TL;DR: Prose so immersive you can feel the touch of a leaf, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is every bit as good as people say it is (mostly)
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Kvothe is a pub owner in a small town, which means he rarely has that much to do. And it’s beginning to wear on him. When a chronicler arrives and identifies him as a legend in the world, what follows is Kvothe’s story told in his own voice.
This book is one that is highly recommended for any fantasy reader and I see why. I loved the narrative because it felt like I was sitting by the fire and being told a story. Kvothe’s story is interesting, although there were points where I had to put the book down because the character wasn’t growing as much as I’d have liked. For these reasons and more, I give it 4 stars.
Kvothe is a legend in the world in which the book is set. He has several names, but you don’t know any of that when you first meet him. Instead, you find a bored pub owner who has a gleaming pub and very few customers.
When creatures attack the townspeople, his interest is piqued, but he is playing a role and he doesn’t out himself. Instead, he remains the simple innkeeper that he portrays, until one day, a Chronicler appears in the pub and Kvothe decides to tell his story.
What follows is an epic journey, from the time he is a young boy to his time in university. His main goal is to learn the spell of the name of the wind. Along the way, he makes friends and falls in love, but what separates him is his drive to be the best in all things.
Does he figure out how to name the wind? Does he survive the politics of university?
What I liked & liked less
The storytelling was beautifully done. Rothfuss’ prose is clear and simple, yet also immersive. You feel like the wind is ruffling your hair when you read it and while the story is long, the action keeps you moving through it.
I liked Kvothe’s character. He suffered and you see that impact on him. He is intelligent – almost too much – and tenacious. He also doesn’t let anyone see him struggle, something he’s learned from his earlier years.
However, there are moments when he continues to act the same way after multiple events where he should’ve learned it wasn’t working for him. He is impetuous and wants to take the shortcut to get to his goal and he almost always reaches it, but at a high cost. This was a moment when I wanted to throw the book at the wall. The author kept him the same for too long, in my opinion, and I wanted this intelligent character to show his intelligence and learn from his mistakes.
The world building is interesting, the set up of the university and the professors, plus the politics, kept it interesting. I also loved that there were things (music) that Kvothe loved above all else and you see just how much it affects him.
His friends at the university had depth and acted like any university student. They tried to help, but could only work with what they were able to, or rather, what Kvothe allowed them to help him with. His pride definitely was a big flaw for him.
Bast, his companion at the inn, was too much of a contrast for me. He cares too much for Kvothe and wrings his hands too much. And then you see what he’s made of and it’s such an extreme that it doesn’t feel as consistent as I’d like Bast to have been. I’d have loved to see his scary side a little bit more – let it peek out so that when he goes to defcon 1, we didn’t feel as if they are two different characters.
The love interest, Denna, is complicated and interesting. We never get a good sense for what has happened to make her the way she is or why she comes and goes as much as she does (except for the need for cold hard cash). In a way, she’s him, but without the university to make something of herself. She also is an unreliable narrator and I was shocked Kvothe didn’t catch on when the reader obviously could.
To Sum Up (Too Late!)
Overall, I liked this book. It was very long and we didn’t even get to the good parts yet, but we got a good sense for who Kvothe is and why he is the way he is. The politics made the university set up interesting, although I would’ve liked him to have it a little less easy than he does. The prose is beautiful and the story keeps you enthralled. For all that and more, I give it 4 stars.
About the Author
It all began when Pat Rothfuss was born to a marvelous set of parents. Throughout his formative years they encouraged him to do his best, gave him good advice, and were no doubt appropriately dismayed when he failed to live up to his full potential.
In high-school Pat was something of a class clown. His hobbies included reading a novel or two a day and giving relationship advice to all his friends despite the fact that he had never so much as kissed a girl. He also role-played and wrote terrible stories about elves. He was pretty much a geek.
Most of Pat’s adult life has been spent in the University Wisconsin Stevens Point. In 1991 he started college in order to pursue a career in chemical engineering, then he considered clinical psychology. In 1993 he quit pretending he knew what he wanted to do with his life, changed his major to “undecided,” and proceeded to study whatever amused him. He also began writing a book….
For the next seven years Pat studied anthropology, philosophy, eastern religions, history, alchemy, parapsychology, literature, and writing. He studied six different martial arts, practiced improv comedy, learned how to pick locks, and became a skilled lover of women. He also began writing a satirical advice column which he continues to this day: The College Survival Guide. Through all of this he continued to work on his novel.
In 2000 Pat went to grad school for English literature. Grad school sucked and Pat hated it. However, Pat learned that he loved to teach. He left in 2002 with his masters degree, shaking the dust from his feet and vowing never to return. During this period of time his novel was rejected by roughly every agent in the known universe.
Now Pat teaches half-time at his old school as an assistant-sub-lecturer. He is underpaid but generally left alone to do as he sees fit with his classes. He is advisor for the college feminists, the fencing club, and, oddly enough, a sorority. He still roll-plays occasionally, but now he does it in an extremely sophisticated, debonair way.
Through a series of lucky breaks, he has wound up with the best agent and editor imaginable, and the first book of his trilogy has been published under the title “The Name of the Wind.”
Though it has only been out since April 2007, it has already been sold in 26 foreign countries and won several awards.
Pat has been described as “a rough, earthy iconoclast with a pipeline to the divine in everyone’s subconscious.” But honestly, that person was pretty drunk at the time, so you might want to take it with a grain of salt.