Wednesday 22 December 2010

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind tells the story of Kvothe, this covering the first of three days in which he details his life to the Chronicler. Kvothe is a hero - a rescuer of women, a speaker of names, a player of songs. We learn about his early life, as he suffers tragedy and overcomes hardships to become the youngest member of the University.

I have seen people say that they literally wept with joy as they read this debut novel from Rothfuss. I have had people tell me they found it dull. I will fall somewhere in between. I waited a long, long time to read this novel and maybe have been influenced by all the hype over The Name of the Wind. On the one hand, I saw the almost-universal praise and wondered if it could possibly live up to the stunning reviews. On the other hand, I felt almost bound and determined to dislike it - just to go against the stream of praise.

Despite this weight of expectation and despite my best efforts, The Name of the Wind did win me over. It took some time to do so, but I found myself awake until late into the night thinking 'just one more chapter', which I only ever do about the best books.

The Name of the Wind is a great book - for a debut novel, it is breathlessly good. It is a diamond among books. But many diamonds have flaws and this is just the same.

I can talk about the fact that the novel is over-repetitive at points, such as when Kvothe continually has to raise money to pay for his university education. I could mention the fact that the secondary cast are rather wooden in comparison to the delight of the main characters such as Kvothe and Bast. I might just dwell on the fact that The Name of the Wind feels similar at points to many other stories - Harry Potter, Trudi Canavan's Black Magician books, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell in terms of the fae and the stories within stories, Tamora Pierce's Tortall books.

I didn't like Denna at all. The fact she takes such a starring role in the story was frustrating - I hated that Kvothe spent so much time running after her and pandering to her odd whims.

The sequence dealing with the village of Trebon and Kvothe's desperate dash to it, followed by lots of wandering in woods, felt unbelievably tacked on to the tale we'd already been reading.

And how often have we seen the sort of enmity that Kvothe suffers with Ambrose - this is incredibly familiar as a story trope.

Despite all this - despite the feel I'd read some of this before, despite the fact it seemed slow at points - The Name of the Wind managed something that few novels do. It made me slow down my reading in order to savour every word. I am a skim reading by habit - I skim a page to gain the meaning rather than reading every single word. With The Name of the Wind I slowed down. I read every word. I savoured the delicious prose: "Her voice was like a portrait of her soul: wild as a fire, sharp as shattered glass, sweet and clean as clover." I simply luxuriated in it.

Kvothe is also a fantastic character - I've seen people complain he is simply too good to be true, but I adore his swaggering arrogance, his quicksilver personality, his gentle humour. I love his true-red hair and grass-green eyes. His hesitance with the ladies is fun. He is a brilliant protagonist.

The fae part of the story was my favourite aspect - in fact, Bast is probably my favourite character behind Kvothe. The sequence right at the end of the book when Bast faces up against the Chronicler and shows his true nature is both chilling and delightful at once. I want to see much more of Bast in future novels.

This is not the best book ever, as claimed by some. It is not even a brilliant, once-in-a-generation book. But it is excellent. Well-written, vividly-imagined and certainly a fantasy novel that will stand the test of time. As people still pick up Magician or The Princess Bride and marvel at the story, in twenty years time people will do the same about The Name of the Wind. Before picking up this book, I was indifferent about the waiting time until The Wise Man's Fear - now, I join the queue of people waiting with feverish anticipation. The sequel can't come soon enough.


  1. Completely agree, looking forward to it. 2011 looks like being a good year for releases...

  2. I am sure this is one of the books i picked up and then read the blurb and thought it sounded so awful i put down again

  3. wonderful write up! I'm afraid my review was more along the lines of "best book evar!", and full of fangirlish slavering.

    I just have such a weakness for protagonists like Kvothe - talented, obnoxious, shy around the ladies, not above lying, but occasionally guilt ridden. Bast as well, I couldn't get enough of. Kvothe is the kind of person I want to stalk from afar, to see what he does next.

  4. Yeah, this is about the size of it for me too. I thoroughly enjoyed it even with the flaws.

    I hear tell the second is better too. I can imagine Rothfuss had a chance to fiddle with things in lieu of the various complaints about smaller aspects of his first book.

  5. Interesting review. I normally agree with you but I have to take issue here. I really hated everything about this novel, particularly the prose. I found it overblown and clumsy, as shown by the example you gave. It seemed amateurish and more akin to fan fiction than polished writing.
    The piece you quote 'her voice was like a portrait of her soul' is almost like a parody it's so bad. If it was a pair of curtains it would be the sort with frills, a bow, a big pattern, with a lacy border. Rothfuss is full of stuff like that. Gaudy writing, I'd say.

  6. I've been meaning to read this, wondering if I should push it up in my TBR pile. Based on this review, I think I'll leave it where it is for now.

  7. Great review Amanda! You know that I adored this book, but I agree with your point about its flaws. And your point about the prose too, I thought it was gorgeous.

    I can't wait for the second book to be out :D

  8. I also really enjoyed this book - and it had the same slowing-impact. I never wanted the book to end, and the story stayed with me long after I'd finished it.

    The second book is longer (800+ pages, I believe), so I'm hoping Rothfuss has addressed some of the constructive criticism that's emerged in the wake of book one.

  9. Nice to hear what you thought of it, and I agree that it does have some minor issues. Saying it is totally perfect would just be a lie. Although in my opinion, this is a hundred times better than the Trudi Canavan, Black Magician books. I read the first one of those and struggled to finish it. It was well written, but I felt it was just so boring and tedious. There was nothing amazing or bright, or wonderful, or exhilerating, or scary, it was very very pedestrian. The Name of the Wind though, it shone, in places.

    But as I said somewhere else, it's his first book. Now imagine we're living in 2030. Imagine how much better he will have become. I'm going to love the books he will be writing then, but I'm also going to enjoy the journey and everything in between. Really looking forward to The Wise Man's fear next year. It's one of my top 3 reads for the year.

  10. I had the same problems you had with the book, although in the end my conclusion wasn't as favorable as yours. Still, I'll be reading the next one.

  11. For me, I thought that it was a testament to the readability of the book that I definitely enjoyed it, while thinking Kvothe was something of a dick. Not desperate for the follow up at all, but at the same time I will pick it up sometime and will no doubt find it as effortless as the first to read.

  12. I absolutely loved this book from beginning to end and I too relished every syllable of Rothfuss' purple prose. One of the things that everyone seems to forget about Kvothe though, is that he's a child during the bulk of this book, he's a man narrating the story of his childhood so the combination of arrogance and naiveté he displays makes perfect sense. My guess is he will grow up a lot in the subsequent books.

    I interviewed Rothfuss a while ago and he's a top, top man:

  13. loved this book and can't wait for No.2. Liked your review - also checked out your Abercrombie reviews - have all three of these but not got round to reading them yet. Can't make my mind up yet.