Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Name of the Wind Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: DAW
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Kingkiller Chronicle Book One
Pages: 722

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The Name of the Wind is the first book in a planned trilogy called the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.  Using a story within a story format readers are introduced to the life story of Kvothe, an aspiring arcanist, a morally ambiguous hero?… and a legend of his time.

The Name of the Wind is one of the grittiest stories set in the fantasy genre.  This is the story of a great hero, or so we are being led to believe, but it really seems to be the story of how being a hero went wrong. The ambiguity of Kvothe’s (pronounced similarly to Quothe) character in the story is one of the many mysterious aspects that are underlying the plot of the Kingkiller Chronicles.

The detail and development of Kvothe’s character has made him one of the great characters of fantasy, and the way Rothfuss tells his story is also unique to the genre.  The Name of the Wind begins a fantasy series that when complete has the potential to be on the same level as A Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings.

The story begins with the meeting of Chronicler and Kote and Kote’s apprentice Bast.  Kote, who is really Kvothe in hiding, is running a local bar and inn in a small village when he meets Chronicler.  Chronicler recognizes Kote to be Kvothe and eventually the two cut a deal where Chronicler agrees to stay for three days and write down Kvothe’s story.  Each day that Kvothe spends telling the story is one book in the planned trilogy.  So day one of Kvothe’s story has been condensed into the book Name of the Wind.

The best summary of what Kvothe’s story is going to be about, is the synopsis Kvothe gives to Chronicler before he begins to tell his story, and that synopsis is:
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 day.  I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.  You may have heard of me.” – (Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss)
Unlike a lot of traditional fantasy stories that have popped up since Lord of the Rings where the hero is usually a lower class person who goes on to fight some evil dark lord, Name of the Wind focuses on the life and choices of person with heroic potential.

Kvothe is a flawed character. Some of the choices he makes throughout the novel may come across as arrogant and cruel, other times he appears to be heartless.  But he is also capable of showing compassion and doing deeds for the greater good.  Sometimes, like all things in life, honorable and heroic ideas don’t go as planned and the end result leads to something terrible happening.

Name of the Wind focuses on having its characters go through a lot of typical ordinary living situations for a fantasy novel.  Examples of the ordinary include going to bars to play and listen to music, traveling and telling stories on the road, and learning and educating yourself in an academic setting.  This adds to the story by making it feel a lot more real, and thus a lot more convincing.
The point being, Kvothe isn’t some overpowered ass-kicking sorcerer, he is a man.  He is vulnerable.  He is arrogant.  He is as real as a fictional character could be.  The stories that characters tell about Kvothe in Name of the Wind appear to be what turned him into something more than a man, a hero or a legend of sorts.

In addition to the realism in the story, the magic system used by Rothfuss has also been worked out in a very logical manner. Kvothe’s goal throughout the novel is to learn how to possess magic or how to become an arcanist, a person who is capable of magical power.  The magic system is divided in two categories.  The common type of magic taught in the book is called sympathy which revolves around transferring energy from similar objects into one another in order to manipulate them.  The principle seems likely to have been inspired by Einstein’s E=mc2.

The second type of magic is called naming, and this is the more mysterious type of magic that is really not dictated by logic.  With naming an arcanist calls the name of whatever he wishes to manipulate (for example fire, wind, etc.).

The story within a story concept works exceedingly well in Name of the Wind.  As the younger Kvothe is a lot different than the older Kote.  The story more or less becomes about how did the spirited heroic figure Kvothe end up becoming Kote, this ordinary and struggling innkeeper in a small town.

The Name of the Wind is an impressive introduction to what will likely be a promising trilogy from Patrick Rothfuss. Kvothe is well on his way to being remembered as one of the great characters created in the genre of fantasy, and Rothfuss as one of the genre’s great authors.

Score: 9.9

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