The Name of the Wind: a review

by Patrick Rothfuss

Opening: “It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.”

It’s so hard to stop with that line, because the whole prologue is gorgeous and lush and caught me immediately into the story without time to take a breath.

I feel sort of silly reviewing this book at all, and yet I hadn’t even heard of it except very vaguely until the second book came out recently (which leads me to wonder where I was was in 2007). There might conceivably be others like me out there, and believe me, this is a book you shouldn’t miss.

Personally, I felt a bit suspicious. I knew it was popular, and I take everything popular with heaping tablespoonfuls of salt. I knew it was more on the epic side of fantasy, which is a side that can so easily tip over into ridiculousness (“which are like swords, but awesomer“).

And then I started reading and I didn’t stop until I realized that if we were going to eat I absolutely had to put the book down and start dinner. Which I did, complaining bitterly.

Part of the appeal is that I love college stories. Not boarding school stories, with a few exceptions. College stories. Gaudy Night, Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, Caroline Stevermer’s Magics series. And this part of the story, at any rate, is most definitely a college story. Kvothe could quite easily become a sort of stock character–the outsider who comes in and bests everyone–but the truth is that I didn’t even notice he fit that mold until just now.

The earlier parts of the book reminded me of something else entirely–Cart and Cwidder by Diana Wynne Jones. The traveling musicians, the tragedy of the story, even something about the way young Kvothe and Moril think seemed akin. I don’t mean this in a negative way at all–it was a lovely echo, though the two stories diverged pretty quickly.

I did feel that the swoop of the story kept me from connecting with a lot of the characters. Kvothe himself I cared a lot about, and Bast, but the characters in the past all seemed a little far removed. Denna also seemed a tad problematic to me–I accepted her as the Love Interest, but never quite felt like she was a real person in her own right. Maybe in the next book?

Despite those minor problems, this was a book I found unexpectedly refreshing. It’s nice to find something that actually works on this grand scale and yet feels fresh and new rather than derivative. (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is another example, in my opinion.) And I love setting that feel real and alive in their own right, which both Tarbean and the University did.

Book source: public library
Book information: DAW Books, 2007; adult (I think a mature teen would also be fine with this one)

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