The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. DAW Books, 2007.
This review is spoiler-free!
I finally read it! I finally finished it! I was introduced to this series a few years ago by one of my best college friends. But it wasn’t until BookTubeAThon and NerdCon: Stories this year that I finally purchased and began to read the thing. And oh what a thing it was.
First, let me say that I got the opportunity to see Patrick Rothfuss at NerdCon 2015, and he is both hilarious and brilliant. A top-notch dude. This made me more excited than I already was to read the book. It definitely delivered, and I now understand why there has been a decent amount of hype over these books. It is a classic example of a heroic fantasy epic. It’s got everything you could ask for from the genre, and rightly so, since it’s a good 700+ pages long.
The story is a frame narrative, in which a chronicler (someone who writes down epic tales for posterity) wanders into a bar (no, I’m not setting up a joke here) and meets the mysterious tavern owner, whom he recognizes as a famous hero. Said hero, Kvothe, has been lying low since his hero-ing days for reasons yet to be revealed and has not yet been recognized. The chronicler convinces Kvothe to tell him his story, and Kvothe agrees, but with the warning that it will take 3 full days to tell the story right. Chronicler’s like “whatevs,” picks up his pen, and the epic begins.
I should also say that in the frame part of this frame narrative, or the “present” time in which the story is being told, there are strange happenings afoot. These weird killer spider things have been attacking randos on the road, the country is in some sort of undefined political unrest, and the lines between what is history and what is myth are very unclear. Most people suspect the killer spiders are demons, but Kvothe and his bar-helper/mysterious apprentice seem to think otherwise. All this information is revealed at the beginning of the book, but then the narrative shifts to the epic of Kvothe’s life as he recounts it for the chronicler.
The one critique I have of this novel is the way the frame narrative was set up. The frame of the story was misleading. Because there was plenty of intrigue at the beginning during the “present” day, I was constantly wondering when the author was going to stop the back story and get on with what was happening in real time. But after several hundred pages, it became apparent that that wasn’t going to happen. The entire book is the back story. The sheer length of the book/back story did a disservice to the plot lines in the present time, because I had almost forgotten what was going on in the present by the time the author returned to it. But on the other hand, I suppose more frequent interruption of the story would have been distracting.
As it turns out, it’s going to take 2 more tomes to finish Kvothe’s story. At the very end (on approximately page 705), Kvothe stops the tale when the first day is over and says something like: “Well, now we have a good foundation for the story to begin.” Let me get this straight: after 700 PAGES, we now have a FOUNDATION!? Cool. And naturally both the back story and the real-time story end on somewhat cliff-hanger-like plot points so as to make the reader want to immediately pick up the second book, which, guess what, is over 1000 pages long! My point is: if you don’t like epic tales, and I mean seriously EPIC tales, this series is not for you.
However. Apart from the somewhat misleading structure, Rothfuss is an expert storyteller. His prose is nothing to be super impressed by, but man, can that dude spin a yarn. And that’s kinda the whole point of the series anyway; storytelling and myth and truth are all major themes that run through the book. It’s got love, tragedy, revenge, adventure, magic, humor; it’s an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink fantasy, and I didn’t find it a bit cliché. It is a definite must-read for any fantasy junkie. And the best part for me is that it isn’t too big of a commitment because it’s only a trilogy. Yes, the books are long, but I’d much rather read a trilogy than a 16-part fantasy series.
I just recently started book 2; the third has not yet been released, but those 1000 pages will keep me plenty busy until it is. 4/5 stars