The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
|Book Name:||The Name of the Wind|
|Publisher(s):||DAW (US) Gollancz (UK)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook|
|Release Date:||April 1, 2008 (US) June 12, 2008 (UK)|
Are you ready for adventure, magic and drug fuelled dragons? Come sit down with Kvothe and get consumed in his world. The blurb alone is enough to convince anyone to read this book; it pulls you in with the promise of all these great adventures yet at the opening of the book this legendary Kvothe is nowhere to be seen. Each character you meet could be our hero but none seem at all legendary but then there’s the mention of red hair.
Even before Kvothe is revealed there’s enough action and mystery to keep you gripped until the story finally starts. There’s a particularly haunting scene when Kvothe and Chronicler face down the giant spider demons (yes that’s right).
Once Kvothe begins to tell his story I began to realise what a great book this is. The way Kvothe describes his childhood and the life they led radiates with comfort and the glow of innocence. Rothfuss creates a world that gave me the same feelings I had when reading about Westeros, Middle Earth and Narnia, not only that I wanted to be there but that I found myself missing the characters when I wasn’t reading.
The narrative voice is gripping yet welcoming and always entertaining. I’ve read how some people try and figure out parts of the story where Kvothe is lying or elaborating but I preferred to trust him and enjoy the story. There are so many stories within stories throughout the course of the book which all work as an effective way of setting up certain storylines and more importantly giving you some much needed contextual knowledge.
Kvothe is simply a tremendous protagonist. As with all protagonists a lot of bad things happen to him but what makes Kvothe different is you already know his reputation and what he will become so instead of panicking and feeling uncomfortable I found myself getting excited to see what ingenious way he would get revenge. However, he is far from perfect, there are certain parts of Kvothe or certain things he does that did begin to grate somewhat, mainly his recklessness. His obsession to break into the archives is so infuriating because you and more importantly he knows it will lead to his expulsion and if he were simply patient he might be granted access but he strives to break in anyway. But he his young, I think that is so easily forgotten because he experiences so much but he’s still only sixteen.
Then there’s the issue of Denna. I’ve looked at some forum opinions of Denna and they are far from positive calling her a manipulative bitch who leads our dear Kvothe on a merry ride; the thing is they’re not wrong and even he would admit this. At the moment I am reserving my judgement because a lot of the hatred for her stems from her actions in the second book. Now I don’t adamantly hate her the way I did Ygritte but I cannot deny how manipulative she blatantly is and how much she leads him on.
What is eluded to is how deeply troubled she is; they never refer to her as a prostitute but they do imply she’s not far off. Her entire life is shrouded in secrecy and we only get a brief glimpse at her true feelings. She reminded me very much of Estella from Great Expectations, someone who was damaged at a very young age and as a grown up is left with this twisted character that brings joy and pain to people in equal measures.
The way Kvothe steps out of the story to build up the suspense of Denna’s reappearance and the way he describes her is so romantic it’s perhaps why I can’t bring myself to dislike her. On the other hand this also works against Denna because the version we see is created by someone who is/was madly in love with her so it’s blatantly a biased view. This is further compounded by the fact that every one of Kvothe’s friends that have met Denna don’t speak too highly of her and they certainly don’t understand his feelings for her.
There is a scene towards the end of the book where Kvothe describes Denna as cruel, whilst this is a beautifully written scene the notion bothered me. Kvothe tries to explain how it is in Denna’s nature to be cruel thus she cannot be blamed. Now whilst I fully accept that Denna is troubled and has clearly undergone tragedy which has left her damaged, simply saying it is in her nature is not enough to excuse her for what she does. It seems a simple way out as though Kvothe has realised Denna will never change so he’s reserved himself to accepting her cruelty and not even seeing it as a bad thing. Then again this could be an accurate portrayal of the feelings of one who has fallen for the wrong person and they try and try to rationalise away the truth they don’t want to admit. What makes it worse is there are numerous girls loving Kvothe from a far, nearly all of whom are better candidates than Denna and he barely even notices them.
Now, magic in fantasy is not one of my favourite aspects by far but the magic in this is the sort that intrigues me, magic that has a cost, magic that takes mental & physical effort, magic that runs the risk of destroying you. I wanted to go to the University just as much as I wanted to go to Hogwarts when I was younger. However, there is a dark underbelly to the University in the shape of a mental health asylum for all the students who try to learn the name of things. Now whilst I approved of this as another example of the extremity of using magic I couldn’t help but think if this was the case would parents really allow let alone encourage their children to attend the University? Even so when I read the scene where Kvothe is nearly expelled from the University I cannot deny my heart stopped for a second.
Now dragons are not exactly unexpected in fantasy but they have been shied away from at times because the topic was somewhat overdone. But Rothfuss has created a completely new way to see dragons in the form of a tree munching, fire fearing, drugged up Draccus. This is certainly one of the highlights of the book; action packed, heart stopping and the chance to see Kvothe starting to become a legend. Then there’s the Chandrian, the murderers of Kvothe’s family and his true mission. Now though they only appear briefly, the myths surrounding them and the destruction they leave behind fills you with the foreboding of a villain from your nightmares.
Perhaps because I’ve recently reviewed Scott Lynch his writing is still in my mind, but I couldn’t help but see numerous similarities between Lynch and Rothfuss. Kvothe and Locke are similar protagonists; penniless orphans becoming expert robbers on dangerous streets. They each have their complicated female love interests who revel in tormenting our protagonist. Also the unusual writing structure they both employ, not the same but certainly similar. This is not a criticism at all, simply an observation and perhaps an indication of the style of this new generation of fantasy writers.
Something I couldn’t help but notice is there are quite a few spelling mistakes/typing errors. I’ve noticed this before in George R.R Martin’s writing, I don’t know whether it’s the writers or a printing error but it seems to be more frequent the longer the book. However, given the lengths of these books they can be forgiven for the odd missed word here and there.
I must admit I was under the impression that all that is mentioned in the blurb would be covered throughout the course of the book but it’s only really one of the events mentioned. Personally, I didn’t mind because I’m enjoying the journey so I don’t want it to be rushed, but I can see how it would bother some people. At times it did feel like the final chapters were rushed, almost as if Rothfuss hadn’t planned to end it there and had to hurry things along. However, it did allow for some character development with Bast who is certainly not all he seems.
The ending is ominous and without doubt leaves you eager for more. Now these few minor critiques cannot compare with the sheer magnificence of this book. Without doubt it is one of the great fantasy novels of our time. I must thank my friends Ashley and Niall for telling me to put all other books aside and read this; I didn’t regret it and neither will you.