Saturday, July 26, 2014

Weekly Book Review: The Name of the Wind

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Released: March 27, 2007
Genre: Fantasy


So begins the tale of Kvothe—from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin. But The Name of the Wind is so much more—for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe's legend.

[From Patrick Rothfuss' official website.]


The Name of the Wind is well-written, even lyrical at times. This isn't one of those fantasies that shirks style in the name of plot, nor does it forsake plot in striving for style. Kvothe's tale kept me engaged throughout, and though certain plot points can feel disconnected, almost all are intriguing in their own right.

The Name of the Wind's world is at once new and familiar, a mix of well-trodden fantasy tropes and original ideas. One of those is its magic system, sympathy, which bows before the laws of thermodynamics and tends toward subtlety over flashy explosions. This system should appeal to those who favor the intricate rules of a Brandon Sanderson novel over J. K. Rowling's wand-waving and vague Latin.

The book's otherwise traditional structure is bolstered by the addition of a frame narrative that sharpens suspense by showing us exactly where the story is headed without revealing how it will get there. The frame narrative gives readers a lot to look forward to and helps pull the book through its duller stretches with the promise of later developments.

Most of the book's problems stem from its hero, Kvothe (or Kote, as he's known in the frame narrative). Kvothe (pronounced "quoth" and not, as I can't stop calling him, "k-voh-th") is, quite frankly, infallible, or so the novel seems to believe. His talents include but are not limited to: anything and everything. His only fault is his personality, condescending in its pretend modesty and almost as arrogant as the Draco Malfoy stand-in who haunts his time at the University. The book presents Kvothe in a largely positive light, however, so it's hard to say whether his personality was meant to be a fault at all.

I can't decide where I fall on the topic of the novel's female castmembers. Many fit into easily abused stereotypes common amongst female characters. Auri, for example, is the flighty, damaged girl, spouter of esoteric ramblings that, in a roundabout way, turn out to be prophetic. Quirky and childish, Auri seems to have been designed as a catalyst for displays of Kvothe's inner goodness.

Part of me hopes that the third book in the series, Doors of Stone, will reveal that Kvothe's apparent perfection is all the result of an unreliable narrator, though the other part worries that such a reveal three monstrous tomes in would ruin the series just as much as an "it was all a dream" ending. Still, some of the plot points in the second book (see: the Felurian), are pretty common in Mary Sue fanfiction. Whether it turns out to be Kvothe's Mary Sue fanfic or Rothfuss' will probably make all the difference.

Despite some complaints, The Name of the Wind is an enjoyable read that deserves much of the praise heaped on it since its release. Give it a shot if fantasy is one of your mainstays and prepare to wait for Doors of Stone.

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