23 June 2012

Why you should read "The Name of the Wind"

You should definitely read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I am starting that way because now I’m going to tell you that I really didn’t like this book at first and almost gave up without reading it several times before I got completely caught up in it. These reasons are almost completely superficial and quite terrible and embarrassing reasons to not want to read a book. I’m only telling you about them so that you know to ignore these things.
This cover is way better than the
one on my library's copy.
  1. Several people have recommended this book to me over the past two years, but because none of the recommendations came with a summary or a description, I wasn’t enthused. (I’m going to provide a summary for you, so you won’t have this excuse.) 
  2. It’s never on the shelves at the library, and rarely does my interest last long enough to wait for a reservation to be returned. (This is totally dumb. If a book is always out, it’s probably popular for a reason. Go buy it now or put a reservation on it.) 
  3. When the librarian retrieved it from the Hold cart, I almost told her “Oh, never mind, never mind. I don’t want it anymore.” It’s a beast at about three inches thick, 662 pages, and some kind of weird, dark leaf-painting cover with a monster face. (Totally superficial, but don’t be turned off by the size or the cover.) 
  4. The description on the flap is in the first person. “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.” I wasn’t sure if I was up to a book that size in the first person. (Rothfuss does first person well. He is completely in Kvothe’s head.) 
  5. Kvothe starts out as a depressed epic hero hiding in some backwater village in disguise as a quiet-and-brooding innkeeper. He is depressed, and he is depressing. He’s depressing and unlikeable and I just couldn’t figure out why I should care about him. (This is the only semi-valid complaint. He does become interesting and morphs into a very compelling character I found myself caring about, even if I did think he was a bit arrogant. He's just so believable.) 
So ignore all those things and power through. Moving on from the completely superficial complaints, here is an overview of what I’d tell a friend when recommending s/he read this book…

The Main Character:

Kvothe has Issues with a capital I. He’s some kind of magical prodigy, and he’s got all these crazy titles from various adventures he’s had. “Kvothe the Bloodless” is the only one that’s explained in this book, but I’m guessing from “Kvothe the Kingkiller” that there’s gonna be some good old-fashioned regicide in a later book.

Kvothe is a driven youth with surprising boldness and a surprisingly lack of skill at wooing an independent-minded lady who steps in and out of his life. He is determined to unravel the mystery behind the tragedy that befell his parents and his troupe. He is a skilled musician. He somehow gathers some loyal friends and some enemies. I definitely went from being annoyed by Depressed Kvothe in the first eight chapters, to totally loving Child Kvothe, rooting for Orphan Kvothe, and cheering for and groaning at University Kvothe — he’s a fascinating and haunted character who I sometimes want to smack upside the head and sometimes want to hug, even though I suspect he wouldn’t welcome the presumption.

The Intro:

We meet Kvothe in his late twenties: all his adventures are over, and he’s moping about this backwater village pretending to be an innkeeper when some giant black spider-shaped demons appear nearby. He just goes and takes care of it like it ain’t no thang. Oh and FYI, giant black spider demons are not normal.

A wandering storyteller appears (called Chronicler) and he figures out that the red-headed innkeeper is the famous Kvothe and wants to collect his story. Kvothe is eventually persuaded to tell his story, and by this time it’s pretty apparent that he’s a dangerous, powerful man who clearly scares the crap out of everybody who knows who he is. So, you know, the most interesting type of character.

This part is all in third person.

Kvothe’s Story:

Chapter Eight is where the story gets interesting. The perspective switches to first person, and it’s surprisingly effective and not at all annoying. Rothfuss knows Kvothe.

Kvothe goes from his childhood with his mother and father as a member of an elite troupe of traveling performers, through a horrible tragedy that befell the band, through his experiences as a homeless orphan in one of the country’s large cities, and eventually through his first few years as a university student.

I can’t tell you more without creeping into the territory of spoilers, but this isn’t just epic high fantasy. I can’t put it better than author Tad Williams did in his review:
“THE NAME OF THE WIND has everything fantasy readers like, magic nd mysteries and ancient evil, but it’s also humorous and terrifying and completely believable. As with all the very best books in our field, it’s not the fantasy trappings (wonderful as they are) that make this novel so good, but what the author has to say about true, common things, about ambition and failure, art, love, and loss.”

The Ancient Evil:

This is the Chandrian. Everybody thinks they’re just a myth, and myths and stories are basically all we (and Kvothe) actually know about them in this book. They actually appear in one scene near the beginning, and they are scary as … well, let’s just say I can’t describe them without using very strong language. Their leader Lord Haliax currently numbers among the scariest villians in literature (in my opinion) and has his own tragic backstory that I expect will be expounded upon in later books. 

Pretty much all of the characters are well-developed. I can think of three female characters that are very strong and intriguing characters, besides the male characters. (And that's a major plus in my reckoning. I like to see both.)

So now you should all go out and buy this book or put a reservation on it at your local library. SERIOUSLY DO IT NOW. There's just so much I'm not even telling you right now about this book because I don't want to spoil anything.

Do you remember fantasy book reviewer Jamie Gibb's guest post Adding Culture To Your Fantasy World? If not, go back and check that out! Because Patrick Rothfuss will rock your socks with fantasy culture. He is my new writer crush. (Sorry, Neil Gaiman, I still love you too!)

Have I convinced you to read The Name of the Wind? Have you read it already?