Published: June 12th 2008 by Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 662 pages
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My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as “quothe.” Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I’ve had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it’s spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree.
“The Flame” is obvious if you’ve ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple of hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. I keep it short but it’s unruly. When left to its own devices, it sticks up and makes me look as if I have been set afire. ”The Thunder” I attribute to a strong baritone and a great deal of stage training at an early age. I’ve never thought of “The Broken Tree” as very significant. Although in retrospect, I suppose it could be considered at least partially prophetic.
My first mentor called me E’lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.
But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant “to know. I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.
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.
You may have heard of me.
So begins the tale of Kvothe - from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician,and an infamous assassin. But The Name of the Wind is so much more - for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe’s legend.
A long synopsis that doesn’t do justice to the book. The Name of the Wind is a unique novel, a triumphant debut from a hither-to unknown author. The level of mastery the author has displayed is rarely found in a debut novel, and in this light, I like the novel very much. When judging the book by the hype that surrounds it, however, I find it lacking. It is slow to start, and Kvothe’s motivation for revealing his story to the Chronicler is surprising given the effort he has put into disappearing. In this way, I found the set up of the novel, a story within a story, is executed well after this point, but getting there seems sloppy.
Once Kvothe starts telling his story, however, it is difficult not to lose yourself. He is a masterful story-teller, and Rothfuss has captured his ‘voice’ well. His adventures make you want to laugh, cry, rage at the fates, and generally capture your imagination. The narrative does have a few lulls and slow points but for the most part it is riveting and carries you along like the swift current of a river.
I like Kvothe a lot – he is a good protagonist and narrator. Hearing a man tell of his journey from boyhood to adulthood is always exciting, and Kvothe doesn’t hold anything back. He is brutally honest about his experiences and feelings, allowing the reader to empathise with him easily. He does keep saying things like “If you haven’t experienced this, then you don’t really know / can’t imagine what it’s like” which sounds very patronising. I also didn’t understand why Kvothe, being familiar with poverty, would squander what little money he has without any thought. He should have learnt to save some money for hard times, but no, he keeps spending it and finding himself at the edge of poverty frequently.
With the notable exception of Denna, there are no exciting female characters in the book, and certainly no strong ones. Even Rela only makes it into the story when she is needed for a plot device, and otherwise largely ignored by both Kvothe and the author. Denna and Kvothe strike me as the only two fully fleshed out characters, while the others are pigeon-holed into stereo-typical roles, to be pulled out when the plot requires.
The Name of the Wind is certainly worth a read, and if you like fantasy then you really can’t miss it. Patrick Rothfuss has proved that he is a force to be reckoned with. I have the second book of the trilogy already, and will be diving into it eagerly at the next available opportunity.