Noted: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
A few things you should know first: I do not read much adult Fantasy Fiction, and only a smidge more of Juvenile Fantasy Fiction. This book was read aloud between me and the husband Sean so I took next to no notes during the read. Lastly, I was highly recommended this read by very trustworthy and excited sources, so naturally I was fairly critical and resistant (no, I’m not being sarcastic, I really am this contrary). Just the same, I am self-serving enough to trust said recommendations.
Oh, and this whole post is actually spoiler-free, sorry about that.
The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One
Daw Books, Inc., 2007.
662 pages, hardcover.
My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as “quothe.” Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I’ve had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it’s spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree.
“The Flame” is obvious if you’ve ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple of hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. I keep it short but it’s unruly. When left to its own devices, it sticks up and makes me look as if I have been set afire.
“The Thunder” I attribute to a strong baritone and a great deal of stage training at an early age.
I’ve never thought of “The Broken Tree” as very significant. Although in retrospect, I suppose it could be considered at least partially prophetic.
My first mentor called me E’lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.
But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant “to know.”
I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me. ~dust jacket & p53.
If this were a “review” instead of “notes,” you would stop there and go pick up the novel. You need read nothing more, I swear. Actually, if you’ve not read The Name of the Wind, just wait, read the novel, and then come back. You should need nothing more to convince you.
Others: As you are here, and I am usually engaging, do continue on just the same.
Logan started it. He must tell everyone about this fantastic author and his novel The Name of the Wind, which is a first book in The Kingkiller Chronicle. Then Deanna, then Carl… The author is rather fantastic.
Logan has also been known tell you to mind when a book is one of a series. They come with their own set of expectations. I can hardly disagree that one should keep the whole in mind. But what expectation could a book one hold?—other than the obvious, which is: Makes you want to read the next book. The Name of the Wind easily meets this expectation.
The Name of the Wind world-builds, it sets many rich veins coursing for future books to mine. Multiple time-lines are delineated and available for thicker content and desirable complexity. Expectations met.
I did expect at least one story arc to find resolution. I had one for which I was really hoping—a small one, I thought. But alas… The only arc in which one can find satisfaction is the only one that matters I suppose—that the beginning has been well and truly launched. After 662 pages you say, “And now we begin.” How a reader cannot be frustrated by this is a testament to Rothfuss’ ability to story-tell. I really wanted to be annoyed by a lack of closure on at least one tiny front*, but my appetite is so whetted for the next book, I could forgive Rothfuss anything. The book is “denner” and I’ve little doubt many readers would dance naked in the snow for another fix—okay, maybe that was a bit much, but you get my point. Anything detracting is hard to recall. But I shall do my best…
The danger of reading aloud may account for this complaint. One should have a good long memory.
The novel opens in the present and there are people and events created and occurring (shocking!). One creation is the Chronicler, a character who records important people’s stories and who also likes to debunk myths in his free time. Chronicler (Devan Lochees) runs into Kote the Innkeeper, who is Kvothe the [insert list of names], a legendary figure. Chronicler and Kvothe make a deal that involves Chronicler recording Kvothes story. It will take 3 days. The Name of the Wind houses Day One—which is the bulk of the book. It is enough of a bulk, that despite the occasionally surfacing from the past, I was forced at the end to review who some of the players and recall the events going into the beginnings of the book. The Name of the Wind is a good one to inhale and attend to, because it has a lot going on. And I would hate for anyone to not be able to enjoy the lovely bookends of the prologue and epilogue. The prose that announce and remind that this is not going to be pop-fictional tripe, but a serious piece to live on the shelf and be reread and lent frequently. Every author should take their work so seriously.
Part of reading aloud, besides the pronunciation of foreign names/words, is name recognition. My own flaw likely, that I am one who remembers better from seeing more than hearing. Keeping track was a bit tricky, but part of this is not only due to the time it took us to read to one another. Ideally we should have blocked out a weekend and ordered dinners-in and a babysitter, and had some good beer on hand.
Hmm, that complaint felt grasping…especially as it could be solvable by the Reader rather than the Writer or Publisher (though a pronunciation guide is never too much.)
I can say that I was startled a time or two out of immersion by a stock metaphor/simile, “like a hot knife through butter?” I would also become frustrated by the rate in which Kvothe found himself in trouble. That was exhausting, even in a reading which took days. We would pause and one of us would mark the mental timeline so as to keep track. Only a few span has passed, L. Oh, so he isn’t 33 yet? I do remember that Kvothe is fleshing out the mythic tales that have become attached to him. That he has so much accounted him already means Kvothe greatness really is exceeding–very exciting.
I hardly talk about books like they’re soap operas, but The Name of the Wind begs for it. I found it too terribly easy to connect with the characters and their development. And that they are so consistent without being too predictable—except when predictable is the necessary source for anxiety, like Kvothe’s response to Denna. Anyone who has been a lovesick fool will identify with the pain and humor that comes from Kvothe and Denna’s storyline—His, not hers; while her motivations can be explained, I was less compassionate; she is a–
Besides drawing characters who are saved from being wholly stock cast members, Rothfuss’ wit will win a Reader over; especially the Joss Whedon fan. It’s lovely when there is a touch of silliness, or clever play—Rothfuss has brilliant timing with this.
Music lovers will appreciate The Name of the Wind, and actors, and chem majors, and material scientists, and those who love tales of the arcane and alchemy, and who love lore. This book is for people who tire of a precocious child’s ease in novels, even in the face of peril. Men will love this read—at least for the sake of Kvothe alone. And women will love this read—for the sake of Kvothe alone. No, I am not going to digress into sweats over glittery chests or the defense of the moods of the dark man on the moor. Rothfuss relays a very nice feminist perspective that only a misogynist would find ingratiating. This is primarily relayed through Kvothe, but not by any means solely—just quite endearingly. I wrote a couple of paragraphs about this in some post-read notes yesterday. The first paragraph:
A noticeable trait of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind is its positive treatment of women. I am not inferring that the Fantasy genre has problems with misogynistic behavior. I haven’t read enough of the genre to make a comfortable accusation. I am noting how refreshing the read was in light of literature in general. Yes, I classified The Name of the Wind as Literary.
However, I will stop here and save this for another post as I would see this line through to the last book. This is one line I think wise to wait for the series as a whole. But I really liked Rothfuss for this; the reflexive, non-militant, observations in The Name of the Wind.
The Name of the Wind appears to draw from several structures and influences in the realization of its realm and the characters who would populate it, but no more so than any other original work. Rothfuss has his own voice and his ambitions are apparent. He may come out of a long line of great Fantasy Literature but Rothfuss has his own print to make, his own legend to manifest. In a genre rife with fan-fiction, inhabiting pre-existing worlds and re-cycling motifs, The Kingkiller Chronicle would be Rothfuss’ own vision, his own master work.
Neil Gaiman fans will understand the ability to create an amalgam of source myths from all over the globe and place them in a realm of familiarity and possibility, as if they have always resided exactly this way and in this place. The Name of the Wind is similarly so utterly convinced of itself—and of its own ability to create its own truths.
Not overly taxing himself by reinventing everything (thankfully), Rothfuss uses some familiarity of set and social system to situate the reader. However, The Name of the Wind would not care for a reader to forget this is a Fantasy novel of a singular creation. One can never fully settle into this read as a rendering of a foreign land far away and well before our time; though it is nice to suspend the disbelief for a while.
Yes, I hear many the sucked in breath before launching their heated argument—“Of course one can settle fully into the rendering, I did!” I am not arguing that a body will not be transported. Rothfuss is inarguably a gifted storyteller—able to enthrall and compel. But Rothfuss isn’t fully Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings (thankfully) he is closer to Ursual K Le Guin, drawing us away into a Fantasy, while holding us firmly in a consciousness of our own world. This is where we make such strong connections to the characters and the implications of their actions (whether positive or negative). Then there is where The Name of the Wind cannot help but compare itself to other known works (in our realm).
“You want magic like you’ve heard about in bedtime stories. You’ve listened to songs about Taborlin the Great. Roaring sheets of fire, magic rings, invisible cloaks, swords that never go dull, potions to make you fly.” [Master Hemme] shook is head, disgusted. “Well if that’s what you’re looking for, you can leave now, because you won’t find it here.” (249)
And despite Hemme’s additional line of “It doesn’t exist,” the rest of us know better…We are looking, we will find it, and it does exist. If you’ve read The Name of the Wind you will likely dismiss Hemme out of hand, but you likely did not dismiss “invisible cloaks,” or “magic rings,” or “swords that never go dull” (at least, we could readily identify those in particular)**. The novel takes surfacing breaths, and not just those of Kvothe bringing the reader back to the Waystone Inn.
The observation isn’t harmful, just noted. The Name of the Wind doesn’t exceed its cleverness, but accomplishes its ambition; though I suppose on that count time will tell, as will the following books in the series. I get the feeling Rothfuss isn’t settling for less than a masterpiece in his The Kingkiller Chronicle, and he has proven himself capable with The Name of the Wind. No wonder everyone is so excited. Rothfuss is not only going to exceed expectation, he’s going to re-invent it.***
*feel free to correct me by pointing out a “resolution.”
**all three could be The Lord of the Rings, could also recall Harry Potter (JK Rowling) and The Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan).
***as far as re-invention can be said. maybe revive is the better word? but re-invent sounds so nice there…and arrogant—I like a healthy ego in an author.