Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind
Length: 722 pages
Started: 02 September 2008
Finished: 06 September 2008
Summary: Kvothe has been many things over the course of his life: traveling player, street urchin, student, magician, swordsman, and hero. Now, however, he’s in retirement as an anonymous bartender in a tiny rural town, where none of his clients ever connect the quiet innkeeper with the Kvothe of legend. When he saves the the Chronicler from giant spider demons, though, Chronicler guesses at Kvothe’s true identity, and persuades him to tell his true life’s story. Kvothe agrees, but states that it will take three days. The Name of the Wind is the first day of storytelling, and covers the period from his childhood among a troupe of traveling players through his mid-teens, when he is a student at the University. Along the way he must face obstacles that are not much different from those faced by any precocious boy: poverty, hunger, bullies, dragons, harsh teachers, love, heartbreak, and the mysterious creatures called the Chandrian who murdered his parents.
Review: I’m having a hard time writing this review, I think because this book is suffering from a case of over-high expectations. Everything I’d heard from friends and online, not to mention the full five pages of blurbs at the beginning, led me to think that this book was going to be the second coming of the fantasy genre, that it was an orgasmically good read and that it was going to ruin all other fantasy books for me forever. And, while I certainly thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and have very few and very minor complaints about it, my socks were not particularly knocked off, and therefore I’m left feeling a little disappointed.
I don’t mean this review to come out sounding negative. I really, really enjoyed this book; it is as solid a piece of fantasy as I’ve read, and all the more impressive for being a debut novel. Many of the elements of the story are familiar fantasy tropes (there’s more than a hint of Star-Wars-ian pigboy parable to it, the school of magic setting is going to draw inevitable Harry Potter comparisons, and the idea of magic through knowing the true names of things is hardly a new idea), but they’re utilized in such a way that they work to the story’s benefit without feeling derivative, which is to Rothfuss’s credit. The writing ranges from inconspicuous to nicely poetic, the story moves through its 700 pages without dragging, and the characters are well-built and sympathetic. My only quibbles are that Kvothe occasionally acts (and thinks) much older than his fifteen years, and that because this is the first novel of a trilogy, it does have the feeling of a lot of build-up without an equivalent amount of pay-off. Still, I will be eagerly reading the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, when it comes out next April. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: For fantasy fans: Read it. It’s not the most original fantasy book I’ve ever read, but it is solidly and entirely enjoyable. For non-fantasy fans: I don’t know that this book would be my first pick for an entré into the genre, but it also wouldn’t be a terrible choice – it is an entertaining and well-told story, unhampered by most of the elements that tend to turn newbies off of fantasy.
First Line: It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.