The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss’ debut, initially falls into all the tropes of the fantasy epic that turns so many people away and makes readers give it a ten or twenty page attempt and then give up: it is the first in the Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy (the second, Wise Man’s Fear is due out March, 2011); the hardcover edition weighs in at 662 pages; the book employs a framing device, recounting a long story that has already happened; the book begins in an inn with a farmer named Old Cobb. And this book has gone on to become one of the more read fantasy books to be published in the last few years, gaining in popularity through bestseller status as well as word of mouth, to the point where the sequel has been overdue for over a year now, and the natives are becoming restless akin to the clamoring George R. R. Martin fans. The key to The Name of the Wind is to stick with it and it eventually turns into a refreshingly new fantasy epic well worth reading.
Kvothe begins his story as a young boy in a family of musicians and soon reveals his incredible talent with the lute and singing, following in the family tradition. While mastering these talents a member of the University joins the troop and begins teaching Kvothe a material and science based form of magic, as well as the secret of naming, creating a drive in Kvothe to discover the Name of the Wind. At the same time, his father Arliden is composing a song about the Chandrian, a mythical race of evil beings who may or may not exist. This is soon proven when the Chandrian find the troop and slaughter them all. Kvothe is the only one to survive, hiding in the woods.
He spends his next three years eking out a living begging and scratching by on the streets of Tarbean, until his interest in magic and study is reignited once more by a storyteller. Using his experience in bargaining and negotiating to survive, Kvothe gets himself into University where he leans all he can while trying to make enough money to cover the tuition by playing and singing. It is while playing he is reunited with an old friend, Denna, who he is very taken with. During his studies, he also begins research on the Chandrian to avenge the death of his parents. The book comes to a close as Kvothe investigates a place of death and destruction where a wedding was abruptly brought to an end by the Chandrian, coming face to face with a drug-addicted dragon.
At the heart of The Name of the Wind are a lot of almost clichés one would expect with an epic fantasy novel, but at the same time there are a lot of new, refreshing and completely different ideas and plots. The magic of this world – unlike that of say Harry Potter – is one of balance, based in science with quantities and a variety of materials; it is a type of magic that at times seems quite realistic and believable. The world has familiar places but with unique situations and events involving some strong characters and unusual creatures that keep the reader interested. By the end of the book, the reader has become quite attached to this world and its people, wanting more stories and tales from Kvothe the innkeeper, but alas they must wait until Wise Man’s Fear, due March 2011, hopefully without delay.
If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.
Originally written on June 28 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.