Book Review: The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss, 4*’s)

I was looking for a new fantasy novel to read and I’d heard good things about Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind. So, I gave it a gander. It’s an interesting idea for a story. The main character is a man named Kvothe (pronounced Quothe) who, after living quite the life of adventure and glory, is now living the quiet life of an innkeeper in a backwater village on the edges of civilization under the assumed name of Kote. He has a companion named Bast (who appears to be a demon of some sort, but apparently a tame one, as he is apprenticed to Kvothe for reasons which are never explained in book I—yes, this is supposed to be the first book of a trilogy). Anyway, one day a certain scribe by the name of Chronicler arrives at the inn and is looking for Kvothe—actually, he is rescued by Kote from evil quasi-demonic spider-creatures called Scrael. Chronicler wishes to record Kvothe’s story, the real story from the legend himself. At first, Kvothe is hesitant, but then he relents. What follows is his story.

 

The novel begins with his early life as part of a company of traveling entertainers. His father is head of the company. One day the company takes on an old arcanist (kind of a scholarly wizard type of person) name Abenthy, or Ben for short. Soon Ben and Kvothe strike up a friendship even though Kvothe is only around ten years old. And Ben soon learns that Kvothe is a remarkably adept young boy, so much so, Ben begins to teach him the rudiments of the arcanist teachings: things like chemistry, alchemy, herbology, etc…. Eventually, Ben leaves the company but not without leaving the young Kvothe with the notion that he could really make something of himself if he were to go to the University. A short while later, the entire company except Kvothe is wiped out by quasi-demonic creatures called Chandrians. Kvothe swears revenge, but he has a long way to go. First, he lives in the wild accompanied only by his lyre (or is it lute?—I’ve forgotten) which he plays until it has but three of its seven strings left. After some little adventures, he gets to a large city and lives as a street urchin for a while, picking up the requisite skills of begging and thievery. Finally, he gets to the University and things really take off.

 

Strengths: the writing was good, very impressive for a debut novel. The concept was pretty good, too: everything told as a kind of reflection by the older Kvothe. The characters developed well and the action, the rivalries, and the tension were all good. Weaknesses: in terms of structure and writing there weren’t really any. However, the story did not grip me completely. Maybe fantasy literature is losing its allure for me … which can’t be good, because I’m a fantasy writer. Still, it was an impressive work.

 

I’ll give Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind four or maybe even four and a half stars (if I’m feeling generous) out of five.

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