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.
My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.
So enters Kvothe (pronounced very nearly like Quothe) stage left, the master storyteller, thief, liar, musician, and arcanist. We first meet him masquerading as Kote, a small village innkeeper with a mysterious but presumably mundane history. However when demonic razor-spiders appear he destroys them, drawing the attention of the Chronicler while doing so. And yes, I just said demonic razor-spiders. You’re welcome. Chronicler persuades Kvothe to tell his story over three days. The book is the first of these three days.
Being the first book it’s taken up mostly with his early history: his childhood as a trouper born among the Romani-like Edemah Ruh and living on the streets of Tarbean after his family’s brutal murder at the hands of the mythical Chandrian. It also covers his study of sympathy (magic based on will), his early education at the University, and his fumbling courtship of the mercurial Denna.
I first picked up this book from a friend’s shelf only a few hours after getting dumped by my girlfriend. It was late and a weeknight, the day before Australia Day, so having no opportunities for alcoholic oblivion I chose to ignore all of my friends’ well-meaning sympathy and curl up on their couch. I figured I’d read for maybe an hour or so and then nod off/freeze to death due to the poor insulation common among the level of Brisbane housing that my friends and I tend to find affordable.
A good eight hours later, the sun had risen and I was still reading. The only time I left the couch that night was to raid the linen cupboard for more blankets and when that failed, to steal the dog’s blanket. It wasn’t one of my prouder moments, but considering that at one stage I’d put some serious thought into wearing that dog Bear Grylls-style for warmth, I’m going to claim the moral high ground here. I do not like the cold, not at all. My survival skills aside, this book was just what I needed. It was the perfect escape.
It’s not a perfect book of course. It has a slow start and Denna occasionally ticks a few too many of the MPDG tropes, with maybe a bit of the Lady-In-Red and that one girl who drove you crazy back in high school thrown in for good measure. However, given that this book is based on Kvothe’s youth, I found the back and forth between them, the self-doubt and occasional cluelessness, extremely relatable. This aspect helps to ground the more fantastical elements of the story, and to soften Kvothe’s edges, stopping him short of being a completely insufferable know-it-all.
Patrick Rothfuss is a natural storyteller, with a turn of phrase and expression that is almost poetic. I have a tendency when reading to naturally try to ‘fix’ sentences that I find unwieldy or ugly in my head, which as you can imagine can turn things like Twilight or The Hunger Games from boring (but tolerable romance novel for angsty teenagers and lonely Mormon-values loving housewives)/poorly-written (but interesting premise if you ignore the similarities to Battle Royale) to sheer bloody self-imposed torture.
Having read that last sentence I’m aware this may be a case of pot calling kettle, but I didn’t find myself trying to rephrase anything while reading The Name of The Wind. Yeah, it’s THAT good. In short, it’s a very good book. Stop trying to force yourself through Paradise Lost and go read something fun for a change.
NB: The second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, is out already and is definitely worth reading. A little more patience is required, but all of the biting wit and clever phrasing is still present. Also, the third book is expected out about mid-2013 so that should be enough time to read the first two, and then forget them in time to enjoy re-reading them just before book three is released.