The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chroncile #1), by Patrick Rothfuss

Title: The Name of the Wind
Series – Kingkiller Chronicle
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: DAW Books
Release Date: 3/27/2007
Pages: 622The Name of the Wind

If there is one thing that can possibly sum up the magnitude of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind in one sentence it is this: its popularity allowed his second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man’s Fear, to become one of the few fantasy novels to hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller’s list.

The Name of the Wind tells a story within a story (a la The Arabian Nights). A bartender, “Kote,” is suddenly visited by a man he never thought he’d see again, a man who knows him by his true identity of Kvothe, a name that happens to be legendary and has spawned many a tale with equal amount of truth and myth. This man, a scribe of great importance, sets out to write Kvothe’s story, to separate the myth from fact. Kote grants him this. From the woodland setting where the boy Kvothe travels with his parents and their traveling troupe of performers, to living homeless as a beggar in the slums of a gigantic metropolis, to an academic setting similar to Hogwarts in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, the reader watches as an innocent yet confident boy grows and learns how to transcend that confidence from mere curiosity to a passionate seeking of knowledge. A web of stories unfold in this novel, but there is one particular event that sets in motion a certain path that Kvothe must follow to the end, no matter where it takes him and, most importantly, no matter what it may possibly take from him. In his journey Kvothe dances with joy, love, sorrow, and despair, and only Rothfuss could tell this story in the manner it needs to be told. I am in awe of this man’s storytelling ability. And, as a fellow writer of epic fantasy, I am beyond excited to see what else he has to show us.

The writing is at times lighthearted, at times as hard as stone, but always crafted with precise meaning. There is often talk in the literary world that a writer must make use of every word; every syllable, even. If that is indeed true, Rothfuss certainly makes a wonderful example. Even when going off the path it still remains relevant to the story. Epic fantasy, full of dull reading and unnecessary fluff, is given much-needed innovation in a genre growing in popularity once again.

If there is one fault to the story – and really, I wouldn’t even call it a fault – it is that Kvothe is such a perfect character. Firstly, since he is the one telling the story we know that he survives everything that happens to him up until this point. Secondly, he is so talented at everything he does. He quickly picks up anything he needs to learn. He’s even good with the ladies despite what Rothfuss may want you to think. Despite this “perfect-ness,” it doesn’t detract too much from the story. He is still a flawed character in the sense that he has many troubles. And it doesn’t matter that he’s so talented; some things are more difficult to get out of than others.

The ending leaves an abundance of questions to be answered, and if the reader doesn’t find themselves on the edge of their seat that can only mean they’re not sitting at all; rather, they’re standing and waiting with great impatience. I have not yet read The Wise Man’s Fear, but from what I’ve read it is supposedly better than its predecessor. I can’t possible fathom how, given how much I’ve enjoyed The Name of the Wind, but that only has me sweating with even more anticipation than I already had.

(The second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, was released in 2011 and the final installment of the trilogy, The Doors of Stone, is in the process of being written. You can find out more at Patrick Rothfuss’s website: http://www.patrickrothfuss.com/content/index.asp)

4.5/5 stars

Share

Wool, by Hugh Howey

In his debut novel (originally self-published in individual novellas on Amazon.com), Hugh Howey’s dystopian science fiction novel Wool is a wonderful idea that unfortunately is never fully utilized. In Wool, an underground silo is home to a large number of people hundreds of years following a mysterious end to civilization as we know it today. The ultimate punishment is referred to by the residents as a “cleaning,” in which the criminal is forced into the outside world where they furiously scramble to clean the tower sensors before the contaminated air eats through their bio-suits and flesh. It is a simple and straightforward process, but Holston and Juliette—sheriff of the upper level and worker at Mechanical Level respectively—both stumble upon secrets that force them to reconsider everything they’ve been raised to believe, including the origin of the silo itself and how underground life began; or perhaps most importantly, why.

The writing is mostly average, the plot painfully predictable, and the scenes that are supposed to cause sorrow and sympathy are played out in a way that is too hackneyed for the reader to truly care. There are flashes of briliance with the prose and plot development, but it is nearly ruined by how predictable it is, not to mention that Howey rarely seems to want to let his readers think for themselves. Another problem with the story is how unbelievable some of the events that take place are. For example [minor spoiler]: a character breaks his arm but is still somehow able to aim a rifle at an upward angle on a staircase, shooting two people without missing once despite those people being on higher levels than him. The obvious pain in his arm—where shrapnel from a bomb is also embedded within his flesh and bone—doesn’t affect his ability whatsoever. Add this to the fact that this person had maybe five, ten minutes of training with a firearm beforehand, otherwise having never even seen a firearm. Unrealistic happenings like this are the biggest eyesore of the novel’s readability.

However, what saves Howey is the characterization and dialogue, for those two areas are clearly his greatest strengths, even if a handful of the minor characters often come off as recycled versions of more important characters. Despite this strength in characterization and dialogue I still didn’t care enough about the story to read the sequel. An idea that could have been great, an instant classic even, stalled because the writing left too much on the table.

Share