I have heard people continue to give this book great reviews for months now. Everyone who’s read it says it’s a book you can’t put down, a riveting fantasy story, and/or a new voice in the epic fantasy genre along side Tolkien and Robert Jordan. Well, I finally sat down and read it and I now add my voice to those who have come before me in praise.
Told in the voice of the hero, who is actually re-telling the story, to a determined chronicler we are taken back to the hero’s younger years to learn of the events that lead up to how and why he became the legendary Kvothe.
For the first several years of his life Kvothe traveled with the Edema Ruh, a group of traveling performers. His education was varied from what his parents and other members of the troupe could teach him, as well as those who joined them for part of their journey. But it wasn’t until a traveling scholar, Abenthy, joined their company that Kvothe started down the path that would lead him to become the hero of legend.
Abenthy taught Kvothe about the arts of sympathy, a type of magic that focuses on changing objects by the movement and manipulation of energy (think part thermodynamics and part voodoo). Yet forces quickly set in that will tear the fabric of Kvothe’s world and leave him alone in a world that is much crueler than he had originally perceived. With only his wits, barely enough money to scrape by, and the knowledge gained from Abenthy, Kvothe seeks out The University to continue his education in sympathy and become a mage in his own right. But what Kvothe will discover along the way will not only set him on the path to become a mage, but to become the greatest hero the world has ever seen.
The story telling is phenomenal. The use of Kvothe’s own voice telling the story, plus the snap backs to the physical moment where he’s telling the story is perfect for the narrative and provides a depth that would otherwise be impossible. What the book becomes with these intertwining tales of the past and present is an account of not only what has happened, but what will happen next. The audience can’t help but feel the tension churning; with bated breath the reader anticipates what happened to young Kvothe, but with an equally anticipated shiver the reader longs to know what will become the present day hero. Such duel lines of tension and the masterful way in which Patrick Rothfuss has connect them is one of the books strongest attributes. Though the story adds more than a little to this epic fantasy.
Here is where I add my constructive criticism to my review, though it’s more of an observation. This book is unfinished; a more correct statement might be that the story is unfinished. An argument can be made that all stories are unfinished and every book in a trilogy is, by definition of being in a trilogy, unfinished. However, this book is different. A fantasy adventure narrative follows a pattern, a mold to be precise. Although not all books are alike, some of them are so very different that it is hard to conceive that they could be taken from the same material, not to mention the same mold. Nevertheless, this story falls under the archetypal hero’s journey alongside all other fantasy books including The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, and The Chronicles of Narnia to name a few. Though as the best means of comparison I will focus on The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.
If you talk to someone about The Lord of the Rings and you ask them if they have read the books you will get one of two answers: yes or no. Sometimes they will tell you that they have read one or two and are working on the others, or they may say they read the first one and didn’t like it so didn’t finish. I have never met anyone who has said anything like, “Oh yeah, I read the first one and it was great but never got around to the other two.” This just doesn’t happen. If you enjoy the story, you almost feel compelled to read the entire trilogy because if you don’t you’ve only read part of a story (part of a book as well since J. R. R. Tolkien intended for the trilogy to to be one giant book). The same goes for The Name of the Wind. As the first book in the trilogy (series?), this is only the beginning; there isn’t an encompassing end that wraps up the events. Instead, Rothfuss leaves us in the middle without a real ending to be found. And just like The Lord of the Rings, we have to read the whole series before the hero’s journey can truly end.
Was this book good? It was excellent. It captured the essence of fantasy in a way that left me wanting more. I want to learn what happens to Kvothe, how he continues both in the past and present. Though the plot wasn’t quick moving like how many want their fantasies to be, it set the stage for the future books to move forward without as much character development and thus bring more of the action that the audience is so greatly anticipating.