That was the curious thing about Shards of Honor. I thought the first half or two-thirds of the book was pretty mediocre.
But Aral knew
I'm Tinman1711. I'm 57 and I live in the UK.
I was a member of a similar website some years ago and found the critiques I got from one of my stories
Ivan FTW, he is probably the smartest person in his entire family, since he runs from unnecessary additional responsibilities, politics and dangerous
That's ok , it would be boring if we were all the same. I'd advise you to give LOTR another chance, but maybe the style is just not for you.
The details are not fresh in my mind, so I can't address your comment in detail, but I remember Aral as being old-fashioned but very honorable.