I am a bit late in the game in getting onto the Patrick Rothfuss bandwagon, seeing that the first Kingkiller Chronicles book was published in 2007. Better late than never!
Here is my review of the book. You can probably already tell by now which way I am leaning 😉
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles #1)
Length: 662 pages
Time to read: 2 weeks
Sophie’s rating: 5/5
Kote is the quiet, unassuming innkeeper who maintains the Waystone Inn. He utters few words as the usual crowd comes and goes, preferring to keep to himself and tend to the cleaning.
Chronicler is a well-known scribe who travels far distances for a good story. He arrives on the doorstep of the Waystone Inn, because he has an inkling of suspicion that the innkeeper is more than he appears.
Kote goes by many names. His friend Bast refers to him as Reshi. Back in the days, he was infamously known as Kvothe. There are many rumours about Kvothe. How he slayed a dragon, burned down a town, stole princesses from kings, spent a night with the Felurian and survived to tell the tale. The rumours and tales seem so incredible and farfetched that one would wonder if it was real.
Chronicler wants to find out the truth about Kvothe. Reluctantly, Kvothe agrees to tell the tale. In this book, Kvothe narrates his own story, from travelling in a musical troupe with his family, to fending for himself on the streets of Tarbean, to gaining admittance to the university on the basis of his wits and will alone.
This is an amazing book, perhaps one of my favourite fantasy novels of all time. More than a story about magic, it is a coming-of-age story as well, as readers learn about how Kvothe grows from a boy into a man, a hero, and eventually, a legend.
Kvothe is a complex and multi-faceted character. He is not stagnant, rather his personality unfolds and evolves with the flow of events in the book. As we read about the chain of events in his life, we see him learn, grow, and harden. The child Kvothe is curious, fiercely intelligent and eager to learn. He is loved and protected. We see this Kvothe change, for better or for worse, as he learns to deal with loss and part with his childhood self, perhaps sooner than most his age. We witness how he learns skills of survival on the streets of Tarbean, how the influences of his childhood continues to persist as he grows into an adolescent, how he navigates the social environment of the University. He is strong-willed, proud, and witty, and we see how this moves him forward and sets him back, how he chooses to make decisions and lives with their consequences. Very quickly into the novel, the author breathes life into Kvothe, making him a person with strengths and flaws, habits and inconsistencies. Still, there is an air of mystery around him, because although we are privy to his thoughts as a child and as a teen, we are left to imagine how he becomes the modest innkeeper at the Waystone.
The secondary characters also have a sense of depth and mystery, from the cheerful Bast (Kvothe’s trusty sidekick at the Waystone Inn) to the witty Chronicler. One character of note is the love interest (who I will not name here, because this was kept as a mystery for the most part of the novel), who is strong-willed and independent. I am glad that she is not a damsel in distress who waits to be saved, and that she has goals and motivations of her own. There is a sweet, budding romance between the two, which is subtle and not overdone.
The world in The Name of the Wind is a fascinating one. We get the sense that it is vast and immense, and that this novel only touches on small aspects of it, with more to be unravelled, only as needed. I am impressed with the amazingly logical way that Patrick Rothfuss explains magic in this book. In his world, magic abides by certain rules, such as the Law of Conservation of Energy (energy cannot be created nor destroyed) and the Law of Opposing Forces (for every action, there is an opposing action). Sounds familiar? If I didn’t know any better, the author could have convinced me that magic is real. And magic is hard. The author describes in intricate detail how Kvothe goes about learning the first shred of magic. It wasn’t as simple as the uttering of a spell. There is a logic and a process to it, and with it comes a sharp learning curve.
Beyond magic, I am fond of the portrayals of cities, towns and communities in Kvothe’s world. Each setting is unique, with its own social structure and culture. There are various groups that fit into different places on the social ladder. All this goes to show the amount of care and imagination that went into creating this world.
When I had began this book, I was under the impression that this would be a fast-paced, action-packed fantasy novel, filled with battles, lives saved and lives lost. This is not the case, although I am not at all disappointed. Allow me to explain.
The Name of the Wind has two parallel storylines, which you may glean from reading the synopsis above. The first story is about Kote the Innkeeper. The second story is about Kvothe’s transformation from a boy to a hero. I don’t believe it is a spoiler to say that the second story (or the story within a story, if you will) does not end in this book, but rather continues throughout the series. This book illustrates just the beginning of Kvothe’s journey.
For the reason above, I would say that The Name of the Wind is a slow-paced book, with the focus on portraying Kvothe’s growth from a child into a powerful magician. Despite this, the book never left me feeling bored. Because of Kvothe’s willful, proud, witty, and occasional reckless behaviour, he often gets into trouble. And you can’t help but wonder how he will get himself out of it this time, at the same time hope that he will succeed. The slow pace of the book is not a detriment, but rather a strength, because it makes the character of Kvothe all that more believable and organic.
The Bottom Line
The Name of the Wind has a strong lead character who is willful and determined, who have dreams, goals, and fears of his own. He is so real that he almost leaps out of the page, and you can’t help but wish that he succeeds and finds happiness. Patrick Rothfuss’s world is mesmerizing and intricately crafted, with rules and logic of its own. This is beyond a story about magic, or even about the making of a hero. It is a coming-of-age tale about how a person becomes who he is, in a fantastical world that happens to include magic. If you love fantasy, or just looking for a good book in general, this is a must-read.
Have you read this book? If so, what are your thoughts?