Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book review: "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss

This was a second time I read "The Name of the Wind" by Patric Rothfuss. First time was when I bought the book, almost a year ago. I bought it because it was much hyped at that time, and I see that still is. This time I read it almost accidentally. I was planning to read it next month, when I receive the sequel which I ordered, "The Wise Man's Fear". After finishing "Princess Jellyfish" I wanted to watch another anime, because I didn't have any book at home (except "The Game of Thrones", which I am saving for big ASoIaF reread, when I collect all books). I even run the first episode, but two things decided that I stop it and start reading this book. First, my neck was a bit craned at the time (probably the draft) so I wasn't feeling comfortable sitting before my screen. Second this, I was running some heavy-duty programs on my notebook, so picture kept skipping. So I decided to reschedule this reread.

"The Name of the Wind" is told from two time-lines. Book starts with the present, in small village of Newarre, in the Waystone Inn. The owner, Kote, is obviously something more than an ordinary innkeeper. After accidental meeting with Chronicler, a wandering scribe, student and famous collector of stories, where he saves him from scraels, spider previously believed demonic and mythical, it turns out that he is actually Kvothe, a young and famous hero who was thought dead. After some struggling, Kvothe agrees to tell him his story, in three day. Most of the book consists of the day one, with several short interludes in present. This first day consist of a story of Kvothe's childhood in traveling troupe of performers, first teachers, death of his parents by mysterious Chandrian. After that Kvothes loses his memory and first lives feral in forest, then lives almost feral for three years in a big city as a beggar and a thief. Finally, after regaining his memory by hearing a story of Chandrian, he travels to the University, where he starts a study to become an Arcanist. This takes the most part of the book, and we follow him as he study medicine, artificing, some regular studies, some magical; looking for clues for Chandrian, becoming a famous player, chasing his first-love Denna, and many other things.

First thing that has to be pointed out that this is very fun and easy to read book. This doesn't mean that it is not complex, or that is shallow. It is a regular high fantasy, with complex history, lots of characters and facts. But it is very flowing and it easy to forgot the time with it. There is much humor in it, both verbal and situation. Kvothe is sometimes clumsy and sometimes unbelievably overwhelming, but is never dull. He is the only main character and the story in past is told exclusively from his point of view. As it should be, since he is telling it. Other characters are clearly only supporting him, but they are nevertheless described in detail. Most of them are in some ways pictured comically, but that is the trait of the storyteller. Book gets very serious when it needs.

You know when you read some fantasy book that follows the usual tropes and there is a part when a young hero does his training? For example, like in "The Painted Man" when Arlen trains his Warding and other skills (forget which ones exactly). Well, this whole book is stuck at this part. And in this case, it is a good thing, if you like these parts. It doesn't have much plot, and it's not very original, but this is primary the book about characters. They, on the other hand, are very original and very deeply pictured.

There are two things in this book that could be the downfall of this series. First, Kvothe is sometimes too good. It is true, he often gets wounded, most of his victories are bitter-sweet at best, but nevertheless, he is described as practically invincible. In this book it was only rarely irritating. Second this is connected to first. Kvothe is so hyped that I am afraid Rothfuss will be not be able to deliver such bad-ass character. I mean, look at this:

"'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"

And all this before his 25th year. It's a big bite, especially for first series. I was before afraid that this will be another case of great first novel, but much weaker sequel. But since the sequel was published few months ago, I head only praises for it, so I presume Rothfuss pulled it off for now. I guess I will see was it a success next month.

In any case, I think "The Name of the Wind" is a book that can be safely recommended to most fantasy fans. It is not overlong; it is easy and fun to read but not shallow or too simple. It follows the classical story of a hero in emergence, but with a bunch of new ideas that keeps it original. Treat yourself!

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