The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during the day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.”
So begins the tale of Kvothe - from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin. But The Name of the Wind is so much more - for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe's legend.
What can I say? This novel is epic, the kind of grand fantasy epic that sucks you in and leaves you wanting more when it’s over. I’m chomping at the bit for the next installment and I know that waiting will be painful, which reminds me of previous fantasy epics I’ve enjoyed, most notably Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy (if you haven’t read these books, let me take a moment to recommend them…and now let us get back to our review). So, as I was saying – epic.
Kvothe’s story left me cringing and laughing and wanting to cry. As the tale unfolds I was left with equal parts hope for positive outcomes of the myriad disasters and dread because it’s clear that eventually things go terribly, terribly wrong. For the most part, the book is a real page-turner and hard to put down. The characters are all well-formed and multi-dimensional, and the world-building is standard fantasy-fair but well-done.
Since you know me by now, you know that I have to have some sort of criticism or I feel like I’m not giving a well-considered review. Honestly, while the majority of the 722 page book had me in its thrall, needing to know what was going to happen next, it sort of flagged in between and I didn’t care about some of Kvothe’s adventures. It felt like too much. I know what the author is doing, he is attempting to create this legendary, mythic figure and that takes a lot of events and crises and heroics, but in between I just wanted to fast forward a little. I’m not sure if that was a product of the story, or some sort of personal preference, or if I was just having a bad day when I was reading that particular section of rural shenanigans. Maybe I just prefer to read about things set in the city, I’m not really sure. I suppose it might help if I described which section really bothered me, but I fear spoiling the book for people, so here is your warning, spoilers straight ahead!
The part that started to feel like too much for me was when Kvothe drops everything at the University and runs off to a place called Trebon, because he hears about a massacre at a wedding. The book then takes a 100+ page ramble into the countryside, where Kvothe not only happens across his love-interest who happened to be at the wedding and was the single survivor, but they also find a gigantic dragon lizard that's become addicted to drugs that he then has to kill. For most of this part I was wishing we could just go back to the city, because I was bored. Also, he goes there to find out about the Chandrian and learns next to nothing new, so it seems like a rather fruitless side-quest.
Strange two-thirds of the way into the book lull aside, this story was well-told and a good addition to the halls of the fantasy epic. The only question that remains is this: will the second part be as gripping as the first? And why is this a concern, you wonder? Well, because other great fantasy writers have had some second act issues, where they start off with a solid first part, but the second novel just isn't as good. The second act becomes a sort of lull and then the final book in the trilogy (we're talking about trilogies here) is again really solid and amazing. Only time will tell if Patrick Rothfuss manages to avoid the 2nd-act-trap.
And while you still have time, perhaps you care to take a gander at this novel.
P.S.: The picture is the alternate U.S. cover which is much prettier than the regular cover.
Announcement: The winner of the first Reader's Choice Poll is Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, which I will be reading as soon as I finish Poppy Z. Brite's Drawing Blood. Thank you to everyone who voted!