The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Here’s a story with grand potential if you’re a patient lover of fantasy. The Name of the Wind is the first installment of the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss and sets the stage for what could become an epic trilogy. If I sound a little non-committal then follow me so you get the gist.
Rothfuss is an excellent descriptive writer and his focus on building this story and series around his central character is the engine driving the story. Kvothe, his main character, is a very complex whole made of many interesting and painful layers. You’ll be captivated by his resiliency as a youth through the many challenges and tragedies. Kvothe’s strengths and incredible fortitude demonstrated in the early years are a significant contrast to the man he’s become while recounting his life-story to the Chronicler.
Kvothe, the boy, had a genuine curiosity about the world around him and a sharp mind to absorb whatever knowledge he could feed it. A son of troupers, the talented future hero was destined to travel the world’s roads a gifted entertainer but along the way he would find divergent paths.
First he encounters Abernathy, his first teacher who began to unlock the vast potential in Kvothe’s mind and planted the seed that would eventually lead Kvothe to the Arcanum University many years later. Second, Kvothe tragically encounters the evil and mythical Chandrian moments after they slaughter his family and troupe.
Now, filled with mind numbing grief, Kvothe sets out on a completely different path. From total physical and mental isolation, Kvothe emerges from the forest to become a street urchin and beggar who learns that adaptation is key to survival. Finally driven by dreams of the University and his need to understand his nemesis, the Chandrian, Kvothe discovers that his challenges have only begun at the Arcanum.
While many of the more negative reviews take exception with this nearly flawless youth who seems to meet every challenge no matter the overwhelming odds, seeing some of the subtle and obvious defects in his later life sparked my interest. How did he fall so far and what could possibly break such a powerful man?
Like his main character, the plot is also many layered. You’ll follow the life of the young Kvothe as told to the Chronicler over one day. The interludes between tales give you that peek into the highs and lows of a feared and revered hero and villain who finally became a broken man in hiding. There are multiple seeds planted to give the reader a glimpse of the great light and the great darkness within him but the questions mount, particularly how and why to each of these aspects of Kvothe.
You won’t get all of the answers in this novel, in fact you’ll finish with far more questions than you might expect. If you’re looking for a stand-alone fantasy novel to pass the time then you’ll want to pass on this one. But if you’re a patient reader and are willing to see this through the entire series then don’t hesitate. The groundwork Rothfuss lays is designed to give you enough understanding of the larger picture while enticing you with questions in order to pull you into the next book for some of the answers.
I will definitely read his next novel and I have high hopes for the entire series as it seems to have incredible potential based on this first part. On its own I would give this book four of five stars with the caveat that it would be best to gauge the series as a whole based on how this one was written. If subsequent stories follow the foundation in the Name of the Wind, it could well be an important part to a five-star series.