Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss

 The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) 

Synopsis: Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet's hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

Date Published: March 27, 2007
Published By: DAW
Number of Pages: 722
Rating: 4/5

Despite my conviction that I love epic fantasy, I haven't actually read that many epic fantasy series. Case in point, until recently, I had never read The Name of the Wind, one of the most critically acclaimed fantasy novels of the 21st century. And now that I've read it, I want more, not just of this series, but of epic fantasy in general.

There are so many things about The Name of the Wind worth raving about that it's hard to know where to start.

So let's start with what I liked most: unlike a lot of epic fantasy stories with huge casts of characters, brutal wars, and people flinging magic around left and right, The Name of the Wind is a much more personal story. It focuses on one main character, Kvothe, and how he came to be the most notorious wizard in history. Starting from his childhood as a member of his parents' traveling theater troupe and onto his adolescent years as a student of magic at the notorious University, the first installment tells of Kvothe's early years. There are thrilling moments to be sure, and dark forces to be conquered (or at least learned about) but The Name of the Wind is more character-focused than plot focused. Kvothe became a real person to me - I celebrated his triumphs and grieved over his setbacks. When something bad happens to Kvothe (and that happens fairly regularly) I took it personally, as if it had happened to a friend of mine.

One of the reasons why this story seems so real is because the author does not allow any easy fixes for his characters - Kvothe is brilliant and cunning and resilient but he also suffers from devastating poverty, always scraping by, never seeming to make enough money. He's not always heroic and gets into his fair share of trouble.

Kvothe soon learns that magic isn't the answer to everything, either. Yes, it's powerful but it follows strict laws that take years of study and hard work to master. I loved how the magic system was so logical and consistent - even fantastical creatures like the draccus (wingless dragons, basically) made a biological sort of sense in the world.

Fantasy stories really boil down to the worldbuilding - if your story is set in a world that I don't believe in, how am I supposed to believe in your story? Thankfully, Patrick Rothfuss has proven to be a master worldbuilder, layering stories within stories, carefully shaping his fantasy world to be as believable and realistic as possible - but still tinged with enough magic and mythology to make it a fantastic reading experience.

Another thing to marvel at is Rothfuss's elegant prose. There were so many times I lingered over a particularly well-written phrase or stopped at the end of a paragraph thinking to myself 'that's so true!' Rothfuss's unreal world is inhabited by incredibly real people that you can't help but believe in it.

After this first installment, I consider myself to be a rabid fan of the Kingkiller Chronicle and I cannot wait to see what happens next. If you're a fantasy fan, you need to read this book!

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