Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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The Name of the Wind is a brilliantly epic fantasy novel by Patrick Rothfuss. It is the first novel in the Kingkiller Chronicle series; followed by The Wise Man’s Fear, a book which I will hopefully get around to reviewing soon. The final book in the series will be The Doors of Stone, which hasn’t been released yet. It does not, at the time of writing, have a release date yet.

As with most epic fantasy books, The Name of the Wind is a lengthy read. A thick book, with 662 pages, each one filled to the brim with small sized writing; this book will certainly keep you going for a while. Especially, when combined with it’s sequel, which is equally long.

The story follows the life of the legendary adventurer and wizard Kvothe. Specifically, his upbringing and how his legend starts in this book. The majority of the story is told in a recount style, with Kvothe himself narrating his own story. Now, a protagonist recounting their own story in some form, such as a diary, is not a unique within fiction; it has in fact been done many, many times before. Some examples include Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles series. However, what makes it work so well for this book is the spin on this idea that Rothfuss deploys. Kvothe is retelling the story verbally to another, The Chronicler, a famous, travelling story-teller and scribe. This differs from the common retelling troupe as, usually, the story is told as if it is a secret for only the teller to know.

Slight twists on common literacy and fantasy troupes is a reoccurring theme throughout this book. Each twist is fresh and unique twist, avoiding giving the reader any sense of ‘Oh, another story about an orphan.’ Within the story, Kvothe constantly tells you that this isn’t just a typical story multiple times, however, an astute reader can clearly pick out the basis of the tropes within and enjoy the twists placed upon them. This recycling of troupes is not, however, a poor reflection on Rothuss’ writing. After all, these tropes have been used so many times for a reason; they are well liked within the genre. It is, in fact, a positive reflection upon his writing abilities that he has taken these tropes and put such imaginative twists to them.

Patrick Rothfuss’ ability with words is evident from the first page, which instantly hooked me within the first few lines. In many ways, his writing style and prose resembles that of George R.R. Martin and his epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, with its eloquent and winding descriptive sequences that masterfully paint images in your mind. This style of writing really helps bring The Four Corners of Civilization (as the setting of these books is known) to life; helped by the thoroughness in which Rothfuss has fleshed out his world. As such, the sense of immersion you feel while reading is not just testament to his writing abilities, but also to his successful world-building.

This wonderful writing style did not, however, endear me to our protagonist. I actually found Kvothe hard to warm to. The more I think about it, the more I feel that this was done on purpose by Rothfuss. Put simply, Kvothe is too perfect. He appears to be instantly good at whatever he tries his hand at, swiftly rising to be one of the best at that skill, whether it is singing, playing, musical instruments or science and mathematics. He even picks up the art of magic, or Sympathy as it is known, with ridiculous ease while still a young child. He even appears to be handsome and gets the attention of the female characters with ease. On top of all this, he knows all of this and comes across as quite egotistical at times. We all knew someone a bit like this at school, I am sure.

This is not a huge problem within the book, though it certainly is my main criticism. The vast and varied cast of characters we encounter throughout the telling of the story balance out Kvothe’s personality flaws. Many of these characters are instantly likeable, such as Auri or Simmon, where as others stand on the opposite end of the spectrum and evoke strong feelings of dislike, such as Ambrose. Each character in the story clearly plays an important role in melding the story together and giving the reader a roller coaster of emotions.

The Name of the Wind is a book I would recommend to any fan of the fantasy genre, especially if you prefer your stories on the more epic side. With fantastic, varied and vivid characters, combined with an extensively detailed and absorbing world, I am sure most people will love The Name of the Wind; the same as I did.