The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) – Patrick Rothfuss
Penguin Books. Paperback, 662 Pages
Although Rothfuss’ “The Name of the Wind” (2007) was published nearly 10 years ago, it’s taken me 9 of those years to hear about this work. Luckily, that leaves me with some catching up to do because this inaugural fantasy novel is both dynamic and aware of its place within the genre. If you’re a seasoned fantasy reader, this sometimes makes for predictable complications, but the pace is kept up so cunningly and the protagonist’s obstacles so numerous and intricately detailed, that this is easily forgiven.
And when I say self-aware, a chapter near the end of the epilogue provides the author’s own questions about this choice. Here, two characters bicker about the best way to tell the story — to leave out the dark parts and focus on heroics, or to embrace the protagonist/narrator even with his demons (cough…cough…spoilers?).
Here we come to compliments on craft. “The Name of the Wind” sometimes feels like it has a million moving parts, but this brings about a strikingly clear fantasy world with pieces both familiar and new. Each cog fits together so well, I’m astounded by the mind that would have crafted so many pieces to tick along with such unison. Patrick Rothfuss certainly deserves a place among the great fantasy writers of our times.
For me personally, “The Name of the Wind” also provided some interesting ways to weave fables and religion into a story. Some chapters were cutaways to explain the world’s popular religious holidays or legends, or a story a troubadour might sing. Although this habit could sometimes feel tedious (just get back to the story!), it was also illuminating and cast a light on the behaviors and superstitions all characters displayed in the text. I would analyze that aspect further as a lesson to my own writing.
In the same breath, my least favorite aspect of character handling was the love interest. Denna certainly lacks some depth. I won’t call her a manic pixie dream girl. However, I have grown tired in the trend of modern fiction to have the love interest be a flighty, quick-tongued, but otherwise baseless person whose most defined characteristic is her inability to be pinned down. Frankly, it’s boring. And further, it’s unsympathetic. Yes, it would be duller to have a love interest easily won without difficult, but when I’m asking “what the heck does he see in her?”…that isn’t a good sign.
But when all is said and done, and the whole of the characters weighed against themselves, and the story brought to its last page (not an ending, by the way. There are sequels)… it was a phenomenal read, and the fastest I’ve read 600+ pages in awhile. Would recommend, and I look forward to reading volume two.