Mar 2, 2011

The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

Yes, I know, this is the wrong Day, but considering my reading speed these days, it will be a while before I finish The Wise Man's Fear, so I thought I'd celebrate its release by reviewing Day One of the Kingkiller Chronicle - The Name of the Wind.

This is the story of Kvothe - a rogue, a hero, an assassin and musician, and a legend in his own lifetime in a world resembling our own late medieval ages. His name is met with fear, loathing and adoration, his life turned to tales in which the truth is always more than expected, and the lie - even more than that. Kvothe himself wants nothing anymore. He is hiding in the backwaters, waiting for nothing, wishing for nothing but to be left alone. Instead, he is found by one of the most famous chroniclers of the age - a man who is hellbent on telling the true tale of the legend's life. Finally Kvothe agrees. Thus begins a story of traveling artists, great cities filled with misery and poverty, and of ancient powers killing people under the light of blue fire for no apparent reason. It is also the story of the University, where go those who wish to know the secrets of the world.

Most tales take a day to tell. Kvothe's will take three. The Name of the Wind is Day One.

This is a magnificently well written book. In its time it was one of the best selling fantasy debuts ever, and it is easy to see why. If you could mix George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, and add to that a pinch of Harry Potter, the result would be pretty close to what Rothfuss has created. Even though it tells of the childhood and teenage years of Kvothe, The Name of the Wind barely touches on the YA side of that. The story is dark, the world unforgiving to an orphaned child looking for answers.

Patrick Rothfuss's style is fluid and elegant, the prose flowing with mastery that seems improbable for a debut novel. I was stunned by how easy the book was to read, how engrossing and captivating. Except for the first few chapters before Chronicler's arrival, the story is told from Kvothe's perspective, so we spend most of it in his head. And here is where the author's talent shines, because this is a character for whom everything is easy. He is talented in all skills, can master anything he wants. But instead of this being a form of masturbation for the writer (coughDrizztcough), Kvothe is somehow made believable, his thinking interesting and provocative. You want him to be as good as he is in everything, because that way he is up to the challenge in a world where if you are not up to the challenge you end up dead.

There is, however, one significant problem with The Name of the Wind. The structure of the book is exactly as the title suggests. A story with beginning but no end. The Kingkiller Chronicle is a complete tale with no real culminations, or at least none in the first installment. Kvothe's narration begins with his parents and the book ends at the time when he is in the University. Which means that we have been waiting years to read the second part of a story where nothing of significance has yet happened. Another annoying thing is the fact that the trilogy was originally advertised as "already written", so the FOUR YEARS it took for The Wise Man's Fear to come out were really quite a long time for "rewriting".

However, the quality of The Name of the Wind just makes all the complaints meaningless. It is a superb novel, one of the best I have ever read in my life, and worth every ounce of praise it got when it came out. And now the long wait is over and The Wise Man's Fear is here. So if you haven't tried The Kingkiller Chronicle yet, do that. Even with the third book still a long way away, this is a series that no fan of Fantasy can afford to overlook.


No comments:

Post a Comment