Sunday, 23 March 2008
‘The Name of the Wind’ – Patrick Rothfuss (DAW Books)
Graeme turns up late to the party yet again! While everyone was saying, last year, how great this book was I was thinking that I really must get round to reading it at some point… I actually bought a copy of ‘The Name of the Wind’ just before I started the blog and I thought it would be a good one to review. One year on and a week’s annual leave seemed like the ideal time to finally get into this book. While I’m kicking myself for not picking this up sooner I’m also glad that I waited until I had some proper free time as ‘The Name of the Wind’ really demanded that from me.
As this was one of the most hyped books of last year you probably already know the story even if you haven’t read the book. For those of you who don’t; ‘The Name of the Wind’ is the first book in a trilogy that recounts the life story of Kvothe, master wizard and stuff of legend. In this first instalment we get to learn about his formative years; including his time spent in a travelling troupe, his years as an orphan in a crime ridden city and the beginning of his time at university. All the while there are ‘interludes’ that show the reader Kvothe in the present day and how his past actions have led to his present status. There’s almost a case of ‘double foreshadowing’ as the reader gets to see the results of past misdeeds as well as present day occurrences that hint at the shape of things to come…
‘The Name of the Wind’ is a hard book to review in that Kvothe is telling his story for his own ends rather than the reader’s. Because of this you get a lot of what Kvothe wants the reader to know but there can be a lot of gaps if there are other things that you want to know. Because of the way that the story is told, there is an assumption that the reader (or listener in Chronicler’s case) has the background knowledge of an inhabitant of Kvothe’s world. For example, Kvothe will go into great detail about his time in Tarbean and Trebon (because that is part of his story) but will be a lot more vague about the surrounding area/history etc. I found it almost infuriating that that such a richly detailed account of Kvothe’s life would habitually fall short when it came to describing the wider world, especially when he gave such weight to describing things such as university lessons (the content of which failed to hold my interest). Having said that though, it has served the purpose of making me all the more eager for the next book! One other thing that I noticed was that Kvothe has a habit of flitting between the ‘Kvothe telling the story’ and the ‘Kvothe in the story’. For example; in the story Kvothe will meet someone, for the first time, and not know their name but will mention the person by name a couple of sentences later without any introduction having been made. I found this confusing until I got the hang of it.
‘The Name of the Wind’ has had so much hype and discussion that I thought I had to mention it’s shortcomings (or at least the ones I perceived) just to try and get a sense of balance in my own review. The thing is; despite the trouble I had with it ‘The Name of the Wind’ is an astonishingly good read of the kind where I’d be sneaking five-minute reads here and there when I should have been doing other things instead. Rothfuss takes a huge risk in having a character so full of himself that he is arrogant beyond belief but it does pay off as when Kvothe is bought low I really felt for him. There are great highs and sickening lows and this rollercoaster effect really kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next. ‘The Name of the Wind’ has a real sense of something amazing in the offing and I intend to be around and see what happen next. It’s not a gritty read, like Abercrombie or Lynch, but there is still a lot there for any fantasy fan to enjoy. I wish I’d read this sooner.
Nine out of Ten