I was given this book for my birthday.
The Name of the Wind has sat on my shelf since March. I have waited almost six months to read this book. In fact, I probably still wouldn’t have read it if I hadn’t been expressly told to read it before I read other books that I’d been lent. It’s weird how books can stack up. I was reading review copies of books, and then books I’d been lent, and I think a series snuck in there somewhere. And everything kept snowballing until it had been six months since I was gifted The Name of the Wind. The trials of book nerdom, I swear.
But I finally finished. And I am frantically writing this review so that I can start The Wise Man’s Fear before I go to bed. Because The Name of the Wind? Was amazing.
Where to even begin?
Well, let’s start with structure. This book is structurally gorgeous. Like a snowflake; simple from afar but complex, unique, and totally stunning up close. First off, the epilogue is a repetition of the prologue. Not an exact repetition, but close enough to drive Rothfuss’ point home. Actually, it’s the slight differences between the beginning passage and the end passage that really make you pay attention. Genius.
Then there’s the fact that two stories are being told at the same time. Or the same story, just at different points in the same timeline. The story opens in a pub. We are introduced to our main character, Kvothe, through this lens. He’s an innkeeper, or so we think. Then our Mr. Exposition walks in and our main character, who we haven’t yet realised is the main character, is seen in a new light. This opening part is told in the third person. Once Mr. Exposition, in the case the Chronicler ,and Kvothe have become acquainted and become friendly toward each other, the second story starts. Kvothe tells his life story to the Chronicler. As such, this part of the story is told in first person. It sounds like this story structure would be confusing, but it’s really not. The story is just broken up in a different way than what we’re used to. No set parts. Just one story and another, weaving in and out of each other. The way it’s done is seamless. Kvothe starts talking and then every once in a while a chapter name will begin with “Interlude”. This signifies a break in Kvothe’s story – a break from Kvothe talking – and we travel back to ‘modern day’, I suppose you could say. It’s gorgeous. Simply…gorgeous.
One of the trickier parts of high end fantasy, which is the genre of The Name of the Wind, is avoiding info-dumping. We all know what this is. Exposition heaped upon more exposition with very little story involved. Rothfuss avoids this like a champ. And when he can’t, he chooses his methods of exposition beautifully. Stories from bards, Kvothe’s lessons from the University, competition, and conversation. The exposition always has movement, and that’s what sets Rothfuss apart from other fantasy writers. In fact, I would say that Rothfuss is on equal footing with Brent Weeks, author of the Night Angel trilogy, for his expert exposition.
Character is also done incredibly well. Every character is completely fleshed out, even if they are only a bit player. But I want to focus on the character of Kvothe. See, when we first meet Kvothe at the pub, he is going by the name “Kote”. He keeps this name in the story, as in Rothfuss refers to Kvothe as Kote, until the character finally owns his identity. Kote admits to being Kvothe and so he becomes Kvothed. However, at the end of the story, Kvothe reverts back to Kote. It is a superb use of names that ties into the laws of magic in the story. Such a simple detail, and yet it has such depth to it.
At this point, I could talk about so many other things. I could talk about the love story and how it could in no way be called cliche. I could talk about the symbolism of the love interest’s name. I could talk about the dialogue and how it sparkles. I could talk about how magic and mythology ties into the world in such a way as to seem everyday. I could talk about so many things, but instead I want to leave you with this one piece of dialogue. There are a million tiny snippets of this book that show off Rothfuss’ genius, but I like this one:
I turned back to Denna. ‘We should have lunch one of these days,’ I said blithely … ‘I have some interesting stories for you.’
‘Absolutely … you left before you could finish your last one. I was terribly disappointed that I missed the end. Distraught, in fact.’
‘Oh, it’s just the same thing you’ve heard a hundred times before,’ I said. ‘Prince Gallant kills the dragon but loses the treasure and the girl.’
‘Ah, a tragedy,’ Denna looked down. ‘Not the ending I’d hoped for, but no more than I expected, I suppose.’
‘It would be something of a tragedy if it stopped there,’ I admitted. ‘But it depends on how you look at it, really. I prefer to think of it as a story that’s waiting for an appropriately uplifting sequel.
… “I don’t generally go in for serial stories,” Denna said, her expression momentarily serious and unreadable. Then she shrugged and gave me a hint of a wry smile. ‘But I’ve certainly changed my mind about these things before. Maybe you’ll convince me otherwise.’
Oh. So. Meta.