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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me..., 14 Aug 2008
This review is from: The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle) (Paperback)
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.
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