Book Review: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)

In a backwater town, a man with a hidden past spends his days running a well-kept inn. But then a traveller known as The Chronicler comes upon him one night and recognises him for who he really is; Kvothe, the Kingkiller.
The book (and the series) opens with Kvothe passing himself off as a humble innkeeper who takes great pride in the appearance of his establishment and the quality of his food and drink. But his idyllic life is soon interrupted when one of the local men stumbles in from the night wounded and distraught, claiming to have been attacked by a giant spider-like creature with razor sharp legs. Kvothe however recognises the creature for what it is and sets out under the cover of dark to kill the rest of its hive, only to come upon the Chronicler, stumbling through the woods looking for a story. The Chronicler sees past Kvothe’s guise and recognises him for what he is, and then convinces him to tell his story and have the truth of his astonishing life recorded for posterity. Kvothe agrees reluctantly but asks the Chronicler to allow him three days to tell the story properly. Kvothe begins his tale from when he was on the cusp of adulthood, travelling with his parents in a troupe of performers, of how he met an arcanist from the University, who trained him in the various sciences and sympathy magic. Then tragedy strikes and Kvothe’s story turns darker as he is forced to live the life of a street rat, until he is reminded one day of what he has lost and sets out to fulfill his ambition of becoming an arcanist.
The world in which Kvothe resides is fleshed out by him in his own words, including the flora and fauna, the wildlife, the land and cities he visits, the organisation of knowledge and an interesting magical system that relies just as much on science, math and art, as it does on symbols and language. One of the key points of interest is the University, with its different faculties, student accommodation and culture. I won’t lie, it did put me in mind of Hogwarts, with its Dumbledore like headmaster and Snape like antagonistic teacher who has it in for Kvothe. There is even the rich kid who takes a dislike to Kvothe on the first day of school too. But that’s as far as the similarity goes. Rothfuss’s research stands out in how he has broken down the various sciences behind the different faculties and this more than anything sets the world of Kvothe apart from that of Harry Potter.
Kvothe is properly a multi-faceted character. Our first impression of him is a world-weary man who has settled into a mundane life out of choice. Then we see a spark of something darker as he sets out to slay the demon-spider creatures, that and the fact that he has a named sword which he hangs over the bar. But through his storytelling, we learn of a younger, more impressionable Kvothe, and see him as a skinny little kid who misses his parents and gets bullied a lot. We also see him as a hopeless romantic who has fallen for the wrong girl, but at the same time an ambitious and super-intelligent young man who wants to rise to the top as well as avenge his family.
But it wasn’t the character, plot or the setting that hooked me into this 600+ paged book. It was the writing. My first thought was, that damn, this guy can write. His descriptions and world-play is some of the best I’ve come across in a long time. This is especially evident when Rothfuss is writing in third person. For some reason though this isn’t as apparent when he is writing in the first person, perhaps because he is telling that part of the story in Kvothe’s voice rather than in an omniscient voice. The plot is interesting and the writing is beautiful. Kvothe is definitely a memorable character and am sure will show more sides of himself in the sequels, and that in itself is a feat and a reason to come back. However, the Name of the Wind didn’t conclude in a satisfactory way for me, but rather is anti-climatic and lacks a hook other than the character himself. Still, I do want to know what happens next . . . .

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

  1. I just started reading it yesterday. I was going to read some other stuff first, but after reading a few fangirl posts about Kvothe, I decided to move it to the top of my reading list. It’s very well paced so far, very realistic and enthralling story. Great review, btw!

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