Book Review: The Name of the Wind
(Kingkiller Chronicles #1)
By: Patrick Rothfuss
Published By: DAW Hardcover
Publication Date: March 27, 2007
Page Count: 662
Source: personal collection
Adult - Fantasy
Although I first read The Name of the Wind long before I started reviewing here at Reading Lark, I thought it would be fun to reread it and post a review in honor of the 10th anniversary edition that just came out at the beginning of October. (That's the 10th anniversary cover photo, by the way, not the original.)
The Name of the Wind is a story set within a story. The tale begins with an inkeeper, named Kote, who is a relative newcomer blending into the daily life of a remote village. He is a haunted man, one with a secret past. When a Chronicler locates him in the wake of a portentous attack from a supernatural creature, Kote acknowledges his true identity (as Kvothe) and agrees to allow the Chronicler to record his story. Names are important things, and Kvothe has gone by many. The main body of The Name of the Wind is Kvothe recounting the stories of his life and the origins of some of his many names.
I had given up on the fantasy genre for a long time. Part of that was just being a busy mom of little children, and part of it was a general lack of stories that spoke to me and had the epic scope I was craving. The story that first brought me back to fantasy was Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn [which I guess I'll have to review for you another time 😉]. Not long after, though, I found The Name of the Wind and was absolutely blown away by the depth of Rothfuss's world building, character development, and his obvious love of the arts.
The Name of the Wind has a fairly typical pseudo-medieval, western European, fantasy vibe. What makes it stand out so vividly to me is the details with which Rothfuss fills his world. Kvothe's early childhood among the Edema Ruh (nomadic bands of traveling entertainers) is lovingly rendered to the point where the reader can practically smell the campfires and feel the crunch of leaves underfoot. Later, when Kvothe comes to enter the Arcanum, it felt so immediate, like I was the one attempting to gain entrance to the famous school.
Likewise, the characters are just as vivid. In genre fiction, authors sometimes rely on stock characters because the focus is on the action or the magic system. Not so with this book. Kvothe is a deep and complex man. Learning his early history as a street urchin in Tarbean, is heart-rending and plants seeds that grow and come to fruition later. Rothfuss also gives incredible depth to his enormous cast of secondary characters. One of my favorites is the otherworldly Auri. I don't want to say too much, but I'd be willing to bet that she is a favorite of almost anyone who reads The Name of the Wind. [Feel free to post your favorite in the comments if you've already read this book.]
Woven throughout the book is Kvothe's, and presumably Rothfuss's, love of performance art in all its varieties. Growing up as a child of traveling entertainers, Kvothe is a consummate performer. He quotes poetry and lines from plays at the drop of a hat, and is wildly creative when it comes to music. Honestly, his performances are probably my favorite part of the story. There is something magical about the way Rothfuss conveys what goes on in Kvothe's head as he plays music. It makes me want to be a better pianist and singer.
If you're looking for a great fantasy novel, look no further. And be sure you check out the 10th anniversary edition. It's got 50 pages of extra content!
Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.
The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature.
A high-action story written with a poet's hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.