While I enjoy reading fiction, it’s a rarity for me to find fiction that truly captivates me, especially within the fantasy genre. With my last fantasy book being Peter S. Beagle‘s The Last Unicorn, I was sitting pretty high in terms of what fantasy is capable of; luckily, The Name of the Wind didn’t disappoint, and while it isn’t nearly on the level of The Last Unicorn, it did blow my expectations out of the water and present me with a compelling and interesting story which kept me engrossed for all of the seven-hundred & twenty-two pages.
The central story is framed by the story of an a man disguised as an innkeeper, tracked down by a chronicler who wishes to write down his story, the story of how he came to be the legendary figure that he is (despite hiding as an innkeeper). It is this story which the chronicler records which makes up the bulk of the narrative, beginning when the main character – Kvothe – is a young boy and following his progression as a strives to enter the arcane university and excel at the magical arts.
While that makes the book sound abit like Harry Potter, the similarities end there. Rothfuss develops an exciting and mysterious fantasy world of his own with an innovative and captivating magical system, the two main parts of which include sympathy (a sort of mental science used to influence objects) and naming. The latter type of magic – being able to harness the true names of things – is more common in fantasy, but Rothfuss makes it his own.
The story itself is intriguing, and the nature of the world in which the story is set gradually unfolds as the young Kvothe attempts to find the answers he is looking for. What’s more, the book has a solid mixture of drama, action, and humor. Some characters I ended up genuinely feeling for, and there was more than one point at which I laughed out loud.
In the whole of the book I was never bored – one of the highest compliments I can give – and I highly recommend it.
-“Waterside is where people are poor. That make them beggars, thieves, and whores. Hillside is where people are rich. That makes them solicitors, politicians, and courtesans.”-p160
-“Now let me say this: when you’re traveling a good cloak is worth more than all your other possessions put together. If you’ve nowhere to sleep, it can be your bed and blanket. It will keep the rain off your back and the sun from your eyes. You can conceal all manner of interesting weaponry beneath it if you are clever, and a small assortment if you are not.”-p234
-“We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.”-p716
There are a few minor criticisms that I have of the book. One is that the main character is almost too much of a prodigy, he is simply amazingly good at everything that he does, with his one flaw being that he is completely unaware of how to interact with girls, stupidly so, especially for somebody who grew up with traveling performers (one of whom seems to be a prostitute, or at least an exotic dancer).
My other small issue with the book is that the characters often times just say dumb things, things that nobody except a college freshman with only a year of philosophy under his belt would ever say. Things like “That’s bad psychology” or ‘that’s a logical fallacy!’. Only pretentious brats would talk like that during normal conversation. If that was Rothfuss’ goal then I guess more power to him, but these little bits seemed out-of-character to me, as if the author was just wanting to show off that he knows what a fallacy is (or maybe it’s just meant to show off how smart the characters are, that they can call things a fallacy).