Thursday, 6 June 2013

Book review: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

Title: The Name of the Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1
Genre: Adult high fantasy
Published: 27 March 2007
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 travelling 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 unrivalled in recent literature.
A fantasy world that rivals those of Tolkien and Martin, written by the hand of a truly poetic author.

The Name of the Wind tells two stories: Kvothe telling his life story and Kvothe’s story itself. In an inn in no man’s land, the innkeeper Kote decides to tell his story to Chronicler. Kote is actually a the most powerful wizard the Four Corners of Civilisation have ever seen: Kvothe. He tells from when he is a child travelling with his parents’ troupe, through a heart-breaking massacre into being a hobo and then a wizard at the University.

This book is amazing. It is written beautifully, and it has somewhat uncommon narrator. Some chapters, especially the first ones, are narrated in the third person omniscient, telling us how Chronicler arrives at the inn and convinces Kote to tell his story. But the rest of the chapters, around 70% of the chapters, are told in the first person by Kvothe. It makes this a great story because things happen in both stories. They each have their climaxes. The actual story is very good. It is an incredible coming-of-age story, but that is not the main point of the book. It did feel a bit Harry Potter-y, though, when young Kvothe is at the University. It’s oddly similar to Potter’s own experience his first year at Hogwarts.

The writing is majestic. Patrick Rothfuss has a way with words that makes his book a truly delightful read. It is not too descriptive. It shows, rather than tell. It is very light and very fast. One can easily read it in four days with some dedication, even though it is a pretty long book.

The world-building is something that I really need to talk about. It is fantastic, no pun intended. Even though we do not get to see much of the Four Corners of Civilisation in this first book, we do get a map, and I have to say that it is the most European fantasy country I have ever seen. We have a medieval Great Britain in the form of Ceald. Yll would be Italy, even though the Aturan Empire is more like ancient Rome. The Commonwealth is located where Greece would be, complete with its own Aegean Sea. We also get glimpses of the religion in the Four Corners. Religion is a very important part of society.

The world is also very different from our world. For instance, they don’t have seven-day weeks, instead they have eleven-day spans, of which there are four in a month. Their year only has 359 days. Not every fantasy writer takes the time to set their world on another planet, judging by the shorter times. Rothfuss also created languages, or parts of them. We get fragments in Adem and Siaru, amongst others. There are even three different currencies. This world was built astonishingly thoroughly.

The characters were well built and well developed. Kvothe suffers the greatest development, due to the sheer amount of turns his life takes along the book. But he never loses focus on what he really wants and why he really signs up for the University. Though, despite the development, he is a somewhat flat character, both as young Kvothe and as old Kote. Even Bast is a little rounder in some aspects.

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