Book Review: The Name of the Wind

You know what, let’s do some book reviews. I’m a well-read guy. Why not? Besides, wouldn’t you like to know which books a writer reads? I’ll tell you what I read, why I read it, and most importantly, what I thought of it. I’ll hold off on the spoilers as best I can. So, let’s give it a go. I’ll start with the book I just finished: The Name of the Wind of the series The Kingkiller Chronicle.

Patrick Rothfuss, hats off to you, sir. I’ve been searching for a good fantasy novel. Everyone knows about Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Lord of the Rings, etc. I wanted to find something new. I have a habit of looking at Top 10 lists, so I searched Google for the Top 10 Fantasy Novels. Nearly every single list I found had The Name of the Wind. Struck by the cover and the title, I said, “Screw it! Let’s do it.”

Now, fantasy is a tricky genre. Ever since Tolkien made the genre his bitch, writers have varied on a certain spectrum. On the one extreme are those writers who submit to all the cliches of the genre, thus becoming cliches themselves. There is a prophecy, good vs. evil, a greedy dragon, quick, clever, and prideful elves, short, strong, and bumbling dwarves, and so on. On the other extreme are those writers who try to escape the cliches, but go overboard in creativity and make worlds much too alien for a reader’s enjoyment. They create new languages with words too hard to pronounce. They create storylines that sacrifice logic for ingenuity. When you meet one of these extremes, you either say, “Ugh, haven’t I heard this story before?” or, “I’m sorry. This is too ridiculous. I just can’t buy into the story.”

But Patrick–can I call you Patrick? I’m gonna call you Patrick–you’ve hit the sweet spot. Well, sorta. The Name of the Wind has a frame story. Basically, the main character Kvothe tells the story of his life while now keeping an inn. Patrick started out with the story of Kvothe and his Wayside Inn and after sixty pages or so moved on to the story of Kvothe’s life. I have nothing against frame stories, but the story I was interested in was the story of his life, not the story at the Wayside Inn. There was something going on with demonic spidery things. I finished the novel and I still don’t know what that’s about yet. Yes, The Name of the Wind is part of a series, but all the events happening at the Wayside Inn seem…excessive? Maybe a little boring?

Except the interludes. I like the interludes. You’re keeping it realistic, Patrick. A man cannot tell the story of his entire life in one day without any breaks. Besides, he had two people listening to him. One of those two is bound to say something. I’m glad you realized that. Kvothe needed a break, and you know what? Sometimes a reader needs a break. Each interlude was only a couple pages and allowed me to take a break from the main action. Instead of putting the book down and coming back to it, I took the interlude as my break and rarely ever put the book down.

So now that the minor flaws are out of the way–and I say minor because they’re pretty minor. Don’t get mad at me, Patrick. I still love you–let’s get to all the pros.

Kvothe is a realized character. He is a young, bold, and cunning boy with a gift for music. He is that spunky troublemaker we all wish we were. Well, that’s young Kvothe. Old Kvothe is rather sedate. Anyways, young Kvothe, the Kvothe I will talk about because he takes up most of the book, doesn’t fall into a typecast. He makes mistakes, he forgets, his thoughts and feelings change, he has a history. Yes, he is a troublemaker, but he is not every troublemaker. He is a well-flushed out person.

What’s more, you put him through hell, Patrick. You really treat him like shit. I love it. I swear you put me in a funk for a few days. What happened to his troupe, and all of Tarbean, also his love life. You know what I’m talking about, Patrick. Don’t you lie to me. I love that you do that, though. It really makes the reader feel for Kvothe and root for him even when he’s acting a little condescending or prideful.

About his love life, though: the main love interest (I won’t say who because you had me guessing for a few chapters and I want others to experience) embodies the title. The Name of the Wind. She is very much like the wind. She’s here. She’s there. She’s with him. Then she’s not. Then she’s with someone else. Then she’s not. She makes you feel wonderful like a gentle waft of air against your cheek, but also completely terrible like a strong gust of wind battering your whole body, or maybe like the total absence of wind. Emptiness.

Likewise, the setting is fully realized. There are carefully thought through legends, religion, history, and geography. Legends aren’t always taken seriously and are often looked down upon as childish or foolish. And all that extra information that makes the world of the The Kingkiller Chronicle what it is, doesn’t distract you or burden you. It only draws you in deeper.

One final note: The Name of the Wind seems geared towards people of my age. That’s probably why I love it. I’m 19 by the way. There is a hefty amount of sorrow. In fact, I would say the tone of the book is generally sorrowful. However, the story Kvothe tells of himself revolves mostly around his time at the University, which is a university. Duh. So, when Kvothe talks about girls and classes and drinking with your buddies, people my age can relate.

This isn’t a bad thing. My generation will be happy, younger generations can learn a few things about what’s in store for them, and older generations can relate because they already went through that stage of life. And if you want something more mature, I’m sure you can depend on the sequels. I assume Kvothe will talk about the rest of his life.

Overall score: 9.2/10

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