Friday, May 24, 2013

Book Review - The Name of the Wind

Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind



Patrick Rothfuss burst on to the fantasy scene a number of years ago. He was one of a triumvirate of authors (Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch being the others) that received universal praise for their debut efforts and garnered a lot of excitement amongst fans.

Of the three he was the only one I had still not read. I thought it was now long overdue to dive into the world of this Kvothe character I had heard so much about.

The blurb:

'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 begins the tale of Kvothe - currently known as Kote, the unassuming innkeepter - from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, through his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe the notorious magician, the accomplished thief, the masterful musician, the dragon-slayer, the legend-hunter, the lover, the thief and the infamous assassin.

If there was a negative I have heard about this book, it is that it starts slowly. I can see immediately what people mean by this. It is not as if the beginning of the “Name of the Wind,” is not interesting. Rothfuss drip feeds us information as he slowly builds background to his world. I think the issue lies in the fact that it feels disjointed. You are not quite sure who you are supposed to be rooting for or who the main character actually is.

However, around 70 pages in the book starts to take shape and the flow of the story becomes more coherent. Kvothe is an excellent character, the style of the story reminded me of an adult Harry Potter. Kvothe is arrogant in his abilities but at the same time likeable. He over achieves often, he reaches too high and he is suitably slapped down as a result. This allows the reader to empathise with him.

What is especially good about Kvothe is that in a small amount of time, Rothfuss makes the reader identify with him. Every action he takes is logical given the hardship he has endured and what he has been taught.

The book follows Kvothe’s childhood. It is a coming of age story with a difference. Although the book follows the familiar fantasy tropes of young boy learning his craft and becoming powerful it does not progress too far into Kvothe’s life. The tale is told in the form of the Kvothe recalling his life to the Chronicler and feels epic without having any reason too.

This is where the strength of the narrative lies. Rothfuss takes his time with each scene. Every event that happens in Kvothe’s life, be it an evening spent in a tavern with his friends or an exchange with another student, appears important. It feels like it is all molding Kvothe in to the man he will become.

The supporting cast is also good. Denna is perhaps the strongest of these. She is a character that Kvothe can’t quite figure out and this carries over to confusing the reader in a good way. Every day spent with her is another day Kvothe is left scratching his head over who she actually is.

Ambrose who becomes Kvothe’s enemy is far more than a card board cut out. Malicious but insecure, his actions are rational and his hatred is justifiable from his point of view.

Abenthy too is a character that I was left wanting far more of. Stoic but supportive of Kvothe, he teaches Kvothe all he knows without ever overloading or patronising him.

The only characters that really suffer are the masters at the university. There are many of them and apart from a few, most merge personalities with the next after a while. This is a minor point and the positives in this book are too numerous to be tarnished by that.

The plot is a difficult one to analyse. As I mentioned earlier, “The Name of the Wind” is a huge book and yet not an awful lot happens. Despite spending an awful lot of time with Kvothe, it is difficult to point to any massive events that take place. What I could do on the other hand is list a multitude of scenes I loved and at the end of the day that is all the matters. Patrick Rothfuss could have Kvothe read the phone book and I would be entertained.

“The name of the wind” is a book worthy of the accolades that others have heaped upon it. It effortlessly tells the story it wants to tell and in it’s on time. As a result, it feels real and authentic. A great read.

My rating 9.4