The Name of the Wind: Doesn’t disappoint

Patrick Rothfuss The Kingkiller Chronicle: 1.  The Name of the   WindThe  Name of the Wind Patrick Rothfuss book reviewThe Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

You know how sometimes a book, or a movie, or a concert gets so hyped up in the press and you have such high expectations that when you finally get around to reading/seeing it, it disappoints? That’s what I was worried might happen when I decided to read The Name of the Wind. I purposely came to it late, hoping to wait until Patrick Rothfuss was nearly finished with the trilogy before I starting it. But, the book has received so much attention that it became inexcusable for me, as the editor of this website, not to read it. So I did — in two days. (It’s a huge book.)

And I’m very happy to report that The Name of the Wind did not disappoint — I was completely enthralled. The pace was quick and never lagged. The plot was tight and had just the right amount of mystery — I always understood what was going on, but Rothfuss regularly added new elements, twists, and layers to keep me wondering where this was going and what would happen next. In fact, by the end of the book, there are more unanswered questions than answered ones. Throughout, the writing style was smooth and pleasant, with enough wit, humor, foreshadowing, and artistry to be intellectually stimulating, but never pretentious. Furthermore, the magic system in Rothfuss’s world is thoroughly explained to us, bit by bit, and it is complicated and makes sense.

Perhaps most important, Mr Rothfuss writes excellent characters. I especially appreciated what he did with his hero. Kvothe’s circumstances are familiar; he’s an exceptionally bright kid whose parents are killed by something evil, nobody cares for him, he manages to get into magic school on long odds, he has trouble fitting in with both students and teachers, he makes two close friends and one rich and handsome enemy from a powerful family, he’s obsessed with finding out about the evil people who killed his parents, he regularly gets punished for his exploits at school, he has no clue about girls, and he actually meets one who lives in the pipes under the school … Hmmm… This does sound familiar.

But I’ll bet that most people who read The Name of the Wind never thought of Harry Potter, because Kvothe and his world are new and refreshing. Kvothe is a product of his liberal education and a lot of time spent trying to survive on his own as a beggar. Sometimes he is selfish, sometimes he is cruel, sometimes he does the right thing. At one point in the book, while Kvothe was living on the streets, he had an opportunity to help someone in distress (a particular distress that Kvothe himself had experienced). I was nervous — worried that Rothfuss would ruin his careful characterization by having Kvothe perform a heroic deed too soon. But, no, Kvothe pulled a Kitty Genovese, which gave me a deeper respect for Mr Rothfuss. During Kvothe’s maturation, we see him make more right choices and fewer wrong ones, but he is complex and inconsistent enough to make us lack confidence that he’s going to turn out okay. And that makes for a very interesting story.

I’m very much looking forward to continuing this mystery; so much so that I’ll pre-order the hardback of The Wise Man’s Fear (something I rarely do).

Patrick Rothfuss is a much-needed bright young star in the fantasy field. Let’s hope that he can keep it up!

~Kat Hooper

Over Christmas break I managed to catch up on some of the books that other reviewers have raved about that hadn’t yet made it to the top of my TBR mountain. The best book by far was Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind. Since others here have already reviewed this book, I don’t think much needs to be said at this point about the plot. Instead I want to respond to the other reviews, which I had not read in detail until after finishing the book.

I agree with Kat that Rothfuss has done something special. I can usually spot a Harry Potter knockoff at 20 paces, but even though there are some superficial similarities between the characters and plot devices, at no point when I was reading The Name of the Wind did I think of Harry Potter. Rothfuss has taken the stock ingredients of fantasy and, like a master chef, created something new and surprising with them. For a book of several hundred pages, The Name of the Wind reads remarkably fast, as the story pours out of Kvothe, an autobiography to set to truth all the rumors and guesses.

I had some problems with Kvothe’s development romantically. Boys of that age should be a little bit more hormonal than he is, and I have a hard time believing that someone with his fortitude in other areas — that whipping scene for example — doesn’t have the courage to try for a kiss from a woman with whom he is besotted. I also agree with Angus that the tale would have benefited from more detail about the big baddies, the Chandrian. Right now they are sort of a nebulous evil. The tension would be heightened by knowing more about the antagonist.

Those details aside, Greg is right when he said that books like this are why people read fantasy. I am anxiously awaiting the next installment in the story. If Rothfuss keeps up the quality of this storytelling throughout the next two books, I think the next thing he should write is a letter to Peter Jackson, with the offer of a movie deal. This is epic fantasy at its finest.

~Ruth Arnell

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. Mauro Paraiba Cavalcanti /

    Very good book. Nice characters, very good story and ambientation. It doesn’t need to say more.

  2. You should really get these books on audible: the narrator, Nick Podehl, is the perfect voice for Kvothe, and he turns an excellent book into an unforgettable experience.

  3. Kevin /

    Agree 100%. Name of the Wind is an outstanding book.

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