I’ve read very few books that make the rest of the books I own pale in comparison or that I finish and immediately want to read again. But Patrick Rothfuss’ debut novel, The Name of the Wind, is that good! What’s funny is that I would never have picked it up on my own, mainly because it’s a fantasy novel with a cloaked figure on the cover — not my typical kind of read. But my friend Kandravy insisted that I read it and he promised I wouldn’t regret it. I hate to admit it, but he was right.
The prologue alone almost gave me goosebumps. Then the story begins in the present with Kvothe, the main character, as an innkeeper at the Waystone Inn in Newarre. We quickly learn he’s not an ordinary innkeeper and Newarre isn’t in the world we know, when spider-demons are lurking on the outskirts of town and attack a local. Then we meet Chronicler, a well-known collector of stories, when he arrives in Newarre having followed a rumor into town about the infamous “Kvothe Kingkiller.” Chronicler, like many others, assumes that the story of Kvothe is a myth and that there’s no man who doesn’t bleed, learned a language in a day, is fearless, killed an angel, etc., or perhaps that Kvothe is real, but dead. But Chronicler not only finds Kvothe, he convinces him to tell his story.
From here, most of The Name of the Wind is set in the past, as Kvothe tells the first part of his life story and his search for the name of the wind. (This is only book one in a trilogy, though book two, The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2), came out this past March.) Kvothe details his early childhood, his introduction to magic from Abenthy the arcanist, his quest to learn more about the legendary, evil Chandrian and his early years at the University. I can’t say too much about his story without giving away key parts of the plot — but once Kvothe starts his storytelling, you’ll find it hard to put the book down.
The world Rothfuss created feels so real and is so absorbing that you almost don’t realize that you’re reading fantasy. What’s always held me back from the fantasy genre is the difficulty most authors have in creating an alternate world that means anything or feels at all “real.” But Rothfuss creates a world that’s has just enough magic and mythical elements to be intriguing and just enough parallels to our world to relate to. And the characters, especially Kvothe, leap off the page. Kvothe’s heroic…he’s overcome so much in his youth and we see him grow as a character…but at the same time, there’s an inclination here about his capacity for evil and it’ll be interesting to see what the rest of this trilogy shows us. For anyone who has read Harry Potter (I’m sorry to say that I read the first 2 books, but wasn’t a huge fan and didn’t read farther), I can say that The Name of the Wind feels like a much richer, darker and more adult version of a young wizard finding his own.
The Name of the Wind was leaps and bounds better than most books I’ve read in the past few years. I can’t do it justice in a book review, so you just have to trust me. Right now I can’t decide if I should run out and buy The Wise Man’s Fear or if I should re-read The Name of the Wind!