Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Name of the Wind

By Patrick Rothfuss
Published: DAW Books, 2007
Pages: 722

This first installment of The epic Kingkiller Chronicle has been likened to a wittier, darker version of Harry Potter.  That is high praise considering Potter's popularity.  Is this a journey worth experiencing?

The Name of the Wind is the story of man with many names: Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe Kingkiller, and Kvothe the Arcane among them.  Kote is just your average bartender in your average small town tavern.  What nobody realizes is that he is in fact the legendary Kvothe.  After some persuading, he agrees to share his story, the real story, not the rumors that have traveled all over The Four Corners of Civilization.  Here begins the story of love, loss, survival, and the search for meaning in a world of magic and mystery.

Patrick Rothfuss' first novel has delightfully surprised me.  It is the first "adult" fantasy book that I have read in a very long time, so I did not really have any expectations.  I had been told that not only was it a fantastic read, but it was well written too.  I hate to say it, but that combination is sometimes hard to find in the fantasy genre.  However, all the recommendation were accurate.  The Name of the Wind was beautifully written with many vivid images and lyrical descriptions. 

One of the most unique aspects of this novel is how the story is told.  It is written for the most part in first person through Kvothe's voice, but there are also sections of third person.  The world of the tavern is built in third person, but when Kvothe agrees to tell his story it switches to first person.  The transition happens flawlessly and it feels as though you are going to be told a story, and not just any story.  You are going to be told a rare story that will only be spoken once.  There is something about this style that make the reader feel special, like they are getting to know a secret that no one else will be privileged to hear.

The characters are very well written.  My dislike for Kvothe's school rival, Ambrose grows every time I think about him.  Reading about his attempts to get Kvothe expelled for the Academy, a school for Arcane studies, irritates me and makes me wish that Ambrose would take his money and his title and shove it.  (Can I say that?)  His character is so unlikable but it makes the story that much better.  Denna, Kvothe's love interest, is wounded and mysterious.  Although she is beautiful, there is something that warns the reader that they cannot have a happily ever after.  It is not and cannot be written in the stars.  Yet, she is lovely and you cannot help but wish this would work out.

Despite it's length, I think that is it paced very well, with aptly timed breaks from the narrative to the real time Kvothe and friends.  This breaks up the plot a bit and allows the reader to digest what they are being told.  They are figurative bathroom breaks.  Well done.
There is a simple beauty in fantasy, in being caught up in a world full of magic and creatures unheard of before, where adventure is around every corner, where the unknown is the most wonderful part of life.  Let your imagination wander and you will come to Kvothe's great adventure.  It is truly an epic journey worth reading.

Stars: 4/5
"This is a magnificent book, a really fine story, highly readable and engrossing. I compliment young Pat. His first novel is a great one. Wow!"     
       -Anne McCaffrey

"Like the writers he clearly admires, he’s an old-fashioned storyteller working with traditional elements, but his voice is his own. I haven’t been so gripped by a new fantasy series in years. It’s certain to become a classic."
       -The London Times

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