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)