Saturday, April 14, 2007
Have you ever read someone's writing and thought, if I had a tenth of their talent I'd be a better writer..? That's exactly what I thought while reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I haven't written that many book reviews on this site: mostly because I haven't read much that seems to be worth the time. The reviews I've done so far have mostly been written because I couldn't think of anything else to post that day. Sorry about that. The thing is, I don't like to recommend a book unless it's worth the money spent. I read a lot of books and some are entertaining, but most are still pretty average or cliché; whatever you want to call them. This book? I bought hardbound and felt it was worth every penny. The Name of the Wind is a fairly big book, running just over 650 pages, and yet the story has only barely begun. Rothfuss is not an author who is afraid to take his time. The main character's name is Kvothe and we learn early on that the man's reputation is legend. But this is no Mary Sue character; Rothfuss is too skilled a writer for that. Publishers Weekly describes the books as follows: The originality of Rothfuss's outstanding debut fantasy, the first of a trilogy, lies less in its unnamed imaginary world than in its precise execution. Kvothe ("pronounced nearly the same as 'Quothe' "), the hero and villain of a thousand tales who's presumed dead, lives as the simple proprietor of the Waystone Inn under an assumed name. Prompted by a biographer called Chronicler who realizes his true identity, Kvothe starts to tell his life story. From his upbringing as an actor in his family's traveling troupe of magicians, jugglers and jesters, the Edema Ruh, to feral child on the streets of the vast port city of Tarbean, then his education at "the University," Kvothe is driven by twin imperatives—his desire to learn the higher magic of naming and his need to discover as much as possible about the Chandrian, the demons of legend who murdered his family. As absorbing on a second reading as it is on the first, this is the type of assured, rich first novel most writers can only dream of producing. The fantasy world has a new star. That's a pretty good summation of the book. But what they don't tell you is how Rothfuss's execution of the story takes it beyond the sum of it's parts. Kvothe is a character that is the stuff of legend. He's brilliant and gifted and in most books would have won his fortune and the girl by the end of the first 300 pages; but Rothfuss prefers to make Kvothe a much more realistic character. He's brilliant and gifted; yes. But he rarely manages to do anything but live hand to mouth. He doesn't have riches falling at his feet and he often makes rash, foolish choices. And Rothfuss also demonstrates a gift for dialogue, giving Kvothe a glib humor that often gets him in trouble. Rothfuss also demonstrates an amazing ability to create a very layered story. There are many moments in the book when tales are told and songs are sung that add so much detail that it sucks you into its world and you just want to know more. At the same time, by the end of the book we have more questions than answers. There are villains, but we don't really know much about them. There are creatures known as Fae, but again, they're a mystery. There are demons-- I think, and other dangers as yet unexplained. In fact, this book really just lays the foundation for the rest of the story; we are told that much. But it is still so satisfying. Ultimately, The Name of the Wind is just a damn good book.