So Many Books, So Little Time! Here’s the next installment in my, “Books Off the Shelf” series—a grouping of some short book reviews on books quite literally off my bookshelves—books I’ve read or listened to. I will attempt to give you an idea on some books you might enjoy or not enjoy quite as much without ruining it with too many spoilers.
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1)
by Patrick Rothfuss
Rating 9.5 out of 10
My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as "quothe." Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I've had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it's spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree.
"The Flame" is obvious if you've ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple of hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. I keep it short but it's unruly. When left to its own devices, it sticks up and makes me look as if I have been set afire.
"The Thunder" I attribute to a strong baritone and a great deal of stage training at an early age.
I've never thought of "The Broken Tree" as very significant. Although in retrospect, I suppose it could be considered at least partially prophetic.
My first mentor called me E'lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.
But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant "to know."
I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
So begins the tale of Kvothe—from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin. But The Name of the Wind is so much more—for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe's legend.
This book is AWESOME! If you haven’t read it, you need to get it now. Go order it and then come back.
Done? OK. Like I said, this book is awesome. Rothfuss’s ability to create believable, endearing characters that demand their presence be both seen and heard is breath taking. We first meet Kvothe as a man, younger than he seems, and living a mostly-unremarkable life in a third person telling. As the story unfolds, though, Kvothe offers us a striking tale of his life through a first person retelling.
As you can guess from Rothfuss’s own description above, Kvothe has lived an incredible life, doing more than most would consider possible in a lifetime, and all of this while still being a young man. We get to tag along through joy, discovery, heartbreak, near-starvation, and a detection of deep power.
One of the things that is so great about Rothfuss’s writing is that there is always more hinted at—more world, more secrets, more everything. It grants his writing an incredible depth. One can immerse here, live here. It is simply wonderful.
All that being said, I only gave THE NAME OF THE WIND a rating of 9.5 out of 10. The reasoning is probably a little unfair. Rothfuss has bitten off a massive story which he has promised to finish in three books. (Granted each book is a tome worthy of propping open doors, but still…) I am nervous that I won’t be satisfied with the story ending. I don’t want to be a naysayer. I have every confidence in Rothfuss’s ability; I am just nervous. As a small spoiler there is a part in the second book, A WISE MAN’S FEAR, that the narration skips to a broad, sweeping struck, and the reader is told that there is not time to tell of…(then he lists several story worthy parts of the adventure.) We are just dropped off months later with the barest of nods toward what happened in the between.
I know this seems nitpicky, and really it is my only complaint. But if the third book fails to give closure, THE NAME OF THE WIND won’t be as good.
All this to say, this is a fantastic book. Go get a copy. You need to read this.
And on a side note, I am just finishing reading Rothfuss’s The Slow Regard of Silent Things. It is a short break from the main story line allowing us to explore the life of a side character. I’ll do a Books Off the Shelf entry on it soon.
For now, go read THE NAME OF THE WIND.
And, as always, if you have suggestions of books to review, please let me know. If it is Science Fiction or especially Fantasy, there is a good chance it is on my shelf or should be.
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Ryan J. Doughan