo, waterfall, bridge, and smithy. The latter is where Lego's new fern brick - which can be stacked to create more realistic bushes - comes into its own.
Because this is the first Lord of the Rings set in a decade (the last one hit shelves back in the mists of 2013, followed by Hobbit tie-ins the following year), it's rocking plenty of upgrades too. Along with dual-molded hobbit legs that finally allow the halflings to go barefoot, elves are now sporting hair with separately-colored ears. There are new, more screen-accurate weapons to arm your minifigures with too.
How easy is it to build?
Despite all of its wonders, this Lego set isn't for the faint of heart. At more than 6,100 pieces, three massive instruction books (one for each 'section'), almost 50 bags of bits, and a few complex parts that'll require care to finish, it's one of the more complicated kits you can buy right now.
With that in mind, you'll have to set aside a good chunk of time in order to plow through it. Even though I've heard of fans completing Lego Rivendell in 15 hours or so, it took me somewhere between 20 and 25. It's a full-on build and is certainly the most intense project I've tackled, so consider yourself warned.
However, that's not to say the process is hard. Thanks to clear and concise instructions, the whole process is surprisingly easygoing. It's less of a headache than other big projects like The Mighty Bowser, anyway. Whereas that one isn't always clear about where certain bricks should go, Lego Rivendell outlines everything being added in an eye-catching red. It's easier to spot than the green silhouettes of Lego Ghostbusters ECTO-1 too, and I didn't ever feel lost while putting it all together.
Unlike some sets that devolve into monotony, Lego Rivendell makes things amusing with hidden secrets, quirky asides, and the daddest of dad jokes
Even the trickiest parts of this build are forgiving; if you ever go wrong, you're always able to rectify the issue before it's too late. The same can't be said for all large-scale kits.
This laidback atmosphere allows you to appreciate the creative - and often bizarre - solutions used by Lego to bodge certain elements of the Middle-earth stronghold. You'll build chairs with golden hotdogs for arms and construct elaborate pillars held up by cupcakes, so the whole process is delightfully tongue-in-cheek… for those putting it together, anyway. They're well hidden, so unless you've read the wry asides within the instruction booklet pointing out where these disparate pieces come from, you wouldn't even realize they're not custom-made. (If this proves anything, it's that Lego are master recyclers.)
This is a great example of how Lego strives to keep you engaged throughout the project. Unlike some sets that devolve into monotony, Lego Rivendell tries to make things amusing with hidden secrets, quirky asides, and the daddest of dad jokes. There's no other way to put it; this is fun.
Even part-way through the build process, it's obvious that this is a wholehearted celebration of Peter Jackson's movies and Middle-earth as a whole. Whether it's teeny sticker maps of the world or the inclusion of Bilbo's scary 'hey, that's MY ring' face (even as a tiny cartoon, it still freaks me out), Lego Rivendell is a triumph for anyone in love with Lord of the Rings. This has so clearly been put together by fans, for fans.
A lot of it comes down to how many hidden nooks there are throughout the build. Numerous hidey-holes and side-rooms litter the kit, giving you lots to explore whenever you stop to admire it. In addition, it gives you ample opportunity to set up scenes - or recreate well-known moments with all those minifigures. The council of Elrond arguing over what to do with the Ring? Check. Aragorn and Arwen on the bridge? You got it. The Fellowship setting out on their quest? Go for it.
Captures the ethereal yet cozy vibe of Rivendell despite being a 'greatest hits' amalgamation
Sure, it's not a 1:1 recreation and takes some shortcuts along the way. (It's a shame that the shards of Narsil and that iconic painting of Isildur vs Sauron are relegated to the back of the model rather than being in a room of their own, for example). But these compromises make sense considering how massive the kit already is. It's sprawling enough in terms of height, depth, and width to dominate any room, so adding more would only result in it becoming unmanageable.
Plus, it successfully captures the ethereal yet cozy vibe of Rivendell despite being a 'greatest hits' amalgamation. As per Lego Home Alone, it emphasizes how the location makes you feel through smart design choices and a strong understanding of what makes the elven hideaway so beloved. The ensuing nostalgia is a force to be reckoned with, and Lego skillfully weaponizes those emotions for something fans will adore.
The fact that key sections come off easily - to be displayed separately or for a better view of what's inside - shows just how much thought has gone into this set. As Samwise Gamgee would say, it's "an eye-opener and no mistake."
Should you buy Lego Rivendell?
If you can get over the price, I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Lego Rivendell. It's magnificent - there are no ifs, buts, or maybes. Actually, I've got very little to complain about here. The design team deserves a round of applause for distilling everything we adore about one of fiction's best-loved locations into several-hundred plastic bricks.
In a nutshell? If you're a Lord of the Rings fan, you need this in your collection.
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How we tested Lego Rivendell
I spent around a week putting this kit together, and it took up almost every evening from when I finished work until going to bed (be warned, it's quite the commitment). During the process, I took plenty of notes about how easy it was to build, how it compared to previous sets, and how well its instructions held up.
For more, check out our guide to how we test products.
This sample was provided by a third-party PR company on behalf of Lego.
For more recommendations, don't miss these Lego Star Wars sets or the best Lego Super Mario sets. These should be crammed with Lego deals as well, so there's plenty of opportunity to save along the way.