Five Star Reviews — The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
I discovered this book in possibly the weirdest way I’ve yet discovered a book. I’d been watching The Guild . . . which, by the way, is far more entertaining when you’re not losing whole days of productivity to an MMO yourself . . . and, well, there’s only six seasons of it. The dog was asleep somewhere where if I stood up, he was going to wake up and if he woke up right then, after not having a long enough nap, he was going to be a pain in the ass all day. So I looked over to see what youtube recommended for me. Usually this results in aural trauma, but this time it recommended Tabletop, specifically the Lords of Waterdeep episode. Well, my birthday was soonish and I’d considered asking for the game, so I watched it and was highly amused by Patrick Rothfuss. So I found his blog. The most recent post at the time was something about Worldbuilders. I read a bit more, trying to understand what he was talking about, and discovered two things: 1) I was already following his reviews on Goodreads because he was the guy who’d written a review of his own book that wasn’t out yet that someone had pointed me at a few months before, and 2) he was a good person as well as an amusing and talented author. So I decided I had to buy his book.
And then I discovered I’d downloaded a sample of it four years before and never read it. In my defense, judging from where it was in iBooks, I’d downloaded it the day I got the iPad and, after sampling several fantasy books that, to put it bluntly, sucked, I decided to move on to a different genre. Apparently I never made my way back to it.
The description, via Goodreads:
The riveting first-person narrative of a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime- ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard. It is a high-action novel written with a poet’s hand, a powerful coming-of-age story of a magically gifted young man, told through his eyes: to read this book is to be the hero.
This was an incredibly good book.
The characters had diverse personalities that were well-portrayed and some of them had surprising depths to them. Those last few pages showed a side of one that was rather unexpected. Kvothe is incredibly competent at several things, but it’s shown to be the result of hard work and an incredible memory, so he’s no Mary Sue.
Kvothe’s story is one of the most real feeling bits of fiction I’ve ever read. Nothing, save one thing I’ll get to in a minute, felt like it was happening just to serve the plot. Everything had realistic consequences.
Drama, humor, romance, action . . . the story had it all and it was all perfectly balanced. There were too many excellent bits for me to choose my favorite, though the part with the draccus was unlike anything else I’d ever read. I also loved the way an interlude showed the contrast between the true story of Kvothe and the stories people told about him.
There were some absolutely gorgeously written passages, like this one:
“Inside the Waystone, the light fell across Chronicler’s face and touched a beginning there, a blank page waiting the first words of a story. The light flowed across the bar, scattered a thousand tiny rainbow beginnings from the colored bottles, and climbed the wall toward the sword, as if searching for one final beginning.”
I kept having to look words up, which I quite like as I feel too many authors try too hard to keep their language simplistic these days.
The dialogue was excellent, with this line being a particular favorite of mine: “Small deeds for small men,’ I always say. I imagine the trouble is in finding the job small enough for men such as yourselves.”
And the setting . . . I’ve read other things that attempted a “magic based on science” approach, but this is the first one that made sense, like the author understood both magic and science. But that wasn’t what made it so great. No, it was the little touches, like there being different ways to kiss a lady’s hand in different cultures, and why the draccus’ scales were made of what they were that showed Rothfuss had really put a lot of thought into his world-building.
This is a story about stories, and about heroes and what they’re really like, and about love, and, well, it’s the story of one person’s life, or at least that bit of it he can tell in one night. And it hints at that life having had major ramifications for the rest of the world.
My only complaints were that a couple of times it seemed like Kvothe was losing money just to serve the plot and that there was a bit more redundancy than I liked, though I’m pretty sure that was deliberate so it would seem more like a story being told.
And there were more typos than I find excusable in a traditionally published book, but that’s the publisher’s fault, not the author’s, so I’m not holding that against him.
In short, this was one of the best fantasy novels I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.
Apparently I can wait to read the sequel, because I haven’t yet, but I’m sure I’ll get book two read before book three is out, anyway. This book was amazing. I can’t praise it enough. Just talking about it is making me want to re-read it, but since I’m already reading twelve books, maybe I should wait a bit.