on 29 March 2010
This book really surprised me. Entirely gripping, well written and original. Mixes the world of fairy tales with modern day fantasy. It's a love story, a coming of age tale, and an epic novel. The end leaves the reader with many questions left unanswered, and that in part is the power of this book. As you read, you are always seeking to know more, to understand who Kvote is and how he has come to be in the role of simple pub landlord. Everytime you get more information, further questions arise as the author skillfully teases and pulls the reader along a rollercoaster of a journey.
Looking back at the book, there actually weren't any adventures I'd describe as epic (they are surely to come in the sequels), yet it felt as though they were epic. This is becuase the author doesn't overplay his hand - scenes that some authors might rush through as they are too ordinary for a fantasy novel, Patrick Rothus takes much more seriously, giving the scenes realism. Simple street fights feel real and significant; there are painful realities of not having money or food and living on the street. Everything feels real and important, and the book is that much more readable and believable for it.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. The only downside is that once you've read it, you'll want to read the sequel which is not due out for at least another year.
on 29 July 2010
My preferred light reading is hard Science Fiction, but I do occasionally look at fantasy literature.
However, the moment I see the words "Book One of the Random Whatever saga" I put the book straight back on the shelf. Far too many would-be Tolkiens stretch a run-of-the mill story to two thousand pages and more.
I made an exception for George RR Martin (!) and Joe Abercrombie because they are mould breakers within the genre.
I put "The Name of the Wind" down as I finished reading, and I was thinking, 'that is the best, original fantasy novel I've read since...well what?'
So maybe it's the best ever.
There is a consistent and mystically coherent mythology, and it is not cobbled together from LOTR and D&D. It's a post golden-age story, but the first person POV means that history and mythology are as confused for Kothe as they are for anyone in the real world. There are no deus ex machina characters, and while the main character is an exceptionally gifted boy/man, he has no superpowers to get him out of trouble reliably.
He is as imperfect as the rest of us.
I shall be reading the rest as soon as they are available.
I love this book.
on 29 June 2010
Every now and then I hear on the grapevine about a new superstar of fantasy. Someone the critics rave about and say they are the next Tolkien, the next Gemmell, the next George RR Martin. This instantly makes me nervous. So I stayed away for while. I should not have waited. In my opinion, the hype is true and he is going to be a giant of the genre.
This is his first book and I am not going to say it is perfect in every single way, because that would be untrue. But it is one hell of a damn good debut and is miles better than some who have been at it a lot longer. Over the years Rothfuss will grow and improve, and as a relatively young man in his mid 30s, I hope he has many decades of writing ahead of him. By the time he is George RR Martin's age, I expect him to have produced some of the most unforgettable fantasy books seen in the last 30 years.
As it stands, The Name of the Wind is one of the most memorable fantasy books I've read in several years. There are some rough edges and it took me a little while to get into the story as it was slow at first. Also, at first glance it bears all the familiar hallmarks of a fantasy story that would normally send me running for the hills as if pursued by an angry mob. The book chronicles part of the life of the main character, Kvothe, and it focuses on his early and teenage years as a young boy growing into a man and going out to challenge the world. Without spoiling it the main character has suffered a tragedy and seeks to better understand who or what was responsible and why it happened.
In Rothfuss' novel, which is told in first person by an adult Kvothe to a scribe known as the Chronicler, I see glimpses of an epic story and epic character. Kvothe comes from humble beginnings and even by the end of the first book he is not a master wizard, warrior, or a great leader of men inspiring people to greatness. But, you get the impression that one day he will be one or all of these things. There are also no familiar archetypes in this book, no labels for people such as warrior or wizard, everything is fresh and there are only people just going about their lives. I get the impression that the older Kvothe is a true Renaissance man, someone who has delved into many areas, learned many secrets and has become a master of many arts, both scientific and magical. His name is known throughout the many lands that are hinted at, but we don't really know too much about what his reputation is or what he achieved. Which makes sense, as the bulk of the story in the first book retells events in his life as a young boy, and as such he hasn't saved nations from a demon plague or killed conquering armies with a quiver of his eyebrow.
As a boy Kvothe is talented, not just a good musician and storyteller, which he learned from his parents who are performing artists, but by today's standards he would be called a prodigy or gifted. His parents recognise his thirst for knowledge and growing intellect and try their best to meet his expectations, whilst also keeping him firmly grounded. Without giving away too many spoilers, the story moves to a very harsh period in Kvothe's life where he is living rough in the city of Tarbean. One of Rothfuss' talents is his ability to create characters that are unique and interesting, but he also has the knack of describing the situations so vividly, and also without heavy detail or florid prose, that you really care about his characters. You can almost feel the cold pavement under Kvothe's bare feet and we see the darker side of a city, the street urchins and poverty, small crimes and small minds just trying to exist. These aren't tiny events that will eventually create an avalanche that changes the course of a nation, it's just daily life in a thronging city. Rothfuss doesn't shy away from difficult situations and Kvothe doesn't always come away without a scratch or emerge the victor, because after all he's just a boy.
Later in the story Kvothe manages to enrol at the university and he finally starts to come back to life after being on the streets. His vast intellect is challenged, he delves into new mysteries and Sympathy, a unique system of magic that has some very scientific principles underlying it. Now at this point it might sound too much like a certain boy wizard's story, but again rest assured this is not the case. There is not one `big bad' for Kvothe to vanquish each year at the university, but his constants are abject poverty, difficult relationships with friends, and his attempt to find out who is responsible for the most tragic event in his life.
Rothfuss tightly focuses his world building on wherever Kvothe is at that time, but we do occasionally hear news from other places and some secondary characters are from abroad. So there is a trickle effect that fills in some gaps and we get small tastes of other cultures and countries. However, this is not a sprawling fantasy quest story about a band of plucky heroes. It is both a local story about a boy who will become a legend, and also a much bigger story. Perhaps it is also there so that we will be able to better understand why he made certain choices later in life. I also get the impression that in the present, when Kvothe is grown up, the world is in a bit of a mess and there are hints that somehow he is responsible, perhaps indirectly. We just don't know at this point and I won't speculate any further as there is a lot more meat in the book, so I won't spoil it.
The book is a hefty tome, but to be honest when I got to the end I wanted more. His style is not overly descriptive, it's almost straight forward but not nearly so blunt and gritty as say Gemmell or Abercrombie. I was captivated by Rothfuss' writing, his imagination and how he adds in small details, and creates myths, folk songs and nursery rhymes that make his world feel realistic and not just slapped together so he can press on with the adventure. It gives me the impression that a lot of care has been taken to help the reader fully immerse themselves and I was drawn into the story. Despite the length of the book I read it pretty quickly as I was keen to know what happened next. But now that I've finished it, I want to go back and read it again because I'm sure there are clues and hints at the bigger picture I missed the first time.
on 10 April 2012
Reading the first page of this absolutely stunning novel by Patrick Rothfuss suggests we're in for a book of subdued beginnings. With the silence of the Waystone Inn and it's three parts we're treated to some of the most honed and perfected writing ever seen in the English language (Do I hear gasps?). It doesn't really matter what you think of the rest of this book, the passage which we see at the start of the novel, and return to time and time again, is writing at it's simplest and most lyrical. It's not until the end of that first page that we get the sense that maybe the silence we're reading about isn't as subdued as might be first thought. Instead, that silence continually comes back to haunt the reader like a brick in the face, or a bang in the night.
Rothfuss is a master of lyrical writing. His prose is deft and skilful, leaving the reader hanging on every word. For a story about a story, perhaps the most accomplished part of the writing in this book is that we don't actually hang on every word of Patrick Rothfuss. We hang on every word of Kvothe. The flame haired narrator. With each interlude in Kvothe's tale we are reminded of the fact that Kvothe does not actually exist. We are reading a book. This is testament to Rothfuss' ability to truly pull us into the tale that his character is telling.
That is not to say that the interludes are any less gripping. On the contrary, Rothfuss tends to unleash his true skills during these brief sections, creating characters we care about easily as much as those in Kvothe's tale in much less time than Kvothe has to create a dramatic story.
Rothfuss teases us with background information in each interlude, suggesting both a bigger tale yet to come in Kvothe's life, and slowly filling in pieces of the past before Kvothe has the chance to speculate any further.
The unreliable narrator is one of the most useful techniques in a writer's arsenal. Doing it poorly is easy. Doing it this well is masterful.
For anyone who hasn't read this novel yet, or who has started and not stayed with it - do yourselves the biggest favour you can all year, and read it now. Fantasy fans have been starved of fresh, literary gems in the genre.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
And the rest is silence...
on 9 July 2014
I have been a bit turned off starting a new fantasy series for a while, I was beginning to feel they were all a bit 'samey' and predictable. Coupled with this book being quite a hefty size (thanks to the kindle at least I didn't have to carry it around for the last week!), it's always a concern that the length is due to lack of editing rather than depth of story!
I am delighted (and relieved) to report that this is not at all the case with The Name of the Wind. I was barely able to put it down from beginning to end, and it didn't feel too long in the slightest. And this is only really the introduction to a story that will unfold further down the trilogy! To people able to write a 900 page introduction to a story which is compelling and exciting is really very impressive.
The storyline and characterisations are original (within the realm of the fantasy genre of course), and I especially appreciated the intricate world-building. Magic systems are not overly showy and all-powerful, and very precisely explained. The plot is clever and twisty, the characters, especially Kvothe, feel like they are developing gradually and, importantly, are all humanly flawed. There is nothing more annoying than a perfect hero! Being able to contrast current and past versions of Kvothe definitely whets the appetite for finding out what happened in between...
Highly recommended so far, here's hoping the series can maintain the high level set by its opening book.
First things first: `Name of the Wind' is a big book, both physically and figuratively. Even in large paperback it's 650+ pages of small-font writing. Whether this whets your appetite or puts you off is a matter of personal preference, but the main thing is; is the story's epic size justified? For the most of it, yes.
It follows the story of Kvothe, but not in a typical way. We meet him as a rather unassuming innkeeper, but when he's hunted down by a Chronicler, we find that there's more to this young man than meets the eye.
But almost no action takes place in the present time. Rather, Kvothe retells his back story from there, in an auto-biographical fashion, even going so far as to switch into first-person narrative. It's an interesting style, which gives the extra edge of making you wonder how this great prodigy came to be such a lowly innkeeper.
Rothfuss has a distinct voice, one which will appeal to fans of Robin Hobb and George R.R. Martin. However, one thing that Rothfuss is particularly adept at is avoiding clichés. It's high fantasy, sure, and there is magic, but it's presented in such a grounded fashion, working as a pseudo-reality, that would make even the most high-brow of literary fiction look airy-fairy. You won't find any dues ex machinas or rich lost relatives coming to the rescue here; Kvothe really has grind his life out, for every penny, and you really empahise with him, hoping always for something good to come his way.
Trouble is, Rothfuss does take this anti-cliché thing a bit far. Such is his often prudish avoidance of clichés that very few typical storytelling devices come into play. Can't we have at least one sword/magic fight? Or a dramatic climax? Or a moment when all seems lost to our hero? No. Kvothe exists in a constant lull, neither on a high nor low. Indeed, his character barely seems to change. It really does read like a biography. The story doesn't even finish properly, with next to no story strands tied up (there will, be sequels, mind, though it would be nice to have some sort of closure here). In fact, considering it's size, very little actually happens in this book in terms of plot and incident. Worse, if you read the blurb on the back cover, you'd assume what's written there is what happens. But no. Only two of the listed achievements actually occur in this book. This, I found, was extremely frustrating; almost a form of cheating; it's bare-faced lying. This alone is enough to knock a star off the final mark.
And yet, despite this, `Name of the Wind' works. Why? Because it's real. We recognise Kvothe as ourselves, because whilst he is enormously talented and charismatic, nothing ever comes easily to him; he fights tooth-and-nail for everything, and by the end of it, despite the fact the story has progressed very little, Kvothe will be a character that stays with you long after you reach the back cover. So yes, I recommend this book highly; just keep an open mind, don't expect your typical fantasy novel and you'll be enthralled, and left hungry for the next instalment.
on 28 December 2009
I bought this book on the spur of the moment - mostly drawn to it by it's fantastic cover!? I'm not a huge reader of fantasy books in general but this book may have converted me!
After the first few pages I was completely engrossed...the characters are engaging and the book is extremely well written. Kvothe's story held me captivated until the very last page and I can honestly say that I didn't want the book to end!
If you're sitting there thinking "should I or shouldn't I?" then don't waste anymore time...just buy it! If you're disappointed I'd be truly amazed!
I'm just about to pre-order the sequel...which can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned!
on 22 June 2012
WOW!!! WHAT A STORY!!!
This is in no way a typical fantasy novel it combines a historical element with the atmosphere of gritty Ankh-Morpork.
Magic is at the heart and dripps off every page of this wonderful opening start to which I know will truly be an utterly gripping epic.
It is without exaggeration a fantastic page-turner not simply for Patrick's fascinating centre character & plot his rivitingly spellbinding storytelling has you glued, unable to tear yourself away.
Its not often you truly care about a character & not since CJ Sansom created Shardlake have I read anything up to that exacting standard but Patrick not only hits the mark but in my view excels Sansom with this stunningly written & utterly gripping epic.
If you appreciate a high standard of plot, characters & storytelling from your literature than this is for you!
This is a Tolkien-esq / JK Rowling-esq Blockbuster without any shadow of doubt.
I recommend you buy book two 'Wise Mans Fear' at the same time because you will fly through this book by the seat of your pants and be begging for the next instalment!!
Eagerly awaiting book three !!!!!
on 13 April 2010
This book is amazing. I think the characters, the author, the whole storyline are so immersive its unreal. It's the first book I've ever read, then had to re-read within a month, because I realised it was awaiting a sequel, and within a month of not having one, missed the characters so much i had to re-read the book.
In my personal opinion, this is the best writing style i've ever encountered (not best book/story persay - we have to get to the conclusion of the story to start making opinions like that!) but the style of writing was soperfectly suited to someone of my wit; being engaging, presumptious on your intelligence, and drawing you in like you're talking to one of your mates about something that happened to him or her, with that realism and personal touch of not trying to make it sound like a fairytale, or an exaggeration, and with awesome little interjections and side-tracks like anybody telling a story to themselves would, only they all seem to be intrinsically linked to the story, and gives even the narrator a personality you grow to enjoy.
Buy it and love it now.
on 10 July 2014
I came to this novel tangentially. After reading Philip Pullman to my daughter and enjoying it too, I found myself in the company of a thousand voices insisting I read The Name of the Wind. The bulk, if not the whole, of my reading is literary fiction so I wasn't sure about 'fantasy'. But my god, I was blown away by this novel, and its sequel, The Wise Man's Fear. If ever there was a novel capable of crossing genres this is it. It's a long book, as was its sequel, but I would have been happy if they were twice as long. Kvothe is a tantalising character and, a perfect blend of hero, magician and lost little boy who acts before he thinks.
There are many layers to his character and I suspect we're still just scratching the surface of his ambition and eventual downfall. I would recommend this book to everyone who loves good in story-telling. For me, it's incidental it takes place in a kind of middle-ages landscape inhabited by the Fae and some dragons (although they aren't really dragons because that would be silly).
I would give his books 10 stars if I could.