Read: October 2016
Synopsis: Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard. Goodreads.
It’s always intimidating to read a book that’s so widely well-loved and admired. This is likely why The Name of the Wind sat in my room unread for so many years. I bought it in about 2014 after seeing so many positive reviews. I hadn’t read much—if any—fantasy since marathoning the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series in 2012. Which was probably because I was feeling more than a little burnt out on fantasy novels after completing that particular task. I’d hoped that The Name of the Wind would inspire/motivate me to pick up fantasy books again.
Which it did, if a few years later than I’d originally intended. I loved this book, really all I’m doing here is contributing to its already considerable hype, but still.
As I’m sure most of you know, The Name of the Wind is the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles, a trilogy wherein each book takes course over one day, so three days total. Kvothe tells his life story to a Chronicler, who has managed to find him despite Kvothe working as an innkeeper under his assumed named of Kote (which—really, he’s just asking to be found). I really liked the concept of each book being a day. This was a really good narrative technique that I admired throughout the book. The narrative splits between the present day, told in third person, as Kvothe tells the Chronicler his life story. The other narrative is Kvote’s first person account –the story he’s telling in the present day. I’m by no means saying that this is a new technique (Interview with the Vampire has a similar concept) but it was executed brilliantly. I enjoyed the ‘interruptions’ or breaks in Kvothe’s narration as something happened in the present. This switching was seamless, and felt completely natural.
“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
Kvothe is something of a legend, and it seems that, prior to these evenings with the Chronicler, he’s never really addressed his own myth. His motivation for finally telling his own story seems to stem from the fact that he either doesn’t expect, or desire, to live for much longer. Meaning that at times his narrative feels like nostalgia, and at others like a confessional. The difference between Kvothe in the present and the Kvothe of the past is very distinct. This was done incredibly well—when revisiting present day Kvothe the difference was almost jarring. It was amazing seeing this kind of character development so early on – and it clearly indicates that we’ve barely touched upon the worst of what happens throughout Kvothe’s life.
“The best lies about me are the ones I told.”
Kvothe is often insistent that he doesn’t match up to the Kvothe of legend, and it was certainly interesting seeing how rumours about him gained steam and changed. Kvothe himself, however, is easily as amazing as legend seems to dictate – though perhaps for different reasons. He’s resourceful, determined, incredibly clever, and frequently kind. Kvothe often goes out of his way to help others, often putting himself at risk in the process. These kinds of selfless acts aren’t even a decision for him. He does them immediately and unthinkingly. Which is not, of course, to say that he’s entirely perfect. That’s part of his charm. He has more than enough flaws. I liked, for instance, that his intelligence occasionally veered into arrogance and got him into trouble plenty of times. I loved reading about him. With a character like Kvothe, it’d be easy to fall into all-too-familiar ‘Chosen One’ tropes, but I found that for the most part this book managed to avoid that. Kvothe isn’t the only fantastic character, the book’s completely full of them. I’m very interested in Kvothe’s friend Bast, who is listening to him tell his story to the chronicler in the present day. I really, really liked Elodin at the university. My only criticism in terms of characters is the lack of women in the book, and how the few women that are in the book are treated. The University is very male-dominated (I’m not sure if there was a reason given for this? But still), and the only female character that’s developed is Kvothe’s love interest. I wasn’t particularly taken by the romance aspect, either. This didn’t really interfere with my enjoyment of the book, but I couldn’t help but notice, and I do think it’s worth mentioning. Still, for all that it’s male-dominated, like a lot of other people, Kvothe’s time at the University was my favourite part of the book, and a lot of this was to do with all the people he meets there – good and bad.
“Congratulations. That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. Ever.”
And all this is to say nothing of the plot. This book sets the groundwork for more interesting things that are sure to come, but I never once found it boring. It’s long, that’s for sure, and I’m sure that there were certain things that could have but cut, but I didn’t notice, or care. It’s true that, when looking at it objectively, not much really happens over the course of this book, and I can see why that might bother other readers. If you’re looking for action-packed, this probably isn’t the one. It’s definitely more of a slow burn. Again, I loved this, because I loved being in this world, and even when there was a lapse in action I was compelled to keep reading. Rothfuss’ wordbuilding is admirably solid. I’m not one to care whether or not a book is ‘believable’, and I’m not sure that it’s applicable to fantasy novels anyway, but this was weirdly believable. I’d happily read another few hundred pages about day to day life at the University. It just had me completely hooked.
“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts. There are seven words that will make a person love you. There are ten words that will break a strong man’s will. But a word is nothing but a painting of a fire. A name is the fire itself.”
So yes, I know that really I’m just repeating things that many, many others have said before me, but I really loved this book. I’m hoping to pick up The Wise Man’s Fear over the next few days, and I’m incredibly excited to continue the story.
And, if the countless glowing reviews haven’t already convinced you, it’s being developed into a TV show, with Lin-Manuel Miranda set to produce. So if I didn’t already love it, that would absolutely convince me to give it a chance!