I’d been meaning to read this book for a while. Friend and then-coworker, who is also named Patrick but is not the author of this book, recommended it to me back in 2012. In April 2016 I bought the damn book when the price dropped for the Kindle copy. In November, I finally got around to reading it and finished it in about two weeks staying up too late most nights. It was a journey, but now that I’ve read the book I can say that Patrick Not-Rothfuss was correct: it is a good book for me.
Set in a fantasy world, The Name of the Wind likes to keep its readers guessing as to what toys happen to be at this playground. There’s magic and lore, but there’s also a lot of civilization à la medieval Europe. Paragraphs about medicine, math, and chemistry are just as commonplace as something we’d describe as magical. There’s discussions about the existence or non-existence of rare, mythical creatures or hoaxes.
At its heart, the book is the coming of age for a special young man in Rothfuss’ new fantasy universe. His hero’s work is ahead of him, and he discovers his own world at the same time as the reader, albeit with a head start. Not so different from the young Paul in Dune. We learn about sympathy, Naming, and artificing right along with Kvothe, but can assume from the early pages that he can do all the things a level 1 hero can do here on earth and he’s smarter than the average bear from being raised well by an intrepid troupe of entertainers.
Framed around Kvothe’s young life is an older Kvothe, renowned for his feats and adventures, spinning the tale. That’s how I know there’s better stuff ahead – he told me himself. About the only thing I don’t like about the book is how this frame sets the book as one of a series so early on. It concludes with dialogue that’s nearly a sales pitch for future books. Blegh — it left a bad taste in my mouth.
The story of young Kvothe is enjoyable. But the storytelling is pieced together masterfully. It’s Rothfuss skill that will compel me to the sequels more than the stories yet to be told.
Some “rules” about Rothfuss’ writing that particularly grabbed me:
- Associate places and the people in them. It flushes out both the secondary characters and the settings.
- Hide foreshadowing within description. Kvothe’s summer before living in Tarbean seemed odd for a while, but it more than made up for itself in later scenes. (No spoilers.)
- Create allies and enemies on a spectrum. Not all the good guys are heros. Not every rival is a “big bad” or a peon, more likely somewhere in between.
He stages his scenes efficiently, and there always seems to be a purpose from it. If not immediately, then later. That’s the feeling I’m always hoping to give my own creative endeavors. If one could run a D&D campaign the way this book reads, you’d be one hell of a DM indeed.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, part of my 2016 Reading