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Review: The Name of The Wind

By / August 25, 2012 / no comments

In a way The Name of the Wind is about Merlin before he entered a legend at the side of King Arthur; or of Dumbledore before he became a hero in his own right. We are introduced to Kvothe in a suitably mysterious and suspense building framing narrative. Kvothe is now working as an innkeeper at the edge of nowhere, having grown tired of adventures and fame and general puissance, or perhaps because of some tragedy that sapped of him his will and or his power and or his patience. We don’t know, he is after all a mysterious wizard.

Throughout the introduction his accomplishments are hinted and we come to learn that the humble innkeeper was once known as the Bloodless, the Kingkiller and the Broken Tree and it is a fairly effective way to create anticipation for his life story. His quaint isolation is upset when a scholar, known as the Chronicler, tracks him down and, with the help of Kvothe’s assistant Bast, convinces him to share the story of his life.

We follow Kvothe’s magical career from its humble beginnings as a pupil of the arcanist (magical scientist) Abenthy who travels with Kvothe’s troupe for a while, through his time as an orphan on the streets of Tarbean and all the way to the gates of the University where, by a combination of brilliance, boldness and guile he gains acceptance. On many occasions during this time Rothfuss skates dangerously close to casting Kvothe as an uber-competent prodigy for whom all things come easily. Fortunately this is avoided by the author’s tendency to continually trip up his characters. Rothfuss also does a fantastic job of grounding the conflicts in something analogous to what a modern university student would go through, admittedly with a somewhat greater chance of dying in a magical fire or being lashed in a public square. The combination of these two things along with Rothfuss’s smooth, confident prose and ready wit makes The Name of the Wind into an extraordinary vehicle for escapism. It is easy and satisfying to allow yourself to slip into Kvothe’s shoes; to excel and flounder alongside him, to share with him music and wine, friends and romance.

Rothfuss has also created a surprisingly deep bench with the novel’s supporting cast. Besides the witty, entertaining backdrop provided by his friends Willem and Simon there’s also Devi the young and deceptively dangerous loanshark; Auri, a young, fairly crazy, but sweet woman who lives in the university’s abandoned catacombs; Elodin, the quite possibly sane Master of Naming who’s ready to show Kvothe how intelligence should operate in the real world and a very clever subversion of the classic mentor trope.

The universe Rothfuss has made is interesting but sparsely populated in terms of legends and peoples; we know that a world exists by implication but nothing else. We learn some creation and founding myths, but little else. This is only acceptable because it drives a major subplot; Kvothe’s investigation of the Chandrian, a group of demons with a deadly preoccupation with secrecy.

The Name of the Wind is an entertaining bildungsroman, but it’s also the first book in a planned trilogy. Inescapably the entire novel is given over to setting up Kvothe’s adventures to come. It’s a wonderful introduction, but one which, despite its length, will leave you slightly unsatisfied. On finishing the novel you will have found yourself committed to the series; just letting it drop will not be a viable option.

 

“Be sure to also check out the sequel The Wise Man’s Fear. This review was written by anonymous fantasy reviewer for www.bestfantasybooks.com

About the author

Ben

Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!

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